Arabs and Pyramids

The best way to solve historical riddles is to use historical sources which are as near to the time of interest as possible. The best possible document to solve the riddle of the pyramids would therefore be a paper written by an Egyptian involved in planning or building the pyramids.
Unfortunately there are no such papers, or at least we haven't found them yet. Descriptions about pyramid building come from only two sources. The first one is the travelling Greek author Herodotus, who visited Egypt around 470 BC (2000 years after the pyramids of Giza were built). He was told by temple priests still working in the pyramid complexes that they were built by simple, wooden portable machines.[1]
But there is another source. One that goes much further back in time, a source that uses the oldest sources possible. So alternative authors try to tell us. Arabian authors were, so they say, in possession of "the Truth". Whereas Herodotus is called a phantast or liar, the Arabian authors, mostly religious teachers, are deemed as truthseekers who are unable to lie. So it is time to examine those Arabian sources thoroughly (which to my knowledge has never done before on a web page :-) ).

Egypt after the pharaohs

The Arabs conquered Egypt in 642 AD, but this was not the end of the culture of the Ancient Egyptians. That came much earlier.
After the end of the New Kingdom around 1050 BC Egypt never regained its old strength. Several foreign kings ruled the land in succession: Nubians, Assyrians, Libyans, later then Greeks and Romans. Each of these changed the culture a little bit. New gods, cults and customs were introduced, even new hieroglyphic letters. Greeks and Romans admired the Egyptians, and brought the language to new heights. While the Egyptians had only a few hundred hieroglyphic signs, the invaders invented thousands of them during a few hundred years. At its height it had more than 8000 signs, and there was nobody around who could really handle that monster. Since the foreign rulers were unwilling to learn the language of the conquered land (and even less their own additions to it), decrees were often written in several languages. Ironically our understanding of the Egyptian language comes from several of those multi-language messages, like the Rosetta stone and the Canopus decree. On these the early Egyptologists found identical texts in Egyptian hieroglyphs and in Greek.
In isolated regions parts of the old commons were conserved a while longer, the last known hieroglyphic inscription dates to the year 394 AD. After that the language and writing of Ancient Egypt was dead.

The culture had died earlier. Although the Greeks and the Romans used Egyptian motives for their temples in Egypt, they were sometimes torn and twisted, like the example on the Dendera page. When Christianity became the official religion in Rome, many of the "heathen" monuments in the now Roman colony were destroyed. Around 320 AD more than half of the population was christianised. And when the Copts, who had separated from the roman-orthodox church, settled in Egypt, another mix occurred. They interpreted many parts of the Egyptian religion as deformed Christian myths - and so Jesus became Horus, the child of Isis and Osiris.

This was the situation the Arabs found when they had conquered Egypt. They stood in front of the fantastic monuments and asked the people living there, what they were. They just shrugged, because the knowledge got lost during the last few 100 years. The last person who could read the letters was dead for some 100 years, the temple services for the pharaohs ended more than 1000 years earlier, and the last Egyptian pharaoh ruled about 1500 years ago. Since none of the Egyptians could tell them anything, the Arabs tried to make sense of it alone.
But they were sure about one thing: the buildings had been erected by heathens, and so they were not protected by religion. And since they consisted of handy prepared blocks of expensive hard lime stone, they became the preferred quarry for their citadels, mosques and houses. And so the second wave of destruction began.[2]

But still they were interested in the history of these buildings. Since no one could answer their questions, they built their own version around these monuments. According to Mohammed, the only "truth" about the history of man was found in the religious writings of the Qran - and the Old Testament, which they had adapted from the Jews. For them a history outside these writings was unthinkable. So hey looked in those scripts for explanations concerning those monuments - they MUST be the work of biblical persons or early Arabian kings.
And since Islam is a monotheistic religion, ancient gods from other legends, like Greek ones, were transformed to biblical prophets, because Islam only knows one god. The Greek god Hermes, which was identical with the Roman Mercury, was transformed to the biblical prophet Enoch, although these two characters have nothing in common.
Many of these stories were written down in the 15th century by religion teacher Muhammad al-Makrizi (1364-1442), other stories were collected in the early 19th century by Howard Vyse, who summarised them in vol. II of his "Operations" book I mentioned earlier on these pages.
Especially Makrizis book Hitat is the first choice for alternative authors. Luckily the part dealing with pyramids has been translated into German, and I use this official translation[3] to examine the claims.

Alternative writers trust those Arabian investigators more, because they had been more earnest in their work than Herodotus (who asked the people about stories, and believed, so the authors, everything even camel herdsmen told him). The Arabians studied all written sources they could get, and wrote down their results with utmost precision. Many of them were physicians, architects or other scholars, and therefore their work is more trustworthy than the words of a better Greek tourist like Herodotus.

