Confessions of an Egyptologist:
Lost Libraries, Vanished Labyrinths and the Astonishing Truth Under the Saqqara Pyramids
Erich von Däniken | trans. Bernard Sulzer | September 2021 | New Page Books | ISBN: 978-1-63265-191-4
Confessions of an Egyptologist is at least somewhat unusual by ancient astronaut theorist Erich von Däniken’s standards. It is framed not as his usual grab-bag of medieval, Victorian, and midcentury pseudoscience but as a discussion of an Egyptian tour guide he calls Adel H., who died in the 1997 Luxor terrorist attack near the temple of Hatshepsut. His full name, in standard English transliteration (rather than the German used in this book) was ‘Adil Hummam, and the pair had been friends since 1984. I will refer to the man in the book as Adel, however, because it is never clear how much the literary version resembles the actual man. This conceit lasts barely a page before von Däniken (henceforth EVD) winds off on a tangent, asking if Hatshepsut was the “world’s first transgender person.” He can’t write a sustained discussion of anything, even the death of his friend.
Regular readers will remember Scott Creighton, who has published a number of poorly researched books about Egyptian history containing various occult and fringe conspiracy theories. I criticized him in a previous review for writing about medieval Arabic-language pyramid myths as an accurate guide to ancient Egyptian practices, and it seems that he didn’t quite take the lesson.
Since I am working on my books and not blogging this week, I am cross-posting my newsletter news items for those who do not subscribe.
I had intended to write a full blog post today, but this week turned into a series of bad news leading to worse. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on my household's employment and finances, and a literal midnight email about mandatory pay cuts and furloughs will only make it worse. I was not in the mood to blog. However, I did feel up to working on the proposal for a new book I have decided to write, based on my recent article about Rebel without a Cause and the three 1947 national panics over communists, gays, and UFOs that turned out to be deeply interconnected.
Late last week Ancient Origins published one of the weirder claims it’s made in recent years. In a members-only article, travel agent Malcolm Hutton (writing as Calumy) claimed that the Ark of the Covenant is actually the pyramidion from atop Khufu’s pyramid and that it is currently hidden inside the Kaaba in Mecca. Aside from the obvious problem that the pyramidion can’t be the Ark if you expect either the Great Pyramid’s shape or the Exodus narrative to have any real meaning—both of them being incompatible with the other—it is at least a little interesting that there is a bit of a connection between the Kaaba and the Ark, albeit not anything like the one Ancient Origins assumes.
Later this month, independent scholar Willem McLoud plans to hold a webinar to teach members of Ancient Origins that the Egyptian god Osiris was actually a Mesopotamian king. McLoud is going to base the claim on two papers he published over the past year, in which he argues for a new understanding of ancient history based on the self-aggrandizing “McLoud Chronological Model” of Egyptian history. Basically, he wants to rejigger the Middle Kingdom of Egypt to better fit with his preferred period of Mesopotamian history—questions of more import for Biblical history than anything else, really.
Janet Wolter and Alan Butler Make False Claims about Templars, Pyramids, Gothic Architecture, and More in Podcast Interview
The other day, when I reviewed Forbidden History’s episode on Noah’s Ark, I found something really interesting by accident while researching the show’s stupid claims. I ended up discovering a medieval legend of the Giza pyramids I had never seen before! So, something good came out of this bad show, albeit in a roundabout way.
For much of the past decade—has it really been that long?—I have explored the many vicissitudes of the medieval Islamic legend that the Giza Pyramids were the work of an antediluvian leader, either Surid or Hermes. I’ve traced the story from its origins in the Thousands of Abu Ma‘shar through its classic form in the Akhbar al-zaman and its copyists to its introduction into modern pyramid mythology thanks, in no small measure, to contemporary writers’ uncritical reliance on old books like those of John Greaves and Col. William Howard Vyse, who brought the story to the West. In fact, I wrote a whole book about it that is currently sitting with the publisher. Now I have to see if I can reedit it to add in a new incident that took place at the end of last month when Egypt’s former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa resurrected the medieval story for a national Egyptian TV audience.
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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