It has always pained me a great deal that so many people all over the world are genuinely fascinated by ancient Egypt and yet they are so woefully misinformed by sensationalist media, so-called documentaries based in pseudoscience, and the fantasy world of Hollywood. No other ancient civilization is so universally recognized and yet so thoroughly misunderstood. Sadly, Egyptologists are often so frustrated by this that they want nothing to do with the situation; it’s not just a matter of educating people, it’s completely reeducating them, trying to reverse the damage caused by ‘The Mummy’ and even the Discovery Channel.
When I tell people that I’m studying Egyptology, people always assume that this means pyramids and mummies, the only things they know about Egypt. In fact these areas are so popular that they are overrun by untrained theorists and most Egyptologists shun them rather than tackling all of the misinformation. Sometimes I can hardly blame them; even as a lowly student, I was once approached at a conference by a man who wanted to show me the home experiments that he’d carried out, pulling miniature pyramid blocks in his backyard! The sad thing though is that many people prefer madcap theories to the truth, especially when genuine research is presented in dry academic speak rather than the exciting Indiana Jones-style of tv.
Once I was actually asked in all seriousness for my professional opinion on whether alien build the pyramids. The man said: ‘There’s so much discussion of the alien theory that there must be something to it, right?’. Well, my short answer would be, ‘No. There isn’t anything to it at all.’ My longer answer will follow, with a thorough dissection of the central arguments of the alien theory and why they are wrong. I think the main reason the theory is so popular is that people like to believe in things, things that are much bigger than themselves, whether it’s god or aliens. But often people also want proof and they seek to find it in the pyramids and other ancient monuments. It’s no wonder that the pyramids are incredible enough that they inspire people to believe the unbelievable. I myself don’t think there’s anything wrong with postulating that there might be other life out there in the universe, but I also don’t believe in robbing humanity of pride in its achievements.
I think it’s rather more inspiring to think that human beings, our own ancestors, created such spectacular monumental achievements. However, some people see the concept of civilization as progressive, that humans only continue to improve upon the past, so they think that just because we are uncertain about how the pyramids were built and we ourselves would struggle to replicate their achievement, it is impossible that humans of the past could have done it.
They say that since the pyramids of Giza were built about 4500 years ago, people back then couldn’t have been skilled enough to do it. However, we’re ignoring that numerous remarkable developments were happening all those millennia ago. There are many things that were discovered in the distant past that still serve us today. The Egyptians made many brilliant innovations (something I will have to write more about in another post): simple things that we still use today, which have barely changed over the millennia since they first conceived, from the earliest forms of paper and ink, to the 24 hour day.
People say that since we wouldn’t be able to build pyramids today, that the Egyptians couldn’t have done it, but it’s not just building of the pyramids that couldn’t be replicated today. It’s hard to imagine ever being able to pull together the resources, power, money, skilled craftsmen, and architects needed to build one of the great gothic cathedrals in this day and age. It just couldn’t happen. This isn’t something to be ashamed of though, we simply use different technologies and have different priorities these days. While we couldn’t build another Notre Dame Cathedral or Great Pyramid, modern structures like the Eiffel Tower or the Gherkin wouldn’t have been possible back then either. Pyramids were possible simply because the entire economy, resources, and population of the Egyptian civilization was under the control of a single omnipotent ruler, who could mobilize them all into a monumental building project.
To argue that just because we don’t know every detail about how the pyramids were built would be a logical fallacy (an argument from ignorance) and does not prove that aliens must have built them. We have so much evidence that strongly indicates that the Egyptians themselves were responsible for building the pyramids. We have archaeological evidence of their construction: remains of the quarries, roads, tools, records of the workers and the towns in which they lived. We know why they built them and we can even observe their lengthy and imperfect evolution before they reached their architectural peak with the Great Pyramid.
To properly address the issues out there, I will cite from a number of websites that support the theory that aliens built the pyramids and some of the comments that individuals have posted there, and explain why they are incorrect. I randomly chose a number of sites from the top Google search hits for aliens and pyramids. I don’t want to single anyone out or anything, so I won’t use any names attached to the comments. The various websites from which they derive are listed at the end of this post.
