Jason Colavito is taking great interest in everything I say. He claims to be a “Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist”, who runs a blog in which he essentially nitpicks.
Interested by my DVD “The Ancient Alien Question”, he focused on the following one-liner. I am unsure whether he therefore agrees with the other contents of the DVD, or whether he just wanted to focus on this one-liner which clearly he doesn’t like.
Imhotep says that the knowledge through which he was able to construct the pyramids was given to him by non-human intelligences.
He comments: “Nothing in this claim is true.”
I don't "claim" to be one; as clearly stated on my site, Space Archaeology Wiki named me that.
Nor do I "nitpick." The ancient astronaut "theory" is supposedly inductive, resting on specific evidence. I take claims one at a time to demonstrate that each individual claim is false, and therefore the hypothesis derived from them is unsupported.
Before defending myself, I want to look at Colavito’s attack:
“Imhotep did not build “the pyramids” (in total); he built perhaps two. The first, and best documented, was Djoser’s step pyramid, which was not a true pyramid like the Great Pyramid since it was a series of increasingly small rectangular platforms (traditional Egyptian stone mastaba tombs) stacked atop one another. The second was unfinished, another step pyramid, this time for Sekhemket, Djoser’s successor.”
So Imhotep did build pyramids, correct? Where do I say he built all pyramids? Pyramids were built over hundreds of years. If I were to argue he built all of them, would you not think I might say he had found the secret of eternal life?
The argument that Djoser’s pyramid is not a “true pyramid” is just nonsense. Djoser’s pyramid is a pyramid – full stop. Stop talking nonsense.
My point was that it is uncertain that he built multiple pyramids; the conjecture that he built Sekhemket's is just that, based on a single inscription. It is simply not known with certainty.
Coppens confuses the colloquial use of pyramid to describe any tapering, tall structure with a wide base with the geometric shape, to which I was referring. This does not discount Imhotep's achievement; it merely describes the geometric shape of the building.
Colavito then goes on endlessly about Manetho maybe or maybe not mentioning Imhotep. It has actually nothing to do with the point at hand. Mr. Colavito may think it is, but truly, it’s merely to make his blog entry look longer than it should be.
That Imhotep was involved with the building of the pyramid, is accepted by all. And nowhere in your blog entry do you provide evidence that this is an error. You may wish it was substantiated more – fine. But, hey, guess what, hundreds if not thousands of Egyptologists argue Imhotep was involved with Djoser’s Pyramid too. Why do you not create a blog post accusing them of the same crime you accuse me of? Or at least include them in this blog post? Why am I so special? I am neither the first, nor the last to claim Imhotep was involved with the building of this pyramid.
As Colavito himself says: “The discovery of Imhotep’s name at Saqqara confirms this inference.” So? You actually agree there is evidence. So why go on about there not being?
By "endlessly" he means 200 words, just 20 more than his own criticism of these words.
I never doubted Imhotep was responsible for Djoser's pyramid nor did I ever say this was an error (indeed, I say it is true!); my point was that there is no ancient text from the Third Dynasty quoting the words of Imhotep, and therefore Coppens can't know what Imhotep did or did not say in life since the evidence he claims to cite is thousands of years younger or modern inferences.
Then you add: “but it does not make it a genuine bit of ancient knowledge,” Doesn’t it? It’s pretty close, I hope you would agree, and given the circumstances, the best evidence – not? Which is why everyone else has no problem defining this as the best evidence – except Colavito, apparently.
Then you add: “much less the actual words of Imhotep that aliens gave him the plans.” I did not say “aliens” – I said non-human intelligences. Nor did I say they were the “actual words”. We’ll come to this later.
Then you add: “Although Imhotep was known as the author of a book of maxims, none of Imhotep’s original writings survive, so he couldn’t have “said” anything directly,” This is nonsense. For one, it implies that if someone never writes a book, nothing of that person’s sayings could survive? It happens every single day! There are millions of people interviewed on a daily basis on television who will never write a book or what they say, will be written down – but their sayings will survive, and can be transcribed.
