This week, geologist Robert Schoch proposed a bizarre new idea about the temple complex at Karnak in Egypt after viewing nineteenth-century photographs of the ruins before they had been cleared of rubble and partially restored. He claimed that the blocks making up the rubble were too big for wind to have moved (true!) and that therefore the buildings, which he consequently redates to the Ice Age, had been deliberately buried by a lost civilization (false!). So where did he go wrong? It’s pretty obvious.
The observation of intentional burial at Karnak first struck Katie [Schoch’s wife] while viewing historical images on display along the walls of Karnak's Visitor's Center. […] Katie noticed that the blocks in some of the images appear to be too massive to have been blown into position by the wind, as often occurs around abandoned structures in arid regions over vast expanses of time. (The Sphinx Enclosure on the Giza Plateau is but one simple example; in just a matter of decades it will fill with sand if left unattended.) It appears that the loose blocks were positioned around the temple walls, as if to fortify them. Notice the mountain of dirt piled above the ram-headed sphinxes that line the entryway to the complex. What is apparent in the images is not simply sand blown in through time. The blocks in this rubble pile are enormous, and the mountain of rubble is many meters high.
The nineteenth-century photos do indeed show large mounds of carved and dressed blocks, as you can see here.
However, no one has ever claimed the massive stones, unlike sand, blew in on the wind. Rather than belabor the point, a glimpse at the same temple today, after decades of rubble-clearing and restoration, will make plain what happened: Those massive piles of blocks were the collapsed remains of walls and the upper reaches of the temple, which fell into mounds that the desert filled with sand. You can see he foundations in the photo. The Egyptians also used blocks and rubble from former buildings as fill for new pylons. For example, the temple to the Aten built by Akhenaten was demolished and is blocks used as fill for three later pylons.
A lot of the mudbrick Shoch observed abutting other temples and believes to be he proof of deliberate burial are the remains of mudbrick enclosure walls, which (unbeknownst to Schoch) surrounded most Egyptian stone temples. It’s literally in all the standard works on Egyptian architecture.
In short, Schoch published a lengthy discussion and an elaborate hypothesis with no evidence other than assumption.
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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