Atlantis: everyone knows the name and almost everyone knows that the name refers to a mythical, sunken island continent in the Atlantic Ocean, according to a story told by the Greek philosopher Plato sometime during the 4th century BCE. Whether or not Atlantis existed has been a matter of conjecture for nearly four hundred years, ever since Francis Bacon published his novel The New Atlantis in 1626. Atlantis is a controversy that continues to this day.
For some folks, Atlantis existed just as Plato explained, but for others the idea alone runs across the grain of prevailing scholarship and archaeological investigation. For those who are sure Atlantis did exist, it is a belief. But for the skeptic, a prehistoric civilisation with technical sophistication is pure fiction. Unfortunately, for those who believe there is no proof, Atlantis has been ‘discovered’ by researchers in almost every part of the world, from South America to the Eastern Mediterranean to the British Isles.
Although scholarly consensus is convinced that Plato’s fictitious tale of Atlantis was based on the Island of Thera’s destruction in 1628 BCE, Atlantis remains as the Holy Grail of archaeology, even if archaeologists won’t admit it. Discovering evidence – even the smallest artefact – that the lost continent of Atlantis really existed would be the greatest find in the annals of all historical disciplines. History would not only be made, but have to be rewritten. However, until that evidence is discovered and confirmed, the controversy will rage on between believers and skeptics, with the skeptics having a distinct advantage. It’s all about evidence.
Solid evidence is important and there is no direct evidence that Atlantis existed. No ancient stone or sign has ever been found stating ‘Atlantis this Way’ or ‘Welcome to Atlantis.’ No artefact has been discovered proving that sophisticated Atlantean equipment was used by any culture or civilisation during prehistoric times. This being the case, why do some people insist that the story of Atlantis is fact?
The answer to this question lies in the Valley of the Nile, ancient Egypt, and the enigmatic Old Kingdom period. It’s where my hunt for Atlantis began.
STANDARD EXPLANATION MISINTERPRETS THE EVIDENCE
The ruins of ancient Egypt are unique. Nowhere else in the world are there such magnificent megalithic structures as well as fields of granite. It’s obvious that the builders of ancient Egypt’s temples and pyramids used granite, as well as limestone and basalt, as primary materials in their architectural designs. The importance of this fact cannot be overlooked.
Working with stone is not easy and working with granite – the hardest rock known to man – and achieving any scale of economy in order to build big and build everywhere, like the ancient Egyptians did, is impossible without diamond studded tools. Today, such large and numerous projects on a big scale require specialised tools and equipment. Case in point: Giza’s Great Pyramid was the tallest structure in the world until France erected the Eiffel Tower in 1889.
So, how could the ancient Egyptians build an entire civilisation out of limestone, basalt and granite using little more than copper chisels, stone hammers, dolerite pounding rocks, and brute strength? How could a large number of granite statues, some in excess of forty feet tall, be carved with such detail and perfection and then erected?
The traditional explanation is that they did it with copper chisels, stone hammers, dolerite pounding rocks, and brute strength. However, for me, since no culture or civilisation was able to duplicate in complexity, scale, and quantity, the Old Kingdom construction efforts during the next 4,000 years, then the traditional understanding must be an incorrect interpretation of the evidence – the most erroneous being the Great Pyramid. Skepticism is a two-way street.
The idea that the Great Pyramid was a tomb defies logical and cogent reasoning. First, funeral items were never found within any of the pyramid’s chambers. Nor are there any inscriptions describing it as a tomb. Second, its internal design is strange and does not accommodate human beings. Passageways that lead to its three chambers are a little more than three feet in height and width. Nor are there any steps; so, to move about you have to crawl on your hands and knees. This makes moving about inside the pyramid next to impossible for anyone, let alone a ritual funerary party. Third, the walls and ceiling of the uppermost chamber, the alleged burial chamber, was built from seventy-ton slabs of granite with another five layers of granite in the area directly above its ceiling. Finally, as any good detective would consider important, a colossal structure such as the Great Pyramid requires enormous resources to build which, consequently, requires a valid and reasoned motive. A tomb is not one of them.
At a cost of thirty-five billion in adjusted (US) dollars, according to engineer Markus Schulte, there had to be a very good reason to build the Great Pyramid; a reason or a cause that united a nation in mind and in spirit. To be sure, the currently accepted idea that the Great Pyramid’s construction was a national project is an accurate interpretation of what likely happened. However, any large scale operation that consumes billions of dollars in resources must return some type of social benefit. In the case of the Great Pyramid, the benefit somehow involved water.
