The next chapter of Erich von Däniken’s Remnants of the Gods concerns “False Doctrines.” Von Däniken (hereafter EVD) opens the chapter by repeated age-old speculation that the Osirion (Osireion) at Abydos is the “oldest” structure in Egypt, a claim that originates, apparently, with Edouard Naville in 1912 and was made famous by Graham Hancock in Fingerprints of the Gods, which EVD previously used for his liberal paraphrase Eyes of the Sphinx (1996). (Much, in fact, of this whole chapter is a close recapitulation of Eyes.) The structure is conventionally dated to Seti I’s reign, c. 1290 BCE, and was apparently designed in an archaizing Old Kingdom style as a semi-subterranean structure meant to represent the underworld, but EVD follows alternative ideas that the structure was built in the antediluvian past and the ground rose up around it.
He ridicules the idea that Egyptians were capable of building with ramps, ropes, and other simple methods: “Where—so help us Osiris!—are the actual workshops for the technologies which were used, where the developmental history of the stone cutters, ropes, lifting platforms, rope winches, rollers, and so on?” Although he is referring specifically to the Osireion, he seems unaware of the non-monumental buildings discovered in Egypt, such as the workers’ village near the Pyramids of Giza, which helps to show how Egyptian workers lived and worked. He dismisses wall murals showing the use of pulleys 600 years later because he believes that would mean that the Egyptians “learned nothing” in 600 years, as though we today stopped using pulleys just because they’re “old.” He seems to mistake twentieth century rates of change for universal constants. This is entirely in keeping with his frame of reference, which starts around 1960 and seems to end around 1979.
EVD asserts that Osiris originally came from the constellation of Orion, and he discusses Osiris as a civilizing god, boldly paraphrasing point for point Hancock’s comparison of Osiris to Virachocha and Quetzalcoatl from Fingerprints. He then asserts a connection between Egyptian and Sumerian mythology based on the work of Dr. Hermann Burgard, whom he describes as an expert in Sumerology. I had never heard of him, and it turns out that his doctorate is in economics; after his retirement he developed crank ideas about Sumer, apparently under the influence of Zechria Sitchin, since like Sitchin Burgard claims that all existing scholars of the Sumerian language have misunderstood the language, and only he can correctly read its descriptions of high alien technology. “This is not some amateur spinning a yarn,” EVD says, but it is exactly what it is since Burgard has no formal training in Sumerian and no compelling justification for his re-translations, except through the assumption of aliens.
After this EVD rehearses his usual claims about the Great Pyramid, which derive from nineteenth-century sources like Charles Piazzi Smyth and the simplistic claim that prehistoric people weren’t able to move or positions large stones. Oddly enough, he claims to be able to make these claims even though he asserts the following: “Now I am neither an engineer nor a stone mason, and therefore do not even start to grapple with the phenomenon of the technology which was used to build the pyramids.” This is as much of a confession as we will ever get that EVD is making it all up, even when he admittedly doesn’t understand what he is saying. Instead, he now claims expertise in “lateral thinking” and “classical literature,” which somehow gives him special insight into history. If his frequent inability to quote ancient sources correctly while having the source open in front of him is any indication, his expertise is not in “classical literature.”
EVD claims that Sneferu had a Grand Gallery in his pyramid at Dashur, but he does not identify which pyramid he is talking about. He is referring not to the famous Bent or Red Pyramids, but to the small cult pyramid alongside the Bent Pyramid. Its internal chamber is believed to be the model for Khufu’s Grand Gallery, but EVD is upset because it, too, displays well-cut blocks “straight out of the Stone Age.” He wants to know why Sneferu’s gallery is not of poorer quality than Khufu’s as his version of evolutionary theory demands. He apparently discounts the evolution of pyramid building from Djoser (c. 2670 BCE) down to Sneferu (c. 2600 BCE) and somehow believes that stone-working began only with pyramids, and not long earlier.
He next questions the purpose of the relieving chambers above the King’s Chamber in Khufu’s pyramid. Even though he admits to having no knowledge of engineering, he asserts that they are unnecessary and the King’s Chamber could have been supported solely with stacked granite blocks. Regardless of whether this was true, the unfinished nature of the chambers indicates that the Egyptian architects believed they needed the relieving chambers to make the flat ceiling of the King’s Chamber possible. EVD claims that the relieving chambers make the King’s Chamber into a “gate” to “another world” because they form an image like a Shinto temple. (Really? Couldn’t he have at least recycled the Djed Pillar claim?) But as in the famous joke of the woman who complained that her restaurant dinner tasted bad and was too small, he further claims that while the chambers are not for relief, they simultaneously show that if they were for relief then the Egyptians had calculated the full weight of the pyramid in planning them.
EVD next intends to show the Khufu (whom he insists on calling by the Greek name Cheops) did not build the Great Pyramid because Pliny (whom he calls Gaius) did not know his name—even though Herodotus did (Histories 2.124), which EVD conveniently ignores until forced to account for it. He calls Herodotus’ statement “hearsay” and says we should trust those who admit ignorance over academia’s “selective” use of Herodotus. Pliny, sensibly enough, never doubted that humans built the pyramids at the behest of the Pharaohs, only that the loss of hieroglyphic knowledge erased from memory certainty the exact name of the specific king involved (Natural History 36.17). EVD cites the Inventory Stela, though not by name, as proof that the Sphinx and Great Pyramid predated Khufu, although this stela was carved almost 2,000 years after Khufu reigned and its tale of Khufu finding a sand-covered Sphinx is widely considered a late myth.
