My Christmas gift was a review copy of the newest tome from maverick geologist Robert Schoch and eccentric engineer Robert Bauval entitled The Origin of the Sphinx: Celestial Guardian of Pre-Pharaonic Civilization (Inner Traditions, 2017). You can imagine how excited I was to find that particular lump of coal in my stocking! Before I get into the book’s contents, I should say a word about its unusual format. The two authors did not write the book together, but rather they divided the chapters among themselves, with each author credited with a few. Robert Bauval wrote chapters 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6, along with the epilogue and appendixes 1-4. Schoch wrote the preface and chapters 2 and 7, along with appendices 5-9. The authors argue that the separate contributions “harmonize” in to a coherent whole. The fact that they needed nine appendices to explain seven chapters suggests that more editing was needed to turn this collection of essays revisiting old claims from the 1990s into a real book.
According to Schoch, Origin of the Sphinx emerged after both authors were in Bulgaria filming a documentary on Bulgarian megaliths for Bulgarian National Television. They quickly decided to team up to write about the Sphinx because the statue had been, in Schoch’s words, “central to each of our lives for decades.” Robert Schoch concluded in the early 1990s that the Sphinx had been eroded by water and was thus much older than Pharaonic civilization, dating back thousands of years before the Pharaohs. Schoch wrote up a technical paper on the topic in 1992 and presented his claim on the 1993 NBC special The Mystery of the Sphinx. Robert Bauval, inspired by both this claim and Robert Temple’s 1976 book The Sirius Mystery, is most famous for trying to re-date the pyramids, or their ground plan, or their “inspiration,” or whatever (it changes from year to year), to around 10,500 BCE based on his belief that the Giza pyramids were laid out to mimic the constellation Orion in that era. Both men were working in a long tradition of ascribing the Egyptian monuments to deepest antiquity, much of which can be traced from R. A. Schwaller de Lubitz (the godfather of the Sphinx water-erosion claim) through Victorian occult writers and Renaissance philosophers and occultists back to medieval Islamic mythology and Late Antique Christian and pagan legends, which claimed that the wonders of Egypt had been erected by Hermes Trismegistus before Noah’s Flood to preserve antediluvian knowledge. Bauval and his colleague Graham Hancock drew on Schoch, who in turn got brought into it by John Anthony West, who was trying to prove Schwaller de Lubitz right.
Chapter 1 (Bauval)
Bauval opens the book by asserting that there is no solid evidence connecting the pyramids or the Sphinx to the Egyptian kings to whom they are usually ascribed. After describing the Giza Plateau at length, he suggests that the Great Pyramid (which he paradoxically is happy to now ascribe to Khufu) was situated where it is because a natural formation that resembled a human head once protruded from the sand, later carved into the Great Sphinx, with the pyramid itself sitting atop a rocky mound that may have inspired the pyramid shape. Readers with long memories will recall that Bauval is here reaching back to claims from the 1993 Mystery of the Sphinx TV show. The majority of the chapter, though, is recycled material from The Orion Mystery and its sequels, as well as and especially his coauthored book Keeper of Genesis (U.S. title The Message of the Sphinx), written in 1996 with Graham Hancock. If you’ve read that book, you’ve seen all the material in this chapter about disliking Zahi Hawass, about thinking that the temples near the Sphinx were eroded in the Ice Age and re-covered in granite by Khafre, etc. We’ve been through all this before, but there is a bit of new material: Bauval tries to make up for his coauthoring of Hancock’s Mars Mystery (1998) by breaking from that book and confirming that he believes the Face on Mars to be an optical illusion. This is a bit on the funny side because Bauval happily appears on Ancient Aliens whenever he can.
Chapter 2 (Schoch)
Schoch’s chapter tries and fails to discuss European interest in the Pyramids and Sphinx. He mistakenly thinks that the Corpus Hermeticum is (a) a single work and (b) the entirety of ancient Hermetic literature, and he dismisses Late Antique and Medieval encounters with the pyramids, and non-European ones, as unimportant despite the fact that the authors he does credit, John Greaves especially, were influenced by medieval Islamic legends of the pyramids. (Greaves cites and quotes them at length.) He goes on to give a summary of nineteenth and twentieth century investigations of the Sphinx, mostly from secondary sources. He focuses on quotations in which early investigators speculated on the causes of the statue’s erosion, or when Victorians wondered if the Sphinx were older than the pyramids. Schoch sees no great irony in the fact that upon visiting the Sphinx, his supporters have “vilified” him for not agreeing that prehistoric sea fossils contained with its stones are evidence that the waters of Noah’s Flood once covered it. The fossils are embedded in the rocks from the time when those rocks were sea-floor, millions of years ago.
The chapter’s purpose, though, is to review Schoch’s own 1992 claim that the different layers of the Sphinx weathered differently not because of wind and sand acting on rocks of different hardness but because water ran down over them during a wet period. This work began, he leaves out (at least until Chapter 7), because John Anthony West asked him to examine the Sphinx in hopes of proving Schwaller de Lubitz correct and thus ratifying occult beliefs about Egypt. Schoch adds to his 1992 material Colin Reader’s 2002 analysis of the Sphinx’s geology, which agrees on water erosion, but places the Sphinx only 200 years before Khufu, not thousands. (Many climatologists suggest that Egypt might have remained rainy down to 1500 BCE, allowing plenty of time for rain runoff to erode the Sphinx, but not everyone agrees, least of all Schoch.) This is about the only new information that Schoch adds to a discussion that even he concedes is mostly a summary of his 1992 work. The only other piece of new information is that Schoch now believes that he underestimated the Sphinx’s true age, and miraculum miraculorum the “real” age of the Sphinx is … wait for it … “circa 10,000 BCE (or a bit earlier).” In other words, he places the Sphinx at exactly the fantastical epoch that occult writers identify as history’s most important. It was, as Schoch himself notes, the time when Edgar Cayce said that Atlantis had been destroyed, 10,500 BCE, when Graham Hancock places the first comet to begin the downfall of Atlantis, and when Robert Bauval dates the Orion Correlation.
