Tuesday, August 16, 2022
  Lost Technologies of Ancient Egypt     Source
Contents ♦ click to select chapters   
To the Egyptians and their glorious heritage

Lost Technologies of Ancient Egypt

From the pyramids in the north to the temples in the south, ancient artisans left their marks all over Egypt, unique marks that reveal craftsmanship we would be hard pressed to duplicate today. Drawing together the results of more than 30 years of research and nine field study journeys to Egypt, Christopher Dunn presents a stunning stone-by-stone analysis of key Egyptian monuments, including the statue of Ramses II at Luxor and the fallen crowns that lay at its feet. His modern-day engineering expertise provides a unique view into the sophisticated technology used to create these famous monuments in prehistoric times.

Using digital photography, computer-aided design software, and metrology instruments, Dunn exposes the extreme precision of these monuments and the type of advanced manufacturing expertise necessary to produce them. His computer analysis of the many statues of Ramses II reveals that the left and right sides of the faces are precise mirror images of each other, and his examination of the mysterious underground tunnels of the Serapeum illuminates the finest examples of precision engineering on the planet. Providing never-before-seen evidence in the form of more than 280 photographs, Dunn's research shows that while absent from the archaeological record, highly refined tools, techniques, and even megamachines must have been used in ancient Egypt.

CHRISTOPHER DUNN is a manufacturing engineer with 50 years of experience. He has worked primarily in aerospace with an emphasis on precision and laser application. He has published a dozen articles on his theories about ancient technology and is the author of The Giza Power Plant. He lives in Illinois.

Reviews
Forward
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter 1 ♦ The Shadows of Luxor
Chapter 2 ♦ The Shadows of Ramses
Chapter 3 ♦ The Ramses Challenge
Chapter 4 ♦ The Shadows of Karnak
Chapter 5 ♦ The Shadows of the Serapeum
Chapter 6 ♦ The Shadow of the Sphinx
Chapter 7 ♦ The Shadows of Denderah
Chapter 8 ♦ Sticks and Stones: Tools of the Trade
Chapter 9 ♦ In the Shadow of an Obelisk
Chapter 10 ♦ In the Shadow of Egyptian Megamachines
Chapter 11 ♦ Walking in the Shadow of William F. Petrie
Chapter 12 ♦ Suspending Disbelief
Bibliography
  iii
iv
v
vi
1
12
22
32
40
49
58
69
72
82
97
107
117

“Christopher Dunn is an expert in his field. He knows a great deal about stone-cutting tools and has spent many years studying the ancient Egyptian monuments, sculptures, and artifacts. His findings are revolutionary. His word carries weight. If he is right, our perception of who the ancient Egyptians were may completely change. Read this book!”

— ROBERT BAUVAL, AUTHOR OF THE ORION MYSTERY, MESSAGE OF THE SPHINX AND THE EGYPT CODE

“Christopher Dunn’s painstaking work, literally, makes the ‘stones’ of the Egyptian gods speak. He provides profound archaeological evidence that shows an engineering consistency, suggesting an advanced intelligence, which understood the supreme science of sacred geometry. A must-read book for those who wish to understand the advancement of Egyptology in the world of today.”

– J. J. HURTAK, PH. D., AUTHOR OF THE BOOK OF KNOWLEDGE: THE KEYS OF ENOCH

“Utilizing almost 50 years of professional experience in engineering, manufacturing, tool-making, and space-age precision, Chris Dunn has provided an in-depth analysis of ancient Egyptian statuary, temples, and manufactured artifacts that has never been presented previously. This outstanding book, supremely well researched, amply illustrated, and complete with detailed photographs, will be cited as a major paradigm shift and reference source in the field for many years to come.”

– STEPHEN S. MEHLER, M. A., DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH, GREAT PYRAMID OF GIZA RESEARCH ASSOCIATION

“Admirers of Egyptian art and architecture are most fortunate that Christopher Dunn directs his experienced engineer’s eye toward the Egyptians’ ancient stonework. By noticing the most minute details he reveals sophisticated craftsmanship and immense significance for all areas of Egyptology. Mathematicians will appreciate the amazing three-dimensional geometry made manifest in very hard stone. Dunn points the way for geometers to uncover sharper, more accurate analyses of the proportions of Egyptian design. This book is an important contribution to scientific scholarship by showing how archaeology can firmly rest on a measurable foundation.”

– MICHAEL S. SCHNEIDER, AUTHOR OF A BEGINNERS GUIDE TO CONSTRUCTING THE UNIVERSE

“In this book, Christopher Dunn has brought to the field of Egyptology a new approach, which has been needed for decades. His ability as an engineer and master craftsman has given him the insight to discover ancient technologies and techniques that have been missed by traditional Egyptologists. This book is a paradigm change for the way of thinking about our ancient history and ancestors. I highly recommend this beautiful illustrated book to both academic and alternative researchers and for anyone interested in new ways of thinking about our ancient past.”

– JOHN DESALVO, PH.D., AUTHOR OF THE LOST ART OF ENOCHIAN MAGIC AND DIRECTOR OF THE GREAT PYRAMID OF GIZA RESEARCH ASSOCIATION

“As with Newton and the apple, Chris Dunn got a vision when visiting Egypt. His engineering background allowed him to unleash incredible facts, and thanks to this highly detailed book, we can now share the same marvels.”

– ALAIN HUBRECHT, ARCHITECT, WRITER, PROFESSOR, AND FOUNDER OF THE ASSOCIATION TRANSPERSONNELLE BELGE (ATB)

“If you want to see the precise high technologies ancient Egyptians really had, read this book. It is a serious donation to Egyptian legacy and an opus for the future of this planet.”

– ANTOINE GIGAL, AUTHOR, RESEARCHER, AND PRESIDENT OF GlZA FOR HUMANITY

“I believe, as Chris Dunn superbly details in this book, that ancient Egyptian sculptors and architects were so precise and their works so monumental that they must have used sophisticated technology, probably hidden in their time and now lost to ours.”

– MIKE LECKIE, STONE SCULPTOR

Shifting Paradigms

In the mid-1990s I was co-founder of a NASDAQ-listed software company in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which specialized in presenting digital data in a unique 3D immersive graphical environment (also called virtual reality, or VR). One particular time, we showed the results of our VR work to an undersecretary of the US Department of Transportation — an abstract presentation of rather mundane DOT traffic data from various road intersections around the nation. Because of the intuitive display system, without any interpretation training at all, the undersecretary was able to see patterns, anomalies, and trends in his data, striking evidence of unexpectedly massive distortions and errors, perhaps even fraud, resident in his measurements but unseen before.

So shocked was the bureaucrat that he told the audience of several hundred technophiles, “I will never be able to look at my new data the same way again. Not only that, I wont even be able to look at my old data the same way.” From this honest and open spontaneous reaction, I coined the saying, “A paradigm shift not only changes the future, it changes the past!”

What researcher Christopher Dunn has accomplished in Lost Technologies of Ancient Egypt and in his previous work, The Giza Power Plant, is more than a paradigm shift; it is more of a paradigm seismic event. Because once a person with a manufacturing or machining background — engineer, technician, machinist, artisan — reads and understands what Dunn has discovered and analyzed in ancient Egyptian stonework, that person will never look at ancient Egyptians the same way ever again. That reader will become skeptical of portrayals of ancient Egyptians as primitives in any sense. That reader will begin to analyze every new Egyptian archaeological discovery, to see what else conventional Egyptologists have overlooked. That reader will become part of the new paradigm.

In these pages, Chris Dunn demonstrates an underlying system of incredible precision in the machining, layout, and positioning of both individual objects and groups of features, ranging from the toolmark details in the “Rose Red Rosetta Stone of Abu Roash” to the symmetries of the giant heads of Ramses at the temples in Luxor, to the layout of the column capitals of the Great Hypostyle Hall at Denderah, to the base of the Great Pyramid itself. Thanks to this work, the modern reader sits back in awe and admiration of the Egyptian geniuses of five thousand years ago. The ancient artifacts contain amazing messages, but the stones cannot speak for themselves. This book speaks for them.

In November 2008, I accompanied Mr. Dunn and others to what some have called “the Lost Pyramid” at Abu Roash, some ten kilometers northwest of Giza. I was anxious to see the rose-colored granite piece that the author had described to me years before, anticipating seeing the compound radial cuts and distinguishing toolmarks. I was not disappointed. To any technophile, this one cut stone exhibits mute arguments against primitive tools and primitive peoples. More than any other artifact, it embodies an ancient “language” that still speaks to modern engineers. I immediately dubbed it the "Rose Red Rosetta Stone of Abu Roash.”

I called the stone a “Rosetta” because its discovery reminded me of another paradigm-changing artifact: in 1799, Napoleons soldiers found a curious object embedded in a wall of an Egyptian village. Their original report, “A Report on a Stone Found in the Village of Rosetta,” describes a black rock slab inscribed with three languages, one of them being ancient Greek, the others the unknown Egyptian hieroglyphic writing and the cursive or “demotic” Egyptian writing. Reading the Greek portion, the antiquarian Champollion was able to translate the names of the Pharaohs — written within cartouches — and thence the rest of the hieroglyphic writing itself. He opened up an eventual understanding of the millions of carved figures decorating the ancient temples and tombs of the Nile. Nobody would ever again look at the hieroglyphic carvings as mere magical, mystical figures, but would read the translations of experts who deciphered those cuts and reliefs, uncovering the lost history of Egypt.

The Rosetta stone thus facilitated a change in the worldview of moderns who looked back at ancient Egyptians. Nothing would ever be the same. I maintain that this book has accomplished a similar feat, every bit as meaningful to an understanding of ancient Egypt, if not more so. Once understood, Dunn’s discoveries will forever change the perception of the serious researcher.

In a similar manner to Champollion reading ancient Greek and comparing it to the unknown hieroglyphic figures, researcher Christopher Dunn was able to “read” the machine-cut tool marks on the Abu Roash stone and compare them to those made by modern tools capable of the same operations. With years of experience and a trained eye for such details, and armed with the proper paradigmatic perspective, Dunn was able to recognize at once what it meant to produce a stone with a curved cut some 37 feet in diameter, and to reproduce that cut in small, uniform steps across a three-foot width — over 700 nearly identical radial tool cuts! This feat is simply not achievable by human hand alone, using any known tools.

Such toolmarks require at the very least a large saw blade or cutting tool, and sophisticated fixtures to produce the steps between cuts. To suggest that the primitive tools ascribed to the ancient Egyptians could have produced anything like these markings is ridiculous. In my opinion, this machined stone by itself demonstrates the existence of sophisticated tooling that did not exist again until the 1900s.

