Thursday, August 13, 2015

How the Pyramids Were Built.

Should readers object that I have chosen a single unfortunate misstep (everyone makes mistakes) out of 600+ pages of otherwise careful analysis to prove a point, similar strictures apply to the Ogilvie-Herald/Lawton 'analysis' of pyramid building. Now, this is not quite the same situation as Domingo's forensic work, which is the result of a carefully developed methodology that commonly works in practice. Here, Ogilvie-Herald and Lawton do not incriminate themselves in a single glorious paragraph, but rather over the space of some 60 diffuse, ultimately self-contradictory pages.

This comes from their entry in the Daily Grail website but it is a resume of their treatment of the subject in their book:

Our readers will be aware that our research for Giza: The Truth led us t o come out in favour of the orthodox explanations as to when the Giza pyramids were built (c. 2500 BC) and why (primarily as funerary edifices, but accepting that there was a great deal of esoteric symbolism and ritual involved). As to how they were built , we feel that there is no conclusive evidence in the pyramids themselves which requires us to look outside of essentially orthodox explanations, even in the "worst" case of the 70-tonne granite blocks which had to be dragged up (in our view via a spiral ramp) to between one third and one half of the height of the Great Pyramid to form the ceilings/floors of the King's and Relieving Chambers. Nor do we feel that the logistics of Khufu building the Great Pyramid in something like 20 years - or even his father Sneferu's achievement of erecting three sizeable pyramids in a similar period - were impossible, or required anything other than massive commitment and dedication to a national cause, and superb project management skills. This is notwithstanding our boundless admiration for the quality of the workmanship, and our acceptance that, for example, tube drills were used with great skill - albeit that we do not believe at this stage that these tools were powered by anything other than human or animal labour; (for more on the "advanced technology" issues refer to our ongoing debate with Chris Dunn which will be posted on both our web sites shortly).

Readers will also be aware that we have provided a thorough analysis of the issues relating to many of the other "alternative" theories, such as the redating of the Sphinx and the Orion correlation, and ultimately we believe these too to be fatally flawed - not from any ideological perspective, merely because we do not believe that the evidence in these cases supports the hypothesis.

However there are two areas in which we might be said to depart from the orthodox line. The first is that of acoustics, where ongoing work by researchers such as John Reid is suggesting that the ancient Egyptians had a highly advanced understanding of acoustic properties and design - although we feel it is critical that such theories be evaluated in the context of, for example, other 4th Dynasty pyramids such as those at Dashur, as opposed to concentrating exclusively on the Great Pyramid and to a lesser extent its counterparts at Giza. And the second is that of sonic levitation - which is clearly not entirely unrelated.

To elaborate further, many of the huge limestone monoliths which form the core of the walls of the surviving mortuary and valley temples on the Giza Plateau are acknowledged by Egyptologists to weigh as much as 200 tonnes. This is a different order of magnitude again from the largest 70-tonne blocks in the Great Pyramid (or any other). Although the orthodox school has been happy to deliberate at length on the use of ramps etc. to erect the pyramids, these larger temple monoliths have tended to be swept under the carpet by them. (For example, in the otherwise excellent reference works such as Edwards' The Pyramids of Egypt' and Lehner's 'The Complete Pyramids', whole chapters are devoted to construction methods but the temples are ignored.) If we are to be totally honest and unbiased in our analysis, this is not acceptable just because it raises uncomfortable questions.

We are not qualified engineers. However, within the constraints of the tight time limits imposed when we were writing and researching the book - and despite our reasonable satisfaction with the logistics etc. of pyramid construction - we were unable to rationally explain the use of such massive blocks in the temples. Remember that the layout of these edifices is completely different. Suppose you could erect a presumably straight ramp of sufficiently dense material - and we have heard it suggested that once we are dealing with these kind of weights, only a ramp made of solid stone itself would not collapse - in order to drag these blocks up to the second and third courses of the temples. You need at a conservative estimate something like 600 men to drag a 200-tonne block (this estimate of a third of a tonne per man seems reasonably sound from experiments when slopes are involved). Irrespective of how many columns they are arranged in, where do they go when they get to the top of the ramp? There is no huge flat platform awaiting them as there is in a pyramid. So perhaps after each pull the lead line jumps down the other side, although this is hardly an ideal situation for pulling one's weight effectively! But what about once the opposite wall, or an intermediate partition wall, is in place? The size of these edifices is simply not sufficient, at least in some cases, for such obstructions not to be encountered well before the column of men had completed their hauling. So then we might suggest that the interiors were completely filled in with sand or whatever in order to provide a flat platform for the men to continue their hauling. But it seemed to us when we were researching this topic, and it still does, that once you get to this stage you are clutching at straws in your attempts to provide an "orthodox" explanation.

Occams Razor is certainly no longer at work. Accordingly we felt that the question posed correctly and legitimately by the alternative school had not been satisfactorily answered - that is that even if you can come up with an orthodox solution as to how these blocks were erected, it would be so convoluted and difficult that the further question remains: why on earth would the builders make life SO difficult for themselves?

