I have two gems from literature to share with you. The first is this picture, which ought to greatly excite ancient astronaut theorists. To look at it with modern eyes, it appears to show a man gazing at a flying saucer, in a piece of art produced six decades before the saucer era began. Unfortunately for ancient astronaut theorists, the “UFO” in this late nineteenth century illustration is actually the flying island of Laputa from Gulliver’s Travels. I’ve seen several versions of the picture, but this one looks the most like a UFO at first glance.
The second piece is an odd passage from the Rev. Joseph Holt Ingraham’s novel The Pillar of Fire, which retells the events leading up to the Exodus from the point of view of a Phoenician traveler in Egypt. At one point, the prince of Tyre asks an Egyptian priest to explain the Pyramids, and Ingram gives what he says in his author’s note to be his religious view of their origins, as based on what he claims was extensive research in history and literature. Forgive me if I abridge the text slightly:
“These two great pyramids, say our sacred books, were the work of the giants who lived in the days before the flood of Noachis, or Noah. They are the tombs of their kings, and were centuries in being built according to our years. And when the gods brought the unknown oceans over the earth, to punish the nations which living so long became as wise as the gods, but at the same time grew as wicked as wise, these vast sepulchres withstood, like the lesser hills, the waters of desolation, and remained in ruinous grandeur, not only as witnesses of the flood, but monuments of a past people whose towers, as well as tombs, reached unto the heavens. […] When the waters departed, the gods limited the lives of men to one hundred years; hence the pyramids that the kings this side the flood have erected are comparatively small in magnitude. […] All the power of engines and art cannot uprear such stones six hundred feet into the air. This is giants’ work.” […]
What a claim! Here we see a confluence of Judeo-Christian and Arab-Islamic myths and legends. From all the Abrahamic traditions comes the obscure idea of degeneracy, that each generation before the Flood was taller than the one that succeeded it. (According to Nicolas Henrion, speaking at the French Royal Academy in 1718, Noah was more than 100 feet tall!) From Islamic lore comes the idea that the two largest Giza pyramids were built by the Giants before the Flood. (According to Murtada ibn al-‘Afif, the pre-Flood kings descended from a giant, while other traditions make them ’Ādites, also giants; the Akhbār al-zamān attributes most pre-Flood Egyptian wonders to giants.) Apparently unique to Ingram is the idea that Noah was buried in a pyramid, though the idea has clear precedent in the Arab legend that Enoch (Idris) was buried in the Great Pyramid under the name of Hermes (Juljul, Tabaqat al-atibbaʾ 5-10; Saʿid al-Andalusi, Al‐tarif bi-tabaqat al-umm 39.7-16; Abu al-Fida, Historia Ante-Islamica 5; etc.). He even works in the Arab historians’ claim that a change in color on the Great Pyramid’s surface indicates where the Flood waters rose (Al-Biruni, quoted in Al-Maqrizi, Al-Khitat 1.40). (Most of these claims originated in Late Antique Christian legends, now lost, whose existence can be inferred from existing texts.)
Granted, Ingraham was writing fiction, but he specified that everything in his book was backed by research and intended to “harmonize” entirely with the Bible, as interpreted by Episcopalians. He clearly meant for his readers to accept the story as the Christian position on the Pyramids.
Fun fact: Ingraham’s Pillar of Fire was one of the three novels on which Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments movie was based. Sadly, there are no Nephilim in that movie. Ingram died the year after the novel was published when he accidently shot himself in the vestibule of his Mississippi church.
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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