(Posted 18 December 2011)

I just have to do this.  Global Warming, and Islamic and Christian fundamentalisms are not the only faith-based religions that deserve to be deconstructed (please refer to the related essays on those topics on this site and on the sister site).  Equal time should be given to the belief that Aliens from outer space created mankind, built the pyramids and the ziggurats, and taught mankind all of the arts of civilization.  New-Agers swoon over these ideas and the related Atlantis myths but there are no serious archaeologists or historians that give them any credence whatsoever.  Of course, the New-Ager true believers like to fantasize that there is a conspiracy among archaeologists and historians to conceal “the truth.”  In reality, however, most historians and archaeologists would be thrilled to death if they could find one iota of evidence that the pyramids, ziggurats, or any other object on the face of the earth was built by the aliens.  Such a find would get their pictures in the papers, guest appearances on radio and TV talk shows, and best of all they would finally be able to sell their books by the millions and make much better money than they could ever make teaching at a university.  


These types of ideas (the rejection of a scholarly approach to history and archaeology in favor of the faith-based beliefs in Atlantis and Aliens) become possible when you have large segments of the general public, including people with university degrees, running around who have no conception of “time” in the past.  For example, most people today can not conceptualize a difference between five-thousand years ago and ten-thousand years ago.  All of it is in the category of “gee-gosh-that’s-ancient.”  Events that happened ten-thousand years ago are easily jumbled up together with things that happened five-thousand years ago, or three-thousand years ago, because they all belong in the “gee-gosh-that’s-ancient” category.  

Then along comes the spiders like Zecharia Sitchin, Robert K.G. Temple, and others of that ilk, to spin their webs of deceit telling people that the civilizations of Ancient Egypt, Sumer, and Babylon appeared suddenly out of nowhere, therefore the Aliens (or the Atlanteans, or both) must have built these civilizations since the local peoples were totally incapable of having done so themselves—especially since it happened “suddenly.”   


If one is incapable of distinguishing five-thousand years ago from ten-thousand years ago then it would certainly appear that Egypt and Sumer did appear “out of nowhere,” or “all of a sudden,” when in reality the evidence on the ground shows a long history of gradual evolution taking thousands of years to go from simple seasonal farming along the rivers to full-blown “civilizations” with monumental architecture such as pyramids, ziggurats, palaces, temples, and tombs, and civilizational elements such as writing, astronomy, mathematics, and the rudiments of other sciences.  

In reality it took thousands of years for those elements of civilization to develop as technology gradually accumulated.  All evidence on the ground shows that these early people did it without any help whatsoever from the Aliens, or the Atlanteans.  The evidence for that gradual, step-by-step evolution (of writing, architecture, the building of pyramids, temples, etc.) you (even the non-scholar) can see on the ground all around you when you visit those sites—or visit your nearest university library (or museum).  But the charlatans who push the Atlantis/Alien myths aren’t going to tell you that—they’re too busy laughing all the way to the bank after having taken advantage of the naïve and the gullible.


Just look at how far we have come in terms of technological progress in the two hundred years since the founding of the United States.  So, who are we to deny the indigenous peoples of the Middle East the glory of their own past by telling them they were incapable of constructing their civilizations no matter how many centuries they had to work with?  I can’t help but think that a lot of this “aliens built the pyramids/ziggurats” stuff is nothing more than racism.  The indigenous peoples of the Middle East weren’t white Europeans or Americans therefore the Aliens of the Atlanteans must have done it for them.  


Have you ever noticed that most of the people who believe that aliens built the pyramids also believe that people from “Atlantis” built the pyramids?  I mean, if you’re going to believe in stuff like that it’s got to be one or the other.  You can’t have the Atlanteans build the pyramids and then have the aliens come along and build the same pyramids all over again.  You can not have your cake and eat it too.   


First we will dispense with the Atlanteans, then we’ll discuss the pyramids and how they were really built.  The ziggurats of Mesopotamia will be discussed in a following essay.  

All of the myths and legends about “Atlantis” stem from the science fiction “novel” written by Plato in approximately 360 B.C.  Actually his Atlantis stories appeared in two works, his Timaeus and Critias dialogues.  

Plato based his fictional account on a real civilization that existed on the island of Crete and other nearby Aegean islands well over a thousand years prior his own time.  He then moved his fictional “Atlantean” civilization from the Mediterranean out into the Atlantic Ocean and multiplied its antiquity by a factor of ten for story telling purposes.  Doing so allowed him more freedom as a writer to embellish other aspects of his Atlantean civilization and to make the social commentaries that were his primary purpose for composing his tales about Atlantis.