I am no great pyramid expert myself, so I must acknowledge an enormous debt to the work of Mark Lehner and Dieter Arnold, from whom most of my information derives, along with other Egyptological sources, all of which are also listed at the end. I’d recommend Lehner’s ‘The Complete Pyramids’ as the best general book on the subject if you want to learn more. It is very readable with lots of illustrations and diagrams.
Why were the pyramids built?
Referring to the alien theory, someone states: ‘It’s the most sensible theory. Why would ancient Egyptians build such monstrosities just to bury their kings?’ Alien theorists say that it’s a mystery why the Egyptians or other ancient people would build such immense monuments. Therefore, it must have been aliens. But why on earth would the aliens want to build these monuments? And on earth? That makes even less sense. We definitely know the purpose behind the building of the pyramids.
They were used as tombs for the ancient Egyptian kings, but they represented much more than just a grave. They were iconic symbols of the supreme power of the ruler; what better way of showing your subjects who’s boss, than conscripting them to build you a monolith that dominates the entire landscape? Above all, they were monuments to divine Egyptian kingship, the place where the king would be transformed into a god. One of the most important Egyptian myths tells how an ancient king named Osiris was murdered by his evil usurping brother, who in turn was eventually defeated by the rightful heir to the throne, Osiris’ son Horus. In death, Egyptian kings were thought to take on the role of Osiris, the ruler of the underworld, while their son assumed the role of Horus and the kingship. And although deceased, the former king would join the eternal cycle of life to be reborn everyday with the sun god. The pyramid was thought to facilitate this. This also legitimized the rule of the successor to the throne, since the pyramid was a symbol of his father’s new divinity.
There are a number of reasons why these tombs were built in a pyramidal form. First of all, they developed out of an older form of monumental royal tombs called mastabas, which were flat-roofed rectangular buildings, that an enterprising architect named Imhotep then decided to adapt by stacking one on top of the other into a step pyramid form. Also, the pyramid was intended as a place of rebirth. An Egyptian creation myth tells of the birth of the world as a primeval mound rising out of the waters of chaos. The pyramid is a stylized mound.
In a country where the sun is always shining, the sun god Re was the supreme deity, and the king aspired to join him in being reborn every dawn. The pyramid form echoed the rays of the sun and its staircase like form allowed it to serve as an instrument of ascension. Each of the pyramids was capped with a pyramidal stone block, or pyramidion, and the carvings on the one from Amenemhat III’s pyramid at Dashur confirm its celestial role for the king; it is inscribed with a pair of eyes looking up at the sundisk and hieroglyphs that read ‘Amenemhat beholds the perfection of Re’.
The ancient names for the pyramids themselves reveal a great deal about their purpose as royal monuments and symbolic locations for the king’s divine transformation and journey to heaven. The Great Pyramid is called ‘Khufu’s horizon’, and the other two Giza pyramids are called ‘Great is Khafre’ and ‘Menkaure is Divine’. Other pyramid names include ‘Djedefre is a Sehed-Star’ and Sahure’s ‘Rising of the Ba-Spirit’. Just because the Egyptians were interested in the celestial aspect of the afterlife though, doesn’t mean they had to be inspired by aliens. People throughout history have been fascinated by the stars, and I don’t think anyone’s calling Galileo an alien.
The pyramids themselves were clearly part of Egyptian religious tradition, forming the focal point for the worship of the deceased king. Some of the rituals involved cleaning, dressing, and offering food and drink to statues of the king, who was undoubtedly human rather than green or tentacled. We actually have records of the day-to-day activities centred around the pyramids. The Abusir papyri preserve detailed records of the daily activities at the pyramids and of the people who worked there, including schedules of priest and guard duties; inventories of pyramid temple equipment; financial accounts; lists of goods supplied and stored; and records of architectural inspections.
The Egyptians had strong cultural, religious, and political reasons for building the pyramids and there is no reason to question their purpose.
Some internet sites claim that the pyramids were never used as tombs, perhaps because they now lie empty.
This is because they were robbed in antiquity for the treasures that would have been buried with the king. There are still huge stone sarcophagi in many of the pyramids that were clearly used to hold the royal mummy. Funerary texts are also written inside the burial chambers of pyramids built after the Giza ones. The temples attached to the pyramids were used for mortuary rituals at the funeral.
