Thursday, January 12, 2012

Some Cats of ancient Egypt (Large and Small)

 By Anthony Holmes

Cats featured prominently in the religious and 
domestic life of ancient Egyptians.

The biggest and most renowned cat is undoubtedly the statue of the great sphinx at Giza with its 73 meter long body of a lion. The sculpture of the great sphinx is dated to c.2500BC. It was supposedly sculpted under the direction of King Khafra whose own face was carved on the human head. There is a considerable body of conflicting opinion regarding the date and the “ownership” of the sphinx, but such discussion will require a separate dedicated article. The sphinx’s face was damaged, not by Napoleon’s canons as is often suggested, but by Muhammad Sa'im al-Dahr, a Sufi Muslim. In 1378 AD, upon finding the Egyptian peasants making offerings to the sphinx in the hope of increasing their harvest, Sa'im al-Dahr was so outraged that he destroyed the nose, and was hanged for vandalism. The great sphinx was called various names in ancient times. Hor-em-Akhet which means Horus-in-the-Horizon may refer to the view of the statue from the cult centre of the sun god Ra (Heliopolis) looking west. The Horizon was held to be where Earth met Heaven, where mortality met divinity.  
A second ancient name for the great sphinx was shesep-ankh meaning the ‘living image’ (in this case of the creator god Atum-Ra). The phrase shesep-ankh was possibly adapted by the Greeks and became the modern word ‘sphinx’. Alternatively ‘sphinx’ may come from the Greek σφίγγω (sphingo – to squeeze), following the story of the Greek sphinx who strangled anyone incapable of answering her riddle. Controversy surrounding the sphinx is not limited to its age. Its body is considered to be out of proportion to its head and some suggest it may be that of a cheetah; however the tail looks suspiciously leonine! Many other sphinxes have been discovered in Egypt, many with the heads of rulers such as Hatshepsut and Rameses II and even a few (at Wadi el Seboua - the valley of lions) with the heads of falcons.
Lions guarding the horizons in the tomb of Inkerha

Lions are depicted as powerful allies in Egyptian art. They are shown as guardians of the eastern and western horizons in Inkherha’s tomb and running alongside Rameses II’s chariot in the temple at Abu Simbel.  

At the other end of the feline size spectrum are tiny faience amulets in the form of cats, each being no more than a single centimetre long. These good-luck charms were sometimes wrapped into the linen folds around the mummy

Many gods were depicted as cats. The creator goddess Tefnut, responsible for the introduction of moisture into the world, is depicted with the head of lioness, usually wearing a heavy wig. 

Goddess Sekhmet

An infamous goddess with the head of a lioness surmounted by a sun disk is called Sekhmet, the Powerful One, mistress of disease, war and strife known as the Eye of Ra. A myth relates that Sekhmet was sent by Ra to chastise humanity. When Sekhmet tasted human blood, she was set to devour all mankind. Ra was appalled and sent the god of wisdom Thoth, in his aspect of a baboon, to entice Sekhmet home with offerings of red coloured beer. Sekhmet was believed to have had a dual nature and she was also seen as a healer. In times of plague, large numbers of statues of Sekhmet were produced to placate her and appeal to her healing powers.

A lesser known cat goddess was found at Beni Hassan. Her name was Pakhet – ‘she who scratches’. During Hatshepsut’s reign a temple was built to Pakhet just south of Beni Hassan. Mafdet was yet another cat goddess. Her form was based on the wild cat (Felis vercata maniculata) which was native to EgyptIt is in the guise of this wild spotted feline that Ra is depicted in the tomb of Inherkha (Deir-el-Medina) as the Cat of Heliopolis cutting the head off Apophis, the serpent of the underworld.

Cat cutting off the head of Apophis

The goddess Bastet is the beautiful domestic queen cat depicted sitting regally and often wearing a gold ring through her nose or ear. The domestic cat was introduced into Egypt about 2,100BC from the west. 

Bastet rose to prominence as a local deity in the region of Bast, now called Tell Basta, where several temples were dedicated to her, including one to Mihos, a lion god said to be the son of Bastet. The cult of cat worship can be traced for two thousand years, from the Middle Kingdom to the Greco-Roman period.

We know a few things about domestic cats in Egypt. A painting in the tomb of May (reign of Thutmose III) shows a cat with a collar seated at the chair of its mistress. In the tomb of Menna (reign of Thutmose IV) a hunting cat is shown pursuing wild fowl. Cats were kept as pets and as working animals. They were used to hunt fish and birds as well as to destroy the rats and mice that infested the grain stocks. Cats were considered so valuable that laws were passed to protect them and to prohibit the export of cats. Because Egyptian cats were so highly valued, they were often smuggled out of Egypt; the first illegal pet trade on record!