Throughout classical antiquity intellectuals discussed Plato’s Atlantis and usually rejected the idea as being fictional, and it was often parodied by other authors.  It is only in modern times with the advent of new age craziness that people have taken the Atlantis story seriously, no one did so in antiquity www.Wikipedia.com  


The very real civilization that Plato modeled his “Atlantis” after was that of the Minoans centered on the island of Crete, as mentioned above.  Perhaps the best single book on the subject is the one by Charles Pellegrino entitled "Unearthing Atlantis."  Nearly every detail of the Minoan civilization fits Plato’s Atlantis—except where Plato multiplied dimensions by a factor of ten.  The Minoan civilization was destroyed in a massive cataclysm touched off by the explosion of the Thera volcano in about 1620 B.C., just as Plato described for his Atlantis.  


But leaving the archaeology and the volcanology aside, all one has to do is look at a map of the world to dispel oneself of the Atlantis myth.  At one time all of the continents were connected and you can easily see how the western bulge of Africa fits snugly into the notch between South and North America.  This means, that from a geological standpoint there is absolutely NO room for another continent, or any other large land mass, to fit in between Africa and the Americas.

After reading the Pellegrino book, and looking at the map of the Atlantic ocean no one with even the slightest iota of intelligence could possibly continue to hang on to the belief in the Atlantis-in-the-Atlantic myth.


And now for the pyramids.  First off, we must make it clear that the pyramids did not appear out of nowhere.  They were the result of hundreds of years of evolution of architectural styles and construction techniques.  Initially, the remains of Egyptian rulers and notables were buried in one-story slab tombs archaeologists like to call mastabas (meaning stone platforms in Arabic).  At some point in time someone got the idea to stack a smaller mastaba on top of a larger one so as to build a more impressive tomb than his predecessors.  

The end result of this process was the famous “step” pyramid of Djoser near Giza built in the mid 27th century B.C.  Some scholars believe that inspiration for the step pyramid may have come from the construction of the Sumerian Ziggurats which are similar in dimension and outward appearance, and construction of which began a couple of hundred years prior to the first step pyramid in Egypt.  

However, their purposes were entirely different.  The pyramids of Egypt, including the step pyramid, were used only once and that was for burial while the ziggurats of Mesopotamia were never used as tombs but instead had an ongoing use as temples and astronomical observatories.     


After the construction of the step pyramid in the 27th century B.C., and prior to the construction of the more famous “true” pyramids at Giza in the mid 26th century B.C., there was an intermediary stage called the “bent” pyramid constructed at the beginning of the 26th century B.C. which was built by the Pharaoh Sneferu.  The lower part of the pyramid rises at a 55-degree angle but the top section is built at a 43-degree angle.  Archaeologists recognize this pyramid as a transitional form between the step-sided and smooth-sided pyramids.  

They believe that the steepness of the original angle proved to be unstable during construction and so the builders were forced to adopt a shallower angle to prevent the structure’s collapse.  This theory seems to be borne out by the fact that the adjacent Red Pyramid, built immediately afterwards by the same Pharaoh, was constructed at an angle of 43-degeres from its base clear to the top.  www.wikipedia.org


Actually, there were three intermediary stages between the step pyramid of Djoser and the great pyramid of Khufu at Giza—all three built by the Pharaoh Snefru.  

Snefru’s first attempt at building a smooth-sided pyramid, as opposed to the step pyramid of Djoser, was the so-called medium Pyramid which collapsed during construction.  They were trying to build it at a 54-degree angle but that apparently proved to be too steep for the construction techniques they were using, so the pyramid collapsed.  

The Pharaoh Snefru may have been attempting to build the so-called bent pyramid at the same time, at the same steep 54-degree angle, but fearing that it too would collapse, his builders altered the angle to 43-degrees as mentioned above.  The presence of large timber beams supporting the inner chambers of the bent pyramid would seem to indicate that the builders were indeed alarmed at the instability of the structure and suddenly decided to do everything possible to prevent it from collapsing like the medium pyramid did.  

The third pyramid built by Pharaoh Snefru was the so-called Red Pyramid.  It rises in straight angles at 43-degrees from top to bottom making it look squatter than the Giza pyramids, yet it is still the third tallest pyramid in Egypt.  In its day it was the tallest man-made structure on the face of the earth and it was also the first true smooth-sided pyramid—with all due respect to the pyramids at Giza.  Based on the graffiti that workers left nearby the site, it took ten years and seven months to build the Red Pyramid (Romer, John, The Great Pyramid: Ancient Egypt Revisited, 2007, Cambridge University Press).
(P.S. There was no mention of aliens in the grafitti).


