There are times when I just don’t have the energy to seek out crazy stuff to write about. Sometimes I have to let the crazy come to me. Today’s subject is brief but interesting. It’s a graphic representation of a secret base located inside the Great Pyramid, and it comes to us courtesy of David S. Anderson (@DSAArchaeology) who posted it to his Twitter feed yesterday. Take a look:
I’m sure you’re all wondering what in the world this could be. It turns out that it is an illustration from a printed companion piece to a Japanese/American children’s adventure show called The King Kong Show, which aired on ABC from 1966 to 1969. In the series, a villain named Dr. Who used a number of schemes to capture King Kong, and a 1967 edition of Shōnen magazine carried diagrams of Dr. Who’s nefarious plans. The illustration in question illustrates a machine from episode 5, “The Jinx of the Sphinx,” in which Dr. Who uses a robot sphinx to wreak havoc in Egypt by ordering the robot to destroy the Suez Canal. The magazine illustration is an expansion of the ideas from the cartoon.
While It might seem to be a total cartoon fantasy, it’s interesting to note that the illustration has more than a little in common with popular fantasies about the Great Pyramid, such as the fanciful illustration of the relieving chambers, in reality very small, as five floors of elaborate rooms in a 1920s newspaper illustration, to the romantic phantasmagoria of winding passages, hidden chambers, and multiple floors of treasure chambers in Arab-Islamic pyramid lore.
It also is reflective, to an extent, of the way that popular conceptions of the interior of Egyptian pyramids stems from medieval fantasies more than from reality. Hollywood depictions of the interior of the pyramids, in everything from mummy movies to Count Duckula to the current remake of DuckTales imagine the pyramids as vast networks of rooms and chambers, and it’s interesting to speculate on exactly how popular culture came to embrace an image of the pyramids that is so opposed to reality.
I imagine the answer is composed of several parts: (a) medieval legends that inspired Romantic writers as they invented fantasy versions of Egypt for fiction; (b) the well-preserved set of winding halls and elaborate chambers surrounding Djoser’s step pyramid, which likely have been conflated with the pyramid itself; (c) conflation of pyramid burial chambers with the more complex and elaborate tombs of the Valley of the Kings, especially after the excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb; (d) and probably the excitement that greeted the discovery of the elaborate decoration and inscription of Unas’s fifth-dynasty pyramid burial chamber in 1881.
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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