To the modern engineer, machinist, or toolmaker, the toolmarks on the Rose Red Rosetta Stone of Abu Roash are proof enough that the ancient Egyptians possessed technologies not replicated until the twentieth century — if even then. But Lost Technologies of Ancient Egypt shows more examples, each of which have similar impact — the Ramses heads in Luxor, the carvings and columns at Denderah — further reinforcing the genius of the ancient machinists, engineers, designers, and planners. Taken together, they represent arguments in stone that refute current Egyptological conclusions.

When civilization fails for any reason, metals of all kinds become precious commodities. They become knives, spear points, scrapers, fishhooks, even plows. Ancient Egypt underwent numerous upheavals caused by droughts, earthquakes, civil wars, religious strife, and foreign invasions. During the times of collapse, the advanced metal tools that the ancient Egyptians used were probably disassembled, cut apart, or melted down. What wasn’t immediately used would corrode and disappear after thousands of years. And perhaps some other advanced technology was also employed, the remnants of which we wouldn’t recognize today.

Large saw blades and other machine tools, if not secreted away from armies, earthquakes, floods, and mobs, would not endure very long. Over the millennia, few metal objects from our own time would survive or be recognizable. Life After People, a popular cable television show that debuted in 2009, shows example after example of the deterioration of manmade objects after years, merely because of lack of maintenance. In five thousand years, approximately the timespan estimated in Lost Technologies of Ancient Egypt, almost nothing of today’s technology would be left. In a world of resourceful (and destructive) human beings, the devastation would be much worse than Mother Nature alone could cause; marauding bandits and nomads would re-use, recycle, or otherwise destroy even our ubiquitous automobile engine blocks and our porcelain toilet bowls!

It may be that future archaeologists will one day uncover an untouched ancient factory or workshop under the sands or in the caves of Egypt, a place that was purposefully hidden away from destructive recycling, a place that would show us exactly what the ancients used and how. Such a discovery would be the equivalent of the unexpecedly sophisticated two-thousand-year-old Greek computational mechanism, the Antikythera Device! But to recognize their finds as evidence of ancient technologies, those future discoverers must have minds that are opened to the possibilities that Christopher Dunn has been the first to reveal. Otherwise, that advanced machine shop of the ancients could wind up stored in unnumbered boxes in the basement of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, labeled merely as “funerary objects.”

Recent discoveries at the archaeological site Göebekli Tepe, in Turkey, indicate that twelve thousand to thirteen thousand years ago, so-called primitives were erecting T-shaped monuments as tall as six meters, ranging in weight from ten to fifty tons, perhaps building a Neolithic cathedral of sorts. Many of these stone pillars exhibit carvings of wildlife and even some human-shaped reliefs. For unknown reasons, the site was deliberately buried approximately ten thousand years ago. Because this site can be dated as existing prior to previously established dates for the beginnings of agriculture and urbanization, not to mention cooperative construction of stone monuments, we can readily believe that conventional chronology is at the least incomplete, if not wholly inaccurate. We see that every new archaeological discovery pushes back civilized development further and further into the past, never in the opposite direction.

So here we have evidence of moving massive stones and carving them in intricate detail dating earlier than 10,000 BCE — thousands of years before the ancient Egyptians were believed to have begun the stone machining that the author examines in this volume and in his previous works. Several thousand years passed between the time of Göebekli Tepe and that of the Egyptian First Dynasty, millennia in which artisans and engineers of ancient times could have perfected their craft, invented their complete suite of enabling tools and supportive technologies, and eventually emigrated to the Nile Valley, becoming part of the incipient civilization emerging there. With centuries of experiment and practice, those who worked in stone could have kept their knowledge secret, offering their finished products to leaders, priests, and the wealthy. As Dunn points out in this volume, even today trade secrets and proprietary knowledge are closely held, even in an educated world-wide civilization with widespread literacy and training. In ancient times the impulse to secrecy may have been even more necessary for survival.

Alas, the human beings who worked the Rose Red Rosetta Stone of Abu Roash, who machined the statues of Ramses, the columns of Denderah and the stones of the pyramids, were more fragile and evanescent than the mighty tools they employed in their work. If tools of metal are lost in war or natural catastrophe, their flesh and blood designers and operators are even more subject to the vagaries of Fate — disease, injury, wounds, and famine can take away technicians, inventors, planners, and managers, while leaving behind marvelous tools fit only for destruction by desperate people ignorant of their value.

If the knowledge of a specific task, the operation of a given machine tool, or the procedure for laying out vast projects is resident in just a few people, maybe just one, then the loss of that person or group means the knowledge is gone forever, unless it is recorded. This is an eternal problem, not limited to the ancient Egyptians of five thousand years ago. As a modern example, in 1992 while working at the White House Science Office, I invited to a meeting there a person from the National Science Foundation. Although only peripheral to the agenda, this older scientist regaled us with a tale of a lost technology of modern times, namely how to start up the engines of the Saturn V rocket that took American astronauts to the Moon from 1969 to 1972. Incredibly, this leading scientist averred that no one was alive who knew how to start up the engines on the largest rocket ever flown. No one had written down the standard operating procedure, and the rocket men who had developed the technique had all passed away.

So in 1992 CE or 1992 BCE or further back in time, we can find sufficient examples to demonstrate that technologies are not always lost as a result of conspiracy. Ordinary human pride, greed, stubbornness, selfishness, and even carelessness, can account for much of our loss.

In two groundbreaking works, author Christopher Dunn has opened our eyes that ancient Egyptians, and maybe others in the past, designed, planned, laid out, and precisely machined stone statues that would be difficult to reproduce even with todays manufacturing technologies. As the first person to uncover and develop this new paradigm, he has gone on to investigate other ancient Egyptian artifacts, temples, tombs, and pyramids using this new way of looking at information. He has retrieved knowledge that all before him have overlooked, save Flinders Petrie, whose interest was not primarily proving advanced ancient technology, merely commenting upon interesting findings. A new way of looking at old data could bring new respect to ancient civilizations that left magnificent ruins in a still-troubled part of the world. As we understand more about the origin of Egyptian temples and pyramids, we find a way to bridge the past and the present, a way to look for still other revelations that affect us as human beings.

Arlan Andrews Sr., SCD

Arlan Andrews Sr., a registered Professional Engineer, graduated from New Mexico State University with a doctorate in mechanical engineering. Throughout his career he worked as a missile tracker at White Sands Missile Range, as a member of technical staff at Bell Telephone Laboratories, as the advanced manufacturing initiatives manager at Sandia National Laboratory, and as the environmental director at the Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, Texas. In 1991, Dr. Andrews was assigned to the Technology Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce as a Fellow for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Following his tenure there, he became an ASME Fellow at the White House Science Office. He later co-founded several high-tech startup companies, one of which was listed on NASDAQ and another still operating in North Carolina. He also founded the nonprofit futurist organization SIGMA, a group of professional scientists and science fiction writers formed to advise the Federal Government on future technologies and events.

Recognizing the Brilliance of Ancient Manufacturing

No one can be a great thinker who does not recognize that as a thinker it is his first duty to follow his intellect to whatever conclusions it may lead. Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study, and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think. – JOHN STUART MILL, ON LIBERTY

As a lawyer trained in the areas of evidence and the nature of proof, I have witnessed firsthand the disagreements that occur in the arena of ideas. Sometimes these disagreements make their way into a courtroom, where a trial is held and a judgment made as to which opinion carries the weight of evidence — evidence that ultimately convinces a judge and jury. The court reaches a decision in favor of the party or parties that presented that convincing evidence.

Over the course of this book, Chris Dunn presents evidence that raises a multitude of challenging questions, introducing new ideas and opinions about the history of craftsmanship in Egypt. This work calls into question established paradigms and theories that have, for many decades, formed the basis of academic studies in schools and universities around the globe and in volumes that occupy the shelves of virtually every library. But first, let me describe how I came to be involved in this debate.

Leaving the formal practice of law in the late 1980s, I have, in the ensuing two decades, become a manufacturer, more specifically a fabricator of sheet metal components for gas turbine engines at Danville Metal Stamping Co., Inc., located in Danville, Illinois, USA. It was here that I first met Dunn, upon my arrival at Danville Metal in 1988. He preceded me at the company by a couple of years and was then serving in the capacity of laser engineer. He later became a manufacturing engineer and, in 1995, brought his manufacturing and engineering skills, as well as his judgment and insight, to the post of Human Resources Manager. As President and CEO, I devote a significant amount of time to human resources and, consequently, my contact with Dunn increased dramatically.

At that time, I had little background or particular interest in Egypt, the pyramids, or ancient technologies and civilizations. Nonetheless, like most humans, I had a natural curiosity about how things are made or done and why. My curiosity then turned toward the subject that Dunn had spent the past twenty years studying in his spare time, and I was impressed by the enthusiasm and sense of wonder he had for it.

Over breakfast after a Sunday walk, Dunn would discuss his thoughts on ancient technologies. Those discussions were often supplemented by a photograph or other visual aid, such as an engineering drawing or a sketch on a napkin or scrap of paper. We would also discuss the online controversies that swirled around his comments, theories, and questions raised in his first book, The Giza Power Plant. Dunn’s analysis did not stop there; he instead applied the criticism he received to improve his methods and collect further evidence.

In February of 2006, Dunn took another of his many trips to Egypt, this time with a tour group that visited a number of temples in Upper Egypt. Although he had first visited those temples in 2004, his exposure had been brief and he was interested in more closely inspecting temple artifacts, especially in the Luxor Temple. This new expedition took Dunn deeper into and beyond the issues he had explored previously. He returned from the trip with a new and elevated interest in the accomplishments of the ancient Egyptians in the temples, particularly the statuary. His observations in the temples presented a new frontier of amazing feats, raising questions that were complementary to observations he had made in connection with granite boxes and other aspects of construction in the pyramids.

In April and May of the same year, I took the opportunity to travel with Dunn to witness in person what I had only examined as photographic evidence. This included many looks through the viewfinder of his camera equipped with a telephoto lens and then verifying the results captured by the camera.

From personal observation, I can verify that in this book Dunn has been true to the evidence he observed. As an engineer, Dunn was able to analyze his observations with CAD/CAM programs and geometrical analysis unavailable or incomprehensible to the average observer. Among other things, with advances in digital imaging, a technology used daily in manufacturing, his computer-assisted analysis afforded him the ability to see attributes that could not be seen or analyzed with the naked eye even in the presence of the original artifact.

Using his extensive skills and his tools as an engineer and a toolmaker and bringing to bear his decades of experience in manufacturing, Dunn was relentless in assessing what he could reach and, through his camera lenses, preserving that which he saw. He also used his camera to capture what he could not necessarily reach and was thoughtful and creative in his approach. As the reader will witness in the pages that follow, Dunn thinks well in three dimensions and understands thoroughly the consequences of a particular test, comparison, or view.

