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Author of the Month

A Sincere Double Apology
from John Anthony West

We are thrilled to post here in the Forum an exclusive statement from John Anthony West following on from a query about the weathering of the Sphinx on the Mysteries message board.

This issue is one that has been raised many times on this website and it will, no doubt, continue to be raised. As one who is lucky enough to have actually been to the Sphinx with John and heard his argument while staring up at the monument itself I really do appreciate John’s frustration in trying to defend a theory that is so obvious when you are there but harder to defend with just photographs and printed words on a page.

For those of you who need a bit of convincing click on Magical Egypt Tours on John’s website (www.jawest.net) and book yourself onto one of his amazing expeditions – the next trip is Feb. 3 and there’s still plenty of room to sign on! For those who aren’t so lucky – read on!

John Grigsby – web-editor www.grahamhancock.com

More than a week has elapsed since my earlier post provoked an avalanche of response on the GH Messageboard. Though this is in fact a response to that earlier sequence of posts, I am posting it as an article in its own right since Messageboard readers might not think to access it as a buried thread. Conscientious readers may want to go back to that post and its tangle of threads to put this article in context.

But if you don’t want to do that (and I don’t blame you) here are the relevant bits from my own earlier post to G. VDC

‘your argument is, I am afraid, quite invalid and has been addressed many times in many places. Actually, given the number of times that this selfsame argument has been raised, and the number of times it has been carefully, systematically and politely refuted by myself, by Schoch, and by many others, I'm sure you won't object if, this time, finally, I call a spade a spade, and characterize your reiterating it yet again as bloody minded, and in fact, come to think of it, as f****** stupid.

’Salt crystallization has nothing to do with the weathering to the Sphinx. And the Member Two limestone comprising the western third of the Sphinx enclosure and the rear end is identical to the Member Two stone elsewhere in this area. Any suggestion that it is not will really require documentation better than your uninformed opinion. That western third and rear end is weathered the way it is because of extensive water runoff, and for no other reason whatsoever.

These objections have been answered at length on my own website, on Robert Schoch's and on many others. Sometimes it helps to know what you're talking about.‘

A number of respondents took issue with my statement ‘salt exfoliation has nothing to do with the weathering to the Sphinx.’ They were absolutely right to do so.

As Schoch and others have noted, salt exfoliation is one of a number of weathering agents affecting the Sphinx and its enclosure walls. I stand corrected and I apologize to all those kind enough to point out my error.

However negligible its effects, and however irrelevant it is to any discussion of the weathering exhibited by the Sphinx and its enclosure wall, salt exfoliation is indubitably a weathering factor. To be strictly accurate, I should have said ‘salt exfoliation has nothing whatever to do with the differential weathering pattern we see on the Sphinx enclosure wall’.

It was also inaccurate and ungenerous to boot, to characterize G. VDC as ‘uninformed’. I apologize for that as well,

As the voluminous posts from him and his co-critics amply demonstrate, they are not ‘uninformed’ at all, but rather comprehensively, systematically and magisterially mis-informed. If their methodology were translated into the field of current events, they would be getting all their information from Fox News. They would conscientiously record and catalog everything so that it might be easily referenced, giving it an appearance of scholarly thoroughness and integrity, and they would re-disseminate it as the situation demanded, under the familiar Fox banner as ‘fair and balanced’ reportage. Anything deviating from, or contradicting the Fox party line can be safely ignored, misrepresented, slandered or twisted with impunity. For if it isn’t Fox, why then, by definition, it can’t be fair and balanced, can it?

So, in all those G. CDV/Solenhofen/Nixon/Cynnara posts, in all that verbiage, and for all those extensive quoted references couched in impressive-sounding geological terminology, they have managed to evade the central issue. Despite my several acknowledged and regrettable inaccuracies, that central issue was provided by me for them to address. ‘That western third and rear end is weathered the way it is because of extensive water runoff, and for no other reason whatsoever.’

That differential weathering is really the crux of the entire argument; the one issue that, if it cannot be resolved geologically within the established context of Dynastic Egypt, means, in and of itself, that their context has to be changed, not our geology.