The precision of al-Kaisi

One source of the Hitat which gets special attention from a multitude of German authors is Abu Abdallah Muhammed bin Abd ar-Rahim al Kaisi (whom I will call further on only "al Kaisi" :-) ). This contributor to the Hitat, who died around 1170 AD, was a doctor. And because medical doctors today are all honest, no-nonsense investigators, al-Kaisi was also a man of science. According to the authors who use his accounts.
Al-Kaisi knew many fabulous things about the Great Pyramid, all centred around a vertical, square shaft in the lowest chamber. Four doors are there, he tells, leading to four rooms. In these rooms are hundreds of dead bodies, all well preserved, resting in translucent, glowing sarcophagi - a scene like from a sci-fi-movie.
Well, there IS a vertical, square shaft in the middle of the lowest chamber. Unfortunately it was only about 1.5 m deep. But with this story in mind early excavators like Flinders Petrie dug deeper. Petrie thought, that the shaft could be concealed, or hidden by a block melting visually with the walls, so he ordered his workers to dig deeper, about 2.5 meters. But nothing else than massive bedrock was found, no trace that the shaft had been deeper in antiquity. The last attempt to find something was in the mid 1980's where several up to 6 m long drill soundings were made, also finding nothing than bedrock.
The reaction to this fact is strange. Most authors are unaware of those soundings and demand, that Egyptologists have to look further for the doors. Confronted with the reality the more critical thinker are starting to ask how trustworthy al-Kaisi really is, whereas others immediately start spawning conspiracy theories. Because, we remember: Al-Kaisis COULD not be wrong.

Fortunately al-Kaisi did not write only about things we cannot find anymore, his main body of work describes the exterior of the different pyramids in Egypt. And here we can check how precise his descriptions really are. If the descriptions of today visible things are correct, we can safely assume that his other stories are most probably also true.

"Abu Abdallah Muhammed b. Abd ar-Rahim al Kaisi writes in "Gift to the insight": The pyramids have all four sides, whereas each side is a triangle. Their number is 18. Opposite of Misr al-Fustat (Cairo, FD) are three pyramids."
Well, this first sentence alone is full of problems. In Giza alone are eleven pyramids, and if one counts the step mastaba of Chentkaus in, even 12: the three large ones, two of them (Khufu, Menkaure) with three satellite pyramids each, and two (Khufu and Kaphere) with a cult pyramid. When he only mentions three pyramids, he obviously does not count the smaller ones.
But let us count the large pyramids visible even today - at al-Kaisis time there were more, which have vanished now because the Arabs used them as quarry. And only the main pyramids, since Kaisi obviously did not count satellite pyramids. We get: One in Meidum, four in Dahschur, three in Lischt, three in Abusir, five in Saqqra, three in Giza, and two in Fayum. All together 21 large pyramids visible today. And since Kaisi lived before the massive quarrying began in the 12th century, the pyramids in Abusir and Abu Roasch would have been largely intact, adding 2-5 pyramids to the number of 21. So there were at least 23-26 clearly visible LARGE pyramids in Egypt at al-Kaisis time. The first real information, aside from the trivial information that pyramids have four triangles as sides, is wrong.
This gives us 0 correct informations : 1 wrong information

He continues:

"The largest of them (the pyramids at Giza, FD) has a circumference of 2000 ells, with 500 ells on each side, and a heigth of 500 ells."
Wrong again, no pyramid in Egypt is as tall as it is wide.
0 correct information : 2 mistakes

Every stone is 30 ells wide and 10 ells thick and is prepared and fitted to the finest."
From the quote above we can calculate the length of the ell Makrizi used: the pyramid is 230 m wide, and this are 500 ells, so one ell is 46 cm long (which is a pretty good standard value for ells or cubits used around that time). With this ell measure each stone of the pyramid must be 13.8 m long and 4.6 m thick. If we assume a square cross section, each stone must have a volume of 292 m3 and, with a specific weight of 2.6 t per m3 for lime stone, a total weight of 760 tons. No block in any pyramid reaches a significant part of this weight, the standard block in Khufu's pyramid weighs about 1/300 of it, even the heaviest block in he relievement chambers come to 1/11 of that weight. This description is pure fiction! 0 correct information : 3 times pure fantasy (OK, some authors claim, that Kaisi described the blocks correctly, but these he described have vanished - but where then are these blocks today?)

