Ancient Aliens? The Pyramids

As I mentioned in my previous post, I gave a talk about trying to find aliens while also examining the claims of those that promote the hypotheses of ancient astronauts. In the prior posts I went into the details of several things that I didn’t have time to adequately mention in my talk, but a comment I received made me realize that it would be a lapse if I did not talk about the construction of pyramids, especially those in Egypt, since these are the go-to objects that ancient astronaut, Atlantis builder, reptilian believers first point to in making their case.

I wasn’t going to blog about this subject since I discussed it a fair bit in my talk, but that it not online yet (hopefully it will in the next day or so), and nonetheless this deserve attention. After all, the Great Pyramid at Giza is the only standing Wonder of the World! I should talk about it just for that reason. But instead I have to talk about how it has been abused. And as everyone knows, every time someone says another civilization built the pyramids, a baby Egyptian cries. (Come of von Daniken; think of the children!)

Now, the big claim (in more ways that one) is that the pyramids of Egypt seem to pop out of nowhere without some prior advancements; we went from living in caves to building super-structures, or so it seems. Moreover, we find pyramid structures all over the world, so the Egyptians obviously didn’t build them all. This apparent explosion in technical ability thus indicates a greater civilization as the force that made them pop up on the Giza plateau.

And here is where we see that ancient alien enthusiasts are rather similar to Young Earth Creationists: they ignore the transitional forms! (HT to Thomas Verenna for this and more)

The development of Egyptian burial sites and buildings spreads over centuries, starting with simple burial mounds, and then working up to a more formal structure, the mastaba, which were used by the early pharaohs. From there, the idea of the stepped pyramid isn’t a great leap; it’s basically stacking up mastabas. One of the earliest stepped pyramids (27th century BCE) was for Pharaoh Imhotep (whose name should be familiar from the movie The Mummy (1932 & 1999). From here, the proper pyramid form is desired, in part because it looks better (gotta look good for the afterlife!), and finally we get the pyramid into the form we know and love (some construction details here).

It becomes even more apparent the humanity in making these structures when we look at several, chronologically progressing examples. First, there is the pyramid at Meidum, started in the 3rd dynasty, but was attempted to be finished by Pharaoh Sneferu who founded the 4th dynasty. And it wasn’t a success, but instead the pyramid collapsed during construction. You can see in the image layers of limestone and of mud brick, and the step form is also apparent. However, the design had serious flaws, including having the outer layers built on top of sand rather than rock (as at Giza), so we have the collapse except for the core.

This obviously didn’t make Sneferu happy, so he built another one, the Bent Pyramid. Again, the picture shows some interesting features. The rocks that make up the bricks, for example, are not well-shaped and makes the work seem slipshod. Perhaps because of this, the engineers had to change the angle of the pyramid midway through construction to avoid another collapse. This is starting to look like trial-and-error rather than a master plan from aliens, doesn’t it?

But again, Sneferu wasn’t going to rest his immortal soul with such a structure, so he commissioned yet another pyramid. Here, he finally builds the Red Pyramid, which still stands and looks a lot like that at Giza. And one should expect similarity to the major Giza pyramid since it was built by Sneferu’s son and successor, Khufu.

So, already the pyramids of Egypt should seem a lot less mysterious. There is at least a century between the stepped pyramid and the Great Pyramid at Giza, and plenty of intermediary forms. To quote what people who evolution know say: We have the fossils, we win!

As for moving the pyramids, that’s isn’t so mysterious either. Sure, it seems hard to fathom that people moved 2.5 million blocks of stone, each weighing tons. But when we actually look at what the Egyptians show us, we see that the great rocks and statues were moved with a lot of back-breaking labor.

What they used was a sledge with dozens of people on ropes. No tractor beams, no anti-gravity projectors, just hard work. They also did pour a lubricant in front of the sledge as well, as is seen in the picture above, using either water, milk, or some oil. This would reduce the friction and the chances of the sledge catching fire because of the heat of pulling. And this isn’t the only way they did it. Rollers are also likely used, and the wood would be either locally harvested or imported from places such as Lebanon. Again, all within the technical limits of a Bronze Age civilization, and nothing is given to indicate aliens or Atlantians.

