Yesterday I began to review The Origins of the Sphinx by Robert Schoch and Robert Bauval, an odd duck of a book that collects a thin rewriting of Bauval’s Keeper of Genesis with two chapters by Schoch on Sphinx geology. Many of the images in the book appeared in Keeper and/or The Orion Mystery, and in my review copy they appear to have been scanned poorly from those books, with the text of the backing page visible through the picture. I hope the final version will use Photoshop to correct this. Today I pick up where I left off, with the fifth chapter, authored by Robert Bauval. But before I do, I should briefly note that it really doesn’t matter all that much to me whether the Great Sphinx was built by Khafre, or even in the Fourth Dynasty. I’m not convinced that it dates back to the Ice Age, but there is certainly room to argue it might be slightly older than the consensus maintains. It is really only when one starts to argue that it predates all known Nilotic cultures that things get a little hairy.
Chapter 5 (Bauval)
The fifth chapter continues Bauval’s ongoing theme that late myths and legends can be projected backward to illuminate the motives of earlier times. Here he notes that Thutmose IV, in the New Kingdom, decorated the Dream Stela before the Old Kingdom Sphinx with two sphinxes, facing back to back, so we can therefore safely conclude that the Old Kingdom imagined the Sphinx to be looking face to face with a “celestial” sphinx, the constellation Leo, in the night sky of 10,500 BCE. None of that makes logical sense, for reasons I presume are obvious: There is no way secure to project New Kingdom beliefs about the Sphinx back in time, and even if we could, the artistic depiction is literally the opposite of what Bauval wants it to be, back to back rather than face to face. This undercuts his claim that we cannot ascribe the double sphinx merely to artistic license, as he says Egyptologists suggest. Not only that, but while the “celestial” sphinx might have been in the west, Leo does not “face” west. When sitting on the horizon, he is seen in profile, so his “face” is pointed south. Funny how for Bauval literal and figurative representations can be decided entirely based on what is most convenient for the hypothesis.
He introduces into evidence, once again, the Ptolemaic Edfu Building Texts, though again we have no idea how much they had changed over the centuries. When you consider, for example, how much Greek myths were corrupted between the fall of the Roman Empire and the First Vatican Mythographer four centuries later—also working from written ancient texts, not oral lore—it does not inspire a lot of confidence that the Edfu texts are entirely faithful. Indeed, many scholars have suggested that the Edfu texts are a jumble of fragments recombined and rewritten, some close to ancient originals, some late, some corrupt, and all but impossible to entirely disentangle.
Bauval’s logic breaks down further when he tries to equate the Sphinx to Leo by superimposing the constellation onto the Sphinx, apparently forgetting that the seemingly perfect fit exists only because of the re-carving he alleges reduced the original lion head to a shrunken pharaonic one! At “full size,” the stars wouldn’t match the shape of the Sphinx at all in his photo illustration! Bauval never entirely settles the ambiguity of what he imagines that Sphinx originally was intended to be, happily imagining it as a lion or a human-headed sphinx as his argument requires. But it can’t be both.
At very best, in this chapter Bauval has suggested how Ptolemaic and Late Antique Egyptians might have understood the Sphinx. It requires a leap of faith to project that back in time to not just the Old Kingdom (which he believes merely inherited and reused the Sphinx) but to the Ice Age. Such continuity of tradition is, if not unprecedented, at least quite difficult to imagine. The old Indo-European god of the bright blue sky perhaps approaches it, surviving as Zeus, Jupiter (Iou Pater, from Deus Pater), and Dyaus, though there is little continuity. Perhaps the Nephilim might come closest, but even then there is rather less continuity with the preceding Apkallu than we might prefer. Not much survives unchanged for many thousand years.
The remainder of the chapter summarizes Bauval’s previous arguments from Orion Mystery, Black Genesis, and other books that the Egyptians were originally sub-Saharan Africans driven north by post-Ice Age monsoons and who developed sophisticated astronomy in order to predict the monsoons and Nile floodwaters. He repeats claims that the Egyptians recognized the Babylonian zodiac before Babylon (specifically, the four constellations that mark the equinoxes and solstices) and based their religion on it in order to predict the annual Nile flood. There remains no evidence that the pre-dynastic or Old Kingdom Egyptians imagined those constellations to be the same animals as the Babylonians. The chapter finishes by repeating the central claims of The Orion Mystery in order to argue that the Sphinx and the pyramids are designed to record the Age of Leo around 10,500 BCE, even if no one can prove that the constellation represented a lion that far back. It has been suggested, however, that Leo was known from at least 4000 BCE, though as I understand it this conclusion derives from Willy Harter’s 1965 analysis of the evidence. He claimed that the constellations were originally localized in an area of Persia, Elam, and lower Mesopotamia around 4000 BCE, before gaining more widespread currency further west with the influence of the Sumerians and Babylonians on their western neighbors. In short, there isn’t much evidence for Leo in Egypt in 10,500 BCE, notwithstanding Bauval’s efforts to imagine a cult of the Followers of Horus maintaining an ancient tradition from the Ice Age to the Pyramid Age.