Alien theorists often say that the pyramids couldn’t have been built by such ‘primitive’ ancient people and it’s strange that the pyramids suddenly just appeared out of nowhere
The main idea that most people use to support the theory of alien pyramid builders is, and I quote, ‘that ancient man was ‘primitive’, ‘living in mud huts’, and too ‘stupid’ to build such sophisticated constructions. One website states: ‘In the period 2500 BC man did not have the tools or knowledge necessary to build the pyramids, so only aliens could have done it. The angle of the slope of the sides is so precise only aliens could achieve this. The blocks are so heavy and the pyramid so tall only aliens could achieve this. How the aliens built the pyramids is not known, but they would have employed the use of advanced construction equipment.’
First of all, these ancient peoples were nowhere near as stupid as the people who make such statements. While we may have accumulated knowledge over the centuries, our species’ brains haven’t changed at all in the past few thousand years and ancient people were just as intelligent as we are today.
Before the pyramids were built, the Egyptians had developed agriculture, writing, religion, astronomy, mathematics, metal-working and semi-precious stones, sophisticated artwork and monumental stone architecture, and had managed to unite the various people throughout the country under the rule of one king. This was a true civilization, not a motley band of savages. The pyramids of Giza were incredible achievements for the time: expert Mark Lehner calculates that 9 million tonnes of limestone were quarried between the reigns of Sneferu and Menkaure alone.
When you really learn enough about them, it’s not difficult at all to imagine that the Egyptians were capable of such architectural sophistication. They had a certain expertise in stone working that we lack today. By the time of the pyramids, a corps of craftsmen had been developing their quarrying and building skills since the Early Dynastic Period. We have evidence to support the Egyptians’ responsibility for all the construction stages of the pyramids.
A similar claim for the sudden appearance of the pyramids from nowhere, out of the supposed dark ages that proceeded civilization, is made in a Discovery channel programme about the alien theory (!) in which the voiceover states: ‘For two and a half million years our prehistoric ancestors had been living in caves, passing the time by bashing stones together, when suddenly everything changed and people began to build huge monuments all over the planet. But how? And why?’
They blatantly ignore the fact that we have clear evidence for the evolution of the form and building process of the pyramids. These perfections of architectural engineering did not just appear from nowhere and the Egyptians actually got it wrong in a number of early pyramids before they were able to create the Giza masterpieces.
The first pyramid ever built, the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, started off as a completely different style of building. Originally, a traditional mastaba was built for the Third Dynasty king Djoser. The architect Imhotep then began to make innovative changes by enlarging the basic structure to be a square and then building a smaller mastaba-like square on top. But he didn’t stop there; inspired, Imhotep expanded the building once again and added a fourth, fifth, and sixth level to eventually form the Step Pyramid.
A remarkable structure with an extensive surrounding complex and subterranean palace, it was still not a true pyramid with smooth sides. After a few other stepped pyramid projects were abandoned by short-lived kings, the first attempt at a true pyramid finally developed out of the stepped pyramid of King Sneferu at Meidum.
The Meidum pyramid was originally intended to be a 7-step pyramid and was then expanded to 8-steps and completed in the 14th year of Sneferu’s reign. In his 28th or 29th year though, the workers were sent back again to fill out the rest of it into a true pyramid. Stripped of its outer casing, the remains of the pyramid stand in three large steps. Before he did that though, the ambitious builder Sneferu began building another pyramid at the site of Dashur that was the first pyramid intended to be a true pyramid right from the start. Unaccustomed to building such a structure though, construction began at too steep an angle, a slope of 60°. When severe structural problems were noticed, the architects took emergency measures and altered it to 55°. Still having problems though, they changed it again to a more gradual gradient of 44°, resulting in a rather odd looking pyramid, which has appropriately been dubbed the Bent Pyramid.
