News flash: Aliens did not build the Great Pyramid! The Spectator’s A.S.H. Smyth has reviewed a recent book by a pair of senior Egyptologists, Pierre Tallet and Mark Lehner: The Red Sea Scrolls: How Ancient Papyri Reveal the Secrets of the Pyramids (published by Thames & Hudson of London). Its conclusion, or rather reviewer Smyth’s conclusion: the pyramids were not created by aliens.
Tallet and Lehner describe the archaeological discovery of a cache of papyrus scrolls consisting, apparently, of a diary written by a “Captain” Merer, the head of one of several battalions of workers. Merer was a sort of avant la lettre mid-level bureaucrat commanding a “gang” of 40 men who transported “grunts” (slaves, one may reasonably assume) and granite up and down the Nile.
Interestingly, Tallet and Lehner argue that Merer and his men represented not vast slave labour, exploited by a biblical despot, but ‘the employment of a highly skilled, well-rewarded workforce’. Team Great [the name of Merer’s 40-man naval gang] worked in proximity to power – also performing royal guard duties and religious rituals – and were part-paid in luxury cloth. But it is also estimated that four teams like Merer’s might have spent 20 years transporting just the facing stone for the Great Pyramid.
I wonder whether the appellation “Team Great” from the above quotation doesn’t sound too much like the postmodern name of a sports team, as opposed to a more traditional name such as the Giza Greats. Is it real? We don’t know. Smyth states that Tallet and Lehner “pick up the story of the middle-ranking inspector” Merer. Does that mean Merer and his crew make up only a part of the scrolls (the “oldest known explicitly dated Egyptian documents”), or are all of the scrolls written by Merer? Smyth doesn’t give more than a vague hint, though surely Tallet and Lehner reveal the answer somewhere in their book.
Egypt’s celebrated pyramids, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, were erected at Giza, near Cairo, over a period of 27 years in the 26th century before Christ, during the pharaoh Khufu’s reign in the 4th Dynasty. It has long been famously unknown how humans (slaves or otherwise) could lift stones, mostly weighing between 25 and 80 tons, without serious lifting machinery. But even Tallet and Lehner “do not claim to know how 2.3 million vast blocks were put one on top of another [at the Giza site], so it’s a pity they should play to the pyramidiots with talk of ‘secrets’ ” in the title of their book.
Wikipedia quotes the Roman historian Herodotus as stating that “gangs of 100,000 labourers worked on the building in three-month shifts, taking 20 years to build.” They used vast ramps to move the stones. But at some point the stones had to be lifted manually into their positions on a pyramid. How?
Reviewer Smyth does not reveal whether the scrolls discovered by Tallet and Lehner expressly deny that aliens were responsible for this work. Why would a pair of respected archaeologists stoop to answering such a question. Nor does Smyth quote the authors or, for that matter, the text of the scrolls to that effect. Well, did aliens build the pyramids or not? We don’t know.
So we remain in the company of “pyramidiots,” left to wonder whether the pyramids are the work of aliens, gods, God (who the day before might have created evolution to guide His creation of mankind and the animal kingdom), slaves or a “highly skilled, well-rewarded workforce,” which could merely be how Merer, tooting his horn, or the pair of senior Egyptologists describe the slaves under his command. Or maybe they did have lifting machinery, and Merer simply did not mention it in his diary. Far fetched, but who knows?
Smyth opens his review humorously regretting those who bother him about whether the pyramids were built by aliens. “I have longed for a handy single volume to present to these loons, full of unarguable evidence putting this business past dispute – and Pierre Tallet and Mark Lehner have provided it.”
No they have not. At least not according to Smyth, at any rate. If the evidence is in the book, why does he leave it there and not include it in his review? The identity of the creator(s) of the pyramids is not revealed in his review, certainly, nor does he quote any passage from the book to that effect. He ends his review with this twist: “Take this book everywhere you fear you might run into [the pyramidiots]. And if all else fails, I guess you can hit them with it.”
Instead, I would like to hurl the book at Smyth for teasing us with the supposed “secrets” of the pyramids’ creation. (If the fault lies with faulty editing at the magazine, leaving pertinent passages on the cutting-room floor, I offer my sincerest apologies.)