Alternative Historians Unite to Claim Wadi-al-Jarf Papyri Do Not Prove Khufu Built the Great Pyramid
Last week, marijuana enthusiast Preston Peet, formerly of High Times magazine and the editor of the Disinformation Guide to Ancient Aliens, etc., published an article on Graham Hancock’s website attempting to discredit the recent announcement that a cache of texts found in Egypt documented construction work on the Great Pyramid during the reign of Khufu. Peet sits in an uncomfortable position where he wishes to discredit archaeological evidence in favor of medieval Arabic pyramid myths—but only the portions of which that support Graham Hancock’s lost civilization hypothesis.
In 2013, archaeologists uncovered a cache of papyri at Wadi-al-Jarf which document the quarrying and transport of stones for the “Horizon of Khufu,” the ancient name for Giza, in the last year of Khufu’s reign, under the supervision of Khufu’s half-brother Ankh-Haf. Archaeologists Pierre Tallet and Gregory Marouard, who led the team that discovered these documents, concluded that these papyri represented a description of some of the Great Pyramid’s casing stones being quarried and transported.
Peet, however, does not want to believe this to be the case because it undermines the idea that the Pyramids are remnants of a pre-Flood civilization. He tries to split the difference between the undeniable connection of the texts with Giza and his favored historical fantasy by arguing that “key thinkers” (read: Graham Hancock) claim that the superstructure of the pyramids was built atop “much older foundations” dating back to the Ice Age. But he immediately undercuts this argument by falling back on the Zecharia Sitchin and Scott Creighton hypothesis—repeatedly denied by Graham Hancock himself—that the cartouche of Khufu found within the pyramid’s so-called relieving chambers is a fake:
There are no other contemporaneous inscriptions that link the building of the Great Pyramid to Khufu or any pharaoh for that matter, other than a single questionable cartouche of Khufu’s name in red ocher paint on a stone, out of sight, in a relieving chamber, above the King’s Chamber, deep inside the Great Pyramid, where dynamite was needed to find it in the first place. Certainly nothing like a proclamation to the world or statement of possession by Khufu or anyone. So these ancient, torn papyri are extremely special and rare if they do conclusively link the building of the Great Pyramid to Khufu.
Peet took his claim to Graham Hancock and John Anthony West, and the two “alternative” writers both agreed that Khufu merely “renovated” or enlarged a pre-existing pyramid. “These records sound like they are documenting that renovation and completion project—the facing stones—rather than the building of entire pyramids,” Hancock told Peet. West concurred but said that his reasons for believing it were “too complicated” to explain to Peet via email. (Side note—if unlimited space doesn’t allow for an explanation, pray tell, what does?)
Rosicrucian occult writer Stephen Mehler (yes, the Rosicrucians again!), a crystal skull enthusiast and writing partner of David Childress (who is also his publisher), alleged that the documents were an “absolute fraud or complete mistranslation,” but offered no evidence to support his claim.
The trouble, though, is that the alternative hypotheses that Peet would prefer, those involving a pre-existing, more ancient pyramid, are ultimately based on medieval Arabic pyramid legends that are themselves based, in all likelihood, on Khufu! I’ve gone through this argument too many times to count, but the basic reasoning is that Manetho identified “Suphis” (Khufu) as the builder of the Great Pyramid and the author of a book of sacred wisdom. Over time, this became conflated with Judeo-Christian and Hermetic lore, and Suphis became corrupted in the Middle Ages into the antediluvian King Surid, builder of the Pyramid and preserver of sacred wisdom. The timeline is also fairly clear: With Jewish, Christian, and Islamic sources putting the date of creation somewhere between 4004 and 3760 BCE, the putative date of the Great Flood fell in the right period for the pyramid to have been built by Khufu three centuries before it. (The Flood, by one measure, occurred in 2345 BCE, and Khufu died in 2566 BCE.) This fact is obscured by modern fringe writers’ rejection of Young Earth Creationism in favor of a longer timeline that identifies Noah’s Flood with the rising sea levels at the end of the last Ice Age. This, in turn, has a basis in the timeline laid out by Plato for the fall of Atlantis in 9600 BCE, on account of Ignatius Donnelly’s identification of the sinking of Atlantis with both Noah’s Flood and the end of the Glacial Age.
That alternative theories have their grounding in this Arabic myth is beyond question. Erich von Däniken and Graham Hancock both cite the story explicitly as part of their reasoning for an earlier date for the pyramid, while others like Robert Schoch use the myth in support of the same. (Hancock called it “crystal clear” evidence of a lost civilization in Fingerprints of the Gods.) If this isn’t proof enough, the Victorian sources they base their claims upon derive explicitly from these Arabic legends, notably in the paraphrased and semi-translated form given by Col. Vyse in the second volume of his Operations in 1842 (from which von Däniken got it) or from John Greaves (from whom Hancock got it).
I bring this up because the Arabic legends, following ancient precedent, report something at odds with the fringe claims, namely that the now-missing casing stones of the Great Pyramid were covered with inscriptions. While there is no evidence of these inscriptions on any surviving casing stones, nearly every ancient and medieval observer reported their existence. It is illogical to argue that the pyramid is anonymous and uninscribed and therefore not the work of Khufu but that we can use myths which claim that the pyramid was not anonymous and uninscribed and was the work of Khufu to support that claim.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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