I never doubted that Imhotep built the Step Pyramid; but there is no ancient text demonstrating that the Egyptians of the period from which Coppens' evidence comes (the Hellenistic period) were aware of this fact, which was my point. The Hellenistic writers wrote of Djoser as the architect, and Imhotep as a doctor. Not the same.
The sayings of Imhotep survived for a thousand years, but Philip Coppens doesn't have them and therefore can't know what they say--which is my point.
Please explain to me why you bring in The Berlin Leather Roll and all that discussion – except to make your blog entry longer.
Gladly. It's many centuries older than the text you claim as your source and clearly demonstrates that architects in Egypt were expected to know how to build without alien help. It is (as I state) circumstantial, but telling.
Though you have, after engaging you in conversation follow the post, asked me where I got my information, yet in your blog, you tell me you have found my source! So why bother asking me again? You already know, right?
“Fortunately, his ultimate source isn’t hard to find. It’s the Famine Stela, a Ptolemaic inscription created around 200 BCE, about 2,400 years after Imhotep died. On the famine stela, Imhotep—described as a high priest, not an architect—travels to Elephantine where he has a dream that the river god Khnum spoke to him and promised to make the Nile flood, bringing prosperity back to Egypt. The connection to architecture? Khnum promises Imhotep “stones upon stones” for building and restoring temples—clearly Khnum wasn’t inventing architecture for Imhotep (since temples—no pyramids are mentioned—must already have existed) but rather was promising a litany of natural resources to him, including river water and building stones.”
Mr. Colavito, seriously… Imhotep being described as a high priest, but not as an architect, do you seriously feel this destroys anything I said above? I know he is a high priest. It’s his title. We address Obama as President, not as “author”, “lawyer” or “professor”. Somehow, it seems the rules are different for Imhotep?
I know what is most likely the source, but as you so kindly pointed out, I can't know what goes on in your head. Therefore, I asked in case--and I am able to admit this--there are documents I do not know about that might support your claim. As I said, I would love to see these so I can be proved wrong. That you did not provide them tells me that you know of no other documents.
I mentioned that the Famine Stela does not describe Imhotep as an architect because that supports my point above that Hellenistic Egyptians demonstrate no awareness of him as a builder in any document I have read. Please do show me one if one does exist.
However, let me ask you: Khnum, he is a deity, as you yourself realize: he is a non-human intelligence as such, correct?
Now, let me quote the Famine Stela, simply because you fail to do so, and I wondered why – I mean, I just wanted to say “I wondered why” to cause doubt over your motive, as you like to cause doubt over everyone else’s motive too:
“I bestow on you stones upon stones,
That were not found before,
Of which no work was made,
For building temples,
Inlaying statues' eyes.”
First of all, it is you who seems to suggest a pyramid is not a temple. You are in essence wrong there. Pyramids in Egypt were part and parcel of a large temple complex, and this remains extremely apparent for the Djoser Pyramid, which sits within a larger temple complex. So I think you made my point for me, not? If so, thanks – but seriously, I am not thanking you.
A deity would be a non-human intelligence, but this one isn't said to have given architectural knowledge.
And I did link to, partially quote, and paraphrase this exact passage. You are purposely being deceptive here. Check the quotation marks in my passage.
The Egyptian word for pyramid was "MR" while the word for temple was "PR." Since the stela doesn't use "MR" we cannot take the liberty of reading pyramid into it. That is an artifact of the English translation you rely upon.
Khnum gave "stones" (not knowledge) for "rebuilding" implying the preexistence of buildings. No knowledge transfer is mentioned or implied, only the transfer of natural resources.
Now you may claim that the Famine Stela is two millennia after Imhotep lived; sure. But it likely replaced an earlier stela, which after two millennia must definitely have been in need of replacing. We replace stained glass windows of medieval cathedrals all the time. Please don’t tell me that this doesn’t mean that Chartres and Notre Dame don’t exist?