Some alien advocates actually try to use this pyramid to support their theory by claiming that the Bent Pyramid was just a shoddy imitation built by humans to copy the aliens who build the Giza pyramids. However, the pyramid is very conclusively dated to years 15-30 of Sneferu’s reign. This first attempt at a true pyramid was so problematic though that Sneferu abandoned it too, and started another pyramid at Meidum. Learning from previous mistakes, the North pyramid continued to build on the developments of Sneferu’s previous efforts, resulting in the first truly successful and magnificent true pyramid.
Pyramids did not suddenly appear out of nowhere, beamed in by alien technology. Only after all of these less successful attempts, and all the experience gained by architects and workers, could the stage be set for the construction of the greatest of world wonders.
How did the ancient Egyptians build the Pyramids?
Pyramid building was a long and complex process that took many different stages and and an amazing amount of resources, but was well within ancient Egyptian capabilities.
The Great Pyramid is composed of roughly 2,300,000 blocks and was likely built in 23 years or less (the length of its builder King Khufu’s reign according to the Turin papyrus). Stadelmann has calculated that to do this, the builders had to lay c. 340 blocks a day. The general figure suggested for the annual workforce is in the range of 20-30,000. Although it needed a great deal of stone, the bulk of it would have been more easily moved as it would have gone into the base of the pyramid, and even though the Great Pyramid was the best constructed, the core itself was also rather sloppier than the exterior, including many irregular stones and debris fill.
I will break down my discussion of the building process into the various stages:
The Egyptians were careful and precise architectural planners. Even buildings much older than the pyramids were laid out using an exact measuring system based on a unit called a cubit (about 52.5 cm, which could be further divided into smaller units called palms). Representations of foundation ceremonies for temples show this measuring process, called the ‘stretching of the cord’, being done using ropes tied to wooden pegs pounded into the ground. Many round holes that may have been for measuring pegs have been found cut into the bedrock around the foundations of pyramids and their temples.
The angle of inclination (seqed in Egyptian) for the sloped faces of the pyramids was clearly calculated by the Egyptians using a simple and precise method. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus shows that seqed was defined as the relation between the horizontal setback of the wall and the vertical rise of 1 cubit. Pyramid alignment is further discussed below. There is also evidence that they produced miniature architect’s models, much like is done today, as part of the planning. Rainer Stadlemann found a small limestone architect’s model for the innovative substructure of Amenemhat III’s Hawara pyramid.
We know that local limestone was used for the pyramid cores and the mortuary and valley temples, while finer limestone and granite were brought along river from Tura and Aswan to use for the smooth outer casing.
The quarry used for Khufu’s pyramid is located on the plateau itself, 300m south of the Great Pyramid, a huge horseshoe shaped chunk out of the plateau, dug up to 30m below the original surface. Khafre’s quarry gives a good example of how the blocks were actually quarried. In the open limestone quarry just north of his pyramid, there are still the stumps of 3x3m blocks that were removed thousands of years ago with trenches in between them where the stonecutters would have worked.
Stone tools were used for quarrying. Blocks were cut by pounding channels into the limestone using hammer stones to separate them from bedrock and then detached using large wooden levers. Traces of these channels remain and there are still a number of unfinished quarry blocks that lie almost detached from the bedrock not far from the Sphinx, and in Menkaure’s quarry, where huge lever sockets are also visible.
In an interview with NOVA, Mark Lehner explains the strongly human and flawed side to these monuments: ‘A pyramid is basically, most basically, two separate constructions: it’s an outer shell of very fine polished limestone with great accuracy in its joints and the other construction is the inner core, which filled in this shell. The core was made with a substantial slop factor, as my friend who is a mechanic likes to say about certain automobiles. That is, they didn’t join the stones very accurately. You have great spaces between the stones. And so they’d jam down pebbles and cobbles and some broken stones, and slop big quantities of gypsum mortar in there.
We saw in many places, even on the giant pyramids of Giza, the first pyramid and the second pyramid and the third one, fragments of tools, bits of pottery that are clearly characteristic of the Old Kingdom. So you see the pyramids are very human monuments. And the evidence of the people who built them, their material culture is embedded right into the very fabric of the pyramids. And I think I could take just about any interested person and show them this kind of material embedded in the pyramids as well as tool marks in the stones and say, hey, folks, these weren’t lasers. These were chisels and hammers and you know, people who were really out there.’