This has been made clear, endlessly reiterated for the past 13 years. And yet that differential weathering, (even more to the point, the extent of that differential weathering) continues to be conveniently ignored by G. VDC and by everyone else trying so desperately to preserve the archaeological status quo.

(By the way, Claire, you are an angel for digging into the literature and providing all the references they were calling for. Patience is an overrated virtue and my own God-given short supply has long since been exhausted. Yet here patience is essential. So, many, many thanks for taking the time to find them and especially for providing your running and able defense. And thanks to Steve L as well. )

But before returning to the differential weathering, it is worth addressing an impression deliberately created by G. VDC and his colleagues in their efforts to appear fair and balanced. From their posts it would appear (to those not intimately familiar with the long, convoluted history of this controversy) that Schoch, myself and a handful of others are challenging the massed opposition of geological authorities.

The situation is actually the opposite. For they have somehow forgotten to mention that all of our evidence has been presented before large, enthusiastic and almost unanimously (two easily countered nay-sayers) consenting geologists at both the 1991 and 2000 Annual Meetings of the Geological Society of America, effectively the Super Bowl of Geology. Geologists attending these Annual Meetings are notoriously quick to find fault when presented with evidence that looks faulty. This is a geological argument. Most geologists agree with us, not the other way around. It may be of service to GH readers to bear that in mind.

So: back to the central issue of this article, the differential weathering. The rest is commentary on related issues.

That western third of the enclosure wall is, over an eighty foot expanse or so, weathered back from the original profile of the wall as much as twelve feet (Sorry, Mr. Solenhofen, anticipating your predictable objections, I do not know if it is exactly twelve feet, or eleven feet, eight and one third inches or if it is thirteen feet, four and three quarter inches.) We did not have instruments with us to measure it exactly, and it does not matter. It is somewhere around twelve feet of weathering and that’s good enough for now. What matters is that twelve feet of weathering is a gigantic amount of weathering. And no amount of salt exfoliation (‘Lehner Flakes’) or any combination of other minor weathering processes is going to produce that differential. Briefly: the Lehner Flakes follow the already weathered contours of the bedrock, they do not and cannot create those contours. (See my discussion of the Lehner Flakes buried in the middle of my review of SECRET CHAMBER REVEALED: The Foxification of the National Pornographic Society. http://www.jawest.net/gantenbrink.html)

Failure to take this into account, and the obviously deliberate failure to take into account the extreme differential weathering, that we have been harping on for thirteen years is as characterized in my earlier post, ‘bloody-minded and f****** (i.e. ‘frankly’ – what did you think I meant?) stupid.

Let me resurrect an analogy used in a similar context years back in a KMT letter I wrote, responding to a Lehner article back in the early 90’s somewhere sorry, I don’t have that ref to hand. I am not about to look for it either (I will explain why in a bit). The analogy remains cogent nonetheless.

Let us suppose you fall and hurt your arm. You don’t see any damage, but the arms hurts like hell so you go to the doctor. He X-rays the arm and finds nothing, but the arm still hurts. So he puts you through an MRI and, when that reveals nothing, sends you to a neurologist or other specialist. In other words, something very complicated in going on with your arm and specialized knowledge will be required to solve it.

If, however, the bone is sticking out through the skin of your arm, then without even going to a doctor, you know you have a compound fracture.

The twelve feet of differential weathering on the western third and rear (Western) wall of the enclosure is the geological equivalent of that compound fracture. It is obvious; it is glaring; it is extreme.

The occasional flash floods of the past 4500 years will not account for it, even if there were more flash floods in OK days than there are today. If that were the case, there would be instances of more-or-less similar weathering all over the plateau, since there are hundreds of Old Kingdom mastabas all over the place. Some day, if the quibbling and nit-picking ever comes to an end, geologists will get together and try to figure out just what kinds of conditions are required to produce those twelve feet of weathering. What is certain (for reasons too complex and long-winded to detail here) is that it will be nothing that can be fit into the apparently well established paleoclimatology of Fourth Dynasty and subsequent Egypt, (and it’s my contention, not into the paleoclimatology of the earlier Nabtian pluvials either, but that obviously remains to be determined). Nor will it fit into earlier Dynastic Egypt as Colin Reader suggests.