After our visit to the temples in 2006, Dunn studied his photographs and detected in the statues certain features that resembled tool marks — the kind of tool marks that a craftsperson or engineer would recognize. Realizing that he had focused on collecting geometric information and neglected to look for evidence of tool marks, another trip was planned and taken in November of 2008 to further authenticate and more finely focus on what his previous photographs indicated. On this trip I was able, through Dunn’s camera, to see the tool marks on the cheek of one of the Ramses in the Temple at Karnak, even though the head of that statue was some 45 feet in the air. I was later able to examine the resulting photograph, as can the reader later in this book.

I vividly remember my first (and then every subsequent) visit to the Luxor Temple. Although smaller than the nearby Temple at Karnak, the Luxor Temple is impressive. The different areas of the Temple provided an interesting variety of architecture from the hall of the Ramses to the colonnade to the plaza to the inner temple. Each had something different to offer and yet they harmoniously fit together. The imposing Ramses statues hewn out of huge solid blocks of granite, the immense columns, and the fact that the Temple, its contents and its surrounding have existed for thousands of years caused me to wonder about the influence it had on the civilization that built it. From these thoughts, my mind was opened to a new awareness.

As I am confronted with the evidence, both in Dunn’s book and from my own personal observation, I find myself wondering, among other things, how the technology of the ancient Egyptians that allowed them to carve and shape stone as they did was applied in other areas of their society, such as healthcare and dentistry for example. In our socety, advancements in one area of technology are quickly spread to other areas in which those advancements might apply. Wouldn’t the ancient Egyptians have done the same?

While my background as an attorney and a manufacturer qualifies me to evaluate Dunn’s work objectively, I am still awestruck by what he has revealed in his studies and by the disparity between his findings and the understanding I gained in the course of my traditional education on the subject. If, metaphorically speaking, truth lies at the heart of an onion, I have witnessed firsthand as Dunn peeled away layers of that onion to get closer to the heart of technologies employed in ancient Egypt, revealing previously unaddressed questions. While the most obvious and prominent of those questions is how these ancient artifacts were made to exhibit such remarkable geometry and precision, the second most obvious that follows quickly on the heels of the first is why.

At this time, there are no certain answers to these questions, and it is human nature to fill the void of the unanswered question with something. Those who ignore questions because the answers are not apparent are disingenuous. I am reminded of this quotation from John Stuart Mill in Considerations on Representative Government: “From despairing of a cure, there is too often but one step to denying the disease; and from this follows dislike to having a remedy proposed, as if the proposer were creating a mischief instead of offering relief from one.”

A skeptic is defined by Webster's as “a person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual,” while the same dictionary defines cynical as “distrusting or disparaging the motives of others.” In his work, Chris Dunn invites us all to be skeptical of things that we may have never really questioned while, at the same time, he invites rigorous skepticism of his own observations. This skepticism is healthy and helpful. It is not cynicism, however. It is not contempt for the theories or ideas of others or for those who proffer those theories or ideas. It is a questioning and a testing of ones own ideas and theories as well as those of others. In reading and contemplating the pages that follow, I entreat the reader to be skeptical but not cynical.

In exercising skepticism while reading Dunn’s work, also bear in mind this quotation from the Wizard in the play “Wicked”: “Back where I come from we believe all sorts of things that aren’t true … we call it history.”

Perhaps a more famous Winston Churchill quote, “history is written by the victors” should be considered. The history of Egypt traditionally taught in the west has, for the most part, been written by western scholars who followed on the heels of their armies. I am confident that the obvious sophistication of the ancient Egyptians revealed in this book will, in due time, prompt western scholars and others around the world to reexamine what has been written about ancient Egypt and to consider what else the citizens of that ancient civilization, by whatever means, accomplished.

Judd C. Peck, Esq.

Judd C. Peck graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law (magna cum laude) in 1978. In 1989, he took the helm of Danville Metal Stamping in Danville, Illinois, and became its President and Chief Executive Officer.

Those who have come into my life — whether personally, professionally, in the flesh, or at the speed of light as packets of electromagnetic energy coursing through the Internet — are the motivators and teachers to whom I am eternally indebted.

For her unwavering support and encouragement, I thank my wife, Jeanne. Her patience and intelligence, not to mention her enthusiasm for my work, are acknowledged with love and appreciation. Thanks and love also to my sons Peter, Alexander, and Geno, who have stood by me and supported all my research and trips to Egypt. For their loving influence in my life, I thank my mother and father and my siblings: Bernard, Celia, Pauline, and Angela.

My sincere gratitude goes to Judd Peck for his wisdom, advice, and friendship. I will always remember and remain humbled by his mission of mercy when he flew to Egypt to assist me in my recovery and return home when I fell ill and was hospitalized in Cairo in 2007. I also extend my sincere appreciation to Edward F. Malkowski, who provided life-saving assistance on that ill-fated trip. Also, my gratitude goes to Cecilia El Nadi, Bahgat El Nadi, Mohamed El Nadi, Semir Gharib, and Sharzhad Awyan for their kindness and help in Egypt. My brother Bernard, sister Angela, and their families who stood by ready to assist, and the people of Danville, Illinois, and many others around the world who expressed concern and gave an outpouring of support to Jeanne and me during this ordeal. My thanks, also, to the staff of the Dar Al Fouad hospital in 6th of October City and Provena Medical Center in Danville, who provided excellent care to a very difficult patient.

The Board of Directors, management, and employees at Danville Metal Stamping have been incredibly supportive and helpful. The opportunities they have given me as well as the encouragement I’ve received while pursuing this rather offbeat avocation are of inestimable value. For their assistance in several research projects that required machine-tool work, I would like to thank Tom Neal, Don Reed, James Brown, and Doug Carter.

Dr. Arlan Andrews Sr. has helped immensely over the past thirty years with advice and encouragement. I cannot thank him and his wife, Joyce, enough for their incredible support. The irrepressibly passionate Stephen Mehler and Theresa Crater, who sometimes get more excited about my work than I do, have been valuable supporters and have shined their own bright light on the true heritage of the ancient Khemitians (Egyptians). Thanks and blessings to Norma Eckroate for her incredible support and promotion of new information about ancient cultures. For their continued support and feedback I am indebted to Paul and Ardith Keller, Jeff and Judie Summers, David Hatcher Childress, Doug Kenyon, Paul Brenner, Dr. John DeSalvo, Michael Schneider, George Noory, Dr. Dustin Carr, Jennifer Bolm, the late Abd’el Hakim Awyan, Ashraf Williams, Gouda Fayed, Antoine Gigal, Alain Hubrecht, Dr. Hossam Abulfotouh, Carol Radford, Jeff Rense, Bart Haas, Susan Hale, Dan Hamilton, Jaques and Visne Grimault, Susan Alexjander, Dr. Randy Ashton, Dr. Dustin Carr, Steve Garcia, James Hagan, John Heckler, Will Hemphill, Gary Lickfett, Stuart Mitchell, Robert Bauval, Dr. Robert Schoch, Michael Cremo, Dr. J. J. Hurtak, and Colin Wilson.

For their contribution to a greater understanding of Petrie’s infamous Core 7, I would like to thank Dr. Stephen Quirke and James Hale of the Petrie Museum; Malcolm McClure and Nick Annies for their assistance in the Petrie Museum; Ian Lawton and Chris Ogilvie-Herald for the impetus provided in their book; Graham Hancock, Santha Faiia, and Nick and Angie Annies for their hospitality while I was in London.

Special thanks go to Dr. Zahi Hawass for his Egyptian hospitality and helpfulness in providing permission to the worker’s village, the Great Pyramid, and the Serapeum. To Adel Hussein Mohamed, the director of Saqqara and lately of Giza, who was a perfect host during the visit to the Serapeum; and to Gail Fallen of Grizzly Adams Productions for making those events possible. Mike Leckie for his talent, expert opinion, and gorgeous photographs; Patrice Pooyard for his vision and passion; John Anthony West, an enormously enjoyable host and companion who I found was always willing to listen to a different point of view; Andrea Mikana for contacting me before visiting the Unfinished Obelisk and asking me if there were any images I needed: the results are outstanding. Denys Stocks, for his professional and thorough answers to my e-mailed questions, and Marcus Allen, for his interest and input regarding the Petrie Core #7.

In preparing this book for publication I am indebted to Greg Brown who offered his help as an editor and a sculptor and who provided expert feedback during the writing of the first draft. From Inner Traditions • Bear & Company, I would like to thank, in the order I met them, Rob Meadows; Cynthia Fowles; Jon Graham; Jeanie Levitan; Kristi Tate; Peri Swan; a marvelous project editor, Chanc VanWinkle Orzell; Manzanita Carpenter; and all others who are a part of this unique publisher’s staff.

Last but not least, I should mention the value brought by hundreds of online forum participants who have provided both positive and negative feedback. I appreciate the comments and the challenges, and I hope they will continue.

Illustrations and photographs are copyright Christopher Dunn, 2006-2010, except for the following copyright holders who have my sincere thanks and appreciation for their critically important contrbutions to this book.

Figure 3.5: thanks to Jessica Brackmann of Champaign, Illinois.

Figures 7.15 and 10.31: Dr. Arlan Andrews Sr. of Padre Island, Texas.

Figures 11.1, 11.3, 11.4, 11.8, 11.12, and plate 26: Nick Annies of Cambridge, UK.

Figures 1.19, 4.3, 6.6, 6.9, 11.6, and 11.7: taken by author and printed with the permission of Danville Metal Stamping Co., Inc.

Plate 19 upper and lower left: Jacques Grimault of Paris, France; 2005 Egypt Project.

Figure 9.3: Bart Haas of Pekin, Illinois.

Figures 5.6, 6.15, 9.10, and plate 19 right: Dan Hamilton of Canada.

Figures 9.8 and 9.9: Photograph by David Loveall and copyright Mike Leckie of Eugene, Oregon, 2007.

Figures 6.3, 6.4, and 6.5: Glenn McKechnie, reproduced under the guidelines of Creative Commons License Deed, available at https://creativecommons.org.

Figure 6.10 and plate 13: Stephen Mehler of Colorado.

Figures 8.1, 9.11, 9.12, 9.13, and 9.16: Andrea Mikana-Pinkham of Sacred Sites Journeys, Sedona, Arizona.

Plate 11: Joakim Moller of MadCAM Mould and Die CAM Systems, Romakloster, Sweden.

