On Friday, conspiracy theory Alex Jones, whose InfoWars website is reportedly under investigation for ties to Russian propaganda, apologized to the owner and staff of the pizzeria he fingered as the centerpiece of the fictitious “Pizzagate” anti-Hillary Clinton conspiracy. The man who fired a gun inside the pizzeria while “investigating” Jones’s claims cited Jones as the reason for his actions. Jones did not admit to being wrong about Democratic politicians operating a child sex slave ring out of the non-existent basement of Comet Ping Pong pizzeria, but instead apologized only insofar as “our commentaries could be construed as negative statements” about the pizzeria, its owner, or its employees. Jones encouraged those who repeated his false claims to apologize as well, but as of this writing ancient astronaut theorist David Wilcock, who made Pizzagate the centerpiece of his ramshackle cosmology and the promise of the anti-liberal, anti-alien liberation to come, has not retracted his extremist views about the pizzeria. Meanwhile, according to The Hill editor Will Sommer, a small Pizzagate activist rally in Washington this weekend descended into mutual recriminations as participants argued over Christian angelology, clashed over whether Jews are behind the pseudo-scandal, and could not decide how many other right-wing conspiracy theories to endorse.
Today I have an interesting historical oddity to present from an obscure German-language book called Memories of Asia in the Arts and Sciences, published in Berlin in 1811. This odd book has some weird things to say about the pyramids of Giza and the Nephilim. Our author is a certain Heinrich Friedrich von Diez, a Prussian nobleman who became fascinated by the Middle East. He was a former Prussian ambassador, once personally employed by Frederick the Great, who turned toward academia and delved into orientalism, eventually becoming well known among the Prussian intelligentsia for his studies. He was a friend of Goethe, and he helped popularize Islamic writers in the German lands.
Von Diez saw in the Middle East a time capsule where the old world of the Bible was fossilized in recoverable form, so that a study of archaeological ruins and the archaizing elements of Islam and Coptic Christianity, in light of ancient texts, could restore a true account of the ancient faith and culture that existed before the time of Moses. In his preface, he specifically claimed that his methodology could allow him to recover an understanding of the primitive but pure faith and culture that had existed before the Flood, when the noble Sethites worshiped God correctly, before the evil Cainites had brought the world to grievous sin and destroyed the wealth of angelic knowledge known to the family of Adam. As he put it in the introduction to his volume:
There are even remains of the works which were built before the Flood, that epoch of renewal of the world, such as some of the pyramids in Egypt, built, according to Oriental accounts, by King Surid from the family of Cain, and some which were built during the great events after the Flood. The remains of the places where they have occurred can be seen today as the ruins of the Tower of Babel, and the cities of Babylon, Nineveh, Jerusalem, and others, monuments in the deserts of Paran and Sinai, the columns and the walls of Persepolis, etc. And, besides these lifeless things, in which the earliest human history can be known, the people of Asia, notwithstanding so long a succession of generations, have retained not only the traditions of those stories along with so many doctrines, but also have little habits of their manners, customs, and ways of thinking, that one still sees in them the same people of whom Moses and the prophets have spoken… (my trans.)
Yes, von Diez believed that the pyramids were remains of the works of the Nephilim, the Cainites of old. He followed the Islamic (and Christian) interpretation of Genesis 6:4 which made Nephilim the descendants of the daughters of Cain by the sons of Seth, a claim he explores in detail later in the book. His acceptance of antediluvian pyramids seems to be a bit of a rarity for a nineteenth century intellectual, so it’s worth looking at in a bit more detail. The passage below, which I translate as best I am able (since the Islamic terms are transliterated oddly and German changed a lot after 1900), comes from an entire chapter devoted to tracing the dynasty of Cain in antediluvian times, from fragments of pre-Flood history known to von Diez from the (late) Islamic authors he had access to:
… in our fragments are two facts which deserve our attention. The first is that, as al-Suyuti says, Naqrāūs was the first king in Egypt after the alteration of the language. We can see from this that the same language, which had been handed down by Adam, continued as Cain’s language. We are, however, led at the same time to look at what caused it to change. The Ghurbanids, descendants of Misraim’s brother, had migrated from Yemen to the paternal home, and had moved into Egypt. The change they experienced in the nature of the country, in the climate, in the essentials of life, and in new manners, new customs, and the arts, would necessitate new expressions and figures of speech, so that gradually the speech of the Ghurbanids became a new and intelligible dialect for the Cainites in Yemen; But now Naqrāūs had overcome the Ghurbanids, and had taken their land, so he had to accept the language of the vanquished into his own, along with the institutions and customs that comprised the nature of the country. The second fact is that King Shurid or Surid built pyramids in Egypt; the general opinion is that not all the pyramids were built by him. There are so many in the country, that his government would not have had the time to accomplish this, however long his reign might have been, and that there were still many that were constructed after the Flood, down into the time of the Pharaohs, whose works took as models those of the previous world. In particular, any pyramids of baked mud brick, of the kind which the Israelites were forced to make, would not have survived the Flood; there are, however, still other pieces of information, which help explain our fragment; Yakuti says that the two pyramids of rectangular stones were built beside Fustat or Old Misr, the former capital of Egypt, by King Surid, and that according to astronomical observations recorded in the Muslim year 224 (A.D. 839), the construction took place 4,321 years earlier, and since the Flood had been 3,941 years prior, that meant that the pyramids’ construction had itself taken place 395 years before the Flood. Ibn ’Abd al-Hakam reports that the Copts in their books made King Surid of Egypt the creator of three pyramids, 300 years before the Flood. Hadji Khalifa writes in his chronology that the construction of the pyramids in Egypt in the time of King Surid was carried out for the preservation of the sciences from the Flood in Anno Mundi 1440. There seems to be only one mistake, in the year; for if, according to his account, the Flood had occurred in Anno Mundi 2242, there would have remained from Surid to the Flood 802 years, which is much too much. But if, following the Hebrew text, the Flood is placed in A.M. 1656, only 216 years would be left from Surid to the destruction of the first world, which would be much better suited to the Mohammedan chronology. But the year is not the main point. It is enough to see all these scribes, especially the Copts, as Ham’s descendants, along with our fragments, united in saying that the first pyramids had already been built before the Flood.
I must confess to be being stumped by some of the names above, which don’t match any in the versions I have access to. Oh, well. It’s not too important. I should also point out that his reference al-Hakam is wrong; according to his footnotes, he borrowed it from John Greaves, the seventeenth century author of Pyramidographia who is the first author to have so attributed the story. It does not appear in any of al-Hakam’s surviving works, and it seems Greaves was working from either an unknown or (more likely) misattributed manuscript.
The fascinating thing is that we have in the Napoleonic era a European scholar who openly advocated for antediluvian pyramids based on Islamic lore.
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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