Following this EVD introduces Al-Maqrizi’s Khitat, with its tale of Saurid (Sourid) building the pyramids before the Flood, a common Jewish myth from the Greco-Roman period that was adopted into Arab folklore, but which EVD sees as proof of an alien conspiracy. Using Al-Maqrizi’s fourteenth-century CE text as a reliable guide to the year 2500 BCE, he claims that Saurid is Enoch and since Enoch interacted with Nephilim spacemen, spacemen were involved in planning the pyramids. He asserts that when Al-Maqrizi writes that the first Arabs to break into the pyramid found books in an “unknown” language that couldn’t be Egyptian because the Arabs must have understood Egyptian, since, I guess, all those people over there all speak the same language, right? In fact, EVD is lying. Here are Al-Maqrizi’s exact words from the passage he cites, which EVD conveniently omits from his selective quotation: “Having unwound it [the scroll], they looked at the writing but could not understand anything, for the paper was written in the ancient language of the Egyptians” (my translation). This text was from Abu Hormeis (Hermes), not the Great Pyramid. He may be referring to another passage in Al-Maqrizi, which is not part of the passage he cites, in which the Arabs find some mummies: “Near the head of each was a book in unknown characters.” Although this allegedly occurred beneath the Giza necropolis, in a secret chamber, it apparently refers to the inclusion of the Book of the Dead in later Egyptian sarcophagi. Throughout the text, though, Al-Maqrizi makes plain that by unknown characters he means hieroglyphs.
EVD declares Al-Maqrizi’s work to be “thousands” of years old even though it was written around 1400 CE and drew on sources going back, at most, 600 years before that. The translation given in Remnants is an English translation of an 1887 German translation of the original Arabic, and it differs in ways large and small from my translation, which I made from the French translation of the Arabic. I cannot put too much weight on the differences since I can’t read Arabic, but EVD’s version seems to contain some errors, for his translation has the text say that the pyramids contained “the fixed stars” themselves (though I think pictures of them are meant), while the version I translated says that they contained astronomical tables of the periods of these stars. Only one of these makes any kind of literal sense.
He claims that Al-Maqrizi says Sourid, whom he identifies with Hermes, received training in astronomy directly from God and learns from God about the coming Flood, but this does not appear in any of the text that I read and translated. He seems to be referencing Khitat 1.9, where Hermes teaches science to the Egyptians and predicts the Flood.
I just don’t get why fringe people are so interested in proving the Flood, an event that geology is quite clear never occurred. You’d think ancient alien types would try to find something less easily disputed by actual scientific evidence. It’s almost like they’re trying to revive religion or something…
EVD dismisses as fake the Khufu graffiti in the relieving chambers—the same daubed paint that two German fringe pyramid conspiracy theorists got into trouble for scraping paint from in an effort to prove it a hoax. Thus he uniquely calls the Great Pyramid “totally anonymous,” though he seemingly has no problem with the lack of adornment on any of the preceding pyramids, whose builders he failed to question until after he wrote this line and the thought seems to have occurred to him. Now Sneferu is an “alleged” pyramid builder. He thinks that grave robbers entered the relieving chambers, the most inconvenient human-sized spots in the pyramid, in the reign of Khufu and marked his name there (and only there!) to say when they stole the antediluvian treasures, or were otherwise marking the building for Khufu. He also wonders if there were unrecorded extra pharaohs Khufu from other periods whose existence could explain the graffiti. At any rate, he declares pyramid-building “beyond” the capacity of the Fourth Dynasty because of evolution, which he considers linear and directed, even in cases of culture, which is so obviously untrue as to require no elaboration.
Adopting Robert Schoch’s claim that the Sphinx and its surrounding enclosure were eroded by water, EVD asserts that the Sphinx and Pyramid were built by Enoch before the Flood of Noah, as given in Jewish and Arab legendry.
He claims that Khafre’s pyramid possesses “scientifically impossible” radiation patterns that deflected gamma rays, though so far as I know the 1960s-era study this is based on has never been replicated or confirmed.
EVD then claims that prior to 2009 a “secret service” made a corrupt deal with Egyptian authorities to drill a new tunnel within the Great Pyramid for an unknown purpose. “Who on our planet is so influential that even the duty of care of the archaeologists is grossly ignored? After all, the drills used could destroy valuable treasures. What is actually being sought?” Although this allegedly occurred “in total secrecy,” somehow the tunnel is open to the public and could be photographed for this book.
EVD next asserts that a conspiracy of monotheists purposely removed all alien paintings he assumes on Al-Maqrizi’s authority must have existed within the Great Pyramid’s Grand Gallery, leaving behind not even a fleck of paint. They did this, he says, because aliens threaten the power of traditional religions, which (apparently except for Hinduism and Buddhism) have banded together, despite their differences, to suppress the truth:
Such knowledge would destroy the foundations of the great religions, be it Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. Those in the know in all religions are agreed on that. And because national politicians have close connections with the respective religions, the mystery-mongers, the pseudo responsibly minded in world politics are also told about it. Peoples of the world, unite in ignorance!
With this conspiracy theory, absent any evidence, the book ends.
Is this lingering resentment at both religion and politicians the result of EVD’s own well-documented personal struggle with Catholic doctrine and failed attempts to turn his popularity into political influence? Church, state, academia—everyone is against him. Even though academics and politicians and churchmen are at each other’s throats all the time, somehow they all are conspiring—within each group and between them—to keep silent about the real truth, oppose EVD, and make him a martyr to truth for daring to expose—what, exactly? He didn’t even bother mentioning aliens much at all in this book. Recycling claims from 1990s-era fringe archaeology writers, his claims could apply equally to Atlantis, a lost civilization, time traveling super-humans, or any other weirdness. That, I suppose, is the point: as long as hated academics are wrong, that is enough.
EVD got one thing right: People of the world are uniting in ignorance. But he’s wrong about the source; he is the one snuffing out the light of learning wherever his books are read.
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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