Figures 9.17, 9.20, 9.21, 11.18 upper left, and plate 19 upper and lower left: Patrice Pooyard of Paris, France.

Tell me, Mr. Hoover, what are your interests?
Madam, I am an Engineer.
Really? I took you for a gentleman.

– HERBERT HOOVER, CONVERSATION ON MAKING THE ACQUAINTANCE OF A LADY ON A STEAMSHIP

It is possible that Mr. Hoover’s confused lady acquaintance had the wrong impression of what an engineer does, since a train driver is also known as an engineer. There are mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, materials engineers, computer engineers, construction engineers, quality engineers, and safety engineers. And all may not be considered gentlemen — many you may meet will be ladies. Each engineer works in a specialized field, and within those particular disciplines are subgroups that work in myriad industries that form the fabric and backbone of modern civilization. Of themselves and their machines, the life of an engineer is frequently punctuated with Scotty’s Star Trek lament, “Can’t take much more o’ this, Captain!”

Perhaps unbeknownst to you, the engineers’ labors have a direct affect on your daily life. For instance, you have just arrived in the office, hung up your coat, and poured yourself a cup of your favorite morning beverage. An army of engineers and artisans worked to create the technology that has allowed your morning ritual to happen. Crafted into the car, train, or bus and the elevator that carried you to your destination are the labors of the modern artisan. At some location miles away, perhaps on another continent, the skillful eye and hands of artisans guided the tools that created the coffee maker and processed the coffee.

The Industrial Revolution of the 1800s propelled Western civilization forward in terms of labor-saving devices. Around this time, many of the machines that are now used in manufacturing were either invented or improved. Yet the most basic of machines, the lathe, has been around in one form or another for centuries — originally in the form of a potter’s wheel. Its development as an efficient metal-cutting machine grew from the invention of the steam engine, which powered everything from textile mills to Stephenson’s Rocket, the first steam locomotive to convert linear motion to rotary motion and use that rotary motion to propel itself along two rails at the dizzying speed of twenty-five miles per hour.

In the past sixty years, technology has advanced rapidly in directions that many people, except science fiction writers and futurists, could not even have imagined possible. Discoveries and innovations in the field of physics have introduced new patterns of thought in the minds of scientists and inventors. Like legs on a centipede, branches of science, engineering, and manufacturing, along with the creative genius of gifted artists who are now an essential part of the design of functional products, move forward, independently and in unison, each drawing on the other for inspiration and survival.

Three hundred years before the Industrial Revolution was in full swing, geniuses arose among their peers and made their mark, adding to the prosperity and understanding of future generations. The genius of Leonardo da Vinci, Copernicus, and Galileo is well known. During this period, mathematicians, astronomers, and philosophers laid the groundwork for the pursuit of scientific inquiry and changing the worldview of humanity and its place in the universe. With its genesis in the 1500s, what is now known as the Scientific Revolution fought against the church and superstitious beliefs to create the foundation of modern science. The heliocentric theory of Nicolaus Copernicus shattered many beliefs of the earth’s preeminence in the universe, and the Catholic church, which opposed such heresy, fought tooth and nail to stop the rush of intellect that ultimately reshaped our beliefs about nature and ourselves. Rene Descartes, a devout Catholic himself, cut through the confusion that had reigned for so long with a remarkably simple philosophy that to us is a part of life, but in his day was counter to the philosophy of the church, for it would ultimately challenge the church’s own philosophy and teachings. In “Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason and Seeking for Truth in the Sciences,” Descartes sets forth three guidelines that he followed in his own work:

quote big

The first of these was to accept nothing as true which I did not clearly recognize to be so: that is to say, carefully to avoid precipitation and prejudice in judgments, and to accept in them nothing more than what was presented to my mind so clearly and distinctly that I could have no occasion to doubt it.

The second was to divide up each of the difficulties which I examined into as many parts as possible, and as seemed requisite in order that it might be resolved in the best manner possible. The third was to carry on my reflections in due order, commencing with objects that were the most simple and easy to understand, in order to rise little by little, or by degrees, to knowledge of the most complex, assuming an order, even if a fictitious one, among those which do not follow a natural sequence relatively to one another.1

From the birth of the Scientific Revolution to the Industrial Revolution the knowledge of the world has advanced at a rapid pace. Up until today, this advancement has spanned five hundred years. Within that time we have gone from an agrarian society with a much lauded, simple, pastoral existence to a complex industrial society with products that were undreamed of when the creator of the world’s first successful locomotive, Robert Stephenson, cried out, “full steam ahead!”

Punctuating each stage of civilization’s development are major building projects that by necessity or demand incorporate the state-of-the-art building construction of their period. The landscape of the ancient world is dotted with fabulous structures that are breathtaking in their complexity. The Egyptians and Mayans had their pyramids and temples. The Hindus crafted elaborate temples throughout Asia. The Greeks built the Parthenon, and the Babylonians constructed the Jupiter Temple and the fabled Hanging Gardens. The Romans made their mark all over their world, with engineering geniuses guiding the construction of their famous roads, the Coliseum, and numerous temples and viaducts, while Roman sculptors guided their chisels over marble and alabaster, giving it physical presence and beauty.

With the exception of artifacts such as the mysterious Antikythera Mechanism, an astronomical computer found by fishermen on the sea floor near the island of Antikythera in 1901, the development of technology in the ancient world seems to have clear origins and is fairly well understood.

Going back yet further in time, another deep mystery lies in the question of how the ancient Egyptian civilization could have lasted for three thousand years without improving the tools used to quarry and shape stone to near perfection. Since 1984, when Analog magazine published my article “Advanced Machining in Ancient Egypt?” controversy on this subject has persisted. The article proposed that the ancient Egyptians were more advanced than previously believed and that they used advanced tools and methods to cut granite, diorite, and other difficult-to-work stone. It does not seem credible that brilliant architects and engineers would continue to use stone tools and copper chisels for three millennia.

Following this article, I have received input from many kind people from different walks of life. Though much of the feedback I have received has been extremely positive and supportive of the idea that ancient cultures were more advanced than classical archaeology has supposed, there has been some criticism from those who believe that I went too far with my conclusions because I made the mistake of imposing a modern engineer’s viewpoint on an ancient civilization, thereby ignoring its cultural origins, and disrespected the Egyptians’ heritage.

In fact quite the opposite is true. Anyone who suggests that the ancient Egyptians were more advanced actually shows more, not less, deference and respect to their civilization. Such a statement does not diminish their culture in any way. Rather, such a suggestion would elevate the Egyptians’ status in the world. The cultural assumptions that are disturbed most by the idea of an advanced Egyptian race in prehistory lie in the libraries and halls of Western countries and the belief system that has been generated by generations of Western scholars — beginning with Herodotus. It is our own culture’s chauvinistic view of Egypt that threads throughout our history books.

Studies made by archaeologists, historians, and Egyptologists over the past five hundred years have essentially provided us with the modern, conventional view of ancient Egypt. This is an area of intense interest to engineers — such as myself — who find in Egypt a language with which we are familiar. This is the language of science, engineering, and manufacturing. Our counterparts in that ancient land left future generations of scientists, engineers, architects, and those who take their instructions and shape materials to their specifications, with a difficult challenge. This challenge is to recognize what they created and provide evidence-based, reasonable answers that give the ancient engineers credit for what they achieved. With their works, ancient engineers, perhaps unwittingly, created a sort of Mecca for modern engineers and technologists. The engineers and technologists that have taken this “pilgrimage” have discussed many theories, but always at the end we come up short of confidence that the theories are actual truth.

The ancient Egyptians who built the pyramids and temples, who crafted monumental statues out of igneous rock, were thinking with the minds of architects, engineers, and craftspeople. Were ancient archaeologists responsible for the legacy they left us? Without the advice of modern Egyptian architects, engineers, and craftspeople, are today’s Egyptian archaeologists missing something? Are modern interpretations of the awesome feats of the ancient Egyptians irrelevant in providing new and powerful information about this ancient culture? Are the thoughts and conclusions of Western writers and travelers who stood in front of the Great Pyramid one hundred years ago (or some forty-five hundred years after it was built) more intrinsically linked to the ancient Egyptian mind than those who come after them, a century or more later? What can be described as a “modern perspective?” In his time, Herodotus would surely have been considered modern. So were Egyptophiles Petrie, Marriette, Champollion, and Howard Carter — each in possession of a modern mind that was clothed in a fabric of prejudices and stereotypes that existed within their own culture.

When it comes to completely understanding the ancient Egyptians’ level of technological prowess, there can be no final conclusion. What is left to study today is a mere skeleton of what existed at the time of the ancient Egyptians. This skeleton survives as highly sophisticated and precisely crafted sedimentary and igneous rock. It is my belief that the clothes we have placed on this skeleton are mere rags compared to what should be there. I have proposed in the past that higher levels of technology were used by the ancient Egyptians, but you will find in this book that I have rejected some ideas and cast doubt on all my previous assertions as to the level of technology they enjoyed. At the same time, I cast doubt on the methods of manufacture that Egyptologists have asserted were used to build the pyramids and the glorious temples in Egypt. These methods are primitive and include stone and wooden mallets; copper chisels; tube drills and saws; and stone hammers for quarrying, dressing, and sculpting hard igneous rock. Nobody can claim that they know what was in the minds of the ancient Egyptians. All we have are their works: “By their works, ye shall know them.”*

This book is about the Egyptians’ works, but before understanding the manufacturing and building methods, it is necessary to understand the full scope of each work — exactly what it is we are studying. In the following pages I present another view of ancient Egyptian artifacts: the view of a modern craftsman and engineer made possible through the use and knowledge of modern technology.

After I describe each work, we will examine the methods of construction that have been proposed by Egyptologists and discuss some of the arguments against and for considering other methods that are more advanced. It is my sincere wish that the artifacts are respected and understood for what they are. They are priceless treasures and would have astronomical value if produced today using modern tools. Because they are encoded with the knowledge of life on this planet in prehistory and hold a powerful message for future generations, their worth in monetary terms is unfathomable. Their value in raising awareness and dispelling cultural bias, even while short of real answers, cannot be calculated in monetary terms.


1 René Descartes, “Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason and Seeking for Truth in the Sciences,” Great Books of the Western World, vol 31 (Chicago: William Benton, 1952), 47.

*  Matthew 7: 20.