To sum up so far, what we see is the Egyptian builders, architects, mathematicians, and engineers accumulating knowledge of pyramid construction techniques over a period of well over a century before they were capable of building the great pyramid of Khufu.  This evolution of building styles, and the trial and error involved as witnessed by the “step,” “medium,” “bent,” and “red” pyramids, eliminates all possibility that any aliens or Atlanteans built the pyramids, or even guided the Egyptians in building the pyramids.


Stop and think for a moment now.  If the Aliens built the pyramids wouldn’t they have gotten it right in the first place?  The Khufu pyramid would have been the first pyramid built and there would be no preliminary pyramids and none of the trial and error we see with the “bent” pyramid and all of the others.  There would have been no step pyramid of Djoser, no collapsed “medium” pyramid, no “bent” pyramid, and no “red” pyramid.  

There would have been no need for a hundred years (several hundreds of years if one includes the prior construction of mastabas) of the evolution of architectural styles and the accumulation of knowledge if the Aliens built the pyramids or even had a hand in instructing the Egyptians.  This is not to mention the fact that the remains of the workers’ quarters have been found nearby the great pyramid of Khufu complete with graffiti, icons, and other personal objects—and these workers were real Egyptians, not aliens in space suits.


Another myth that must be laid to rest is the contention that the Egyptians didn’t have the wheel therefore they could not have had any sort of pulley contraptions to aid in the construction of the pyramid—unless the aliens gave them one from outer space.  The wheel first appeared in Mesopotamia in the form of the potter’s wheel around 5000 B.C., or nearly 2,500 years before the pyramids were built, and the first wheeled vehicles that we have solid evidence of appeared in central Asia/southeastern Europe by 3700 B.C. where semi-nomadic tribes buried their chieftains in wheeled carts.  

Wheeled carts and chariots appeared in Mesopotamia at near the same time.  Therefore, there is no way that the Egyptians could not have had the wheel by 2600 B.C.  As for pulley contraptions, they had them on their boats for handling freight long before they began building pyramids.  As for crane types of machines, the shadouf  used for lifting water from rivers and canals to irrigate field was also in use before pyramid construction began.


Now, as for how the great pyramid of Khufu was really built, let’s leave faith-based religions behind and turn to history, archaeology, and other sciences.  The primary written source that has come down to us from the ancient world as to how the great pyramid of Khufu was constructed is the account of Herodotus in the late 5th century B.C.  According to Herodotus the great pyramid was constructed in steps, or terraces.  

When the base for the first step was completed, blocks for the next tier above were lifted by contrivances made of short timbers.  In this way they shifted from stage to stage until reaching the top.  Then the facing was placed working from the top down.  A Mr. Ron Wyatt claims to have built and tested such a contraption and implies that it would be capable of lifting stones in excess of 100,000 pounds.  www.wyattmuseum.com 


Diodorus of Sicily wrote that the Egyptians built the pyramids by using ramps and mounds of dirt.  Modern professional archaeologists would agree with him.  Using mounds of dirt, and dirt ramps is a time honored Egyptian method of construction and you can still see evidence of it at the great temple at Karnak.  (It is also one of the methods Ancient armies used to conquer walled cities, such as Nebuchadnezzar at Jerusalem, and Alexander at Tyre—and these endeavors were just as amazing from an engineering standpoint as the construction of the pyramids--and they didn't have any help from the aliens).


The ramps for building a pyramid though, would have to be made longer and wider (to keep from collapsing) the higher up the pyramid you went.   Then, when the project was completed, the dirt ramps would have to be carted away bucket full by bucket full while the facings are set in place starting at the top and working down towards the bottom as the dirt ramps are being demolished.  Some people have complained that the amount of dirt that would require is prohibitive and that it would have added multiple years to the building of the pyramid.  

However, moving huge amounts of dirt for a grandiose project would not have bothered the ancients much, because they did it all the time, but there is a serious issue with regards to the idea of a straight ramp from the Nile to the pyramid.  In order to move such heavy blocks of stone a grade of no more than 8% must be maintained, but that would have required a ramp greater than the distance between the river and the pyramid in order to reach the top of the pyramid.  

Recently another theory has been tested and proven and this is the concrete theory.  Back in the late 1970s a French chemist by the name of Joseph Davidovits postulated that the ancient Egyptians built their Pyramids by pouring concrete into blocks, or molds, high up on the site rather than hauling the huge stones intact up a steep ramp.  This idea was rejected by the archaeologists who still preferred their ramp ideas.  