You don't know that. It's an assumption. The language of the current stela is Ptolemaic, so it cannot be an exact copy of an earlier stela. What evidence do you have that this story predates Ptolemy? To use your example, does the existence of Notre Dame de Paris in the Middle Ages imply Victor Hugo's Hunchback is a copy of a medieval text?
You conclude: “So, in one sentence Philip Coppens elides 2,500 years of history and serves it with a soupcon of untruth.”
My conclusion is that in one blog post, you have a go at me, casting doubt on my motivation and intelligence, pretending to find fault with what I write, but truly, you have not found anything. To recap:
If you feel my blog post casts aspersions on your intelligence, you are welcome to that opinion. I think I have laid out sufficient fault with your claims.
Incidentally, I didn't attack you as a human being, only your specific claim. It might be worth noting that individuals and their work are separate entities. I am sure that offline you are a much nicer person.
Imhotep says that the knowledge through which he was able to construct the pyramids was given to him by non-human intelligences.
Again: (a) The "Imhotep" you refer to is a literary character from a Ptolemaic stela, not the original historical figure. (b) Even in that stela, he does not claim to receive "knowledge." He says he got stones. You quoted the passage, so at this point you are willfully misreading it for your purposes, whatever those are. I tried to give you the benefit of the doubt, but you chose to double down. So, show me where "knowledge" was transferred.
Imhotep had a dream, in which Khnum, a deity – i.e. a non-human intelligence – told him about working with stone, while everyone is in agreement that he was involved with the construction of the Djoser pyramid complex. If you want to claim that what I write is a falsehood or a lie – though you have since softened that claim – please address these two points, which will not merely see you go against me, but the entire world of Egyptology.
1) Prove that Imhotep was not involved with the Djoser Complex. You may say it is impossible to prove a negative, but I am sure you are up to it! In short, the link between Imhotep and Djoser is scientifically sound, accepted and not controversial whatsoever, except for someone like you who tries to make it seem as if I alone am unique in believing this, it seems. If you think I am, seriously, you know nothing.
2) The Faminine Stela mentions Khnum spoke to Imhotep. Please tell me why this isn’t evidence of contact with a non-human intelligence. For your information, I am not at all saying or even implying Khnum was a physical alien – in fact, as you probably realize – it is why I used the term non-human intelligence.
Khnum did not tell him how to work with stone. As Khnum clearly states, such knowledge was already known, or else "restoring" old buildings wouldn't be possible.
1) Imhotep certainly was involved in the Djoser Complex, as I specifically said in my piece. What I wrote, and you do not understand, is that we cannot prove that the Ptolemaic authors of the Famine Stela knew that based on the extant ancient texts, an important prerequisite for your claim.
2) False dichotomy. The stela writes of "contact" with a god, but this does not imply any reality to the story. What evidence have you that there is any reality to the tale outside of the tale itself? Are Lucian's moon men real, though they be nearly as ancient a text? Or how about Euhemerus' Panchaeans, arguably an older ancient text?
I wish you well.
But, you say: “Nothing in this claim is true.”
Can you seriously stand by that?
This is all I have to say about your blog entry. If you want to continue nitpicking, I am sure to jump in on occasion and leave some comments, but I think we've dealt with this issue. I am sure you may want to continue your posting by using ridiculous notions like "artistic choice" and I wish you well with wasting your and everyone else's time in writing and doing so. I, however, don't. I am sure that leaves me open for more name calling on your part! Somehow, I feel I stir something in you that you so hate, that I feel that whatever I do, I cannot change that.
Thanks. You too.
Yes, I stand by my claim.
Remember, Philip, I never called anyone names. You are the only one to engage in vitriol and petty ad hominem attacks.
I hardly hate you, Philip. In fact, if you check my blog archive, you are one of the ancient astronaut authors I have written about least, primarily because your work is in large part recycled claims from other authors. I'm flattered though that you think I'm obsessed with you. Would you mind if I add that to my catalog of alternative authors' persecution paranoia?
If you want to change my mind, as I said, show me the ancient text where "knowledge" of "building" is transferred, and then prove that the god in the text has an existence external to the text. Simple.