But what about all the other pyramids in the world, such as those in Mesoamerica? Why so many similar structures around the world? First, it should be noted that these pyramids were built thousands of years apart. The Pyramid of the Sun, for example, is built sometime around 100 CE. That is about 2500 years after the Khufu pyramid, a non-trivial difference in time. Aztec and Maya pyramids are younger still. These pyramids also serve different purposes. While the Egyptian pyramids were primarily for burial of dead royalty, the Aztec used the pyramids for human sacrifice rituals, making it a sort of stage performance for all to see. That can be see in the very design of the Aztec pyramids: they have a flatter top for people stand and be seen as if on the top of a grand stage or pediment. So, there is not one culture responsible for these buildings as they have significantly different designs and purposes.

But why pyramids nonetheless? This is actually a sign not of a civilization being super-advanced and needing aliens to explain, but it shows the limitations of the technology of the time. This is because without reinforcing materials, such as iron, the only large structure you can build is a sloping pile. All else can’t handle the weight unless the pressure continuously spreads out, just like what a pyramid does. And after all, if a civilization came from another planet, would you really expect them to build things out of rocks rather than advanced materials? Why are aliens making structures less advanced than our own? Or even the Romans who had concrete and iron?

Once we place pyramids in their proper historical context, we can see that they are an amazing accomplishment, but also a human accomplishment. And we really should appreciate it as that, an amazing bit of human ingenuity. All else seems insulting to our ancestors and to us. We should celebrate, not speculate.


4 thoughts on “Ancient Aliens? The Pyramids

  1. Good stuff, but you have avoided completely what is truly incredible about the Giza pyramids. Their unreal and nearly impossibly accurate alignments that follow the earth’s 26,000 year axial precession?
    And I was with you until you stated, “burial of dead royalty.” Must I remind you that there has NEVER been one single body removed from ANY of the almost 100 pyramids in Egypt. When they finally got into the great pyramid, the giant sarcophagus was empty. And apparently, the lower chambers were built around the sarcophagus. To boot, I’ve seen legit scientific studies that chemically identified the dust that they DID find in the sarcophagus was actually microscopically ground up bones from bulls. We already know their affinity for the Apis bull but that’s still bizarre. I suppose your going to blame it on tomb robbing but to me that just smacks of more weather balloon/solar lights rhetoric.
    The rest of it makes good sense but it’s just regurgitating what has been known forever. If you have time, or already have some material ready about the sphinx, then by all means let’s have it. Then maybe we can sink our teeth into something juicy. Plenty to arbitrate there.

    • I talked about the precession claims on the Baalbek comment forum; I point out that the claim is based on faulty data and method.

      As for not finding bodies in pyramids, that is false. The pyramid complex of Pharaoh Neferefre had mummy remains in them. Also, Sesheshet’s mummy and pyramid have been found recently. Moreover, the evolution of the pyramid design comes from earlier tomb designs, namely the mastaba, and pyramids are found surrounded by necropolises.

      Now, most pyramids have been ransacked, and rather expected given that the pharaohs are usually buried opulently (i.e., King Tut), and thousands of years have gone by to allow for such robbery. That we find any pyramids without artifacts inside them is remarkable. So it is hardly “weather balloon” arguments about this; it is a fact that pyramids have been the target of robbers, and nonetheless, we find bodies inside some of them by luck. The archaeological context also shows how they were part of and the integral part of a necropolis. As such, pyramids were tombs. As is the consensus opinion of experts in the study of Egypt.

