Writing about Outrageous Hypotheses and Extraordinary Possibilities: A View from The Trenches
Trial and error
Left, Robert Bauval; Centre, Graham Hancock; Right, John Anthony West.
Much attention is focussed on 'mistakes' that Robert, John and I have made.
Of course we've made mistakes! Our theory of a lost civilisation of prehistory and its impact on historical cultures is in its early stages and will require constant refinement, perhaps for years, before all its errors have been eliminated. But does this mean that it would have been better if we hadn't begun to develop the theory in the first place? I don't think so. Does it mean that we should have just sat back and ignored anomalies and puzzles that orthodox historians offer no satisfactory explanations for? Again, I don't think so.
To give a specific example, would it have been better if John West had never become curious about the apparent water-weathering of the Great Sphinx of Giza or if he had never begun to suggest that it might have acquired this profile during the heavy rains of the last Ice Age - thousands of years before the birth of the historical civilisation of Egypt?
Surely only a fool, or a pedant with invincible confidence in the orthodox theory that dates the Sphinx to 2,500 BC, would argue that West should have dropped the matter? Surely it's better to debate such issues freely and to consider all possible lines of inquiry and evidence rather than to rule out a whole range of possibilities at the outset?
Similarly would it have been best if Robert Bauval had simply not noticed the similarity that exists between the pattern of the three stars of Orion's belt -- as viewed looking south from Giza -- and the pattern of the three Great Pyramids of Giza. Or, having noticed it, would it have been better if he had not researched the matter further? Was it in some way irresponsible of him in his book The Orion Mystery to put before the public a very large and compelling body of evidence which suggests that the ground plan cannot possibly be a coincidence? Should he have just kept quiet about this information and not rocked the boat?
I think not. Contrary to their detractors, I believe that the work of West and Bauval has been a powerful force for good. It has stimulated a new spirit of generosity towards the past and a new spirit of enquiry into age-old mysteries. Bogged down in received wisdom and unquestioned assumptions, orthodox historical thinking about the origins of civilisation had become stale, uncreative and boring by the beginning of the 1990's. What would have been the point of continuing along that path, without challenge, just because Professor X and Dr Y said it was so?
So I'm proud to have been part of all this and that my books have put radical alternative ideas about the past before a readership of millions. I repeat and re-emphasise my confident expectation that those of us who have been involved will have made many mistakes in our work! After all, what worthwhile new scientific theory ever comes into existence all at once and fully formed? Most good theories are the result of years of experimentation and trial and error -- with bad hypotheses being abandoned and better ones gradually strengthened. Some of our ideas may be good, therefore, and others not so good -- but its only by putting them forward to be tested and criticised that we can really discover what works and what doesn't, what is strong and what is weak.
My own work is evolving and where I have discovered that I have made mistakes I have said so publicly. I want to give a lengthy example of this here, which followed criticisms in 1998 on the Internet newsgroup Egyptnews -- and elsewhere -- concerning arguments that I had presented in Fingerprints of the Gods and Keeper of Genesis (the latter co-authored with Robert Bauval) about possible 19th century falsification of hieroglyphic graffiti in the so-called 'relieving chambers' above the King's Chamber in the Great Pyramid. The criticisms, mainly from a gentleman named Martin Stower, were well-deserved and pointed out fatal errors in my analysis. I responded with the following full retraction which was published on Egyptnews and on many widely-read websites (NB links cited may be out of date):
A Position Statement From Graham Hancock On The Antiquity And Meaning Of The Giza Monuments
22 July 1998
I am the author of "Fingerprints of the Gods" and the co-author (with Robert Bauval) of "Keeper of Genesis" (entitled "The Message of the Sphinx" in the United States).
Before continuing I advise all who are interested in this position statement to read first the critique of my work posted by Martin Stower on his website (http://www.dcs.shef.ac.uk/~martins/Pyramid/kogenesis.html). Please also refer to John Anthony West's open letter to Martin Stower posted on Egyptnews.
- Re the 'quarry mark' hieroglyphs in the relieving chambers above the King's Chamber in the Great Pyramid, I have rightly been taken to task for uncritically supporting Zecharia Sitchin's forgery theory. I reported this theory in Fingerprints (published 1995) and in Keeper/Message (published 1996).
- As an author and researcher I hope that my work will always be 'in progress' and never finished or set in stone. When I come across new evidence that casts doubt on theories that I previously endorsed I am ready to change my views and admit to past mistakes.