There is actually a lot of evidence left of the ordinary people who performed the strenuous building work, who weren’t aliens, but most definitely Egyptian. While the total number of the workforce is speculative, we do know about the division of the work force and the size of these groups. The work force was organized by crews, each of roughly 2000 conscripted peasants, comprising two gangs of 1000. Each gang was divided into five groups of 200 men called zaa, also known by the Greek name ‘phyle’. Within each phyle were ten divisions of twenty men. The gangs seems to have been competitive and had names relating to the reigning king, for example ‘Friends of Khufu’ or ‘Drunkards of Menkaure’, and they actually graffitied their names on the buildings!
The stones from some of the Middle Kingdom pyramids have rough hieroglyphs inscribed on them as notes for either scribes or controllers. These notes consist of the date of transport, the workmen in charge of the block, and the stage of transport. Some state ‘brought from the quarry’ or ‘removal from the quarry’, delivered at the mereyt (harbour or embankment), ‘brought from the embankment’ and delivered to ‘storage enclosures’. Other notes records that they were ‘brought’ or ‘dragged’ to the pyramid, or ‘delivered to the ramp’. Herdsmen are also mentioned, who may have been responsible for driving oxen pulling the stone.
The stones also have team marks written on them to record the name of the team responsible for them. They may have been written and read by the basically illiterate workmen themselves, since some involve true hieroglyphs and others invented signs. Felix Arnold believes that the signs related to the worker’s hometowns, which weren’t in outer space.
There are also written documents that deal with the pyramid builders. Several of the Lahun papyri from the town associated with the pyramid builders of Senwosret II document the dragging of stone blocks by groups of workers.
The Nile River was the highway of Egypt and any finer stone that was quarried from further away was transported to the pyramid site by boats. Most of the stone was quarried nearby though, and wooden sledges were probably used to transport the blocks over land. A 4.2m long sledge was found by the pyramid of Senwosret III. At least some of these sledges would have been drawn by oxen. A number of tomb and temple wall paintings depict the transportation of stones by water and by sledges drawn by men or oxen.
Roads and tracks were made to pave the way for these sledges. Worn wooden beams were reused like ‘railway sleepers in tracks’ for dragging heavy stones on sledges overland. Such tracks have been found at Lisht near the Twelfth Dynasty pyramids of Amenemhat I and Senwosret I. Transport roads, which also survive at Lisht, measure up to 36 ft in width. They were made with a foundation consisting of a fill of limestone chips and mortar with wooden beams inserted, over which a layer of limestone chips and white gypsum was used to provide a smooth, solid surface. Water used as a lubricant for the ground to make it easier to pull the sledges.
Transporting immense quantities of stone was not an impossible task that would have required space ships, but well within the ancient Egyptians’ capabilities.
Laying the blocks
When the stone blocks were finally being moved into place, to preserve the precise alignment of the walls, corner blocks would be set first and then other blocks would be brought in on rollers but only lever moved into their precise final placement using levers. For example, one of the casing blocks of Khufu’s pyramid shows a lever hole in the base of the block that was then filled in with plaster. But lacking in ‘alien perfection’, sometimes since there were different teams working to lay blocks from each of the pyramid’s corners, they could end up with a gap in the middle, which would need to be filled with smaller blocks, as is the case with the pyramid of Meidum.
It is generally thought that ramps were used to move the blocks to the higher levels of the pyramids. Certainly some of the proto-pyramids, the step mastabas of the Third Dynasty show evidence of having had building ramps on all sides. For true pyramids, using such ramps blocks could have been towed to a height of 30-50 m, and at least 50% of blocks could have been lifted that way. The Meidum pyramid shows traces that indicate a steep ramp was applied to the outer casing. These ramps would not have been difficult to build or dismantle since they would have been made from an amalgam of limestone chip, tafla, and gypsum, rather than stone blocks.
All sorts of ramps have been proposed, from single or multiple straight ones to ones that would wrap around the structure or zigzag up the face or even internal ramps. Just because we don’t know for certain how the upper reaches of the pyramids were built, doesn’t automatically mean that they couldn’t have been built and are therefore alien constructions. There are a number of different ways it could have been done, but sadly we aren’t just able to ask the Egyptians which one is right. There probably isn’t even one simple answer, a number of different methods could have been used.
