Is it possible that I am running out of things to write about? It seems that this has been a particularly slow week for bad claims about history, and I am inclined to think that the collapse of the media’s interest in fringe history is to blame. Over the past couple of years, the number of cable shows focusing on fringe history (broadly defined) has declined markedly. Where once they filled several hours per day several days per week, to the point that one weekend there were nonstop fringe shows on some cable channel or another, now there are only a few, led by Ancient Aliens, a show that stopped being about history when it decided to become a spiritual movement and a lifestyle brand. Even written fringe is in decline. Nephilim theorists like L. A. Marzulli have devolved into pro-Trump pundits, and even the clickbait sites are reduced to recycling recycled content.
Anyway, I don’t have a lot to write about today, so I thought I’d share a couple of interesting anecdotes about the pyramids of Egypt. The first concerns a Maltese tourist at the Giza pyramids named Madame Serafina. The Irish doctor and historian Richard Robert Madden ran into her when traveling across the Ottoman Empire in the 1820s. In his 1829 book Travels in Turkey, Egypt, Nubia and Palestine, he recorded what happened when the befuddled tourist tried to discover from her travel companion, an English engineer, how the Biblical patriarch Joseph had built the pyramids as grain silos:
A few minutes’ repose restored Madame Serafina’s strength; her volubility appeared to have suffered little damage; she ejaculated in Italian, but she talked in English; she asked me a thousand questions about the age of the Pyramids? the number of Jews who were employed by Pharaoh to build them? where the bricks were to be seen which were made without straw? and what sort of things the mummies of the kings were in the interior?
Nothing like a little racism to cap off a bizarre conversation!
While this is an amusing anecdote about a misinformed Maltese woman talking with a partially informed Englishman, a second story is both more humorous and a story that surprisingly hasn’t yet been used as proof that the pyramid builders were in contact with the Americas. It comes to us from the March 1909 Brewer’s Journal:
Barley has been found in the lake dwellings of Switzerland in deposits belonging to the Stone Age. It is also claimed that barley found in the pyramids had retained its germinating capacity on account of the absolute dryness of the air in which it was stored. Barley will retain its germinating capacity for a long time, if stored in a dry air-tight place. But the story of the barley from the pyramids is a hoax as well as that of the wheat found there and which is often called “pyramid” wheat. The truth of the matter is that some foxy Arabs placed the grain in the pyramids so that some professors would find it. They carried the joke too far, however, when they placed some of our Indian corn or maize in the pyramids--a grain which is distinctly American and was not known in Egypt until after the discovery of America.
I would have thought some crafty fraudster would be trying to legitimize the hoax by now.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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