Here again, as non-engineers and non-movers-of-stone, they beg to differ with the engineers, quarrymen and crane drivers familiar with moving huge chunks of heavy matter. These acknowledged experts in various relevant fields assert that their own level of expertise is insufficient to account for the very large FACT of carefully fitted 200 ton blocks in the Sphinx and Valley temples and 70 ton blocks in the Kings chamber halfway up the pyramid. After concerted studies of the problems involved in pyramid building, they maintain that no known simple method of ramps, levers and sledges (which was apparently all the ancient Egyptians had at their disposal) explains their ability to move the stones into place.

In and of itself, that expert opinion does NOT mean that the Egyptians COULDN'T have done it that way. What it does mean is that Ogilvie-Herald and Lawton's characteristically uninformed conviction that that is how they did do it is as arrogant as it is uninformed.

To support that conviction there are only the opinions of non-engineer Egyptologists, which are by definition suspect, and a single clever but manifestly inappropriate ramp-and-rope experiment by Mark Lehner in which average size 1/2 - 2 ton blocks blocks, similar to those in the core masonry of the Great Pyramid were successfully but roughly wrestled more or less into place up mud-slicked rubble ramps to the height of twenty feet . (Note: When the cameras weren't trained on the action, a bulldozer was pushing the recalcitrant blocks into easy striking distance. Shortage of time was the reason given.)
This admittedly interesting little exercise was then cited by Lehner et al as 'proof' of how the ancients must have done it, and Ogilvie-Herald and Lawton agree. They decide, meticulous scholars that they are, that they (like Lehner) will ignore for the moment, the problems involved in getting 70 ton granite blocks up ramps 200 feet high to roof over the King's Chamber.

This is roughly equivalent to me deciding to get into body building. I start off maybe able to press 100 lbs. After six months of hard work say I can press 200 pounds and I then claim that at that rate, doubling my prowess every six months, in five years I can press five tons.

Technology doesn't work that way. Most technological methods, like the human body, tend to have inherent, self-imposed limits. What works with a ton does not, in and of itself, mean that it will work with 70 or 200 tons.

But now, having thrown their joint inexpertise in behind orthodoxy --while ignoring all those informed contrary opinions, along with the 70 ton blocks-- they reverse themselves and decide that ramps/levers/unlimited manpower will not suffice, after all, to explain the 200 tons blocks in the Sphinx and Valley Temples. What will? Well, acoustic levitation maybe? And off they go on another diffuse ramble into the resonant properties of the King's Chamber and 'burial' chambers of the Red Pyramid (Dahshur), citing various sound experiments done there and then off into the sound levitation experiments that we, in our Mystery of the Sphinx video, cited as a possibility in principle. In principle because, at present an elaborate space age machine is capable only of levitating a pea-size pebble. They speculate that, hey! if the resonant properties of the chambers cited above are deliberately 'tuned' to specific frequencies (I think they are, too) then maybe that knowledge combined with some (totally unidentified and undemonstrable) ancient Egyptian gravity-reversing technology was what put the 200 ton blocks into place after all.

But of course, if they had such a technology in place for 200 ton blocks, then why go to the prodigious trouble of building gigantic building ramps to put the smaller stones of the pyramids into place? (It should be noted that engineers have calculated that the ramps --nearly a mile long-- necessary to haul the blocks into place would take up several times more material than the pyramid itself. Moreover, the ramps would have to be added to continually as the levels went up.) The point is that orthodox explanations for how the pyramids were built, do NOT --except in principle-- suffice to explain how they were built, while the speculation about acoustic levitation is no better, actually worse, since we DO know the Egyptians had ramps, ropes and plenty of manpower, while they do not appear to have had anything resembling an acoustic technology.

It is a non-argument, circular, vulnerable, silly and as always, selective. Yet for those without detailed knowledge of the vast body of work done on these problems, and a grasp of the numerous pros and cons, it looks like scholarship -- hence those favorable reviews proudly posted by them on various websites. Some respondents to these Giza: The (Half) Truth posts have expressed quite different opinions. Here's one that I suspect will not find its way onto their website, though I hereby give permission to use it.

Nigel Fox, who owns an advertising agency in South Africa and who is widely read on these matters, writes:

'The mind picture it evoked was of a rooster scratching over an old manure heap, keeping a beady eye cocked for any palatable morsels and passing over those not to its taste. Just a tad selective in the choice of facts and very liberal with the - "It didn't convince us, so it must be wrong" - opinionated judgements. Some of the language was disparaging to the point of being slanderous and delivered from the high and mighty throne of the supreme pontiffs of Egyptology. As an apologia for the Establishment, I'm sure it does a job for the hidebound, added an extra skin to the already thick coat they wear. But for anyone with an open mind, the odour of bigotry and the careful selectivity of the material screamed bias loud and clear. Peck, peck goes the rooster's beak, another nugget that sits well in my crop. Ptooi ! That bit stuck in the craw, so we'd best get rid of it before anybody notices.'