Bear & Company
One Park Street
Rochester, Vermont 05767
Bear & Company is a division of Inner Traditions International

Copyright © 2010 by Christopher Dunn

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Dunn, Christopher, 1946-
Lost technologies of ancient Egypt advanced engineering in the temples of the pharaohs / Christopher Dunn.
p.cm.
Includes bibliographical references.
Summary: “A unique study of the engineering and tools used to create Egyptian monuments” - Provided by publisher.
ISBN: 978-1-59143-102-2 (pbk.)
eISBN-13: 978-1-59143-968-4 
1. Egypt-Civilization-To 332 B.C. 2. Engineering-Egypt-History-To 1500. 3. Technology-Egypt-History-To 1500. 4. Pyramids-Egypt-Design and construction. 5. Temples-Egypt-Design and construction. 6. Monuments-Egypt-Design and construction. I. Title. DT61.D86201O
932-dc22

To send correspondence to the author of this book, mail a first-class letter to the author c/o Inner Traditions · Bear & Company, One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767, and we will forward the communication or contact the author at www.gizapower.com.

About Inner Traditions · Bear & Company
     Founded in 1975, Inner Traditions is a leading publisher of books on indigenous cultures, perennial philosophy, visionary art, spiritual traditions of the East and West, sexuality, holistic health and healing, self-development, as well as recordings of ethnic music and accompaniments for meditation.
     In July 2000, Bear & Company joined with Inner Traditions and moved from Santa Fe, New Mexico, where it was founded in 1980, to Rochester, Vermont. Together Inner Traditions · Bear & Company have eleven imprints: Inner Traditions, Bear & Company, Healing Arts Press, Destiny Books, Park Street Press, Bindu Books, Bear Cub Books, Destiny Recordings, Destiny Audio Editions, Inner Traditions en Espãnol, and Inner Traditions India.

For more information or to browse through our more than one thousand titles in print, visit
www.InnerTraditions.com.

Electronic edition produced by
ePubNow!

ePub Now

www.epubnow.com
www.digitalmediainitiatives.com

Chapter 1 ♦ The Shadows of Luxor
The Ramses Hall at Luxor
Editor's note   

Additional photographs of Ramses Statues found under the last tab (Ramses Statues) of this chapter are from Chris Dunn’s website.



The life of man is a self-evolving circle, which, from a ring imperceptibly small, rushes on all sides outwards to new and larger circles, and that without end.  – RALPH WALDO EMERSON, ESSAY ON CIRCLES

figure 1 1
Figure 1.1. The Ramses Hall at Luxor
figure 1 2
Figure 1.2. Bust of Ramses outside the Temple of Luxor

Within the Ramses Hall at Luxor, subtle curves and shaded hues of geometric perfection create an effect that seems designed to mask the real truth about the artifacts. Waiting for millennia for questions that have not been asked, let alone answered, the perfectly crafted granite statues of Ramses II smile and gaze upon each person who enters the hall and tries to come to terms with and grasp the true meaning of the Temple of Amun-Mut-Khonsu at Luxor.

Sometimes referred to as the world's greatest open air museum, the city of Luxor is situated in Upper Egypt, where once stood the ancient city of Thebes, approximately four hundred miles south of Cairo. The temple complexes of Karnak and Amun-Mut-Khonsu stand within the city, and the latter is commonly referred to as the Luxor Temple. Overlooking the Nile River nearby is the Winter Palace where Howard Carter and Lord Canarvon refreshed themselves in the quiet, cool bar. Graceful lateen sails fill and push feluccas on the river, as clouds, haloed by a crimson sun setting in the west, snake like serpents in the evening sky. Monuments, temples, and tombs of the west bank necropolis lie beyond the sails and include the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, the Ramesseum, and roads leading to the temples of the north.

If special recognition was given to the billionth visitor to Luxor, I probably missed it by centuries. Millions of tourists go there every year and, in season, jam to capacity the hotels and luxurious floating mansions that cruise the Nile River. Out-of-season accommodations play host to more visitors than a hotel in a normal town would at the height of any tourist season.

In any society, there are geniuses that innovate and make their mark by providing novel and revolutionary iconic images. Within the confines of three dimensions, the subtleties of individual expression allow philosophy, symbolism, and individuality to flow forth into stone, onto canvas, or through the orchestra. This expression guides the chisel and the pen.

Nowhere in the ancient world is the marriage of art and engineering better expressed than at Luxor in Egypt. The temples have inspired many to write eloquently about the city's magnificent monuments, its history, and the archaeological studies that have yielded untold riches in antiquities. The incredibly significant aspect of the artistic attributes of the numerous statues of Ramses is that it stimulates both the right and the left brain to study how their imposing beauty is not only a symbol of an incredibly gifted ancient culture, but also a symbol of manufacturing engineering that would be considered quite relevant in our modern world.

The Ramses Challenge

The ultimate function of art in human evolution is a mystery, but there is no mystery about what art does: it communicates, it evokes, it alters the observer. From the profound power of the Lascaux cave images to the spattering of Jackson Pollock, art calls to something within the observer. In the case of Luxor and the images of Ramses, the art is highly stylized, symbolic, and uniform. Even to today's observer, it carries a deliberate message of divinity and eternity, of awe and majesty – which must have been so much more powerful to the ancient Egyptians. On another level, to the sculptor who has worked in stone and to the technologist whose job it is to shape adamantine materials, it calls out a question and issues a challenge: "What am I? How did I come to exist? Build another just like me."

It challenges: "Don't just gape in awe and wonder, shake your head, and walk away. Bring me back to life! Know me – who I was and what I was. The only way to do this is to understand what I am and build another! Why am I smiling? Don't think for a minute that I am content sitting here on my pedestal, misunderstood by the droves that have passed by for centuries. There is more here than meets the eye."

The Ramses challenge was issued in ancient Egypt again and again, from Memphis and Cairo to Luxor and Abu Simbel. Exact replicas of Ramses' image were crafted in limestone, sandstone, quartzite, granite, and diorite. Some pieces, such as the Colossi of Memnon, weigh more than 1,000 tons. Other statues at Luxor weigh 600 tons. In fact, just the crowns that top the statues each weigh more than a ton. The statues are massive — a significant challenge to move and, because they are intricately carved, an even more significant challenge to sculpt. What distinguishes the Ramses statues is the iconic imagery of the perfect face. It seems that no matter which of the Ramses statues we look at, the same smiling face gazes through you, into infinity.

In order to accomplish this effect, the ancient sculptors worked to a uniform system of measurement and a design scheme. Just as today we replicate designs using uniform measures and consistent methods of manufacturing, in ancient Egypt there was a system of design, measurement, and manufacture used to create the Ramses statues. We can then ask the question: What was the fundamental scheme that the ancient Egyptians used to create and re-create this iconic image in stone?

In 1986, I visited Memphis, near Saqqara, and gazed down at the statue of Ramses in the open-air museum. Looking down the length of the statue, it struck me as peculiar that the left and right nostrils were identical mirror images of each other. It is common knowledge that no adult walking the earth has nostrils that are identically shaped. I thought it was noteworthy, but did not follow up and research it further as my focus at the time was on engineering, not art. I was there to study the pyramids and had not planned to visit any temples during my visit. I didn't realize at the time, though, how important my observation would become to my future research.

My interest in the Ramses statues was rekindled when I visited Luxor in November 2004. Though I had been to Egypt four times before and learned to love the Egyptian people for their hospitality and sense of humor, this was my first visit to the temples in Upper Egypt. Words cannot describe my feelings of wonder and awe as I absorbed the temples not only from a philosophical and spiritual aspect but also with my engineer's brain. These temples impressed upon me indelibly that they were incredibly important from an engineering and scientific perspective.

For an engineer or artisan, to walk through the Temple of Luxor is an exercise in humility. Combining the logical, rational, and objective attributes of left-brain functions with the intuitive, subjective, and holistic qualities of the right brain, the experience of seeing these temples is suffused with profound sadness for a civilization that had risen to great heights and then suffered a cyclic decline.

In exploring what is left — the mere skeletons of the Egyptians' achievements — and then going beyond, a veil is lifted to reveal the incredible material loss of a people who created perfectly crafted buildings and statues from the hardest stones known to humankind. This ancient culture accepted the challenge to develop the tools to work glasslike stone — stone that was created by tremendous forces within the earth and spewed, or squeezed, from its fiery belly — to a high order of magnitude, proportion, and exactitude.

Basalt, diorite, and granite yielded to these ancient tools — the quartz crystals abundantly present in the granite and diorite gave way to the application of ancient technology now lost. Perfection was the goal, and the ancient Egyptians' stone-working craft, as we shall see, was perfected to the extent that exactness was achieved.

Even if our mind is not normally turned toward philosophy, a visit to Egypt soon finds our thoughts seeking refuge in ruminations of wonder at what once was and what could have (or must have) been had there not been an interruption. From the perspective of a philosopher, the mortality of physical existence is reinforced. We slowly realize that civilizations are like the human body — they have a life cycle. This is a discomforting thought for those who are faced with the implications of what Egypt's accomplishments mean. We become comfortable to the extent that we can master our environment, but eventually we all must yield to the ultimate master. The natural cycles of the universe and their concomitant forces of nature unleash death and destruction with as much indifference and impartiality as they provide what is necessary for life to exist.

The Temple of Luxor holds a message for our civilization — one that reaches across millennia through the ravages of time, and, though shaken, crippled, and on its knees, it implores us to pay attention.

I was with a delightful, eclectic group of people on a tour of Egypt in November of 2004. The tour was arranged by Andrea Mikana-Pinkham of Body Mind Spirit Journeys, and presenting on the journey were my good friends Stephen Mehler and David Hatcher Childress. A broad range of people from various backgrounds, including engineers, a pilot, salespeople, a doctor, a nurse, a minister, and, from Florida, a sassy barmaid with an infectious laugh, milled around the bus every morning in anticipation of another great day in the field. Everybody was having a wonderful time, and we all had one thing in common: a deep respect for the Egyptian culture and its monuments. Good humor and jokes flew around the bus like the swallows that swirl around the Great Pyramid at dawn.

Before 2004, I had not paid much attention to the temples in southern Egypt. Instead, I focused my attention on the pyramids and what I considered to be their more technical engineering attributes. As a part of this tour, I was fascinated by the story given by the Egyptologist tour guide, but I was not so fascinated that when an object caught my attention, I refused to wander off to do some exploring on my own.

When you are part of a tour group, your visits to temples are strictly controlled. Generally, the tour operator takes you to Luxor at a time when it is the most visually stimulating: at night, when the temple is lit up with carefully designed and directed lighting. When you walk among the massive columns that reach to the sky like giant redwoods, the chattering of numerous tour guides fades as the power of the temple imposes its own majesty and voice onto your consciousness. This effect became more meaningful to me later, as my interest peaked and I began to learn more about the symbolic and philosophical interpretations that the temple has evoked from the hearts and minds of other researchers.