On the Giza Plateau just south of the middle pyramid, a granite trough emerges from the sand (see illustration). At Abu Sir, south of Sakkara, a limestone trough runs the course of the hill on which a pyramid was built, and at both Abu Sir and its neighbour pyramid, Abu Gorab, there are numerous stone basins. Although denied by most Egyptologists, there is also evidence that a system of tunnels exists under the Giza Plateau. The so-called ‘Tomb of Osiris’ runs deep into the ground as does ‘the pit’ in the Great Pyramid’s subterranean chamber. Near the granite trough there is also two square tunnels drilled into the bedrock, although now filled with sand. Furthermore, the Great Pyramid’s original design included a perimeter wall, which might have functioned as a retaining wall for a reservoir for fresh water that flowed through a canal from the ancient Lake Moeris.
A DEVICE, NOT A TOMB
In his 1967 book The Pharaoh’s Pump, Edward Kunkel put forth the idea that the Great Pyramid was a hydraulic device. According to Kunkel, the Great Pyramid served as a ‘ram’ style water pump in order to facilitate moving large quantities of stone. Through a series of locks, stone blocks arriving from Upper Egypt were moved onto the Giza Plateau by barge, through a system of canals that linked the Nile River to the Great Pyramid. In Kunkel’s theory, the Great Pyramid housed two pumps. One was built underground and a second pump was built above ground. The underground pump consisted of the subterranean chamber and its associated passageways, and the above ground pump, the middle and upper chambers.
The underground ‘ram’ style water pump used energy created by compressing water to maintain water flow, as did the middle chamber for the upper pump. In the lower pump, the subterranean chamber functioned as a compression chamber, and in the upper pump, the middle chamber functioned as a compression chamber. The odd niche in the middle chamber, according to Kunkel, was a safety value, and the upper (King’s) chamber, a secondary compression chamber.
Kunkel’s theory is not as wild as it first seems. In his book he discusses the archaeological evidence that supports his idea. However, the notion that the middle and upper chambers functioned as compression chambers is a stretch of engineering imagination. For the upper pump to function, water would have to enter the Grand Gallery from the lower pump and then flow into the middle and upper chambers. Once in the upper chamber, the continuous flow of water from below would create two streams exiting the pyramid through the shafts built into the north and south sides.
Unfortunately, Kunkel’s upper pump theory requires the creation of a vacuum, a number of valves, and some type of combustible fuel and combustion chamber to drive the pump, which according to Kunkel was located above the uppermost chamber. None of which appear plausible, although the theory that the subterranean chamber functioned as a ‘ram’ style water pump makes sense.
According to marine engineer John Cadman, Kunkel made the mistake of theorising that the entire pyramid was a water pump. Cadman realised that only the subterranean chamber and associated passageways would have functioned as a pump. So, Cadman set out to solve it the engineering way.
With as many photos of the subterranean chamber as he could find, Cadman built a model to test his theory, the first of which didn’t work. Accordingly, he went over the model’s design looking for weak points, and built a second model. This one worked the first time. He then built two more models, one which was made with a glass top and ink injectors in order to study the flow of the water inside the chamber. After studying this model he concluded that the chamber was designed to efficiently circulate and move water through the output and waste line.
Cadman experimented further by adding a vertical pipe connected to the input pipe, called a ‘stand pipe’. In a ram pump, water enters the compression chamber from an elevated source. Inside the compression chamber an opened valve allows water to flow out until the velocity forces the valve shut; when the valve closes high pressure forces water past the check valve and through the output line. When the valve reopens, water once again flows down the input pipe into the compression chamber. A vertical pipe connected to the input line facilitates the pressure wave exiting the system and thereby allows greater cycling, i.e. water is moved through the pump at a faster rate. He also discovered that the stand pipe increases the intensity of the compression wave inside the chamber.
Cadman’s conclusion: whoever carved the subterranean chamber out of bedrock knew exactly what they were doing. The chamber’s design was deliberate and engineered to quickly move water through the system. Furthermore, the compression wave resulting from the pump’s action was apparently more important to the builders of the pyramid than the water being pumped. This leads to another question: why would the pyramid builders design a device that intentionally sent a compression wave up through the body of the pyramid?
Although the answer to that question still lies in the future, the significance of Cadman’s modelling of the Great Pyramid’s subterranean area is obvious. The builders of the Great Pyramid understood engineering physics, at least in the area of hydraulics which requires scientific inquiry and the application of science; in other words, technology.