The ancient Egyptian word for a cat, transliterated from hieroglyphs was mw (possibly pronounced meeuw), an appropriate name for a cat. Legend has it that ancient Egyptians did not assign names to their pet cats, but called them all mw, the theory being that unlike dogs, cats do not accept a name and do not respond when called. The theory is supported by the recorded action of Prince Djutmoses, eldest son of Amunhotep III, who made elaborate provisions for embalming his pet cat called Ta-mw, which just means ‘Lady Cat’.

Writing in 450BC, Herodotus wrote of cats in Egypt: ‘The worship of cats is so intense that when a house caught fire the Egyptians appeared to be most concerned about rescuing their cats, the loss of which would cause great sorrow. Anyone guilty of killing a cat would be killed – often by an angry mob!’ He also wrote ‘If a cat dies in a private home by a natural death, all the inmates of the house shave their eyebrows.’
Cat Mummies
Cat mummies were very common and were frequently bound with linen in two different colors, perhaps reflecting their natural coloring. The mummy of the cat was placed in a bronze or wooden case made in the form of a cat with eyes inlaid with rock-crystal or colored glass paste. The case containing the mummified body of the cat was sent to be entombed at the temple of the goddess Bastet. This act was a blessing for the cat’s owner in the afterlife. Priests at the temples sold mummies of cats and dogs, as well as ibis birds and baboons to pilgrims as votive offerings to the gods. Recent x-rays of animal mummies found in caches in Saqqara show that the priests often cheated their clients and the mummies were often no more than a bundle of sticks and mud, bound up to resemble the animal.

The humour of an ancient Egyptian artist concludes this article. In a cartoon from ancient times on display in the Brooklyn Museum, a cat is shown in the role of a servant presenting a duck dinner to his master, a mouse!

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Great Pyramid of Khufu.

[Some notes by Anthony Holmes (somewhere in South Africa) written to Mike Pelletier (somewhere in Canada)]

Before entering into a dialogue with you on the origin and purpose of the Great Pyramid or any other ancient artefact for that matter it is best to define the terms esoteric, fantastic and main stream. The correct meaning of esoteric is ‘limited to a select group’. Unfortunately esoteric has become a synonym for fantastic (the product of fantasy). Esoteric is incorrectly used in a derogatory sense when referring to esoteric theories, especially in relation to ancient Egypt.

The main stream theorists are the archaeologists and historians at the opposite end of the spectrum from those of the select group. They represent the conventional wisdom of the time. It is however for each individual to decide whether the currently espoused theories are acceptable or whether they are merely based on presupposition. Naturally the majority sheepishly follow the main stream into the fold without question, so it is up to the select few to challenge currently held beliefs and to put forward alternative possibilities. Such suggestions may be received with disdain or ridicule by those whose status and income requires them to support convention, but such rejection should not prevent those with divergent theories from offering them for discussion.

In seeking explanations for the unexplained, one should be permitted to read any books/articles or watch TV ‘documysteries’; but reader beware – there is a great deal of rubbish out there. So, , when enjoying the tenuous connections put forward by these ‘factasy’ writers always check for the tell-tale signs of invention. Such phrases as ‘statistics reveal’; ‘scientists have ascertained’; ‘it is well known’; ‘by pure chance’ are sure indicators.

The linking of one mystery to support another is often a clue to a lack of solid evidence. [quote David H Lewis from ‘Mysteries of the Pyramid’ to which you refer: (my comments in italics) "This unusual venture into these secret chambers was costly, not only in a monetary aspect, but in the four lives that were lost in the few short years that followed the expedition - due to this entry and the information gained. (a conspiracy within a conspiracy) Although nothing was removed from these chambers, the microfilms have since proven to be a priceless entity to those who place money in a higher regard than human life. (What does that mean?) It is entirely doubtful now that these micro film clips will ever be displayed for the general public and will remain as guarded as the spacecraft now in captivity at our Air Force Base.” (Another conspiracy for support)]

So let’s get to that huge pile of stone called the Great Pyramid (GP) of Giza and first review what we know, what we think we know and what we don’t know.

We know:

  • Materials of construction:

The GP is built mainly from approximately 2,300,000 limestone blocks which were quarried in the immediate vicinity of the Giza plateau. Originally the GP was cased in fine Tura limestone which came from a second quarry across the Nile. The interior chambers are constructed from granite transported to site from Aswan, far to the south of Giza. The blocks of stone vary in mass with the larger granite blocks weighing up to 80 tonnes or more each (1 tonne = 1000kg). The estimated total mass is 5.9 million tonnes.

