Egypt 2015

I met some amazing people and saw some awesome sights. If you haven’t been, you should go. Here are some selected favourite shots and objects of curiosity:

Or…go straight to Rethinking: Egypt (Video)

Day 1 - Arrival

Day 2 - Giza Plateau

The Great Pyramid is a captivating and enigmatic sight but is actually constructed from many layers of uneven courses and irregularly sized blocks. Despite years of erosion some still appear to show a type of filler between.

Our first evidence of ancient machining (left and below). It appears that a saw cut has been made in this basalt block which doesn’t extend into the face of the block to its left. This indicates that the cut was created before the stone was then moved into position; and lessens the possibilty that an enthusiast with an angle grinder made this cut (for whatever reasons) hundreds or thousands of years later.

The possibility of manipulating or ‘moulding’ the stone may not be as strange as it sounds. During the trip we were routinely confronted with artifacts made from igneous rock that left our resident stonemason, Chester, baffled. ‘I could make these in limestone or sandstone,’ he said regarding the plates, cups and vases found in the Cairo museum, ‘but in granite or alabaster the only way to do it would be to melt the stone.’ Unfortunately photographs were prohibited during our tour, but since then restrictions at the Cairo Museum have been relaxed and Beatrice Babare of The Khemit School very kindly sent me the images in the gallery below (click to enlarge).

Further evidence of ancient machining (above). Consistent concavity; one radius fades in seamlessly with another.

The use of irregularly sized blocks, coupled with irregular joints is found in structures on the Giza Plateau and in many other areas of Egypt. Compare this with modern brick or block work, which uses evenly sized blocks (that are cheaper and easier to manufacture) and places them in uniform courses, interlaced to form corners or features. What’s shown here is a much more difficult and labour-intensive way of achieving the same result (straight and symmetrical structures) unless the use of bespoke blocks and joints was a design consideration with earthquakes and seismic activity in mind.

Roughed out surface carved prior to finishing the stone. This particular type of toolmark is very commonly found on the Giza Plateau and in many other areas of Egypt.

Roughed out surface carved prior to finishing the stone (above). This particular type of toolmark is very commonly found on the Giza Plateau and in many other areas of Egypt.

The pyramid of Menkaure and the first appearance of a puzzling stonework feature found throughout our trip: ‘Knobs’. Mostly in pairs, these mysterious protrusions are found on these syenite casing stones and very often on the lids of boxes (the opposite, ‘dimples’ are found at other sites). The function of these features is unknown but the stoneworking technique employed here seems to be very similar to that found in the temples of Peru and India. See also Rethinking: India (0.58). Thanks to Patricia Awyan and Suzan Moore for additional images below.

Day 4 - Abydos and Dendera

Cited by many as  ‘Egyptian light bulbs’ and further evidence of ancient technology, a closer inspection of the wall reliefs inside the Temple of Dendera reveals that the ‘elements’ inside these bulbs are unmistakably snakes.

Before dismissing the idea of electricity being involved completely, it’s worth noting that an electric eel can produce a shock of 600 volts, the ‘bulbs’ themselves seem to be connected to cables and the Djed pillar (beneath the right-hand bulb, above) also seems to resemble a high voltage transformer (below).

Featured in ‘Ancient Aliens’ and similar documentaries, this wall relief (left) from the Temple of Abydos does indeed show three hieroglyphs that seem to portray a helicopter, a tank and a jet plane (!) Whilst it’s possible for the imagination to run riot with this material – I’ve seen a another hieroglyph that looks just like a cement truck – it’s still interesting that these three carvings are found in the same location, in the same wall relief. Hover over to enlarge.

On one of the Temple of Osirion’s syenite pillars are the ‘Flower of Life’ drawings. The Flower of Life is a simple geometric form that can be created using a drawing compass and contains the mathematical basis for many other shapes, 2D and 3D. The claims that these drawings were created using either chemical etching or laser engraving are dificult to verify due to their height on the pillar, which prevents physical inspection without a step ladder (just to be able to run your fingertips over the surface would provide clues as to whether something’s been added or removed).

It’s also worth noting that the individual drawings aren’t identical (see difference in line and border thicknesses between the left and right-hand examples) and that many other Flower of Life drawings are also seen on this pillar, but faded and only upon much closer inspection. Hover over image below to zoom.

Day 5 - West Bank

Day 6 - Karnak & Precinct of Mut

The symmetrical accuracy of the face should be seen in context of the Ramses statue as a whole. This image wasn’t taken using a tripod, but it’s still clear that the left and right peaks of the headress are different heights, and that the angle (going up from the ears) is steeper on the left-hand side. It’s possible the statue was damaged and repaired, but if not, it’s interesting that the same engineering symmetry so painstakingly applied to the face wasn’t reproduced everywhere else.