However, recently a number of French and American materials scientists have found evidence that at least some of the stones of the great pyramid were definitely poured on site rather than natural because of bubbles near the tops of the stones.  Based on chemical analysis these “stones” were first quarried from the limestone on the damp south side of the Giza Plateau.  This limestone was then dissolved in large, Nile-fed pools until it became a watery slurry.  

Lime from fireplace ash, and salt, were mixed in with it.  Then when the water evaporated it left a moist clay-like structure.  This wet “concrete” was then carried up ramps to the site bucketful by bucketful and poured and packed into pre-set molds and then left to set.  In tests to simulate this process they found that it took ten days for this stuff to set.  www.nsraweb.com   Of course, if you’re planning on taking ten or twenty years to build your pyramid, ten days is not even a drop in the bucket (please excuse the pun).


As if all of this wasn’t enough, Jean-Pierre Houdin, a French architect, has developed a radical new idea that a ramp was indeed used to convey the blocks up to the top of the pyramid and that the ramp still exists—inside the pyramid.  According to this theory, an external ramp was used for constructing the bottom third of the pyramid.  As this ramp was being used, a second ramp was being constructed inside the pyramid which was to be used to haul the stones up to the top two-thirds of the pyramid.  This ramp, according to Houdin, is six feet wide and has a grade of approximately seven percent.  


One of the problems with the internal ramp theory is how they were able to turn corners.  The men would need a place where they could stand and pull while others pushed from the back.  So, Houdin suggested that the ramp had “openings,” or “notches,” at the corners where a simple crane could be used to turn the blocks.


A lot of theories have been presented about how the pyramids were built but most lack evidence.  Is there any evidence for this internal ramp idea?  A bit of evidence appears to be the discovery of one of the corner “notches” that Houdin predicted.  It is two-thirds of the way up the northeast corner.  Far more compelling than the notch, though, is the microgravimetry survey of the pyramid done by a French team.  The computer analysis of their survey on the pyramid showed exactly what Houdin had predicted—a ramp spiraling up through the pyramid.  www.archaeologoy.org

And yet, Egyptologists still dismiss Houdin’s idea.  “In reality, huge amounts of well-documented facts exist concerning the genuine building methods employed,” Romer says in his aforementioned book.  In this regard he is talking about the partial remains of an external ramp that extends from the quarry to the pyramid.


Okay, so we have the evidence on the ground of the partial physical remains of a ramp from the quarry to the pyramid.  We have the evidence of an “internal” ramp, and we have the chemical evidence that at least some of the stones were “poured” into molds.  So what is going on here, isn’t all of this physical evidence contradictory?  


Not really.  Here is what the evidence suggests:  The external ramp was used to build the first one third, or 141 feet of the great pyramid.  Pre-cut blocks taken directly from the quarry were hauled up the ramp by workers pulling on sleds until they reached the building site where other workers would set the stones in place, possibly using levers and cranes to move the stone from the sled to the exact position desired.  As the pyramid began to rise the ramp was increased in breadth and height.  In the meantime as they were building the bottom third of the pyramid they also began the construction of the internal ramp.  


Then the huge sixty to seventy ton granite ceiling beams and rafters for the king’s and the “queen’s” chambers were set in place.  These were hauled up the external ramp by hundreds of workers pulling on cables.  Counter weights either inside the chambers, or on the opposite side of the pyramid, aided in pulling the stones up the side of the pyramid and setting them in place.  

Assuming that the average Egyptian male of that age weighed one hundred and twenty pounds it would take only one thousand men pulling on ropes from the opposite side to balance the weight of the largest of the stones in the pyramid.  With two thousand men it becomes a piece of cake.  

They could even slide it straight up the steep sides of the pyramid if they wanted to—except that the great pyramid of Khufu (like all pyramids) was built originally as a step pyramid, or a larger version of the Djoser pyramid.   Given that there were supposedly a hundred thousand men working on the pyramid, sparing a couple of thousand or so to help set the largest stones in place would not have presented any problem.


Then, the “internal” ramp (which at this point was still on the outer edges of the pyramid, which still looked like a "step" pyramid) was used to haul the rest of the stones up to finish the final two thirds of the structure with some of the larger upper stones being made on the spot by pouring concrete into molds as described above.  The final phase was to put the facing stones on by working from the top down covering up the “internal” ramp as they worked their way down, and thus making a smooth-sided pyramid out of a step pyramid.  www.usatoday.com/tech
This is the only scenario that fits all the evidence on the ground.  And, once again, the evidence on the ground allows no room for alien intervention, or even advice.  It was entirely a local job and the ability to construct the great pyramid was arrived at only after many decades (and centuries) of trial and error.

Please refer to the companion essay on the ziggurats to be posted next.

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