Over the past few months, ufologists linked to billionaire UFO nut Robert Bigelow have promoted a growing number of claims that they are investigating debris from flying saucers containing chemical properties never before seen on this Earth. Jacques Vallée, Tom DeLonge, and a former Pentagon official now employed by DeLonge have all made these claims, and journalist George Knapp even provided a sample of such a substance to a UFO exhibit at a Smithsonian-backed museum a few years ago. According to media accounts the Pentagon official, who oversaw Bigelow’s government contract to investigate UFOs, claims that Bigelow has buildings in Las Vegas to store such material
This is one reason that I was intrigued to see a report in Popular Mechanics this week that a suspiciously similar substance had been discovered in Egypt and had been analyzed by actual scientists. Oddly enough, the discovery also ties in with another of the fringe’s favorite geological themes.
In 1996, Aly Barakat was studying Libyan desert glass, the same substance that ancient astronaut theorists pass off as evidence of a prehistoric nuclear explosion, and in doing so uncovered in the Egyptian desert a pebble embedded with microdiamonds that indicated it had an extraterrestrial origin. Now called the Hypatia Stone after a Greek astronomer, the rock was determined to be from outer space in 2013. It is plausible that the stone is a remnant of the meteor that hit the Sahara and created the glass millions of years ago, but as of yet no proof exists. According to Popular Mechanics:
A new study led by geologists at the University of Johannesburg found that compounds in the Hypatia stone are distinct from anything discovered in the solar system. The researchers therefore conclude that parts of the rock formed before the solar system, and if these compounds are not presolar, the prevailing idea that the solar system formed from a nebula of homogenous gas is called into question
The stone contains compounds with chemical ratios that are unlike anything found on Earth—exactly the same claim (in the same language!) that Jacques Vallée used to describe the supposed UFO droppings that he had had tested. As Popular Mechanics put it: “The elements are the same—carbon and silicon and aluminum and iron—but the ratios of these elements in the material are all wrong, unlike the composition of objects that orbit the sun. […] These embedded grains contain phosphorus and metallic elements such as aluminum and iron, but not in ratios or configurations you would expect.”
It seems like it would be a stretch that a real-life extraterrestrial material of unusual composition would come to prominence right when ufologists are trumpeting their own versions, but I suppose stranger things have happened. Vallée had said last fall that the material he tested was magnesium slag from Argentina that had been “reengineered” into isotope ratios “100% off” from those of Earth, much as the Hypatia stone’s mineral composition is the exact opposite in ratio of earthly rock. DeLonge was unable to express what his substance was made of because he did not understand it, while the New York Times reporter who covered the Pentagon UFO office story said that Bigelow was possessed of “some kind of compound that they don’t recognize,” but could offer no details due to a lack of investigative prowess and a good deal of gullibility.
Whether all of these people are talking about the same types of extraterrestrial aerolites, or whether the ufologists are talking out of their asses, two things are clear: (1) When an extraterrestrial substance of unusual properties is discovered, scientists actually study it and report on its composition, and (2) it is possible to identify strange compounds, alloys, lumps of stone, and other oddities even when they come from the deepest reaches of space before the formation of the solar system, thus proving the New York Times and Tom DeLonge wrong about the impossibility of scientifically analyzing substances from space.
Meanwhile, in related space metal news, and Italian mathematician and archaeoastronomer claims to know what is in the void in the Great Pyramid detected recently using cosmic rays. Giulio Magli, Director of the Department of Mathematics and Professor of Archaeoastronomy at the Politecnico di Milano, said, according to the Daily Mail, that the void contains an iron throne that Khufu used to become a space god. He said that he based his claim on a passage in the Pyramid Texts:
There is a possible interpretation, which is in good agreement with what we know about the Egyptian funerary religion as witnessed in the Pyramids Texts. In these texts it is said that the pharaoh, before reaching the stars of the north, will have to pass the ‘gates of the sky’ and sit on his ‘throne of iron.’
He claims that the throne would have been a wooden chair covered in sheets of iron: “Of course it would not be melted iron, but meteoritic iron, that is, fallen from the sky in the form of Iron meteorites (distinguishable due to the high percentage of Nickel) and again cited in the Texts.”
This claim is based on sections of the Pyramid Texts which refer to an iron throne. The phrase occurs a dozen times or so in the texts, especially in Utterances 413, 459, 483, 509, 512, and 537. However, the Pyramid Texts postdate the Great Pyramid in their surviving form, which makes it difficult to project specific elements (as opposed to general ideas) back in time. Beyond this, the utterances have been translated in two different ways by the texts’ two English translators. R. O. Faulkner, whose 1969 translation is generally used in English, translated the item in question as an “iron throne,” but Samuel A. B. Mercer, who translated them in 1952, rendered the same phrase each time as “firm throne.” Other translators give the phrase as “metal throne” or “throne of ore.” Other Egyptian texts from later periods say that the pharaoh had a metal throne, but scholars were divided on the metal used. Candidates included electrum, copper, and gold.
Since I can’t read Egyptian, I’m not sure which translation of ḫnḏw=k pw bi3i is most correct. The word for iron, bi3i, biz, or bia, can also refer to any heavy or dense metal, meteoric stone, or any similar heavy lump from the sky. The hieroglyphic term for iron literally translates to “heavy metal from the sky,” and it is fascinating to discover that the Coptic word for iron, banepe or benipe, is made up of somewhat corrupt elements of that same hieroglyph, translating to hard stone from heaven, a fact that led Basil H. Cooper to first propose that Egyptian iron was meteoric in origin in 1868, almost a half a century before science proved it. Coptic is descended from the ancient Egyptian language, but it is interesting to see the conservatism of language.
Anyway, a symbolic iron throne in the pyramid would be in keeping, I guess, with Egyptian beliefs, but doesn’t seem to have much grounding in fact. It’s still unclear that the void in the pyramid is actually a room, not just a cavity.
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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