I have considerable respect for Colin Reader’s careful work, but his attempts to push the Sphinx back only to the First or Second Dynasties will not stand up. Following are at least some of the reasons why not.

There is some (apparent) evidence for archaic dynastic activity on the Giza Plateau. The southern bedrock face of the Khentkaus tomb bears the carved remains of (what appears to be – got to be careful here!) the motif common to the mud brick tombs of those dynasties (the same that was reproduced in stone in the Sakkara enclosure wall.) That motif has deteriorated considerably since it was carved. But if sufficient rains fell during those eras to weather the Sphinx and its enclosure walls into their present conditions as Reader suggests (producing twelve feet of weathering to the enclosure wall, and also two-to-three feet of weathering to the core body of the Sphinx itself), then this exposed limestone face on Khentkaus should show at least somewhat similar weathering patterns. It shows no evidence of water weathering at all. (No, Mr. Solenhofen, no one has done an analysis of this particular bedrock feature to determine its precise lithology but Schoch reckons that it is a very similar, if not identical, rock to that of Member Two of the enclosure wall. That is just Schoch’s opinion of course, but he is the geologist. That’s his job. He could be wrong but you will, I hope, forgive me if I take at face value his opinion over your predictable quibble.) Moreover, if rains fell in such quantities over the course of these dynasties, they would have quite dissolved the mud-brick tombs of Sakkara, then in the process of construction and presumably not yet buried by the desert sands (no, I can’t prove this point).

There is, however, elsewhere, unarguable evidence of water weathering on this strange Khentkaus formation. The bedrock of the northwest corner of Khentkaus peers out from between the unquestionably OK casing stones applied to the exterior of the bedrock. This corner, effectively protected from any kind of weathering since the casing stones were laid, shows the tell-tale undulating profile that we see on the Sphinx and its enclosure walls.

In other words, in case this is not entirely clear, the Khentkaus bedrock was already water-weathered when the casing stones were put in place. I think it fair to assume that the archaic motif of the southern wall (if it is, indeed, that) was carved in during the First or Second Dynasties when that motif was commonplace. Since this wall shows no evidence of water weathering we may also assume that not enough rain fell during those periods to produce any detectable water-weathering effect upon that wall, nor, needless to say, enough to produce the twelve feet of differential weathering to the Western third of the Sphinx enclosure wall, nor the two to three feet of weathering to the core body of the Sphinx itself. Yet, we are left with the water-weathered northwestern corner of Khentkaus. Which, therefore, has to be an artifact of a much earlier period when there was sufficient rainfall to produce that effect.

That is to say: whenever the Sphinx was carved, the curious bedrock base to Khentkaus (the OK superstructure was added later, obviously) was also carved. There are a number of other objections to Reader’s dating, but I won’t broach those here.

I have photographs to illustrate all the above, but would have to pull them out of my files, and in any case, do not know how to get these things into my computer and transmit them electronically, and am not about to go to the trouble to learn just now. Now I will explain why. This not an excuse or a dereliction of duty, but rather a strategic decision; the result of a lesson learned from a most unlikely source.

CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal) enthusiasts will be familiar with Paul Kurtz, founder and guiding spirit of the organization that is to the Church of Progress what the Inquisition was to the Church of Rome. In the totally re-written version of my first non-fiction book THE CASE FOR ASTROLOGY, I cite an interesting anecdote told by astronomer Dennis Rawlins, also a founding member of the CSICOP. The CSICOP (Rawlins, a hard core skeptic in his own right, called them, when he parted company from them, the Keystone CSICOPS. I like that!) had and have a particularly virulent objection to astrology. In a conversation with Kurtz, Rawlins recalls he challenged Kurtz, asking how he intended to respond to an exhaustive, solidly researched, and absolutely devastating article on the CSICOP’s Mind-Gestapo tactics (Mark Lehner likes to commend The Skeptical Inquirer, the CSICOP journal, as a model of ‘critical thinking’) published in an ephemeral Canadian journal called Phenomena. (Not to be confused with the new, glossy and adventurous mag of the same name.)