This syenite Hedjet (left) provides an example of superior workmanship in the use of compound radii – similar to the shaping of a guitar neck – that fade seamlessly into each other. This image doesn’t fully convey the mirror smoothness of the surface, but a visible shine can be seen on the Hedjet’s right-hand side.

Another repeating theme during our visits to these sites and study of the artifacts was ‘graffiti’. It seemed that at some point in the past a highly skilled civilisation created superior quality statues, structures, boxes and bowls (from very hard stone) only to then have another, less skilled, civilisation come along afterwards and carve in their signatures! The images below show (right) a rectangular work area has been cleared from the belt of the original statue prior to carving the cartouche and (left) the border of the cartouche cuts, somewhat thoughtlessly, across the statue’s sword. Hover over images to zoom.

The craftsmanship and placement of the cartouches is clearly inconsistent with that of the original statues, and this strongly suggests the work of two different civilisations, perhaps separated by centuries or even millennia. Also found in the hands of many statues are broken off stumps, apparently once the ‘Wands of Horus’.

More examples of graffitti are found in the Nubian Museum, below. See also Serapeum boxes and interview with Yousef Awayn on this very subject, Rethinking: Egypt (12.50).

Approximately 9″ in diameter, this tube drill hole (right) is the largest found to date and many more are readily seen at other sites across Egypt (below). There is unarguable physical evidence that casing stones were split and reused as millstones and the possibility that these drill holes were created hundreds or thousands of years later by enthusiasts with power tools – and their own mysterious motivations – can never be ruled out. But for the job above at least, this particular group of enthusiasts would have needed a mobile power source for their drill and a very worthwhile use for the retrieved core.

The surface of the centre statue’s Headress (left and below) appears to be flaking away, almost like a tree losing its bark. There are other examples at this site and the explanation offered at the time was that rocks can behave differently under different environmental conditions: Before being quarried, the rock may have been exposed to a completely different set of temperatures and pressures to those associated with being moved, worked upon with tools and then exposed to the conflicting temperatures of night and day. This ‘culture shock’ to the rock explanation made a lot of sense…

…until we found this (below). This stone is diorite with a finer crystal size on the exterior, compared to the larger size within the ‘crust’. Why it’s weathering this particular way is still a mystery to our geologists and further study is warranted. As an engineer, this ‘choc ice’ effect reminded me immediately of Case or Surface Hardening; a process used today to provide mild steel with a harder outer coating by introducing more carbon to its surface. The benefits of this process are economic, as in many cases only the exterior of a product needs to be more durable. Natural weathering may explain what’s happened to this rock but, given the physical evidence we’d seen so far suggesting stone manipulation using technologies unknown, the possibility that this rock had been somehow intentionally Case Hardened also could not be ignored.

This obelisk (right) rang with a pure, consistent tone when struck only lightly with the soft side of my fist, suggesting that sound was a design consideration. Many other sites contain structures and artifacts with resonant qualities that seem to exceed what’s needed for them to function adequately as a tomb, obelisk or large stone box. I also lightly thumped the separated lid and body of a coffer at the Nubian Museum – one octave rang between them.

Cymatic patterns (above, left) form when a plate sprinkled with dust, flour or sand is exposed to a range of frequencies and are similar to those found on these bricks (above, right) in the Nubian Museum and also Rosslyn Chapel, Scotland, UK.

Day 8 - Aswan

According to historians and Egyptologists, the Unfinished Obelisk was bashed out of the ground by workers with dolerite and diorite balls. Identifying the problems with this theory doesn’t take long: Firstly, whoever undertook this task would have needed a good supply of these balls (hand-sized and impervious to fractures) and a way of removing the dust produced between blows. If not removed, the dust serves to ‘cushion’ the next blow and further decreases the efficiency of an already highly inefficient process. This taskmaster would have also needed a workforce who are physically fairly tough, as those that have attemped to recreate this process have injured their hands and arms in less than half an hour (this was under ideal conditions with the work face horizontally beneath – imagine how difficult it would be to work on a vertical or upward angled face and not have the help of gravity). This workforce must also be comfortable pounding large, brittle balls in confined, cramped spaces during an age without safety goggles or steel toe caps.

Aside from the numerous difficulties with the accepted theory on how this obelisk was quarried, another problem is the confusing physical evidence left behind by this process. The grooves on the floor of the trench (below) match exactly the width of the grooves on the walls and also follow the path of the individual ‘scoops’ on the horizontal surface (above). This clearly suggests that the same tool was used for all three jobs, like a vertical milling machine’s ball nosed cutter (right).

If these passages and work spaces were dug using freehand dolerite/diorite balls, then compared to producing smooth – or even only roughly smooth – walls and trenches, the creation of these grooves would do nothing more than add time to the job. They perform no function that helps with the overall objective of separating the obelisk from its bedrock. See Video (3.07) for a look around the trench.

