I bring all of this up because a recent article on Ancient Code receiving more than a little attention on social media alleges that Norden’s book is proof that the Giza plateau once featured a fourth pyramid, of black granite. The article summarizes online conspiracy theories from the past decade or so that speculate on the origins and fate of the “missing” Black Pyramid.
In 1757, Norden’s text was translated into English and published under the title Travels in Egypt & Nubia. In the translation, Norden describes the so-called Black Pyramid, which he calls the “fourth” pyramid, “almost on a diagonal line” with the other three.
Here, though, things begin to break down. Here is how Ancient Code gives Norden’s text about this pyramid, with ellipses identical to those found on the Above Top Secret message board and fringe books going back at least to 2010:
It is without coating, closed and resembles the others, but without any temple like the ﬁrst. It has however, one particular deserving remark; which is, that its summit is terminated by a single great stone, which seems to have served as a pedestal … the fourth pyramid has been made, upwards above the middle, of a stone more black than the common granite, and at least as hard. Its summit is of a yellowish stone. I shall speak elsewhere of its top, which terminates in a cube. It is, moreover, situated out of the line of the others, being more to the west … it makes a series with the three others.
Quant à la quatrième pyramide, elle est encore de cent pieds moindre que la troisième. Elle est aussi sans revêtement, fermée et semblable aux autres, mais sans temple, comme la première. Elle a pourtant une chose digne de remarque : son sommet est terminé par une seule et grande pierre qui semble avoir servi de piédestal. Du reste elle se trouve située hors la ligne des autres, étant un peu plus à l'ouest. Ces quatre grandes pyramides sont environnées de quantité d'autres plus petites…
The fourth pyramid is an hundred feet lower than the third. It is like the others, uncovered without, is shut, but hath no temple like the first. It has one article worthy of observation, which is, that its summit is terminated by one great stone, that seems to have served for a pedestal. It cannot be said that it is exactly in the same line with the others, inasmuch as it leans a little more to the west. These four great pyramids are surrounded by many lesser ones…
It is certainly an error in what these various authors wrote. All of them say that it is the third pyramid which is made from basalt: It is instead the fourth. If our learned author had bothered to approach it, he might have easily reconciled these earlier authors. He would have seen that this fourth pyramid was, and still is, up until the middle made of stone blacker than ordinary granite, and at least as hard. I dare not say whether it is of basalt, because it differs from the material, from which is made the beautiful vase, which I saw in Rome at the home of Cardinal Alessandro Albani, and which is given to be basalt.
The stones, which are missing from this Pyramid, are located on the ground at the corner which faces the northeast. They are in a very great heap.
Mr. Greaves nevertheless has some excuse for not having paid attention to this pyramid. It is situated such that, if you cannot see it from a distance, neither can you perceive it easily when near, because the others hide it. Its summit is a yellowish stone, of the quality of Portland, and it is also the same stone from which the other pyramids were built. I will speak elsewhere of its summit, which terminates in a cube.
However, the existence of the fourth pyramid is quite certain. It makes its place alongside the other three. It is a proven thing. The Lord Sandwich observed it as well, and my drawings attest to the same truth.
As to the question of what this “Fourth Pyramid” was, I must concur with Col. Vyse, who in 1840 suggested that Norden has mistaken one of Menkaure’s satellite pyramids, the westernmost, for a fourth great pyramid. The ruined satellite pyramid, in the form of a step-pyramid, ends in a cube, while the easternmost one (opposite Menkaure’s northeast-facing corner) could be said to resemble rubble, the “great heap” Norden describes. Given that he was also pretty bad at estimating heights, to judge by his estimates of known objects, so closely does this hypothesis fit that it seems unlikely that any other solution would work as well. However, we are left with one baffling question, which Col. Vyse noted: “Mr. Norden has entirely overlooked the two [satellite] Pyramids which are close to the one he blames Mr. Greaves for not having noticed.” Might they have been partially buried in sand? I’m afraid I don’t have the answer to how Norden missed two pyramids.