The Secrets of the Crown

figure 1 3
Figure 1.3. The Hedjet (front) with Pschent (back)
figure 1 4
Figure 1.4. The first Hedjet original image
figure 1 5
Figure 1.5. The first Hedjet original image and a reverse transparency that is slightly off center was created so that the shadow line can be seen
figure 1 6
Figure 1.6. The first Hedjet original image and a reverse transparency on center. Note the symmetry between both sides

While our guide explained the meaning behind the intricately carved reliefs on the walls of the temples, several pieces of granite that were positioned in front of statues in the Ramses Hall — the first hall visitors enter after passing through the first pylon — managed to catch my attention. The explanations of the symbols on the walls suddenly lost their interest to me. Commanding my attention now were objects that appealed to a part of my nature that had been developed over many years of training and experience in manufacturing.

I recognized the granite pieces' faintly illuminated shapes as the cone-shaped crown of Upper Egypt: the Hedjet. Depicted as a white conical headdress in Egyptian art, images of the crown are found on the Narmer Palette and, famously, on the gold statue of the boy-king Tutankhamen. Another crown found in the Ramses Hall is the Pschent: a combination of the Red Crown of Lower Egypt and the White Crown that symbolizes the unification of the two Egypts. (See figure 1.3.)

During this visit, I was able to examine them only visually and feel their smooth surfaces with my hand, but I was struck by their perfection of form, and I could not detect any deviation from a perfectly crafted contour. Throughout the course of my career, my hands have run across many different machined contours in order to find surface imperfections — and my contact with these Egyptian pieces seemed no different from my previous contact with objects that had been removed from a precision machining center. Except for some minor abrasions (presumably the result of the crowns falling to the ground) there were no pits or ripples or depressions in the compound curved surface. I felt only a flowing, exact surface that seemed as smooth as though it had been spun on a lathe. Because of its geometry, however, it would have been impossible to craft these crowns in such a manner. Along the length and width of each, the surface followed simple arcs that obviously were the result of careful deliberation in concept, design, and manufacture. From a cursory examination, it seemed clear to me that this result demanded adherence to geometry and precision in the manufacturing process.

This impression gnawed at me for a year, until I finally awoke to the realization that I had to go back and study them further. My opportunity to examine them again wouldn't come until February 2006, when I went to Egypt with John Anthony West on one of his Magical Egypt tours.

My main interest in going with West was to learn more about R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, who had spent fifteen years at Luxor studying Amun-Mut-Khonsu and had concluded that it was built using a system incorporating precise measures that were a deliberate representation of the universe and man. Amun-Mut-Khonsu is, according to Schwaller de Lubicz, a material expression of cosmic correspondences. His magnum opus was translated into English in two volumes titled The Temple of Man1 It is considered a difficult work to understand, and West was one of the few people in the English-speaking world who knew Schwaller de Lubicz, supported his conclusions, and wrote about him in his own book Serpent in the Sky2 A more recent treatment of Schwaller de Lubicz’s work is The Spiritual Technology of Ancient Egypt, by Edward Malkowski.3

Before traveling with West, I bought a Canon digital Rebel XT 8-megapixel camera, and I took my laptop with me on the journey. Had I known at the time what my camera would reveal to me, I would have taken a good tripod too. Regardless, there is not much time for careful photography while on a tour because of time constraints, so it was more a matter of taking typical tourist photos — but doing so while striving, as best as circumstances allowed, to capture centered images of the crowns so that later I could evaluate their symmetry on the computer.

Because our visit to the Temple of Luxor was at night, I could not take the photographs I wanted of the crowns, so I photographed the Ramses statues and the bust near the obelisk outside as well as the obelisk itself, all the while attempting to keep the images square and the axis of the camera in line with the central axis of each object I was photographing.

The next day, after our excursion to Denderah and Abydos, I had the bus drop me off at the temple instead of the hotel in order to photograph the crowns in daylight. At this time, I was able to get better photographs just before dusk — the sun had barely disappeared behind the wall of the Temple, so it did not cast any sharp shadows. This allowed for a very evenly lighted shot that minimized distortions of the symmetries of the objects I wanted to measure.

To a certain degree, my session was successful, and I was able to ascertain with some certainty that these crowns spoke an untold story. I took a digital image of one of the crowns and loaded it into my graphics program. I then duplicated the image and made a transparency of it so that I could compare opposite sides to determine if they were symmetrical. I discovered that they were — to a remarkable degree of accuracy. (See figures 1.4-1.6.)


1 R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, The Temple of Man (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 1998).

2 John Anthony West, Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt (Wheaton, Ill.: Quest Books, 1993).

3 Edward Malkowski, The Spiritual Technology of Ancient Egypt (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 2007).

figure 1 7
Figure 1.7. Hedjet symmetry with identical radii
figure 1 8
Figure 1.8. The second Hedjet symmetry with identical radii
figure 1 9
Figure 1.9. The second Hedjet original image and a reverse transparency that is slightly off center
figure 1 10
Figure 1.10. The second Hedjet original image and a reverse transpareocy on center. Note the symmetry between both sides

This symmetry, of course, compelled me to ponder how it was accomplished. In order to reverse engineer and duplicate an object, we must determine precisely the geometry encoded in its design. A few clicks of the mouse later, I had an answer to at least part of the geometry.

Figure 1.7 is a photograph of the front view of the Hedjet. It was taken as close to the center axis as possible so that the symmetry of the piece could be measured. As it turns out, we can determine fairly conclusively that the crown was designed and crafted to incorporate a true radius of the same dimension on both the left and right sides when the Hedjet is viewed from the front.

I analyzed another crown in the hall in the same way (see figures 1.8 through 1.10), and though it blends with the head of the pharaoh, it is crafted with a similar exact geometry.

On the first Hedjet, toward the top of the crown, the contour of the granite starts to move away from a true radius and follows another contour. We could determine exactly what that contour is if the crown was intact, but instead we must examine other crowns that do not have their tops broken off.

The next question that sprang to my mind was whether the radius was spun around a central axis — similar to the geometry on a bowling pin. Unfortunately, the answer to this question would take more time, because I had not taken any photographs of the Hedjet from the side — in fact, the question had not occurred to me until I was back at home, studying the photographs on my computer. When I was in the field, I was looking for symmetry and knew that the front and back were not symmetrical, so I didn't bother taking any photographs from that angle.

I was a bit chagrined that I didn't have the presence of mind to take those photographs, but I continued working with the ones I did have and determined that I absolutely had to return to Egypt and finish what I had started — or at least I had to take this mode of inquiry to the next level within my reach. I believed that at Luxor I had discovered a quality and precision of manufacturing granite that rivaled or surpassed what I had studied near the pyramids in Lower Egypt.

Because I had already taken two weeks of vacation, Judd Peck, the CEO of Danville Metal Stamping, my employer, was a bit perplexed when I asked for more time and told him that I needed to go back to Egypt when I had returned only a couple of weeks earlier. To convince him that the trip was legitimate, I shared with him what I had discovered in my many photographs.

Judd Peck is the president and CEO of a gas turbine engine manufacturing company with 410 employees. He is also a member of the Illinois Bar and a well-respected attorney in the community with impeccable judgment and common sense. After viewing the photographs for thirty minutes, he nodded and said, "I see what you mean."

The next day, I received a surprise: Judd came to my office and asked me if I was traveling alone to Egypt. What he had seen must have inspired him — he asked if he could tag along and carry my tripod. Of course, I was delighted to have him as a traveling companion, and in the last part of April through the first part of May, we went to Luxor to continue taking more tourist photographs.

As it happens, the quality department at Danville Metal Stamping had recently reviewed some new technology called Capture 3D. This uses digital photography to take a stereo image of a contoured surface and then imports the images into proprietary software. The accuracy of the surface is compared to a computer model design and the imperfections are highlighted. In the world of metrology — the science of measurement — it is a relatively new technology, but one that yields reliable results. Judd and I were part of a panel that reviewed the technology and, in doing so, learned about some of the other work that had been performed by the company, such as digitizing and creating computer replicas of the statues on the Charles Bridge in Prague, in the Czech Republic.

With that resource in mind, I gathered some more equipment to assist me in my task: a sturdy Manfrotto tripod, a right-angle viewer, a telephoto zoom lens with macro focusing, and a wide-angle lens. Along with my digital camera, I brought to Egypt a film camera that accepted the same lenses.

The first day in Luxor we visited the Temple of Amun-Mut-Khonsu and spent about six hours there with very few tourists present. On this trip I discovered that it is best to experience the temples of Egypt in silence. I'm not sure how the ancients experienced these structures, but emanating from them — seemingly inversely proportional to the level of ambient noise — is a profound majesty. The hum of the city was an omnipresent background during my viewing, but within the colonnades and sanctuary of the temple itself, city sounds faded to insignificance and all was stillness and quiet. Similarly, on another trip that Judd and I took to Denderah, we were lucky enough to be there when all the tour buses had left. We spent several hours enjoying that temple in silence.

I found myself absorbed in thought as I went to work taking a set of photographs of artifacts that for months had consumed my mind with their overwhelming uniqueness. My thoughts turned to the recent Internet competition for the new list of Wonders of the World. I thought it was ironic that the Wonders of the World that I framed in my camera viewfinder on this visit were not even mentioned. In terms of beauty and the knowledge and skill they illustrated, the statues of Ramses II at Luxor and other locations in Egypt surpassed all other competition candidates in terms of advanced geometry and complex manufacturing precision in one of the hardest-to-work materials known to mankind. As I hope to demonstrate here, the statues of Ramses challenge the Giza pyramids themselves as the most perfectly engineered artifacts of ancient Egypt — and perhaps of human history.

The polished glint of granite again compelled me to run my hand over its smooth, but now familiar contour. Again, I marveled at the feat of engineering and the fact that the granite crowns were originally placed on top of the heads of the Ramses statues that populate the precincts of the temple. Some of these statues are 40 feet tall, beyond the scrutiny of earthbound observers, yet the creators of these wonders had seen fit to place upon them crowns that were carved with, what I suspected from my examination so far, extraordinary exactitude.

figure 1 11
Figure 1.11. The Hedjet, side and front
figure 1 12
Figure 1.12. Front, side, and angled view of a crown

Setting to work with my camera, I began to take more photographs, and I captured the images I failed to get the last time I was in Egypt. This time, my camera was firmly mounted on a tripod stand with a remote shutter-release button.

When I took the side-view photo of the Hedjet depicted in figure 1.7, I was unable to get a perfect right-angle view of the front because of barriers in the vicinity: A pillar was close to one side, and another crown was close to the other, but I was able to set the tripod to the side and obtain a shot at about 75 degrees. Upon review of the image, the answer to my previous question was answered: the side view of the Hedjet revealed that the contour on the front was also a true radius. Interestingly, though, at this angle, the radius had reduced in size by about 15 percent. (See figure 1.11; Radius B is 85 percent of Radius A.) Moreover, as the radius transitioned from the side to the front, the center point of the radius moved down slightly.