Even Zahi Hawass, as orthodox an Egyptologist as any, acknowledges that no one REALLY knows how the pyramids were built, (though he, too, ascribes to the ramp theory in one form or another). The credentialed engineers, quarrymen and crane drivers, on the other hand, tend to believe that since they can't figure out how the task was accomplished with simple technology, it couldn't have been done that way. But this is erring in the other direction. In other words, the field is open. Pyramid building is a game without agreed-upon rules and anyone can play.

It seems to me that the best way to approach this game is VERY gingerly ... and systematically. And to this end I offer my own contribution -- the result of vast (non-expert) reading of the various experts who've played this game. Unlike Ogilvie-Herald and Lawton, given the data to hand, I prefer to avoid conclusions of any sort, but at least I like to think that by categorizing the problems a more fruitful approach to them may be opened.

There are, it seems to me, but four possible explanations for building the pyramids, none of them necessarily mutually exclusive.

1. A simple technology (ramps/levers/sledges) brilliantly applied.
This is of course the only solution allowed by Egyptologists, even though we cannot reproduce such results today. On the other hand, despite what the starry-eyed New Agers (and indeed, the hard-nosed engineers) may say, this cannot be dis-allowed. Put a violin in my hands and I will quickly prove to you that music cannot be wrung from this intractable device. But give the violin to a virtuoso and out comes Bach's Partita or the Paganini Violin Concerto . Just because we can't move 200 ton blocks up a ramp, doesn't mean they couldn't. To use another analogy: did the Kitty Hawk prefigure the space shuttle and 'prove' that soon there would be space travel? The first generation of aeronautic engineers might well have scoffed at such a notion, (this was the stuff of science fiction) yet there is the space shuttle. But it is not even an exponential extension of existing Kitty Hawk technologies that make the space shuttle possible; rather it is the simultaneous application of a spectrum of new techologies undreamed-of a century ago: plastics, computers, rocketry, lasers and so on...

Our present-day engineers scoff at the ramp/rope/ manpower hypothesis, yet there are the pyramids. Does this mean that's how they must have been built? To Ogilvie-Herald and Lawton that's what it means, but it doesn't mean that to anyone who can think straight, or think at all. It means that in a best case scenario, given the evidence to hand, perhaps it should be given precedence over other explanations, all of them hypothetical (including this one!) and that is all that it means.

2. A hard technology for which there is no evidence.
This sounds on the surface outrageous, but who knows what ancient technology may have looked like. Suppose, 5000 years from now, a computer is found, and technology at that time does not use electricity or microchips and there is no record of such instruments. Computers turn up in archeological digs but they are mute bits of plastic with no moving parts. They might be fobbed off as ceremonial/religious artifacts (with some justification perhaps.) Who could guess that the Library of Congress could be stored on a few internal chips, or that prodigious mathematical calculations could be performed on them with the touch of a few keys? Maybe certain familiar but mysterious symbols of Egypt --the djed column for instance-- were actually technological devices, and we just don't know how to use them?

Who knows? Graham Hancock, in his book The Sign and the Seal makes what I think is a pretty good case for the Ark of the Covenant as just such a technological device. Given the Old Testament evidence to hand (for whatever that may be worth) it sure doesn't sound like a purely 'religious' symbol. (Acoustic levitation might fit in here, or in '3' following, or possibly in both.)

3. A soft technology -- mind power-- for which, by definition, there can be no evidence, and the knowledge was a priestly secret and/or references in the texts have been mis-translated.

The Egyptians were very good at keeping secrets; the texts refer to secret knowledge over and over again. It was the garrulous Greeks, Pythagorean defectors, who let the secrets outs of the bag. Ancient Egyptian, unlike Sanskrit, is not a living tradition and has had to be re-constructed from scratch mainly by scholars hostile to a mystical and esoteric tradition. Thus, possible references to such a soft technology may have been misunderstood or ignored. Yogis, Zen masters, advanced martial artists, and shamans can routinely perform physical feats that to the rest of us look and are impossible. But there is a volume of evidence to prove they can do it. There are recorded cases where a woman, with her child trapped beneath a car, lifts up the car to get the child out, something she could not even imagine doing in a normal state of consciousness. Maybe the pyramids were massive group consciousness-raising exercises, in and of themselves, or in conjunction with a simple or even a hard technology? Or both?

4. Aliens dunnit.
I personally like this explanation less than the others. I prefer to think that people rather like ourselves, but unencumbered with our stultifying and banal rationalist/materialist baggage, did it. Still, anyone who looks seriously into UFO literature, has to acknowledge that something is going on out there and they (whoever 'they' may be) are periodically coming here. Why I cannot imagine. But who knows? We go up there, why shouldn't they come down here -- and once here, for alien reasons of their own, build pyramids? Alien builders perhaps should not be dismissed out of hand. And since no one to date can adequately explain how they did it with simple ramps, levers and sledges either, or any other way, this explanation is hardly goofier than those.

The point is that the facile assurances given by Ogilvie-Herald/Lawton endorsing the orthodox viewpoint are illegitimate, their exclusion of contrary, genuinely informed opinion is typical of their selective bogus sch olarship, and their long-winded acoustic levitation hypothesis is pure speculation and self-contradictory besides. We still don't know how the pyramids were built. Period. Full stop. Over to you...

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