I was all set to review the newest episode of True Monsters for today’s blog post since it was supposed to deal with a topic near and dear to my heart: Indo-European mythology. However, I was surprised to see that the History Channel abruptly pulled the series following its disastrous performance in the ratings against rival Discovery’s Gold Rush franchise. True Monsters failed to attract more than 300,000 viewers in the adults 18-49 demographic against viewership of just 1.06 million viewers. In its last outing, the series lost more than 28% of its Ancient Aliens rerun lead-in audience of 1.48 million viewers, and crucially it lost more than a quarter of the lead-in audience under the age of 49. Ancient Aliens performs reasonably well against Discovery’s Bering Sea Gold and Gold Rush, but True Monsters did not. History plans to burn off the last two episodes of the series next week, on the little-watched pre-Halloween Friday.
So, in lieu of that, I’d like to talk about Ancient Code again, not because I really want to but because the site’s owner, Ivan Petricevic, managed to create an internet flap based on recycling old material that few realized wasn’t new.
A few weeks ago Petricevic posted an article claiming that two Ukrainian geologists had declared that the Great Sphinx of Egypt was 800,000 years old based on their analysis of the weathering pattern on the monument. Vjacheslav I. Manichev and Alexander G. Parkhomenko claimed that water erosion of the Sphinx indicated that the monument was already standing at the beginning of the early Pleistocene, around 750,000 years ago. Yes, Petricevic got the date wrong, and most of those who are reacting to him followed suit.
Manichev is a nuclear geochemist who specializes in metals; Parkomenko is listed as working in the field of geography, but I can find no other information about him in English.
Over the next weeks, both conspiracy theorists and skeptics expressed varying degrees of excitement and outrage over the claim, but so far as I can tell, few people have noted that this is not a new claim. It was not, as Petricevic implied, news in the sense of being recent. As with most articles appearing on the Ancient Code website, it was a recycled rewrite of material first published seven years ago in Geoarchaeology and Archaeomineralogy, the proceedings of an October 2008 international conference held in Sofia, Bulgaria.
This material is so well-known that it has appeared already in a number of fringe books, including one by Robert Schoch, the originator of the claim that the Sphinx was eroded by water. In Forgotten Civilization: The Role of Solar Outbursts in Our Past and Future (2012), Schoch notes the two Ukrainian scientists’ findings and notes that they are based on his own work. “Personally, I am not convinced that the Great Sphinx is anywhere close to the age postulated by Manichev and Parkomenko,” Schoch wrote in defense of his own proposed date before the start of dynastic Egypt.
For what it is worth, the two authors did not conduct any field testing to reach their conclusions. Instead, they say that they re-dated the monument based on a “visual investigation” (i.e. visiting the Sphinx and looking at it) and “reading the literary sources.” They based their conclusion on a comparison of the Sphinx, in a desert environment, with rock walls around the Black Sea, in an environment that differs in pretty much every conceivable way. Nevertheless, they argue that the undulating pattern of erosion on the Sphinx is not the work of wind and sand working differentially on rock layers of different hardness but rather the work of waves that accomplished the same task in a time when Giza was flooded.
They conclude that when the Sphinx was carved, Giza must have been like the Black Sea is today, and therefore this could only have occurred 750,000 years ago. The argument runs thus: If we assume that waves were necessary to create the erosion pattern (because it looks similar to the erosion pattern on the Black Sea coast), then we would need a water level at least 160 m higher than the current sea level to flood the Sphinx; therefore, this could only have occurred 750,000 years ago, the last time the sea was so high. As you can see, the problem is the initial if, based as it is on a “looks like therefore is” line of reasoning, without geochemical or any other type of proof to substantiate it.
They also do not explain how the Sphinx, which continues to deteriorate and erode in the desert environment to this day, survived 750,000 years almost intact while undergoing much more damaging erosion in historical times except that they feel that sand erosion, which is known to have occurred, was much more damaging than their proposed hundreds of thousands of years of water erosion.
When you drill down into their paper, it becomes clear that they never considered alternative hypotheses, nor did they attempt to find proof that only submersion in a giant lake could achieve the erosion they describe. It’s also disturbing that almost all of their sources on geology were Soviet texts published in the 1960s. Surely there have been updates to geology since then. Worse, their paper takes as its foundation the Secrete Doctrine of Helena Blavatsky, which they refer to in their own English re-translation of the Russian translation, citing Book 2, Part 2, Stanza 5, which I give in the original: “Behold the imperishable witness to the evolution of the human races from the divine, and especially from the androgynous Race—the Egyptian Sphinx, that riddle of the Ages!” They argue that the lines place the Sphinx at 750,000 BCE, though in context it is not at all clear that this is what she meant. But anyway the point remains: The whole claim is inspired by Theosophy... and the part of Theosophy (as we can see from her footnotes) directly inspired by the Book of Enoch and the myth of the Fallen Angels!
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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