Fortunately, there were other crowns to study, and I set up my camera to focus on another on the west side of the hall — one of three crowns that had been placed in front of three statues positioned between the columns. In taking the series of photographs shown in figure 1.12, I attached a compass to the tripod and moved the camera around the crown in 45 degree increments. When I analyzed the results in the computer, I was astounded at the amazing accomplishment of these ancient craftsmen and, more important, of the fact that they saw fit to design these crowns to incorporate such a difficult and complicated work of art and engineering. From a conceptual and design standpoint, designing the crowns in this way would be a fairly straightforward task, but did the designer have any idea what he was asking of the craftsperson who would cut his design into stone? He might have said to his friends, "Hey, want to see what I did to drive the guys in the shop crazy? I just made the design of the crown exponentially more difficult to manufacture."

To accomplish such cutting today in one of the hardest natural materials known and with such a high order of precision would require specialized equipment and careful planning. What tools did the ancient Egyptian artists and engineers possess? Were the tools they used as sophisticated as the products they created? What I discovered was not the product of a simple mind. The crowns are sophisticated products with difficult and exact surfaces that would challenge any craftsman, even one who is trained in today's methods and equipped with today's tools.

figure 1 13
Figure 1.13. Looking down on the circle geometry of the crown
figure 1 14
Figure 1.14. Geometry of a wine glass
figure 1 15
Figure 1.15. Looking down on the wine glass

The next order of business was to take a photograph from the top of a crown looking down. My tripod was built so that I could extend a rod horizontally, but I discovered that the legs would not reach high enough above the crown to allow me to use it. This meant I had to hold the camera at arm's length while hoping that the resulting photograph would be useful.

The results were tantalizing enough to allow me to speculate that I could confirm more remarkable geometry if I could take a shot along the central axis of the crown, with all the features in full view. As it was, I had to be satisfied with what I had already obtained, because there was no way I could improve on the situation without building a platform. Preferably — and perhaps the Supreme Council of Antiquities will see fit to fund this one of these days — an engineering company should take a crown and fully digitize its geometry on a coordinate measuring machine or by some other technology accepted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, formerly the National Bureau of Standards.

Nevertheless — imperfect shooting conditions aside — the results are noteworthy. From the top looking down, the crown at the widest point forms an almost full circle. It is interesting to note that in this view, the center point of the radius is off center relative to the top of the crown. This indicates that even though the upper right quadrant of the crown reveals less of the surface than the lower right quadrant, and the dotted line is theoretically touching the surface higher on the crown in the upper quadrants than the lower quadrants, there is still an almost perfect circle. This can mean only one thing that is extremely important to an understanding of the sophistication of the designers and carvers of this artifact: to rotate a round object and observe the same radius at a different orientation indicates that what is being observed is a sphere and that this basic shape was used to design the crown.

To illustrate this: if you have a tulip-shaped wine glass in your cabinet, examine its shape as you move it around in your hand. Essentially, you are examining surface geometry that is similar to that of these Hedjet of Upper Egypt.

The wine glass is not exactly the same as the Hedjet, but it has the basic elements that contribute to the Hedjet's shape: a large radius blending with a smaller radius at the bottom. The tilted glass illustrates how a smaller radius could be evident in the Hedjet and supports the idea that the Hedjet approximated a sphere — at least toward the bottom of the crown.

If we look down on the wine glass, we can see that when it is tipped at an angle, the results are similar to those in the photograph looking down from the top of the Hedjet.

From figure 1.15, then, it is clear that the geometry of the Hedjet was a sphere at the base and a sphere (the top knot) at the top. Between these two principle cosmic shapes, an infinite number of spheres were incorporated to form a perfectly smooth and precise surface. To understand how this works, we must examine an intact, unbroken crown that has escaped the ravages of time and abuse. One of the finest examples is found on the head of a statue at Karnak.

figure 1 16
Flgure 1.16. Front (left) and side (right) views of a Pschent at the Temple of Karnak
figure 1 17
Flgure 1.17. The spherical nature of the Hedjet part of the Pschent
figure 1 18
Figure 1.18. Souvenir statue of Ramses

The upper profile is a circle that is a cross section of a blend radius between the top knot (a sphere) and the body of the crown. The bottom profile is where the White Crown portion blends with the Red Crown portion, and where the two meet is a precise blend radius, as figure 1.16 illustrates.

In figure 1.16, the blend radius of the White Crown (Hedjet) near the top knot, identified as A, and the surface geometry of the Red Crown (Deshret) identified as B, are profiles between which the surface of the Hedjet is smoothly rotated around the central axis of the crown. The images indicate that the radial profile of this surface changes in size as it sweeps around to the front — constantly reducing in dimension. After examining figure 1.16, we might ask if the geometry of the White Crown is fashioned after the shape of a bowling pin, for which the same radius profile is turned, as on a lathe or a potter's wheel. As it turns out, this might indeed be the case. In figure 1.17, a series of spheres are drawn to fit within arcs based on the actual shape of the front of the Pschent, then are mirrored to create the theoretical opposite side at the back.

The best description of the Hedjet is that it is similar to a bowling pin that is tilted on an angle and that when it's combined with the Deshret it adopts precise geometries that make it more complicated to manufacture than a shape that could be produced on a lathe.

This is easily said, but how did they accomplish this in hard granite? To understand what the ancient Egyptians were able to accomplish, it would help to discuss where art becomes secondary to engineering. Art does not require the degree of exactitude found in these crowns to convey a message or evoke an emotion. Art, in general, is thought of — and usually is — outside of architecture. It is free-flowing, intuitive, and unconstrained by what are typically regarded as left-brain functions (e.g., the logical, disciplined application of precise geometry and mathematics). To understand this, we can look at a modern artifact that was created by modern tools to represent Ramses and that finds its way into the homes of those who have traveled to Egypt or who shop online for Egyptian iconic statues.

Figure 1.18 shows a statue that is obviously the work of a sculptor. As we can gather from the photograph, there was no expectation of precision in the manufacture of the object, and none was achieved. That wasn't the objective for this object, and tools that would ensure precision were not employed in its creation. Bruno Walter, the famous orchestral conductor, said, “By concentrating on precision, one arrives at technique, but by concentrating on technique, one does not arrive at precision.”4 A corollary to this is that in order to achieve precision, we have to concentrate on precision — there is no getting around the exactness we find in the granite crowns. They were not the result of random coincidence, but the application of tools and techniques that were far more advanced than the tools and techniques that are currently attributed to the ancient Egyptians.

To find further illustration, we can examine briefly craftwork as it has been applied for many years. To the uninitiated, manufacturing plants might appear as behemoths that spew forth smoke and a stream of modern products. To the initiated, however, they are places where a very specialized subset of society and culture exists. There, institutional knowledge is passed from generation to generation and formal and informal hierarchies are established to create order and an understanding of how things should work. A casual visitor cannot recognize this. How could they? It may take some time spent in a manufacturing plant to learn that there are different skill levels and knowledge associated with those skills.

Outside of manufacturing, precision has a different meaning. We may appreciate the precision of our cars and cell phones, though we are oblivious to the technologies that are employed in their creation. As products have flowed out of manufacturing plants to consumers these past fifty years, they have transformed the world. What we enjoy today is the result of a manufacturing evolution focused on meticulousness and consistency intended to eliminate variables in the manufacturing process.

If we compare an automobile built fifty years ago to one built today, the changes are startling. Even if we look back thirty years to the mid-seventies and examine the fit and finish of our cars, we can see a huge difference in the precision of how parts fit together — the gap between a car door and the body, for instance.

Another difference we see in consumer products is the rounding and stretching of once angular body shapes to flowing curves and organic shapes. Notice how lights with oval, shaped contours follow three-dimensional curves to blend smoothly with the body of a car. All of these qualities are made possible by the introduction of new technologies into manufacturing that allow artistic engineering design modeled in a computer to transfer to machines that create dies with an exactness that at one time would have been either too costly or downright impossible to accomplish.

Because I have been involved in and witnessed these changes over the years, I have become familiar with definite surfaces and what was — and is — involved in creating them. Techniques have evolved from creating wooden or plastic models, and then tracing the models in machines in order to duplicate their shapes in hard steel to using computer models to generate instructions for machines to follow. I have run my hands over countless surfaces to check for irregularities and imperfections. The elimination of these imperfections has progressed over the years to what we have today. We now enjoy different kinds of aircraft, cars, refrigerators, televisions, and cell phones. They have a different look and a different "feel" to them than products of fifty years ago.


4 See http://thinkexist.com/quotes/bruno_walter/ (accessed December 26, 2009).

figure 1 19
Figure 1.19. Part of a tail cone die used to create the inner hub of an aircraft engine
figure 1 20
Flgure 1.20. Karnak ellipse 1
figure 1 21
Flgure 1.21. Karnak ellipse 2
figure 1 22
Flgure 1.22. Karnak ellipse 3
figure 1 23
Flgure 1.23. Karnak ellipse 4
figure 1 24
Flgure 1.24. Ellipse of the first Hedjet of Ramses at Luxor
figure 1 25
Flgure 1.25. Ellipse of the second Hedjet of Ramses at Luxor
figure 1 26
Flgure 1.26. Ellipse of the third Hedjet of Ramses at Luxor
figure 1 27
Flgure 1.27. Ellipse of the fourth Hedjet of Ramses at Luxor. Photograph of the seated statues of Ramses in Ramses Hall, taken with a telephoto lens from the Sharia al-Corniche, the road that passes between the temple and the River Nile
figure 1 28
Flgure 1.28. Ellipse of the fifth Hedjet of Ramses at Luxor. Note: Both figures 1.27 and 1.28 were taken at a distance in order to minimize the tilt of the camera from the horizontal plane. Even then, because of the height of the statues, the camera had to be tilted upward in order to capture the image

Figure 1.19 is the punch part of a die that creates the inner hub for an aircraft engine assembly. The hub starts out as flat sheet stock and is formed around the punch to create the shape seen in the figure. Because it is a round and concentric object, its geometry is not as complex as those of the Egyptian crowns. The rounded end of the punch is an ellipsoid shape. Figure 1.19 illustrates the minimum number of radii needed to create the ellipsoid as well as the elliptical shape itself superimposed on the tool. The similarities between the die and the crowns lie in the precision and the "feel" of the surfaces. Also common to both are the concentric circles that comprise their geometry. To have made this piece fifty years ago, we would have used a template mounted to a rail at the back of the lathe along which a stylus traveled to guide the tool that cut the material. Today, such shapes are routinely described in a computer program and downloaded into the lathe's computer memory for execution.