Herein is the answer to how the pyramid builders built an entire civilisation out of limestone, basalt and granite. If they had achieved an understanding of hydraulics sufficient to build a large ram pump, certainly they also achieved an understanding of physics sufficient to develop some type of machine technology.
Of course, skeptics would argue if they used machines to build, then where are the machines now?
I, too, would like to know what happened to the machines, but the reality is the machines they used, or what is left of them, probably disintegrated and returned to the elements from which they were made long ago. Exposed to weathering, only rock can withstand the corrosiveness of the environment for extremely long periods of time, although the possibility exists that beneath the Saharan sands lies the machining treasure of Civilisation X. Even so, there is another way to demonstrate that powered machines were used in the process of building the Old Kingdom’s magnificent structures.
Whether a hand tool or power tool, every tool leaves its mark, and marks from hand tools are very different than those made by machines. Anyone who has taken metals or wood shop in high school knows this to be true. A cut made from a table saw is flat and straight where as a cut made by a person using a hand saw is less precise, not quite as flat or straight.
The telltale signs of a power tool or machine are the minute marks the blade’s teeth make as they remove material. Although difficult to see, close up the marks from the blade are visible and make a regular pattern across the surface of the cut material. These marks are called ‘feed lines’ and are left by the machine as the operator feeds the material into the cutting blade. Finding evidence of feed marks on stone at one of Egypt’s ancient sites would be the equivalent of finding the machine that made those marks.
THE STONE AT ABU RAWASH
With the Great Sphinx and three pyramids, the Giza Plateau is the jewel of Egypt’s modern day tourist economy, and rightfully so. Without question there is no other place with such magnificence. However, there’s little-known ancient ruins five miles to the north, just off the road to Alexandria, called Abu Rawash. It’s not on the tourist map, but is as spectacular as Giza, although in a very different way.
According to Egyptology, Abu Rawash’s pyramid was built 4,570 years ago during the fourth dynasty by Djedefre, that dynasty’s third ruler. What’s fascinating about this pyramid is that it was never finished. Only fifteen or so courses of the pyramid were laid and the descending passage is exposed to the sky. It’s a fantastic site to visit and provides insight into pyramid construction and design.
The most intriguing aspect of Abu Rawash, though, lies on its south side, a hundred feet or so from the base of the pyramid. There is a pink granite slab approximately four feet in length, three feet wide, and a foot in thickness. It’s propped up on a dozen or so stones the size of a softball. The granite stone is pristine, as if it was hidden away for thousands of years and only recently uncovered. The surface of the stone is smooth to the touch and at its top is an arc, precise in its edge, which separates the stone’s smooth surface from its rough. On the smooth surface there are two slice marks, one near the top and another toward the bottom. And as you look close at the stone’s surface, minute horizontal striations are clearly visible in the same pattern of the separating arc.
Unmistakably, this pink granite slab was cut using a machine; irrefutable evidence that whatever construction crew was responsible for the pyramid at Abu Rawash, they were using some type of power saw. Abu Rawash isn’t the only place, either.
There is evidence elsewhere that powered equipment was used by the pyramid builders – on the Giza Plateau, on the east side of the Great Pyramid at the north end of the basalt patio. Originally, the machine marks on these stones were not visible, hidden by adjoining blocks of a finished patio. But sometime over the course of the last four thousand years or more scavengers removed a number of blocks from the patio’s periphery, particularly the north end, exposing what the pyramid builders did not want anyone to see. Mistakes made by the men who operated the saws. At Giza, the evidence is just as compelling as what exists as Abu Rawash.
WAS THERE A CIVILISATION X?
Since the ancient Egyptians that lived from the third through the first millennium BCE were not known to have developed machine technology, and no other civilisation since has until modern times, the builders responsible for the stone at Abu Rawash and the Great Pyramid’s basalt patio must have existed at a remote time in prehistory. The evidence speaks for itself.
There was Civilisation before Civilisation. I like to refer to it as Civilisation X.
Who were they? Was Egypt a colony of Atlantis as some theorists have put forth? Or were they an unknown culture never described by ancient peoples?
Although everyone knows that the story of Atlantis is attributed to the Greek philosopher Plato, most people don’t realise the story of Atlantis is Egyptian in origin. According to Plato’s dialogues Timaeus and Critias, he heard the story second hand from his uncle Solon who originally heard it from the temple priests at Sais where the Atlantis tale was said to be inscribed upon the temple’s pillars. Unfortunately, such an inscription has never been found. So no one knows whether or not Plato’s story of Atlantis is fact or fiction.