Day 9 - Elephantine Island

Whilst the syenite shrine at Elephantine Island may not have the same polished surfaces as the boxes of the Serapeum, it’s still an impressive piece of work, on a very large scale. But how did it end up where it is? An aborted attempt at salvage or theft is possible, but there are no signs of any holes, chiseled niches or anything else that could be used in conjunction with ropes or chains. Judging by the sheer amount of destruction found at this site, it seems far more likely that this shrine was toppled during an earthquake, tsunami or other high-energy level event.

R&R by the Nile. Full marks to Prizeman who threw himself in first from the top of the boat. We would need a little more rest soon, as being confronted with so many profound mysteries – coupled with the subjects covered in late night conversations – was beginning to take its toll: ‘Information overload’ was cited by many.

Day 10 - Dashour & Saqqara

Not for the claustrophobic – or those with an aversion to ammonia – but inside the Red Pyramid you’ll find a descending passage, corbelled ceilings and a sunken feature very similar to that found in the Great Pyramid’s Subterranean Chamber. Other pyramids also have chambers and internal features and if the Great Pyramid was an energy transducer, rather than a tomb, it’s worth asking what the function of the Red Pyramid (or any of the other pyramids) could have been.

Day 11 - Tuna El Gabal & Ashmonien

Day 12 - Bani Hassan & Amarna

If you’re planning to visit Egypt, one thing you need to get comfortable with is ‘guerrilla’ photography. It’s a country of secrets and the security, whilst reassuring, can be heavy and restrictive. Photographs (with or without flash) were often prohibited, a soldier prevented Eve from taking a photo of the sunset (because of the nearby military base) and on my first visit to the Serapeum the only way to get my shots was to jump quickly in and out of the boxes when no one else was looking (except Stephen, who provided the necessary shin up – thanks bud). Unless you’re willing to occasionally adopt this technique it’s very difficult to get anything done as permission is often denied. When Disco Dave told me that the metal doors on a couple of nearby locked chambers had been partially peeled back, I popped the camera around and snapped from a few blind angles (click to enlarge).

The walls of these chambers (above) are obviously very old and, whilst there is evidence of some decoration, there are no hieroglyphs or the type of wall reliefs found in the chambers at this site that are open to the public (below). This fits the pattern suggested by the graffitti found on statues: one civilisation who created the chambers and another who added the wall reliefs.

Day 13 - Sphinx & Great Pyramid

There is something very calming about the Sphinx. Even if you’re fully aware that this is essentially just a very large rock that’s been eroded, rebuilt and recut many times (particularly the head) it has an unusually relaxing effect. Walking around the Sphinx was an immensely peaceful experience for many of our group.

Between the Grand Gallery and the King’s Chamber is an extremely resonant section of the Great Pyramid’s interior (below, left). Lightly beating your chest in this antechamber sounds more like the steps of a distant dinosaur and the resonant qualities of the King’s Chamber again suggest that, whatever the function of the Great Pyramid, sound was a design consideration. It must be noted that the King’s Chamber is made from syenite; a rock with a similar structure to granite, but lower quartz content (if it appears at all, less than 20%). This creates problems for the theory that the Great Pyramid was a transducer that utilised piezoelectric electricity derived from the high quartz content of the King’s Chamber’s rock and above beams.

As you enter the King’s Chamber, the shaft to the right (below, left) is comparitavely intact and was clearly assembled from separate stones, rather than cut through. The shaft to the left unfortunately cannot be seen, as a fan has been installed and the surrounding wall badly damaged in the process (below, right). Theories that these shafts align directly with celestial bodies are unlikely, as the right-hand shaft runs for at least six feet horizontally before beginning its upward angle.

Extra Day - Serapeum & Abusir

I’m highly indebted to Yousef who, after we returned from Lebanon, offered to take me back to the Serapeum for a second try at getting my shots and footage from inside the boxes. The Serapeum in Saqqara contains – at least – twenty four stone boxes, each weighing between 70 – 100 tons. One box is limestone, the others syenite, diorite, grandiorite and porphoritic diorite. The theory that they functioned as coffers for the burial of ceremonial Apis bulls lacks any physical evidence and how these boxes were manufactured, moved and why they were then buried in the ground are all point-blank mysteries. When approached with these dimensions, modern stoneworking firms have admitted that they would have serious difficulties manufacturing one of these boxes and it’s speculated that only a team of NASA engineers with unlimited time (and funding) could actually pull this off. It’s also worth considering that the estimated cost of quarrying a piece of rock like this today would be over $100,000 (this is before transport or machining costs are included). And again of course, graffitti! Some of the worst yet, in fact – see Video (12.52) for more.