  • Accuracy of construction:

Very precise. The overall dimensions are 146.5metres high by 230.4metres side length. The ratio of the perimeter of the base to the height equals 2П (two pi) with 0.05% accuracy. The base is horizontal and flat to within 15mm. The four sides of the base have an average error of only 58mm in length. The sides of the square base are oriented to the cardinal points within 4 minutes of arc (based on true north) and the corners are squared to within 12 seconds of arc. The mean opening of the joints is estimated at 0.5mm. The coordinates of the GP are 29° 58′ 44.68″N 31° 8′ 2.58″E. [The longitude is irrelevant as the Greenwich meridian hadn’t been established and the proximity of its latitude to 30°N probably has no significance, being the position of a limestone plateau on the west bank of the Nile].

There are many other physical dimensions well measured and documented and this is where fact ends and speculation begins.

What do we think we know?

It was a tomb! Who told you that, Mike? Show me the body!

There are no inscriptions. In the so-called King’s Chamber there is an empty, damaged stone chest often called a sarcophagus, but no proof that it was used as such. (Note: sarcophagus from the Greek σαρκοφάγος which means ‘flesh eating’ and should only be used when conclusively shown to have contained a body). The term King’s Chamber itself is a modern label.

It was built by/for King Khufu. How do you know?

There are a couple of red painted quarryman’s hieroglyphic daubs in the relieving chamber above the King’s Chamber that may refer to the name of Khufu. The hieroglyphs may have been faked by Richard Howard Vyse in 1837, (Vyse was infamous for his use of gunpowder as an archaeological tool!), but the position of the hieroglyphs makes forgery unlikely. However the presence of the daubs does not prove the GP was built at the time of Khufu. The tomb of Hetepheres, the mother of Khufu was discovered close to the GP. Hetepheres tomb was undisturbed since antiquity, but it appears to be a reburial performed in ancient times. The sarcophagus was sealed but empty. Having your coffin buried next to an edifice doesn’t mean your son built it! Shards and remains were found in the vicinity dated to the 4th Dynasty, the time of Khufu. So what – I say!

It was built by Egyptians. Most researchers think so, especially Egyptian archaeologists. There is no proof that anyone else was involved, but the absence of proof is not proof of absence! The buildings in Dubai were designed and project-managed by European and North American architects and engineers. The physical work was done by Taiwanese, Indian and Korean and other labourers. Ask a local in Dubai and you will be told they were built by the Emeratis and in a century no-one will dispute that.

In summary the GP may have been used during the reign of King Khufu but there is no conclusive evidence it was designed and built at that time, or that it was built by Egyptians and no proof it was designed to be used as a tomb.

What don’t we know about the GP?

Almost everything!

As is the case with any mystery, by not knowing very much we are open to even the most fantastic suggestions. An entire industry of creative fiction has been established on the diverse theories of ‘How? Who? Why? and When?’ of the GP. The least proven concept, but in my opinion the most intriguing aspect is the link between the mystery of the GP and the idea that an ancient body of advanced knowledge pre-existed the ‘Egyptian’ culture. It is variously described a repository of (essentially scientific) information that has been lost or remains hidden to this day.

Let’s try the How? question first:

Look at the facts concerning the GP. The volume of the GP including an internal hillock, is roughly 2,500,000 cubic meters. Building this in 20 years (the supposed length of Khufu’s reign) would involve installing approximately 800 tonnes of stone every day. Similarly, since it consists of an estimated 2.3 million blocks, completing the building in 20 years would involve moving an average of more than 12 of the blocks into place each hour, day and night.

Over the years, pencils, slide rules, calculators and computers have been used to do the sums. Possibly between 10,000 and 20,000 labourers were involved. The only technology around was the lever, the ramp and the roller. Have you seen the GP? It really is awe-inspiring! The internal chambers are a wonderful work of precision. This was not built by a bunch of part-time farmers waiting for the flood to subside so they could sow their crops! But I get ahead of myself.

I have posed the following question to Egyptologists and never have I received a satisfactory reply. The question is: “With the limits to the technology that we assume prevailed, why did they choose to build with such huge stone blocks? Would it not have been easier and quicker to build with small blocks? [The same question applies to many other monolithic and megalithic structures around the world.] A 100 tonne stone block is a bitch to carve out, transport from the quarry, off-load, chisel to perfect dimensions, lift up 60 meters or more and place precisely in a predetermined space using only levers, ramps and rollers. As an engineer I would prefer 1000 blocks of 100kg each, especially if I had plenty of man power. It’s no sweat to carry and place a cube of 10x100kg blocks per side. So what is the only feasible answer?