There’s no question that Plato’s tale of Atlantis was a social moral. The pertinent question is, in my opinion, was there a kernel of truth to the story? In other words, was Plato inspired to write Timaeus and Critias from known history of the time?
I think that is likely the case. There are a number of ancient cataclysm myths such as the Greek’s Deucalion’s Flood, the Hopi’s ‘Blue Star’, Sumer’s ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’, and Egypt’s story of ‘Hathor as the Eye of Ra’, just to name a few. There are also two tales of catastrophe in the biblical Genesis, Noah’s Flood and the Tower of Babel.
In modern times these ancient stories of death and destruction have been attributed to fantasy or a way of explaining life’s mysteries. I think such an interpretation is not only superficial but an insult to our ancestors. Who are we to say they were primitive and ignorant in their understanding of the world around them?
Indeed, we should understand these ‘myths’ for what they are, ancient history told as a story in oral tradition that was designed to be understood as metaphor to be interpreted, and not a literal account. With that in mind, a fresh look at the biblical Tower of Babel story allows unique insight into our remote past. On its surface, the Tower of Babel story is just another fable where God’s wrath befalls an unsuspecting world:
The whole world had one language and a common speech. Mankind was capable of planning and completing just about anything. Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar [Babylon] and settled there.
They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel – because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
– Genesis 11:1-9
Taken literally the story makes little sense. However, as metaphor the imagery is easy to understand. First, the word Babel in Hebrew sounds like the Hebrew word for confused. In my opinion what they were building was not a literal tower. In fact, the tower they were building was not a tower at all. The tower represents the technical state humanity had achieved at that time and that they were building a great civilisation. The text is clear on this point: “mankind was united through a single language and could accomplish just about anything.”
It’s ludicrous to think that some magic event occurred that picked people up and moved them across the world while at the same time mysteriously altering their language. This, too, is metaphor.
In the insurance industry customers are protected from floods, fires, tornados, and other unfortunate events. They are referred to as ‘Acts of God’ and are nothing more than natural disasters. Today, although we know that the disaster is a result of nature, we still perceive these events as acts of God. And a number of people, particularly those who hold spiritual views, assign their responsibility to God. Why would it be any different five thousand years ago?
I don’t think it would. We still blame God today for all sorts of personal disasters.
What the Tower of Babel story is expressing in metaphor is that a natural disaster of immense proportions occurred that decimated civilisation. Over many generations, isolated pockets of survivors struggled back onto the road of civilisation, and because of their isolation unique languages developed in diverse regions.
According to history pundits, civilisation emerged around the world at about the same time, around 3000 BCE; in the Nile Valley, the Indus Valley, Mesopotamia, as well as South America at Caral, Peru and Japan from within the Jomon culture. Scholars interpret the sudden rise in societal organisation as an evolutionary phenomenon, a natural progression of humankind. But how do we know that as a fact?
We don’t. It’s an assumption based solely on archaeological evidence, and given the evidence for the use of powered equipment at Abu Rawash and Giza, and the scientific modelling of the subterranean section of the Great Pyramid, it appears to be a false assumption.
Maybe we should pay more attention to ancient myth such as the story of Hathor as the Eye of Ra and ancient records such as the Palermo Stone or the Turin Papyrus.
According to the Turin Papyrus, before Egypt’s first dynasty – preceding 3000 BCE – the ‘Followers of Horus’ ruled for 13,000 years and before them ‘the gods’ ruled for 20,000 years. Thus, according to the ancient Egyptians their civilisation’s history dates back 36,000 years.
What happened to obscure this history?
Between 14,000 BCE and 9,000 BCE catastrophe occurred on our planet, a cataclysm we simply refer to as ‘the end of the Ice Age’; science refers to it as the Terminal Pleistocene Extinction. We know for a fact that during that time many large mammalian species became extinct. If civilisation existed at that time, and the evidence is convincing that it did, the women and men living at that time would also have suffered the consequences of global calamity. For the survivors it would have been a long and difficult journey on the road to re-establishing civilisation.
Edward Malkowski‘s book – Ancient Egypt 39,000 BCE: The History, Technology & Philosophy of Civilization X – takes a fresh look at the physical and textual evidence for a technical, prehistoric civilisation.
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