But…pyramids would have been really hard to build!
A lot of website comments display a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of pyramids. One states: ‘There is no way that primitive man built the pyramids. Even with modern equipment (i.e. cranes) we could not duplicate that feat, those are megaton (1million ton) rocks. You could surround the entire rock with men and it wouldn’t budge 1″. There’s no way with simple ropes & pulleys that they moved those stones… absolutely NO WAY.’
While, yes, the pyramids would have been incredibly difficult to build and required incredible expertise, they are not miracle structures. People seem to think that you’d practically need magic to build them! They’re amazing feats of engineering, but they’re certainly not inconceivable as human creations. The blocks were certainly not a million tonnes each! On average, they weighed about 2.5 tonnes. And the suggestion of lifting the entire weight of the blocks with cranes would probably actually be more difficult than the Egyptian approach, which was to drag the stones over wooden rollers or slippery mud lined surfaces. We even have the remains of the smoothed roads that they built to move them. Just think about it…while I can barely lift my suitcase when it’s stuffed to the brim and weighing almost 30 kg, it’s relatively easy to move when it’s on wheels! By surrounding the blocks with teams of men, it wouldn’t have been that difficult to move them, and the Egyptians often used cattle to help as well. The NOVA pyramid-building experiment found that 20 men could easily pull a two-tonne block along lubricated tracks. Building the pyramids would have been difficult, but people can be pretty clever when it comes to making work easier.
What about the pyramids’ extraordinarily accurate alignment?
Precision, according to one website, is only possible if you come from another planet: ‘The pyramids are so accurately aligned with the points of the compass that only aliens could have achieved this all those thousands of years ago.’ It wasn’t visitors from space, but rather the observation of it that allowed for the Egyptians’ great accuracy in orienting the sides of the pyramids. Amazing precision could be achieved just by watching the stars. There was actually a whole institution within temples with priests devoted to star gazing. The theory suggested by I.E.S. Edwards is that using a horizontal circular wall, a person standing within could mark a star’s rising and setting points on the top of the wall, with North identifiable as the bisection of these. A more recent theory advocated by Kate Spence suggests that the architects of the Great Pyramid sighted on two stars (b-Ursae Minoris and z-Ursae Majoris), rotating around the North Pole, which would have been in alignment when Khufu’s pyramid was constructed. Supporting this theory is the fact that inaccuracies in the orientations of earlier and later pyramids can be closely correlated with the degree to which the alignment of these two stars deviates from true north.
The perfect right angles of the pyramid were likely achieved using either a set square, of which ancient specimens are preserved, or using a ‘Pythagorean’ triangle, which was known to the Egyptians before the Greeks. They also used specialized surveying tools called the merkhet (basically a plumb bob) and the bay, a sighting tool made from the central rib of a palm leaf. Examples of such precision tools have actually been excavated are square levels with plumb bobs, set squares, and vertical plumb rods, and there are depictions of them being used by the Egyptians. After each of the four corners of the building had been plotted, the Egyptians would align the straight sides by stretching a rope between each of the corners in a ceremony called ‘stretching the cord’. This method was in use for decades before the first pyramid was ever built, and was first depicted in the reign of the Second Dynasty king, Khasekhemwy.
But then why don’t we build pyramids?
Again, misinformation makes people assume that since we aren’t building pyramids ourselves, the Egyptians couldn’t possibly have. As one person states: ‘How about the fact that a group of modern scientists attempted to build a pyramid out next to the real one using modern technologies, and after something like 100 days, succeeded in building one about 1/40 of the size of the real one????’
Well, again a classic example of wilful ignorance. I’m sure there have been a number of experiments like these, but the major one that I’m aware of, the NOVA pyramid-building experiment took 40 days to build a pyramid measuring 20ft high. However, they attempted to use mainly ancient technologies, they only had a team of 44 workmen, a short time period, and a total lack of experience in pyramid building. And it was just an experiment, they weren’t trying to build a real pyramid! Egypt had a state-controlled system capable of acquiring and organizing the necessary people and resources. The Egyptians would have used thousands of workers and taken many years to build a proper pyramid, and just because we aren’t building them too doesn’t prove that it was humanely impossible.