Even if you could explain the manufacture and function of these boxes, a significant puzzle still remains: How did they move them into such tight niches? It seems inconceivable that the number of men needed to manoeuvre these weights could comfortably work in these spaces and the boxes are also set several feet into the ground! This provides another significant obstacle for the engineers of the time and yet another baffling mystery for the rest of us.

The corners seen here (right) are from the unfinished box without a lid and present one of the most challenging aspects of the manufacture of these boxes. Although syenite has a lower quartz content than conventional granite, it’s still approximately 6 on the Mohs scale of hardness and very difficult to machine, even with diamond tipped or tungsten carbide tools. Assuming a suitable tube drill was available at the time (and assuming another tool could be found to remove the remaining cusps and webs from the floor of the box) the engineer would still need another distinctly different tool to finish the corners, as anything that produced a circular profile would eventually become geometrically redundant.

Yousef believes that the roughed out faces of the boxes were treated with a chemical which produced the final polished interior and exterior surfaces (well before the woeful graffitti was added). Small inconsistencies like the rough horizontal grooves in the corners (above) would be smoothed over during this process and the surfaces of the finished boxes appear to support this theory (left). This explanation is also supported by physical evidence, as what appear to be ‘drips’ are found on the undersides of some of the dislodged lids and Yousef’s theory is closely related to my own regarding evidence of chemical stone softening found at other sites around the world – see Rethinking: India (5.50).

Claims have circulated for some time regarding the precision of the internal faces of these boxes and I was keen to get back into the Serapeum to investigate. Using a set square and torch, I inspected the interiors of three finished boxes. The faces and corners are mostly good in terms of flatness and squareness – very good in some places – but not quite as precise and accurate as reported by some.  This is not to detract in any way from what a fantastic engineering achievement these boxes are and the profound mysteries surrounding their manufacture, movement, location and purpose will endure. But the claims of 3D parallelness, squareness and tolerances of ‘two ten thousandths of an inch’ were difficult to verify in any of the boxes I inspected (apologies for the picture quality – we were in guerilla mode again as the Serapeum was open to the public at the time). Click to enlarge.

Just time for a couple of final mysteries and I’m again indebted to Yousef who not only took me back to the Serapeum, but also showed me further sites of interest (that even the other members of our tour party didn’t see – sorry all – please enjoy). At Abusir, another saw mark is found (above and below) that suggests the use of a disc cutter of truly vast proportions. The blade appears to be approx. 1/4 of an inch thick with a diameter of 30 to 40 feet! This large, thin disc also seems to have produced ‘chatter marks’ as it passed through the stone. Click to enlarge.

Modern machine marks are either straight and parallel, concentric or helical with very little variation in the physical distance between the tiny machined grooves (right and below). In comparison, the surface of this block shows small but definite variations in these groove distances. This production characteristic is also found on the drill core in the Petrie Museum and on many other surfaces of stones in Egypt that appear to have been machined: In each case, the striations aren’t perfectly equispaced and this suggests the use of very powerful machinery, but under the guidance of an organic, intelligent hand. Hover over to zoom.

Even in the final few minutes of my visit, Egypt continued to conjure up further mysteries. This travertine block (below, left) appears to have functioned as a sacrificial table, but the purpose of the seven ‘basins’ (below, right and beneath) is unknown. The hole near the top of each basin looks similar to a bathtub’s overflow point, but there is no drainage hole at the centre of the basins. This suggests that these basins could have been used in conjunction with a fluid, but at a volume that for some reason needed to be kept constant.

end of tour

In summary, it seems that a very advanced civilisation existed before the Egyptians. This civilisation possessed a superior knowledge of stoneworking that we have either forgotten or never possessed to begin with. For some reason, working with stone did not present the same difficulties to them as it does to us; and it was this civilisation, not the Egyptians, who built the pyramids. Something then happened to this advanced civilisation – perhaps a cataclysmic event – that wiped most of them out and the ‘Egyptians’ simply moved into the remains of their cities, hundreds or even thousands of years later. They carved their signatures into the statues, painted the walls their colours and claimed these artifacts and buildings as their own. This theory may contrast with the approved version of ancient history, but it’s supported by numerous examples of physical evidence and also makes a certain amount of common sense: Imagine how powerful you would be perceived at the time if you could simply convince all of your visitors (and potential enemies) that these awe-inspiring structures and artifacts were your own creations. This theory also explains why, despite the vast number of pyramids in Egypt alone, there are no hieroglyphs, wall reliefs, paintings or otherwise that depict pyramid construction: The Egyptians didn’t know how it was done.

This was also the experience of a lifetime as I’ve never been in the company of so many like-minded people. Everyone had doubts about the history they’d been taught, very few accepted what the mainstream media was telling them and hardly anyone watched television. Nothing was off-limits and the conversations went late and very, very deep. We came to Egypt because we had questions about our past. Judging by what we found, those questions were definitely worth asking.