As a reminder, for the next week, I am reducing my blog output as I work on reviewing Graham Hancock’s America Before.
Last week, The Daily Star, ran a piece (picked up within hours by Sputnik) about ancient Egypt alleging that a lost book contains all of the secrets of the pyramids. The claim comes from Matt Sibson, the blogger and YouTuber whom we met last year when he alleged that the hoax Zeno map was actually an antediluvian chart of Atlantis. In his latest brain dropping, he misunderstood his sources and mangled yet another effort to understand ancient history, this time the Great Pyramid of Giza:
After building the structures, Khufu was said to go on to “write a sacred book” which later came into the possession of Manetho – an Egyptian priest and scholar. […] Manetho also said that Suphis wrote a Sacred Book, which Manetho then came to be in possession of. But, as Matt revealed, there is "no mention" of this book in any later works "and it seems to have disappeared from history".
The reference in question is not actually from Manetho, at least not directly. Instead, it is found in George Syncellus’s ninth century discussion of Sextus Julius Africanus’s third century summary of Manetho’s account of Egyptian history. Syncellus quotes Africanus as follows:
Suphis [I], for 63 years. He reared the Great Pyramid, which Herodotus says was built by Cheops. Suphis conceived a contempt for the gods: he also composed the Sacred Book, which I acquired in my visit to Egypt because of its high renown. (trans. W. G. Waddell)
A second version of the passage exists, recorded by Eusebius in the section of his fourth-century Chronicle that survives only in Armenian. Syncellus preserved this passage in Eusebius’ original Greek:
Of these the third was Suphis, the builder of the Great Pyramid, which Herodotus says was built by Cheops. Suphis conceived a contempt for the gods, but repenting of this, he composed the Sacred Book, which the Egyptians hold in high esteem. (trans. Waddell)
Sibson is obviously relying on the second version, but while Eusebius lived four centuries before Syncellus, it was Syncellus who quoted Africanus more accurately. Eusebius, working from different copies, minimized Africanus’s personal details, but we know—ironically from Eusebius himself (Church History 6.31.2) that Africanus did indeed travel to Egypt to study with the Bishop of Alexandria. (Wikipedia similarly misreads Africanus to claim Manetho bought the book, though an Egyptian priest obviously did not need to visit Egypt.) While Eusebius ran the two thoughts together and tried to connect them with a Christian-style repentance narrative, there is no indication in the more accurate version that Manetho attributed a sacred book to Khufu. A plain reading is that Africanus described his own experience in Egypt on his own authority.
Africanus tells us that he purchased a book written by Suphis, Manetho’s name for Khufu, which the Egyptians of the third century held in high esteem. What Sibson fails to note is that books like this are not suppressed, forgotten, or otherwise hidden to protect pyramid secrets. By the Late Period of Egypt, Khufu was seen as a magical figure, whose name served a talismanic function. In the wisdom-literature of the Hellenistic and Late Antique periods, Khufu’s name was attached to magical texts much the way alchemical books bore the fictitious ascription to Hermes Trismegistus.
Africanus almost certainly described picking up one of these books passing under Khufu’s name, which he likely mistook for a genuinely ancient Egyptian text, just as his contemporaries mistook Hermetic books for antediluvian lore.
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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