The pyramids of Giza form the belt of Orion
A theory proposed by Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert, notes that the pattern formed by the layout of the pyramids is virtually identical to the three belt stars of the constellation Orion. If one considers the details of the Orion correlation it seems likely that it is pure coincidence. Orion’s belt is a famous star formation partly because of the natural simplicity of its layout. The arrangement of the Giza pyramids in that pattern was probably simply because it offered the best sight lines. Basically the pyramids are laid out in a diagonal line, rather than blocking each other. Khafre built his pyramid after his father Khufu built the Great Pyramid and very cleverly situated his smaller pyramid on the higher part of the plateau so as to actually make his appear bigger than his father’s!
Bauval and Gilbert further pressed the Orion comparison by using computer software to pinpoint the date in ancient history when the alignment of the pyramids would have exactly mirrored the constellation Orion in the sky. They claim this conjunction occurred precisely in 10,450 BC and therefore this is the true date of the building of the pyramids by aliens, before the rise of Egyptian civilization. However, there is absolutely no evidence that the pyramids existed before the Egyptians did. There is overwhelming evidence that they are the cultural, religious, and political products of the early Egyptian state. The Giza pyramids were built during the 4th dynasty, which probably dates to around 2575-2450 BC.
Radiocarbon dating, which is unfortunately not always that accurate, was done on the Great Pyramid several times in the 1980s and 90s, (initially funded by the Edgar Cayce Foundation, another group that wanted the pyramids to date to 10,500 BC, believing them to be remnants of Atlantean society!). The radiocarbon dates for the Great Pyramid ranged from 2660 to 3809 BC, slightly older than the historical dates previously assumed. Also, the great cedar boat found buried beside the Great Pyramid was radiocarbon dated to about 2,600 BC. So the pyramids certainly do not date from 10,500 BC!
So yes, the Egyptians, not aliens, built the pyramids!
Pyramid building became a great cultural tradition of the Egyptian and about 30 key pyramids were built, not including all the accompanying satellite or queens’ pyramids, over a span of more than 800 years, remarkable monuments, for which the Egyptians deserve the credit.
The theory that aliens built the pyramids is built on fanciful notions, misinformation, and a wilful ignorance that completely disregards any scholarly research that contradicts the theory. Alien theorists have barely anything to support their idea other than the tactic of attacking the uncertainty of Egyptologists over the details of the building process. They prey on the people who find inspiration in the concepts of the pyramids and alien life and use them to fuel publicity for their sensationalist books and television programmes. Both ‘Is there Life elsewhere in the universe?’ and ‘How were the pyramids built?’ are questions worthy of being asked, but they belong to separate spheres of research and different periods of history, and should be kept that way. Zahi Hawass, the head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt and the Director of the Giza Pyramids Excavation, says of the people who believe in alien theories, ‘People like to dream. If you meet someone who is not an archaeologist, they love to dream, but you have to know a little bit about reality.’ While reality might not involve conspiracy theories or UFOs, it can still be thrilling to learn about the real people behind their creation.
We shouldn’t rob ourselves of feeling pride in the pyramids as a human achievement. In building these monumentally inspiring constructions, our ancestors built the foundations of civilization. We shouldn’t betray their ingenuity with our ignorance, but celebrate it by continuing to build upon the intellectual developments and inventions that made the pyramids possible.
Arnold, Dieter. 1991. Building in Egypt. Pharaonic Stone Masonry. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Aston, B., etc. 2000. ‘Stone’ in Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology, eds. Shaw and Nicholson. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Edwards, I.E.S. 1985. The Pyramids of Egypt. New York & London: Viking Penguin.
Lehner, M. 1985. ‘The Development of the Giza Necropolis: The Khufu Project’. MDAIK 41, 109-143.
Lehner, M. 1997. The Complete Pyramids. London, Thames and Hudson, Ltd.
Quirke, Stephen. 1990. The Administration of Egypt in the Late Middle Kingdom. New Malden: Sia Publishing.