They did it because they could!

It must have been easy for them, easier that my 1000x100kg block cube – and yet… we don’t know of any technology, even today, that would make it easy. Theories have been proposed as to how the GP was constructed. Outside ramps, spiral ramps, inside ramps and combinations of these. Some suggest pulleys, but there is no other indication that pulleys were invented by 2,500 BC in Egypt. We are left with an undisclosed technology, some method of making the blocks lighter to make them easy to handle. We therefore have to consider reducing the effect of gravity. I will not go into all the possibilities that have been put forward to achieve that. You may already know about sonic power, the negative mass of white gold powder, telekinesis and similar concepts. (By the way, I love the one-liner a physics lecturer put to his class: “Will anyone who believes in telekinesis please raise my hand!”) The actual technology is less important than the probability of its existence, because it suggests the likelihood of the body of ancient wisdom we touched on previously.

{I would like to mention at this point the cast-in-situ theory. [This bit was added after the note had been sent to Mike. The possibility was raised by Ishtar in relation to the Bosnian pyramids.] It was proposed by Dr Joseph Davidovits in the 1980's and refined by Prof. Michel Barsoum in 2006. The theory proposes that each block was cast from limestone slurry that was caused to set like concrete. I have certain misgivings. When one looks at the lime stone blocks very closely there is no suggestion of any formwork or shuttering that might have been used as a mould to make a casting. There is an ancient quarry nearby that produced stone blocks and the quarrying technique is still evident. One can see that chisels and wooden wedges were used to separate the big blocks. The geological signature identifies the main blocks as having come from that quarry, although there is some argument about the lack of stratification of micro fossils in the pyramid blocks. The exterior cladding was a very fine-grained, white lime-stone (called Tura) which has been traced to a quarry across the Nile. That leaves the huge granite blocks in the interior of the pyramid. A visit to the granite quarries at Aswan not only provides a match to the type and colour of the granite (which as you know varies considerably), but abandoned quarry works at Aswan show exactly how the granite blocks were quarried. There is a dock that was used to load the blocks onto rafts and with the north flowing current of the Nile, transport to the site at Giza could be easily achieved. So I don't see the evidence or even the necessity for postulating a cast-in-situ theory. I believe the builders used huge blocks of stone and placed them in position making use of, in my opinion, a technology that we have lost or fail to understand.}

Let’s consider the question of ‘Who?’

It was the Egyptians, but only on the basis that the definition of ‘Egyptians’ includes anyone who was in Egypt at the time. The supposition of an ancient wisdom does however require the presence of someone capable of controlling it and directing operations. The locals (all 20,000 of them) probably provided the muscle and a couple of them daubed Khufu’s name on a few blocks. The technically talented individual or individuals in charge may also have had the capability to travel the globe (anti-gravity does that for you!) and could have used their knowledge in other lands and on other sites. So (I hear you cry), where did they come from and where did they go?

My instinct rejects little green men from other worlds. If they exist and are so advanced why would they bother with us? There are other possibilities that exercise the mind. At this point I can only advise you to read up on Multiverse theory and on Multidimensional concepts. A bit heavy if you don’t have much high math. Instinctively I reach for an explanation that suggests that a plane of higher knowledge exists and that we poor folk called homo sapiens or ‘saps’ for short, occasionally experience a ‘leakage’ from that higher plane to ours, possibly deliberately directed from the higher plane and channelled by those who have the talent to do so. The likely answer is therefore that ‘they’ were never here in the physical sense, but were the inspiration in the minds of the locals that enabled them to do remarkable (to us) things. Such inspiration could be the source of genius for the outstanding scientists and artists recorded in history.

The third question in our conundrum is ‘Why’?

At this stage I’m going to disappoint you, Mike. I have absolutely no idea! The GP is an incredibly complex building. The other pyramids on the Giza plateau are externally physically similar, but the internal structure is fundamentally a cheap copy of the GP and not even close.

The orientation suggests a relationship to the sun and to the stars. Whenever historians don’t know what’s going on, they say, “It had religious significance!” Well maybe it did have, but as with Stone Henge we can only speculate the form that the religious or stellar observance took until we are made privy to more data.

It is suggested by those who study these things that the king’s body was laid to rest for a limited period while his spirit built up the energy it needed to travel to stars. We have all sorts of explanations as to why the GP was used for this purpose, the current thinking being that the narrow shafts leading from the chambers were pointed at certain stars to ‘project’ the king’s soul towards Sirius or Orion or wherever! This very year 2012AD we might see where these shafts lead us. But as Egyptologists well know, ancient Egyptian belief suggested that souls were able to pass through solid stone in the form of false doors in tombs, so why build shafts.