Schoch discusses how seismic investigation allegedly confirms that the Sphinx’s rock is hard and/or soft enough to require Ice Age deluges to destroy, and he says that the same studies show the presence of a chamber under the Sphinx’s paw, which he suggests could be the Hall of Records that he doesn’t quite understand Edgar Cayce borrowed from the Rosicrucians, who took it from Victorian versions of what was a Late Antique and medieval story of buried chambers of scientific wisdom (Ammianus Marcellinus, Roman History 22.15.30; Abu Ma‘shar al-Balhi in Ibn Juljul, Tabaqat al-atibbaʾ 5-10; Akhbar al-zaman 2.2, etc.). For Schoch, claims don’t have a history so much as they are all representations of an alternative truth, regardless of their origins.
Chapter 3 (Bauval)
The third chapter repeats Bauval’s 1997 argument about the Sphinx representing anyone other than the pharaoh Khafre, with the addition of some carping about how hurtful it is to be labeled a pseudoarchaeologist, charlatan, or amateur. He does so while offering another attack on archaeologist Zahi Hawass, his personal bête noire, and other scholars as “blustering” and “patronizing.” Bauval rehearses familiar arguments that there is no evidence for Khafre’s involvement in the Sphinx, and that the much later Dream Stela found between its paws may not contain Khafre’s name as once thought. The question is uncertain; the relevant cartouche flaked off centuries ago, and only drawings survive. To this Bauval introduces Graham Hancock’s recent obsession, the Edfu Building Texts, Ptolemaic mythological accounts of the origins of Egypt. Bauval is angry that Egyptologists don’t accept these texts and other myths, like the gods and demigods who rule Egypt for staggering numbers of years, as legitimately historical. Similarly, he wants to accept that the Inventory Stela, long believed to be a historical fiction created around 670 BCE to give an Old Kingdom pedigree to a Middle Kingdom temple, is actually a copy of a genuine Old Kingdom text that records the existence of the Sphinx in pre-dynastic times. He bases this on his own work, arguing that if the Great Pyramid “targets” the star Sirius, and this star was later associated with Isis, then Isis must have been a great goddess in Old Kingdom times (her name first appears, briefly, only in the Fifth Dynasty, according to most mainstream sources, and the Fourth according to Bauval, and is not widespread until much later) and we are justified in believing the Inventory Stela to be a copy of an Old Kingdom original.
Chapter 4 (Bauval)
This chapter asks what race the Sphinx represents, and Bauval describes the statue’s “strong Negroid features.” He then rehearses still more material from Mystery of the Sphinx (1993) and Keeper of Genesis (1996) in attempting to argue that the “Negroid” Sphinx cannot be the pharaoh Khafre. He settles on identifying the Sphinx’s face as that of Khufu, whom he claims to have had “Nubian genes” and thus a “Negroid” jaw. However, Bauval believes that Khufu re-carved a preexisting Sphinx that had been leonine in form, a suggestion that some Egyptologists have made over the years, but also one that is nothing new. It’s 1993 all over again!
The trouble is that this tends to get Bauval tied up in some logical knots. He wants the Sphinx to have been stolen, and to have once been a lion. But he also wants it to be identified as the man-headed Horus of the Horizon (Horakhti) of the Pyramid Texts, which is to say, that within a few years of its re-carving, the new form of the Sphinx had been promoted to a full-fledged god, even though it was a depiction of a human king in the form of a stone statue, when no other statues are so worshiped. Even Isis took hundreds of years to rise to great goddess status.
Bauval returns repeatedly to the theme that the Egyptian myths and legends, and even medieval folktales, should be believed when convenient. He is especially incensed that Egyptologists claim to use historical records to reconstruct the lives of ancient people. “So if Egyptologists can confidently illuminate ‘the lives of some 1200 kings, queens, princes and princes’ [sic] of ancient Egypt, why could not the ancient Egyptians themselves do the same for their own ancestors?” The difference is that modern historians use multiple lines of evidence, while folklore is just one. That’s a pretty big difference. Consider, for example, that the Copts gave to the Arabs a list of kings of Egypt, about whom fantastical stories were told. They are recorded in books like the Akhbar al-zaman and the Khitat of al-Maqrizi. While the list seems wildly inaccurate, and the legends baroque in their inventiveness, the bare bones of the list can be shown to derive from a corruption of the king list preserved by the Egyptian priest Manetho in Hellenistic times. But while we can use multiple lines of evidence to illuminate this, we cannot take the medieval king list at face value because it is too corrupt, and only recourse to ancient records can reveal the layers of corruption. That is the difference between historiography and legend.
Bauval goes on to discuss the integration of the Sphinx into the Egyptians’ adaptation of Babylonian astrology, but there is no reason to believe that these astrological signs were known in 2500 BCE or earlier, though Bauval believes that the constellations had their present identities back then, from some unknown ancient source.
Tomorrow we will see whether this virtual rewrite of Keeper of Genesis has anything new to say as we investigate the final three chapters and the appendixes!
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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