- As John West kindly reported in his open letter to Stower I have changed my views on the validity of the forgery theory. The relieving chambers are strictly off limits to the public and are extremely difficult to gain access to. I had been unable to obtain permission to visit them prior to the publication of Keeper/Message in 1996. However, in December 1997, Dr Zahi Hawass allowed me to spend an entire day exploring these chambers. There were no restrictions on where I looked and I had ample time to examine the hieroglyphs closely, under powerful lights. Cracks in some of the joints reveal hieroglyphs set far back into the masonry. No 'forger' could possibly have reached in there after the blocks had been set in place - blocks, I should add, that weigh tens of tons each and that are immovably interlinked with one another. The only reasonable conclusion is the one which orthodox Egyptologists have already long held - namely that the hieroglyphs are genuine Old Kingdom graffiti and that they were daubed on the blocks before construction began.
- I have stated my view on this matter several times in public lectures during and indeed before 1998. In my September 1998 book "Heaven's Mirror" (with photographer Santha Faiia), and in the accompanying television series "Quest for the Lost Civilization", I likewise make absolutely clear my full acceptance that the Great Pyramid (or at any rate most of it) was built during the Fourth Dynasty.
- This is not a sudden conversion. Although I was still open to the erroneous forgery theory while Keeper/Message was being written, I was also very much open to the orthodox theory that the Giza pyramids were Fourth Dynasty work - irrespective of the provenance of the quarry marks. The central thesis of Keeper/Message -- that the Giza monuments were built to commemorate the sky of 10,500 BC -- does not require us to conclude that all the monuments were necessarily built in that epoch. On the contrary I wrote in Keeper/Message that "the Great Pyramid must have some extremely strong connection with the epoch of 2500 BC - the approximate date at which all orthodox Egyptologists and archaeologists in fact believe it to have been built." Earlier, in Fingerprints of the Gods, I suggested that the ground-plan of the Giza monuments might have been devised in 10,500 BC but that the monuments themselves could have been built over an 8000-year period (from 10,500 BC down to 2500 BC). I pointed out that the Great Pyramid's famous star shafts unequivocally link the monument to the epoch of 2500 BC and that the construction levels through which the shafts run might be explained as "the later work of the same long-lived cult that laid out the Giza ground-plan in 10,450 BC.'
- Robert Bauval and I have jointly evolved a tentative 'theory of Giza' over the past five years of our work together. Briefly this theory -- which we offer as a serious alternative to the orthodox 'tombs and tombs only' hypothesis -- is that the three great pyramids of Giza, and the Great Sphinx, form a symbolic architectural model of some of the principal stars of the Duat sky-region (through which the Pharaohs believed that their souls would travel after death) as that sky-region appeared at dawn on the spring equinox in the epoch of 10,500 BC. Citing the geological findings of John Anthony West and Robert Schoch, we have argued, and continue to maintain, that the Great Sphinx and its associated megalithic structures may actually have been built in that distant epoch. We have also argued, and continue to maintain, that the three great pyramids in general are likely to be much younger than the Sphinx and that they should probably be assigned to the Fourth Dynasty (rather than to any other period) because of the alignments of the star shafts.
- Ultimately, however, our hypothesis does not stand or fall on the precise dates at which individual monuments were built. A symbolic architectural model of the Duat sky region as it last appeared in 10,500 BC could theoretically have been designed in any epoch (I repeat, in any epoch) by any culture possessing a knowledge of the astronomical cycle of precession and of how it alters stellar positions over long periods of time.
- In short, we are more interested in why such a model was built than when it was built.
- For the record I believe that Khufu did build the Great Pyramid - or anyway most of it (perhaps the subterranean chamber and some other rock-hewn parts of the structure may be earlier).
- For the record I do not believe that Khufu built the Pyramid as his tomb. The very fact that his name only appears within the monument in the form of quarry marks accidentally left behind in inaccessible chambers goes to prove that he was not such an ego-maniac. I think that he built it for another purpose altogether - a far loftier and much more mysterious purpose. Further details are provided in my forthcoming book "Heaven's Mirror" (UK and US publication, late September 1998) and in the accompanying TV series 'Quest For The Lost Civilization' (The Learning Chanel, US, August, 1998; Channel 4, UK, September/October 1998).
Devon, England, 22 July 1998