I could put forward the theories of many others, weird, fascinating and strange as they might be. Could it be a dimensional map of the future (ie from 2,500 BC forwards) left by star people? Perhaps it is a power generator. It sharpens razor blades and preserves meat (not proven). Its dimensions create certain energy levels (this is possible, but not proven). The fact is that it may be generating a form of energy that we are unable to measure.

I believe there is a reason for the GP and it may not be a reason we would recognise - a reason emanating from a different plane of consciousness. Perhaps one day…

Just to mention David H Lewis’ book about immense chambers deep beneath the pyramid. In my opinion it is as far-fetched and as unbelievable as HG Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’. The sketches in the Lewis book are kind of Egyptian in style, but the whole thing is too ridiculous. A chamber built to house microfilms to contain all the solutions to what ails the world! (Why microfilm? Why not silicon chips or even more advanced tech? Maybe microfilm was the leading edge of technology when Lewis wrote.) His remarkable descriptions may have more to do with his references to sipping Bourbon to wet his dry throat than to reality.

There are natural voids under the GP and under the Sphinx. Ground penetrating radar has shown this to be so, but limestone is prone to this phenomenon. Water from the annual inundation of the Nile would seep through the limestone and the acidic water caused by rotting organic material would dissolve the limestone deep beneath the surface. Are there artificially enhanced voids? Probably! Adrian Gilbert (British author) certainly has made claims in that respect.

But consider the lack of logic in the following claim:

‘An advanced civilization, talented and wise, donated its store of ancient wisdom to an aggressive and possessive race of humans who got to the top of the food chain by dominating every other species by force; a human race that has used virtually every invention and discovery since the Stone Age for the purpose of war.’ (There were bronze swords while ploughs were still made of wood, and atoms bombs preceded power generators.) An advanced civilization would understand that conflict and domination, greed and violence are part and parcel of the human genome. Any additional technology would only serve to increase conflict on earth.

While you are looking for ancient wisdom beneath the GP check out the Emerald Tablet, Thoth’s gift to mankind. It’s worth reading, though not for serious study.

So let’s get to ‘When?’

One theory proposes that the GP was built before Khufu’s reign and he usurped it as a monument to himself. The support for this theory is tenuous to say the least, but it suggests that all three pyramids on the Giza plateau existed before Khufu. To judge by other pharaoh’s actions, each king tried to outdo the previous one in construction achievements. There is a reason for this apart from ego. Each king wanted his name to spoken by the living after he died in order to protect his spirit in the after-life, so the bigger the monument the greater the probability of this happening. It is difficult to imagine why Menkaure’s pyramid is smaller than his father Khafre and Khafre’s pyramid in turn is smaller than his father Khufu (the GP). If however the pyramids pre-existed the 4th Dynasty, then Khufu would have grabbed the biggest first, Khafre the next and Menkaure would be stuck with the smallest.

Conventional wisdom is that the order of pyramid construction was:

1: Djozer’s stepped pyramid at Saqqara

2: Sekhemhet’s stepped pyramid at Saqqara (not built – only the surrounds)

3: Sneferu’s Meidum pyramid

4: Sneferu’s Bent pyramid at Dashur

5: Sneferu’s North (Red) pyramid at Dashur

6: Khufu’s Great Pyramid at Giza. The pinnacle of pyramid construction!

7: Djedefre’s pyramid at Abu Rawash

8: Khafre’s Pyramid at Giza.

9: Menkaure’s pyramid at Giza

10: and so on…….There are about 35 major and a hundred or so minor pyramids in Egypt and many more in Sudan.

The time between the death of Djozer and the start of Khufu’s reign is only 60 years. The technological jump from Djozer’s stepped pyramid to Khufu’s GP is astonishing. The GP is about 2½times the height and nearly 8times the mass. It is far advanced in complexity and accuracy, all in 60 years; and then, just as surprisingly the technology began to fade away again. It’s like going from a bicycle to a jet fighter and back to a bicycle. It is this kind of anomaly that breeds alternative suggestions as to the origin of the technology, whence it came and to where it went. But it would all be possible if talented and skilled design-architects gave of their knowledge and time, and then left the locals to their own devices. The half-life of construction knowledge would be about one or two generations and the knowledge would gradually be corrupted and lost.

To me, the most logical answer to ‘when’ is the time of Khufu (c.2550BC), but the achievement would require superior construction techniques and oversight by advanced technicians.

So Mike, I hope you enjoyed this little dissertation. Let me have your reaction and maybe further questions.

Kind regards

Tony Holmes

January 2012