Chapter 6 (Bauval)
The sixth chapter repeats in toto the central claims from The Orion Mystery and Keeper of Genesis involving the supposed nature of Egyptian religion and the whole of the Orion Correlation Theory. Bauval adds that he is now convinced that Egyptian religion was originally the worship of the sun, to which worship of the stars was tacked on in the Old Kingdom. This undercuts his own claim that the Pyramids were reflections of ancient stellar alignments, of course, so to rectify this, he proposes two additional claims that sit atop his earlier unsupported claims: First, that the pyramids were Fourth Dynasty constructions designed merely to refer back to the stars as they were in 10,500 BCE as a special and sacred time, and second, that the Sphinx and its temples were an earlier solar complex leftover from that same sacred period. Note carefully that this assumes that the Egyptians could make an accurate calculation of the precession of the equinoxes, a feat not achieved until the relatively close estimates of the Middle Ages, and were able to calculate the positions of the stars at various periods of time, and recognize how the sky would have looked 8,000 years before the Fourth Dynasty.
Chapter 7 (Schoch)
In this chapter Schoch acknowledges that he began investigating the Sphinx because John Anthony West asked him to evaluate the hypothesis of the occultist Schwaller de Lubitz that the Sphinx had been eroded by water, and Schoch expresses upset that his connections to the controversial West and West’s mystical beliefs have impacted Schoch’s reputation. The chapter rehearses events of the early 1990s at length, and Schoch tells of his personal struggles of that bygone era—I was six when Schoch met West, and 9 when he started his work on the Sphinx!—culminating in the moment that forever changed his life, appearing on the 1993 NBC Mystery of the Sphinx special. I was twelve at the time. My point is that these events are now so long in the past that the rehearsal of every personal slight and insult from way back when reads as more than a little cranky and a bit obsessive. Get over it. It was more than 20 years ago. Do you have anything new to say?
Well, yes, he does. But it isn’t good. “Now, decades later, I put more stock in the concept of Atlantis, although not as a specific geographic region or place, but rather in terms of the concept that there was a sophisticated civilization before civilization is supposed to have existed according to the standard time frame of conventional archaeological thinking.” It just conveniently left behind nothing but one big honking statue and myths of its own greatness that no one remembered or wrote down until Plato, 9,300 years later. Schoch tries to address this by saying that the Turkish site of Göbekli Tepe dates back to 9700 BCE and therefore “is in agreement with Plato’s chronology of when Atlantis was destroyed,” since Plato placed that event in roughly 9600 BCE. To fudge this, Schoch needs to claim that Göbekli Tepe is an exemplar of that troublesome concept of “civilization,” even though all the evidence yet found suggests that it was the work of hunter-gatherers, not city-dwellers or farmers. Schoch continues to conflate stone-carving with the complex of traits we might define as “civilization,” allowing him to justify a belief in a lost Atlantis under the misapprehension that cities, farming, and all the other trappings of “civilization” are a prerequisite for art and architecture.
Here Schoch transitions into a summary of his book Forgotten Civilization (2012), in which he claimed that solar flares devastated the ancient Earth, ending the last Ice Age and causing the flood that subsequently swept away all evidence of Atlantis except for the Sphinx and a few other stone structures. In so doing, Schoch takes a sidelong swipe at Graham Hancock, warning readers that “it was not a comet (or meteor or asteroid) that ended the last ice age, as some researchers have incorrectly asserted.” He doubts the evidence for the so-called Younger Dryas comet impact, and therefore concludes that the sun caused what he now terms a “solar induced dark age” where civilization died under a flood of melting ice.
The residuum of the chapter contains a lot of repetition from earlier chapters of this very book, repeating many of the claims Bauval made as well as Schoch’s discussion of geology from chapter 2. I am not entirely sure why we needed it twice.
The epilogue tells readers that facts will win out in the end, and Schoch regrets that he and Bauval have “come under attack from skeptics, debunkers, scoffers, and all those who would uphold the conventional status quo view….” He remains oblivious to the slings and arrows his own book flings at those who disagree with our authors. He then summarizes the book and tells readers that we should follow the Old Kingdom example (such as the two authors hypothesized it) and recognize the Sphinx as vastly more ancient than pharaonic Egypt.