But the superlatives don't stop there:
Near the town of Pharaoh Joseph is a pyramid much larger as this one. Its circumference is 3000 ells, its height is 700 ells. Each of the stones it is built of is 50 ells long."
Well, if we use the ell measure we have gotten above, this fantasy pyramid must have had a base length of 345 meters on each side, and a height of 322 meters. Such a pyramid simply does and did not exist. And stones with a length of 50 ells = 20 m do not exist in any pyramid. They would weigh more than 1000 tons.
Since both descriptions are wrong, I add two points to the fantasy side: 0 correct facts zu 5 pure inventions

"Near the city of the Pharaoh Moses are some pyramids even larger and mightier, and one pyramid, called the pyramid of Maidum, is as large as a mountain. She consists of five layers."
Oh yeah, even larger and mightier that that invented 300 m pyramid. And Meidum as large as a mountain? This pyramid is not one of the largest ones, and considerably smaller than the two large ones in Giza or those at Dahschur. Again two negative points, true facts: zero pure fantasy: 7 points

Now the relevant passages about the Great Pyramid: Al-Mamun hs opened the large pyramid opposite of al-Fustat. I went into it and saw a large domed chamber, which was squared on the floor and round at the beginning of the dome. In the middle of this chamber is a square well pit of 10 ells depth. If one steps down there one sees a door on any of its four sides (now the description with the mummies)
Yes, Al-Mamun HAD opened the pyramid, but that is common knowledge - and the only thing that is true with this description. Kaisi was in a "domed chamber" which had a square as basis ad was round at the top - such a chamber does not exist in the whole of Egypt.
The squared shaft can describe two locations in the pyramid. First, as is the general consensus, the the subterran chamber. It has a shaft, but neither a squared base nor a domed ceiling. And at the end of the shaft is nothing.
But I am sure that Kaisi described a mixup of the second location with a vertical, square shaft. Although it is not a chamber at all, many points there fit Kaisis description. It is the crossing where the grave robber entrance meets the "descending passage" (down to the subterran chamber) and the "ascending passage" up to the burial chamber, mixed up with the end of the ascending corridor where it meets the great gallery. There is a "domed chamber" (the gallerie), and there begins the so-called "well shaft", which runs for almost 60 meters through the pyramid core and the rock below, to end in the descending passage a few meters before the subterran chamber.
If one climbs down this shaft, he reaches after about 20 m the so called "Grotto", a natural cave in the lime stone, which can be entered through hole in the shaft wall. Most certainly Kaisi describes this Grotto - and added some spicy details.
But there are more points speaking for this location. On the shaft crossing a few meters below there is another hole in the ground, with some rough hewn steps, leading down to the descending passage. This whole construction could be described as "shaft with three doorways":

intersection ascending/descending passage

On the right the shaft down to the underground chamber, on the left the shaft to the original pyramid entrance. Kaisi mixed several details of this location together, and since the ceiling of this meeting point is hewn out in a roughly domed form I am certain, that Kaisi describes this part of the pyramid and not the underground chamber. But even here his description is wrong, since there is no "chamber" and the jumble of shafts there is far from being square on the ground. So I can give one point for a correct description, but two points for exaggeration and pure invention. That gives us the first point for true information : 9 points of pure invention

Now are coming some general descriptions of mummies and animal mummies which are no relevant for our topic. After this comes Kaisis last description about the pyramids:

In the domed chamber is an opening that leads to a passage to the highest point of the pyramid, but there are no steps in it. It is 5 spanns wide (about 1 Meter, FD). It is said, that in the time of el-Mamun they went up there and had reached a small domed chamber where the statue of a man was found. ... Now follows a description about a statue which was indeed a sarcophagus containing a mummy.
This is again evidence that Kaisi means the intersection of the passages with his "chamber". From there the ascending passage continues up to the burial chamber, and the passage is really about one meter wide there. There is no other location in the pyramid where all his descriptions fit.
But his other descriptions are wrong again. The highest chamber is neither small (10 x 5 x 5 m large) nor domed (it has a flat roof). And he doesn't mention the queen's chamber or the great gallery, the main attraction of this pyramid. So he provides two parts true information, but four false ones. So the analysis ends with three correct facts to 14 wrong descriptions

Kaisi has been in the pyramid, that is obvious. But he only went trough the grave robbers tunnel to the intersection of the passages. The identification of this location shows, that the long sought location with the doorways has long been found - it's nothing more than a mix between the grotto, the shaft to the descending passage and a shot of ghost story.

So, that's the "precise, no-nonsense" description of al-Kaisi? Although we can identify some of the locations Kaisi describes it is in no way precise. If we use this as precise source, we can use Agatha Christies "Death on the Nile" as well.
And since we could identify Kaisis location of his shaft, the argument used by some authors - Kaisi describes a location we have not found yet - can be dismissed. Let's now examine the central point of many alternative authors. Arabs, pyramids and The Flood.

Remarks:
[1] Herodot; Historien, Book 2 125
[2] A good overview about this periode can be found in Egypt after the Pharos by Alan K. Bowman.
[3] Graefe, Erich; Das Pyramidenkapitel in Al-Makrizi's "Hitat", Leipziger semitistische Studien Band V 1911/1968, p. 48-95
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