Yesterday I presented the first half of my review of Scott Creighton’s new book The Great Pyramid Hoax (Bear & Company, 2017), a book that takes a chapter from his previous 2015 book The Secret Chamber of Osiris and expands it to ten times its original size. Stripped of context and purpose, this inflated chapter becomes mostly unreadable as a book, an incomplete indictment of the “quarry marks” in the relieving chambers of the Great Pyramid that Creighton never bothers to give much in terms of purpose. Aside from a few vague assurances that discrediting these marks would leave the Great Pyramid’s builder uncertain, he never uses that assertion to build a case for anything, nor does he suggest, as he did in his previous book, that the Pyramid is anything but an Old Kingdom construction. If one were not already a reader of Scott Creighton’s books, I imagine this now volume would seem dry and pointless.
As we move in to the back two-thirds of the book, Creighton attempts to marshal evidence to support the tentative hypothesis that he proposed in the first section of the book. It remains unconvincing. One chapter argues that the three red splotches photographed by Rudolph Gantenbrink’s robot at the top of one of the Queen’s Chamber “air” shafts in 1993 are orthographically dissimilar to the quarry marks in the Kings’ Chamber relieving chamber, thus indicating that the relieving chamber marks were made later. There are too many problems to count here: (a) The marks in the air shaft have only tentatively been identified and are not certain, so orthography can’t be determined. (b) Since we don’t know what the characters were, we can’t conclude that the project “required” the same writing style on every stone for “efficiency.” Etc. etc.
Next, Creighton attempts to show that Vyse was lying about having discovered quarry marks showing Khufu’s name. His argument is again circumstantial: Vyse’s journal of March 30, 1837 records his initial impressions: “In Wellington’s chamber, there are marks in the area of the stones like quarry marks of red paint, also the figure of a bird near them, but nothing like hieroglyphics.” Creighton takes this to mean that the cartouches were not present, not that Vyse reconsidered his opinion after more careful viewing and analysis.
Following this, he introduces into evidence a confusing bit of hearsay. After Zecharia Sitchin accused Vyse of forgery, a man named Walter M. Allen of Pittsburgh claimed in 1983 that his elderly relatives had told him that his great-grandfather, Humphries Brewer, was one of Vyse’s companions and believed that some of the “faint” quarry marks had been repainted and “some were new.” This testimony is suspect since it is both third-hand (Allen’s account of elderly people’s memories of something someone might once have said decades after the fact about an event from more than a century earlier) and conveniently timed after Sitchin created a controversy. While Allen made his claims verbally in 1983, a written version was not published until Sitchin himself did so in 2007, after Allen was conveniently dead. At that time, Sitchin presented a log book recording Allen’s conversations with his elderly relatives. Allen claimed that these notes were written in 1954, which even if true would not make the claims within them true, if for no other reason than for the same reasons Creighton attributes to Vyse: potential motivation to support some preexisting idea at odds with the facts. Indeed, the suggestion that the marks were too faint to clearly see actually argues against Creighton’s claim that Vyse could not possibly have overlooked the marks on his first survey of the relieving chambers.
Brewer’s name does not appear in Vyse’s records, and Creighton explains that this is because Vyse tried to expunge any record of him to hide the forgery. At the same time, he says that he might have found Brewer’s name in photographs of Vyse’s notebooks, but he said that it was impossible to tell because of Vyse’s bad handwriting. He declined to cite the page or provide a copy of the relevant words to let readers judge for themselves, despite having provided the same evidence for other excerpts of the journals. He says only that the name appears in the “relevant” section of the 600+ page journal. One might ask why he declined to share proof, but I fear the answer is probably clear.
Creighton devotes enormous space to trying to prove that Allen’s notes are not a forgery—but a forgery of what? They are secondhand recollections of what someone supposedly had read in now-lost papers ages ago. Even so, Creighton argues that the notes must be correct because they contain details a forger would not have readily known: the existence of Prussia (really?), the geographical extent of the Austrian Empire (has he seen a map?), and the fact that a certain Mr. Raven was part of the discussion of the quarry marks. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if the text were a forgery, it could have been forged from entries for May 1837 in Vyse’s book Operations Carried on at the Great Pyramid, where Vyse states that Raven was left alone at the pyramid while he was away, between the time of the discovery of the quarry marks in one chamber (entry for May 9) and when Vyse’s team signed a statement attesting to the accuracy of the copies made from them (entry for May 19). Thus a forger might have thought to finger him as fabricating some of them, even if the chronology doesn’t work out perfectly for the uppermost chamber. This isn’t to say the text is a forgery, only that Creighton’s argument for their authenticity doesn’t follow absolutely from the written evidence. If the text is not a forgery, it still only proves that Brewer suspected Raven of manipulating the quarry marks while Vyse was away.