The first appendix find Bauval lashing out at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and BBC’s Horizon as he rehearses (at absurd length) the events of 1999-2000—just about half my lifetime ago!—when he and Graham Hancock complained that the BBC unfairly criticized his Orion Correlation Theory, and the U.K.’s TV watchdog agreed, in part, on one point, that under Britain’s fairness doctrine one comment by astronomer Ed Krupp should have been followed by a rebuttal comment from Bauval. Bauval inflates this to “a huge scandal involving senior executives at the BBC,” etc. Thus, he rails against the “anger (often disguised as ‘criticism’) of professional debunkers posing as experts and skeptics organizations that resemble an intellectual modern version of the Spanish Inquisition.” (He will repeat the claim that skeptics are like the Inquisition more than once.) The long and short of it is that Bauval likes it when TV cites him uncritically (as in a 1994 documentary on the BBC, ABC’s Primetime Live in 1995, and Ancient Aliens today), but will hold a grudge for decades in the face of televised criticism, imagining a vast conspiracy of skeptics and media executives working against him. (There is no evidence of such a conspiracy, and the alleged participants will happily tell you they were not involved in one, though I suppose real conspirators would say that, too.) In the second appendix, Bauval repeats the same criticisms and then tries to rebut Krupp again, decades later, apparently unsatisfied with his first sixteen years of rebuttals.
The specific criticism in the second appendix is a bit complex to get into here. In short, Krupp suggested that the pyramids face the wrong direction to represent the belt of Orion in 10,500 BCE since, if you were to look up overhead, the line formed by the belt stars would point northeast, while the line formed by the pyramids would point toward the southwest. Bauval, however, probably correctly, imagines that a neutral observer would be looking forward rather than up, and thus see Orion’s belt pointing “up” and the pyramids angling south, the direction the Egyptians thought of as “up.” Somehow this requires two appendixes and forty-three pages (pp. 274-317) of repetitive complaint to explain.
A third appendix attempts to refute Krupp’s further criticism from 2001 and 2002 that the Egyptians did not recognize the constellation of Leo as we know it until Hellenistic times. At best, Bauval demonstrates that a lion-shaped constellation might have been known in the New Kingdom, but there is not enough evidence to assign to it the same stars as the Babylonian zodiac constellation of Leo.
The fourth appendix suggests that various pyramid and temple sites were chosen to align with one another along solar lines. The fifth provides a 1906 English translation of the Dream Stela. The sixth is Schoch’s 1992 paper on the Sphinx. The seventh appendix, perversely, revisits the same geological material from chapters 2 and 7 and appendix 6. It was originally an independently published article of Schoch’s from 1999. As you might guess, I was a little tired of the same material cycling by yet again. The eighth appendix is simply ten pages of Schoch’s 2012 book Forgotten Civilization on whether the Sphinx once had a moat or was originally Anubis, both claims made by ancient astronaut theorist Robert Temple. Schoch rejects both, but this material might more profitably have been part of the actual book about the, you know, geology of the Sphinx. This is especially true since it repeats many of the same claims and details from the current book. Inter alia, in the passage, Schoch repeats the incorrect claim that Göbekli Tepe was a “high culture” (which I take to mean an agriculture-base urban civilization with a complex social hierarchy) and thus justifies the claim that the Sphinx was constructed by a lost civilization.
The ninth appendix discuss the end of the last ice age, a topic that one might reasonably have expected to see addressed in the body of a book that supposes the Sphinx to be of that vintage. While I tend to agree with Schoch that there is not convincing evidence for a comet impact in 10,500 BCE and again in 9,600 BCE, he suffers from a bit of motivated reasoning, seeing as he wants to strengthen the case for his preferred event, giant solar plasma flares. He returns for yet another go-round on Göbekli Tepe, this time arguing that the people who built the site weren’t just a powerful civilization but also built “fortifications,” implying warfare. He describes the site as representing “an earlier cycle of civilization,” though he never defines what “civilization” is supposed to mean. It seems, though, that he is thinking of an urbanized state-level society, presumably because in his mind only such polities can create great works.
The appendixes start on page 274 and end on page 466. More than 40% of the book is devoted to these excursions, half of which are the settling of personal scores over insults real and imagined and the other half of which should have been folded into the main body of the book. The whole thing needed a heavy edit to reduce the amount of repetition, and even then I’m not sure that we would actually end up with anything more than a degree different from Keeper of Genesis two decades ago. Not much changes in fringe history, and I confess that this book gave me odd feelings of déjà vu as it dredged from my memories some of the material that became the first articles I ever wrote for my very first website. Times change, but somehow we are still where we were when some Late Antique and early medieval people imagined that the wonders of Egypt had been created before Noah’s Flood to preserve the primeval wisdom of the Fallen Angels. Bauval might dress up the Fallen Angels or Nephilim as the cult of the Followers of Horus, and Schoch might replace Noah’s Flood with the rising seas of the terminal Ice Age, but the end result is still the same.
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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