Kurtz’s response: ‘Who reads Phenomena?’

Voltaire once said, “I have never met a man so ignorant that I could not learn from him.’ Up to the unelection of George W. Bush to the Presidency of the United States, I had always regarded Paul Kurtz as arguably the most ignorant (and also most unprincipled) man alive. Yet, in a (Machiavellian) sense, in this one instance, Kurtz was right! And I learned from him.

However damning the criticism (in his case) he knew that the scientific Establishment would pay no attention to Phenomena’s murderous expose, and so he could afford to ignore it as well. Here the case is very different in that the objections raised in the sequence of posts by Solenhofen, G. VDC, and the others, along with their references -- citing Gauri, Lehner, Gould, Harrell, et al.-- are not at all valid. They do not assess the evidence; they are exercises in obfuscation, deliberately evading arguments clearly stated over more than a decade.

This is standard operating procedure for the Paradigm Police of the Church of Progress. Challengers of the paradigm can be quibbled, nit-picked, exasperated and otherwise marginalized into oblivion. Take a barrel full of red herrings, top it with fudge and set it alight. The ensuing smokescreen will blind everyone not equipped with state-of-the-art smokescreen penetrating equipment. It will make them think they are looking at science and scholarship. They are not. But the smokescreen makes it difficult to distinguish between what is valid, and what is not. At a certain point the public loses patience, and gives up trying to follow the argument. The mainstream print media is largely subservient to Establishment directives while peer review prevents offending evidence from getting aired in recognized academic journals, effectively keeping non-team players out of the arena. If the heretics manage to get onto the field, then the goal posts are moved, and if that doesn’t work, then the rules of the game are changed. It works. Unless the challengers can pull off a flanking movement to keep the controversy fires burning (via TV, cinema, books and now the web) the Paradigm Police will prevail. (See my OPEN LETTER TO ARCHAEOLOGY MAGAZINE or: The Anupadeshi Strike Back on my website www.jawest.net )

In this case, unlike Kurtz, I would not shirk responding to legitimate critiques. If any of the exponentially proliferating quibbles and nit-picks raised in these forty odd pages of email had any scientific or scholarly validity whatever, I would in fact take the time to address them. But they have none. None address the problem of differential weathering (or, for that matter, any of the other salient elements within our theory). So, taking my strategic cue from Kurtz, (critics shouldn’t object. After all, Kurtz is surely one of the Latter Day Saints of the Church of Progress) the unalterable fact is; none of you guys are public enough to warrant that amount of time spent on you. Sorry.

(Even so, to illustrate what’s actually involved it’s worth taking the time to address just one of these typical logical-sounding but bogus quibbles with something close to the necessary thoroughness. Mr. Archae Solenhofen challenges my statement:

>JAW: >And the Member Two limestone comprising the
western third of the Sphinx enclosure and the rear end is
identical to the Member Two stone elsewhere in this area.

>>AS: In what sense are they the same?

>JAW: Any suggestion that it is not will really require
documentation better than your uninformed opinion. (This was actually initially directed at G. VDC, not Solenhofen.)

>>AS: Any suggesting that it is requires a little more than just casual observation. It may be very well as you have asserted, but since no petrographic or geochemical studies have been preformed the claim of sedimentary beds being "identical" laterally over distance is quite premature...

JAW (New) Now, you see what is happening. Over the web, the discussion instantly degenerates into a profusion of carrots. > leading to >> which in due course will become >>> and then >>>>. The fudge-topped red herring barrel has been rolled out.

Well, it is more than ‘casual observation’ Mr. Solenhofen (though ‘casual observation’ is obviously quite good enough for you elsewhere in these interminable posts, when casual observation leads you to question the lithology of the Debehen limestone, correct? It’s OK when you do it, but not OK when we do it?)

