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Author of the Month

Frank Dörnenburg, Author of the Month for January 2009

Pyramid Mysteries? What's that?
By Frank Dörnenburg

Frank Dörnenburg was born in 1960 in Essen, Germany. After finishing high school he studied physics and astronomy and founded in 1986 with two friends a computer company which still exists today. Parallel to developing software in C++, Java snd PHP he developed an interest in ancient cultures, especially in the ancient Egyptian civilisation. In 1998 he started his acclaimed web site "Mysteries of the Past", where he examines many claims of authors like von Däniken, Sitchin and Bauval.

"Pyramidengeheimnisse?" is his first book.

The Egyptian pyramids are old, very old. So old that, even in antiquity, authors like Herodotus and Pliny were arguing about the riddles of the pyramids. Who built them? How? And for what purpose? Questions…questions…questions. Yet, even when the Egyptian writing system of hieroglyphics was still understood and used the pyramids were part of myth and legend.

After the knowledge of hieroglyphics was lost around 500 AD, generations of Egyptophiles and pyramid enthusiasts speculated about the possible mysterious messages of the pyramids. The Arabs of the Middle Ages even saw them as messengers and treasure chambers from a lost antediluvian civilization.
From the end of the 18th century on, fueled by the findings and publications of Napoleon's failed expedition, a wave of Egyptomania swept across Europe. In subsequent years, buildings in Egyptian style, obelisks and even pyramids, were erected throughout Europe. The best known German pyramids are the tombs of Fürst (Prince) Pückler and his wife, which were built around 1850.

Both scholars and amateurs were trying to solve the riddles of Egypt and the hieroglyphs, but without any real success. Speculations about the pyramids grew wilder and wilder during the 19th century, and this did not change after the hieroglyphs were deciphered. But because of this rediscovery and the advent of true scientific archaeology and Egyptology, the once harmonic cooperation between the different paradigms of science, the esoteric and theosophy began to diverge up.

After the father of modern Egyptology, Flinders Petrie, disproved most of the numerological pyramid theories, that rift grew larger and larger. Both sides, academic Egyptology and alternative historians drifted further and further apart. The rift is now so deep and wide that communication seems impossible. The only form of contact that takes place across it today is shouting. But why is that rift so large? Because "orthodox Egyptology" is dogmatic and sits in an ivory tower? Or because the alternative ideas are so silly that they are not worth any discussion?

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"Pyramidengeheimnisse?" ("Pyramid Mysteries?") tries to look at both sides and compare the differing views in an entertaining way, supported by many pictures and diagrams. To get as neutral a view as possible the book examines both sides and tries to weigh the arguments. To understand Egypt and the pyramids one needs to understand the history of the culture of the pyramid builders. Therefore "Pyramidengeheimnisse?" starts with a comparison of a typical ancient astronaut scenario and the current knowledge of anthropologists and archaeologists. During this comparison we look for evidence of postulated jumps in cultural advancement due to the arrival of ancient astronauts or teachers from a so called high civilization on Earth. We also take a close look at the Egyptian calendar, which is the only solar calendar of early antiquity, and which is regarded as the best evidence for Egyptian contact with a so-called high culture by several authors.

To understand the pyramids we need knowledge about the evolution of funerary practices and buildings, and the other pyramids in Egypt besides the "great three" at Giza, the "Gizamids".
All of this is normally ignored in alternative history. Readers of such books are given the impression that there are only the pyramids at Giza and some piles of rubble. The concentration on only three buildings leads to a form of blindness - you can't see the forest for the trees. This blindness can be found in books by many authors proposing fantastic new geometrical relationships in and around "the pyramids" (normally reduced to "the one") and their positions on the globe. I once called it GPIS - "Great Pyramid Isolation Syndrome".

To avoid this we take a look at most of the king's pyramids of the Old Kingdom and examine their peculiarities. For each of those pyramids there's a picture showing its actual condition. We also look at the different building methods employed and see that the Gizamids are part of an evolutionary sequence which began long before and ended long after Giza
A comparison between modern skyscrapers and medieval castles shows that we cannot deduce the complexity of a building by looking at its current condition, modern buildings will fall apart within a few decades without constant attention, whereas relatively simple buildings like Roman basilicas or medieval castles will survive for centuries. It's the same in Egypt: a relatively simple construction like the Great Pyramid, which is nothing more than large stacked blocks of stone, is still in good condition because even removing a large number of blocks can't destroy its structural integrity. In contrast, the Middle Kingdom pyramids were constructed a bit like our skyscrapers, with an inner, load-bearing skeleton filled with rubble or mud bricks and a limestone casing with a static function. After removal of the casing for lime burning or house building, the remains slumped to give the sad rubble piles visible today.
There is also a claim that the Gizamids are the oldest pyramids in Egypt, thousands of years older than any other pyramid, and that the Egyptians later decided to copy them - and failed miserably. But if we look at the development of funerary architecture, how logical is this? Why did it take so long for the Egyptians to realize that the "originals" weren't step pyramids?

The general idea of pyramids before the pharaohs is not uninteresting, especially when the renowned author Zecharia Sitchin has claimed to have evidence for that since the 1970s. For example, he sees the Great Pyramid and Sphinx in the Narmer palette, which dates from about 3000 BCE, or the Inventory Stela talking about restoration work on the sphinx done by Khufu. Is this serious evidence? Or are there better explanations?
Sitchin is convinced that the only evidence that connects the Great Pyramid with Khufu is a fraud perpetrated by a hotelier in 1837. The name found in a newly discovered chamber contains, according to Sitchin, a writing mistake that was never noticed by Egyptologists. Can this be true? To explain why such a fraud is impossible, there's a short look at the writing systems of the Egyptians: hieroglyphs, hieratic and demotic.

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