      • “Archeological context” can be anything you guys say it is. You are relying heavily on an abstract concept that isn’t remotely scientific. How can I test for or prove “archeological context”? And “consensus opinions” are championed by stalwarts like Dr. Hawass for all these years. Need we even debate that guy? Funny, I used to read his name as a source constantly on skeptic sites to help establish your “archeological context.” Now? Not so much. Each fact you guys adhere to must stand alone based on it’s own evidence. These two terminologies are akin to on the Ancient Alien show, “as ancient astronaut theorists believe….”, as IF that lends ANY credibility whatsoever to their point. You must see my point here, you seem too intelligent not to.
        I’ll have to check out your two references for mummies found, not real familiar with those two, so thanks for that.
        Most pharaohs WERE buried opulently, just not in pyramids. King tut was not buried in a pyramid. He was buried in a special four room complex that lay undisturbed for over 3,000 years. So huh? What did they even need a pyramid for when they had endless and gigantic necropolis complexes And if pyramids were tombs, then you will have to go much further than ANYONE can, by finally explaining what the all the myriad bizarre chambers and structures are for deep inside. Are they power complexes? Or beam generators? No. But when I was there, there were several guys from Boston Univ. taking scrapings from the upper relieving chambers. I asked what fer? They explained that they had found many different types of rare chemical residues in quantities large enough to support some type of fission (high heat) going on. And I saw massive discolorations running the length of the king and queens chambers and it was NOT from torches.
        Simply saying they were tombs is easy and convenient and sounds good. But far too much additional evidence has been found for you to ignore it all. There was something vastly mysterious going on there that has confused us all.
        As far as the precession, I’ll have to go back and read what you wrote on it. How can you account for the fact that they were even AWARE of it at all?
        Just like the Sumerians somehow being aware of ALL the planets in the solar system. Unexplainable.
        You mentioned King Tut. Since you did, you got an easy explanation for his skull deformation? No evidence for binding, don’t even try that one, leaves a definitive growth pattern. What about his mother’s (Nefertiti)? His father’s (Ahkenaten)? Both parents showed up with separate genetic defects? No. Again, unexplainable and vastly mysterious.

      • Strange that you dislike ‘archaeological context’ because it is abstract. I guess you also think physics and mathematics is not scientific because it has abstract concepts like ‘numbers’ and ‘fields’. Also, it’s context that tells us the sorts of things we are interested in sites. After all, I used context to date the trilithon stones at Baalbek, and you now seem to accept that. And what do you have against Dr. Hawass? He is former minister of antiquities; it’s like he is respected by Egyptologists. Perhaps he is discredited in your eyes, but considering you find fault with the whole of Egyptology then that doesn’t say much.

        Most pharaohs existed after the time of the pyramids, so of course most pharaohs are not buried in pyramids. They were extremely expensive to produce. But we still find some bodies in pyramids as I noted before. As for the other chambers in the Great Pyramid, there is notable uncertainty. Part of may be explained as features of construction and structural support. The chambers were Khufu’s name was found seem to be part of a retaining system so the pyramid didn’t collapse on the body of the king. The Grand Gallery is not clearly understood, but hypothesis of Jean Pierre and and Bob Brier is one that has a lot of potential. They think it was part of a counterweight system that was used for constructing the pyramid. It’s a lot more likely than there being fission devices there. After all, we know that the Egyptians had enough sense to use simply machines, but we haven’t a reason to think they had fission technology. So who is really going way beyond the evidence?

        I mentioned precession in the Baalbek comment thread; my point is that there is no evidence of ancient Egyptian knowledge of it. As for the Sumerians and the planets, you are getting this from Zechariah Sitchin. And he is completely wrong. There is not a single Sumerian (or Babylonian or Assyrian) record of any planet not known before Hershel’s discovery of Uranus. The seal that Sitchin looked at does not that a solar system on it with the Sun in the middle and twelve planets; it is a collection of stars. Also, Sitchin just made things up and his translations of Sumerian texts are unrelated to anything in the actual cuneiform artifacts. There is a whole website dedicated to showing his failures:

        Tut’s skull: his elongated skull is pretty much within the normal human variation of skulls. So it shouldn’t be a mystery that his parents had the same features, considering that skull shape is strongly genetically determined. There isn’t anything that mysterious here. Also, Tut did have serious genetic issues due to generations of familiar interbreeding.

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