In any event, it is demonstrably untrue that ‘no petrographic or geochemical studies have been performed.’ The exhaustive studies performed by Gauri and Lehner back in the 80’s published in the ARCE newsletter, established the geology of the Sphinx and its enclosure. We see no reason to argue with their findings (just with their interpretation of the findings). It was this study that established the three limestone members comprising the formation and also, importantly, that determined that the Sphinx was already weathered into its present condition when the first Old Kingdom repair blocks were laid. The same study even established the relative hardnesses of the individual strata making up the members. Now, the question is: where, in each of these strata, were samples taken to establish those relative hardness data? From the extremely weathered Western end of the wall, or from the less weathered Eastern two-thirds, or from a sampling of both?

The answer: I don’t know -- and I’m not about to go into my archives to find my copy of that newsletter to see if they actually addressed this matter or not. (At any rate, not for you, and not here. Get a book on the subject onto the best-seller lists and I’ll be obliged to do so. But not until then. Thanks again, Paul Kurtz!)

What is certain, however, is that, working for years on their careful and meticulous study, nothing prompted Lehner and Gauri to try to distinguish between the petrographic and geochemical qualities in the less weathered and more weathered areas of this wall. So I will accept it as a given that they are identical. Thus, there is nothing ‘premature’ about my assertion. It is based upon the work of those who, under other circumstances, you happily accept as authorities. For the record: Schoch thinks they’re identical and nothing has incited Reader and Coxill to question the matter either. Your objection (reservation, really) is a dodge, a fudge, a red herring, a diversion, an irrelevance, a non sequitur and the others raised by you, your colleagues and the ‘authorities’ you reference are no better. If you think my assertion ‘premature’ then it is up to you to initiate studies that would challenge it. Until that time, I will stand by identicality and it is up to you and your pals as well to explain twelve feet of weathering to the Western end of the enclosure wall by some means other than precipitation runoff spilling over this area but not over the eastern two-thirds.)

So that’s the core of the argument, stripped of quibbles, evasions and circum-convolutions. Find a way to satisfactorily explain the twelve feet of differential weathering to the Western third of the Sphinx enclosure wall and if I cannot counter it, I’ll happily concede defeat. Until that time all objections raised in these posts are bloody-minded and, yes, frankly stupid

Well, no! Damn! Come to think of it, I retract that statement as well. And yet again must apologize. So this is a triple, not just a double apology. Let me amend that statement. .

The arguments and objections raised in the long sequence of posts are not ‘ frankly stupid’ at all, but actually rather clever. They are, however, frankly unprofessional, frankly contemptible and frankly unprincipled.

Anyway, while you’re working at explaining away the twelve feet of differential weathering, (I know: I keep on repeating ‘twelve feet, twelve feet’. But endless repetition may be the only way to drive lessons home in remedial education. In this case even that probably won’t work) you might also want to address the volume of corroborating evidence presented before all those enthusiastic geologists at the two GSA Annual Meetings. Here is a list of our major ‘exhibits’ with no attempt to make them quibble-proof which is impossible anyhow. (Another lesson gleaned from Rawlins, mentioned above: Rawlins, while still a CSICOP member, recalls a conversation with conjurer James Randi [if the CSICOP is the Church of Progress equivalent to the Inquisition of the Church of Rome, Randi is its Torquemada]. Anyway, Randi had, and maybe still has, a standing offer of a substantial cash prize for anyone who successfully proves scientifically the existence of paranormal phenomena. Rawlins asked Randi how he would get out of it if ever that proof were provided. Randi replied with a smile, ‘There’s always a way out.’)

And that, Virginia, is what’s known as ‘critical thinking’ in the scientific/scholarly community.