His next piece of evidence is the fact that one of Vyse’s assistants, the man who drew copies of the marks, signed two of twenty-four drawings on the wrong side, thus “proving” that they were made before the quarry marks were painted onto the wall in a different and/or incorrect direction. He claims that an analysis of photographs of the paint suggest that the signs were written left-to-right and while the blocks were upright, in contravention of Egyptological consensus, a consensus he doesn’t seem to be able to cite or discuss with sources outside other fringe books’ summaries. Creighton, who likes to cite the Graham Hancock website forum, discussed these claims on the board in 2014 and received extensive criticism from Martin Stower, which made no impression on him.
Weirdly, the book then returns to repeat the same material from earlier about Vyse’s journal—because he is lightly rewriting a chapter from his last book, mostly point for point—and Creighton makes it sound like it was the result of careful sleuthing that he found the document. It shouldn’t have taken much effort. It’s held in a museum and listed online in its holdings. It’s not hiding. In the journal, Creighton finds that Vyse made several attempts at copying the cartouches of Khufu, each time getting some of the details wrong until he finally made a correct copy. Creighton instead reads this as progressive efforts to draft a fake cartouche to forge, with the final details—specifically three horizontal lines in the circle within the cartouche—hastily added at the end to “fix” the spelling of Khufu due to late-breaking discoveries elsewhere at Giza that month.
Creighton, recapping his last book without mentioning the fact, says that the following lines from the journal prove that Vyse ordered his henchman to fabricate Khufu’s cartouche, and he claims it as a new discovery despite having published the same text in his 2015 book:
The chamber was 39 long, by 19.10 broad: as it was within “Campbell’s Chamber May 27, 1837.” “For Raven & Hill.” These were my marks from cartouche to inscribe over any plain, low trussing.
This doesn’t make much sense as written, and for good reason. In 2015, Creighton wasn’t sure of many word readings and scattered question marks throughout his transcript. They’re all gone now even though the text isn’t any clearer. (He concedes the point a few pages later.)
I’m not confident in many of his readings because the provided photo isn’t sharp enough to confirm them. The words “For Raven & Hill” more closely seem to read “H Raven & Hill,” which are the words actually painted in the chamber. The words “low trussing” do not seems to appear in the photograph he provided, though I cannot read the squiggle in their place. (Vyse did not use the word “trussing” in his published work.) For that matter, the word Creighton reads as “inscribe” seems to have a loop at the start rather than Vyse’s distinctive dotted “i.”
Regardless, though, the meaning seems to be that Vyse was recording a dedication of “H Raven & Hill” painted in the chamber along with the existing cartouche that he had copied into his notes. Creighton reads this instead as orders to forge a cartouche, too. Because he does not transcribe the surrounding lines, Creighton left out too much of the context to support his reading of the line he claims to be a smoking gun.
Frankly, even if we accepted all of Creighton’s evidence at face value, it would mostly suggest that Vyse’s team tried to make some markings easier to read by repainting them and Brewer thought they did so bad a job that it essentially made them into new figures. I don’t think this is what happened, but there are many interpretations of the evidence short of intentional forgery that Creighton failed to consider.
The final chapter simply repeats all the previous chapters’ arguments, which themselves had already been restated in summaries at the end of each chapter. These, in turn, were recycling material from The Secret Chamber of Osiris. A lot of this book is repetition and recycling. Worse, there are consistency errors as the author brings up points for later discussion that vanish, and repeats earlier points as though presenting them for the first time.
Overall, the book is downright uninteresting. It has nothing new to say to readers of his earlier book. It is obsessed with minutiae to the exclusion of context, arguing for a forgery without establishing a compelling motive and by making assumptions about “secret” texts that Vyse must first have found and somehow chose not to report, even though such a discovery would itself have been cause for celebration. (Not to mention confirmation of the inscriptions in the Pyramid.) Creighton’s argument asks us to share his own ignorance about the political, social, cultural, and archaeological contexts in which Vyse operated, and it expects readers to come to the book already accepting the notion that there is no other reason to believe the pyramids to be of dynastic Egyptian origin except for the quarry marks found within them.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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