  1. Seismic studies of subsurface weathering around the Sphinx carried out by Schoch and Geophysicist Thomas Dobecki showing significantly more (approximately double) weathering around the front and sides of the Sphinx compared to the back – suggesting that either the rump of the Sphinx was actually carved out of the bedrock much later, or that extensive repairs of some sort were undertaken much later. The seismic studies are effectively the X-ray or MRI for that geological fractured arm.
  2. Two stage construction of the Sphinx Valley Temple, the Khafre Pyramid and probably the Menkaure Pyramid signifying at least two different building periods.
  3. Unarguably pre-weathered, large, roughly quarried limestone blocks comprising the (so-called) plundered burial chamber of the Red Pyramid. This chamber has to have been there first, exposed to the elements, for the blocks to weather. Weathering could not have taken place once it was enclosed within the pyramid. The chamber looks distinctly megalithic. Megalithic activity in Egypt dating back to at least 5000 BC is proven beyond doubt by the stone circle at Nabta Playa. (For a formidable and challenging study of the significance of this formation, see physicist/archeoastronomer Thomas Brophy’s THE ORIGIN MAP: Discovery of a Prehistoric, Megalithic Astrophysical Map and Sculpture of the Universe.)
  4. Two unarguably water-weathered shafts at Sakkara.
  5. Immense, cyclopean paving stones east of the Khafre pyramid, totally unlike those surrounding the Great Pyramid, and therefore strongly suggesting a different period of provenance.
  6. The Oseirion and the host of anomalies it presents.
  7. Severe water weathering, similar but not identical to that of the Sphinx enclosure wall, on the southwest corner of the Citadel, facing the Mokattam quarries.

Taken in isolation, each of these ‘exhibits’, if it cannot be explained within the context of Dynastic Egypt, would be sufficient to establish beyond doubt the existence of a prior, advanced stage of civilization in Egypt. (How much prior and how advanced remain open questions.) Taken together, that evidence, as it stands, is commanding. But getting that evidence generally accepted is quite another matter.

With luck this response will allow those of you capable of independent thought to better understand what is involved.

Multiply my (actually abbreviated) response to that lone selected Solenhofen quibble by what would be required to address a few dozen equally irrelevant but more complicated quibbles raised over this sequence of posts and you have a book length document; a quite unreadable book length document and the end result could be just what the Paradigm Police hope to achieve: a controversy no longer burning but rather hopelessly bogged down in the quibblemire, never to surface again.

Without even calling on my extraordinary psychic powers I will predict with confidence: that won’t happen.

But I will also, at this point, recuse myself from addressing the anticipated barrage this post will likely generate in turn -- unless of course after all this time someone comes up with something that actually represents scientific counter-evidence and that is not just red-herrings, quibbles, nit-picks and elaborately jargon-couched geo-woffle disguised to look and sound like evidence. It hasn’t happened yet, but as they say in promoting the New York State Lottery, ‘Hey, ya never know!’

John Anthony West

PS. This is not to say that there are not gaps in our theory. If Dynastic Egypt is, as we claim, indeed a legacy, not a development, where was it hiding all those thousands of years? Good question. But the astronomically oriented megalithic stone circle (and megalithic, pre-weathered non-burial chamber within the Red Pyramid) prove categorically that something far more sophisticated than simple hunter/gatherer activity was going on in those pre-Dynastic days. So for starters, a major revolution in the standard scenario is in order on that basis alone. There are many big open questions. But however big, and however open, open questions are not (as our opponents would like to have the poor, misguided, academically uninitiated and probably unwashed reading public believe) arguments in rebuttal. ‘Show me a pot shard’ challenged Mark ‘Show Me a Pot Shard’ Lehner at our debate at the 1992 American Association for the Advancement of Science Convention in Chicago. Well, we don’t have a pot shard, this is true. But we sure do have a pot! It’s called Geology.

‘Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,’ somebody very bright once said. And, as Alfred North Whitehead put it, ‘it takes just one white crow to prove that all crows aren’t black.’ The differential weathering to the enclosure wall of the Sphinx, and our other ‘exhibits’ cited above amount to an (admittedly) untidy flock of glaringly white crows. And in keeping with their corvine nature they squawk a lot. And loud!

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