With the introduction of the ellipsoid, we can now look at the crowns in a different way. By drawing perfect ellipses and superimposing them on the photographs of the crowns, it becomes clear that the ancient Egyptians used this geometry, rather than a simple radius, in their design of the crowns.

The implications of finding such overwhelming evidence of sophisticated geometry can be argued by scholars into the future. Suffice it to say that elliptical geometry is not generally discussed in association with Egyptian geometry. For the purposes of the discussion here, though, I am more interested in how the geometry was crafted with such exactness in hard granite. This, then, is why I believe the crowns at Luxor are so important. They do not have the "feel" of products made by hand. They do not have the "feel" or the geometry of products made with simple and primitive machines or tools. If you travel to Luxor and run your hands over their surfaces of the crowns, you can compare the "feel" of their smooth contours to those of your own car. These objects have the same kind of definitiveness and meticulousness as the dies that formed the body of your car. While you are online purchasing your ticket to Luxor, pick up your computer mouse and notice that it is crafted with compound radial surfaces. Contours that transition from large to small radii are products of precisely machined molds. We take them for granted, but there is an unseen world behind their creation.

And yet supposedly the crowns were crafted more than three thousand years ago. How could this be? How did the ancient Egyptians accomplish this? Why even conceive of such products if there were no tools to accomplish their making? What system of measure did they use?

The ancient Egyptians were known to use grids in their designs.5 This indicates that they would have used what we know as Cartesian geometry, though undoubtedly they would have called it something different. Nonetheless, being in the same world as us, we can be assured that they were working in three-dimensional space and had identified the orthogonal axes of orientation that we know as x-y-z. They probably also had developed the concept of pitch and yaw, the rotational axes that are associated with navigation within three-dimensional space. For these constructs, too, the ancient Egyptians would more than likely have had their own labels.

When fixing a Cartesian view to a crown that approximates the crown's orientation on the Ramses head, we see that its contours are not simple lathed shapes, but instead, they change continuously by degrees while conforming to a shape that, when measured at any angle around the object, is a true radius or combination of blended radii that form an ellipsoid. The sweeping curved surface was not the result of a random burst of artistic whimsy and a flourish with the chisel. It was a decidedly disciplined, orderly application of a design with tools that have not yet been found in the archaeological record, but which were built to achieve the precise removal of material.


5 R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, The Temple of Man.

figure 1 29
Flgure 1.29. Inferred center points of radii around each crown

------------------------------------------------

figure 1 30
Figure 1.30. Directing the tool

The design and precise geometry that was crafted into Ramses' crown is a symbol of a society that was disciplined in precision engineering and craft. The pieces could not have been created without the aid of some kind of mechanical device that guided the tool along a prescribed contour. Neither was this mechanical device a simple machine. Figures 1.29 and 1.30 illustrate a path of the center point of an arc extrapolated from the geometry of the crown. If the designers were to convey to the engineers or craftsmen what they wanted, drawings similar to figure 1.29 and figure 1.30 may have been used. The design is one thing, but devising from the drawing a means of cutting the design into granite — with the exactitude noted in the photographs and transmitted through the palms of my hands to my brain as I felt each surface — is entirely another matter. Creating such an object today using modern computers, software, and computer numerical controlled (CNC) machines would present some significant challenges, to be sure — but not as much head scratching would be involved today as there would have been forty-nine years ago, when I first entered the manufacturing trade as a young apprentice. Applying the tools of fifty years ago to the Ramses challenge would severely tax craftsmen skilled in manufacturing, and the tools and instruments necessary to ensure such precise geometry would not even be in a sculptor's toolbox.

If we consider the use of a hand-operated device that allowed a tool to pivot around its center point, thereby striking an arc from the top knot of the crowns to the base of the granite, geometry dictates that as the tool sweeps along an arc, its path would be constrained such that precision is assured. The tool would need to be robust enough that it would not wander from its course. After accomplishing one pass, the pivot point of the tool would need to move along an orbital path around the granite. We can see from figure 1.12 that the center point of the arc is actually lower at 45 degrees than it is at 90 degrees. This indicates that the center point's orbit around the crown may describe not a simple arc, but a wave. To explain this further, assume that the side view of the crown describes a contour that is at 270 degrees of a circle. Using polar coordinates (described in figure 1.30), we start the tool at 0 degrees and move it clockwise around the crown. At 315 degrees, the center point of the arc is lower than it is at 270 degrees, and the same applies at 225 degrees. As the tool is swung along its arc, the axis along which it moves follows an unwavering arc with precision between the tangency point of the blend radius at the top knot and the base, while the radius of the arc from 0 to 270 degrees gets incrementally smaller. Then, from 270 to 180 degrees, it starts to get larger again at the same precise increments that it did on the other side.

The challenges involved in creating the Ramses crown would be significant in any era. Fifty years ago we might question why we should devise such complex machines to create a crown that is going to sit atop a statue that is 40 feet in the air and far removed from close inspection. In today's world, if we had to create a dozen or so of these crowns and they all followed the same general design scheme — with some variations — it would be more efficient to create a computer model and generate a CNC program to automatically machine the piece. Then we would need to find a machine large enough to cut these crowns on — because they are not small by any means.

What we find in Egypt, therefore, are examples of ancient ingenuity and technology that up to now have had no place in academic understandings of Egyptian history. Moreover, we have become so effective at convincing the world that the Egyptian civilization was not as technologically advanced as the Greeks or Romans, and certainly not the West, that many modern Egyptians themselves believe our story and are loath to accept any other.

It has been a common theme that the ancient Egyptians used simple, even primitive, tools and methods — so revisionist historians cast their eyes around the world to give credit to another culture. For instance, it has been speculated that these accomplishments were created by Atlanteans or aliens, because the prevailing view is that the ancient Egyptians could not possibly have done the work. I do not support such views. It is my firm belief that the work was performed by Egyptians — but Egyptians who possessed much superior knowledge and tools than we have heretofore credited to them. Consider the simple fact that these hidden symbols of technology became evident and understandable only through the use of modern technology and its standards of exactness and consistency.

Conception, execution, and verification are the phases of manufacturing. The ancient Egyptians must have used all three, with the last phase — verification — confirming the success of the first two. The only phase available for us to study is the last phase. From what we have learned from Ramses' crowns, we can determine that clearly the ancient Egyptians' level of technology must have been higher than what is revealed by the archaeological record. The question we are left with, though, is this: What technology did they possess? While the results of the ancient Egyptians' technology are now revealed by modern tools such as digital cameras and computer software, this does not mean that these tools were available to them. There is still a huge question mark regarding this facet of ancient history. In order to understand more about the technology used to create the crowns, we must take our studies further and look at how the rest of the statues were made. In the next chapter, complexity reaches a new level as we come face to face with the astounding results of an even more difficult challenge: Ramses' head.

Plate 1. Seated Ramses in Ramses Hall at Luxor. To the sculptor who has worked in stone and to the technologist whose job it is to shape adamantine materials, the sculpture calls out a question and issues a challenge: "What am I? How did I come to exist? Build another just like me"
plate 1
Plate 2. Along the length and width of each crown, the surface follows simple arcs, a result of careful deliberation in concept, design, and manufacture
plate 2
Plate 3. The scale of the Egyptians' accomplishment is no better described than Ramses looking down on a throng of visitors to the temple
plate 3
Plate 4. Ramses geometry speaks of unambiguous quality and exactness
plate 4
Plate 5. A happy coincidence and interplay between ancient geometry and art
plate 5
Plate 6. Divine harmony and iconic art combine in a symphony cut into stone
plate 6
Plate 7. Ramses at Memphis provides further evidence of uncompromising precision with ancient three-dimensional profiling
plate 7
Plate 8. The Ramesseum Ramses inspires those in his presence to pay respect and understand what they behold
plate 8
Plate 9. The shadow cast along the face of Ramses at Karnak reveals the path of ancient tools
plate 9
Plate 10. Though unseen by the visitor, these ancient tool marks are revealed with the help of a telephoto lens and a computer's digital zoom
plate 10
Plate 11. The path a modern machine would take to craft a human head
plate 11
Plate 12a. Modern tools against ancient surfaces reveal a level of precision that should not exist
plate 12a
Plate 12b. Modern tools against ancient surfaces reveal a level of precision that should not exist
plate 12a
Plate 13. Inspecting the corners of the inside of the box in Khafre's pyramid and finding unnecessary precision for the stated purpose of the box
plate 13
Plate 14. While Ramses' face held a benign and almost joyous look, Nefertari holds visitors at bay with pursed lips and a haughty stare
plate 14
Plate 15. Wax impression taken of an undercut where Amun's buttock meets the bench on the Amun Mut statue in the Luxor Museum
plate 15
Plate 16. (Plates 16 and 17) The colunms in the hyposty1e hall at Denderah represent a unified assembly of manufacturing, engineering, and architectural brilliance. Connecting individual capitals, solid red and blue lines cross where the cornice and cowl intersect. Green dashed lines define the straight-line geometric e1ements of the cornice. Ellipses define the bottom of Hathor's tresses
plate 16
Plate 17. (Plates 16 and 17) The colunms in the hyposty1e hall at Denderah represent a unified assembly of manufacturing, engineering, and architectural brilliance. Connecting individual capitals, solid red and blue lines cross where the cornice and cowl intersect. Green dashed lines define the straight-line geometric e1ements of the cornice. Ellipses define the bottom of Hathor's tresses
plate 17
Plate 18a. View of one of several deep shafts in the Unfinished Obelisk trench
plate 18a
Plate 18b. View of one of several deep shafts in the Unfinished Obelisk trench
plate 18b
Plate 18c. View of one of several deep shafts in the Unfinished Obelisk trench
plate 18c
Plate 19. A view from the top of the pyramid at Abu Roash
plate 19
Plate 20. The curved granite stone at Abu Roash
plate 20
Plate 21. Measuring the stone at Abu Roash
plate 21
Plate 22. Using a milling machine to replicate the curvature cut into the stone at Abu Roash
plate 22
Plate 23. The Giza Saw Pits. These long trenches have been labeled "boat pits" by Egyptologists and are considered to be the symbolic transport of the dead king into the afterlife
plate 23
Plate 24. Did megamachines once cast their shadow on the Giza Plateau? There are some who believe they still do
plate 24
Plate 25. Petrie's Core 7. The left photograph shows it tilted on an angle, while the right photograph illustrates the core in a vertical orientation
plate 25
Plate 26. Geometry of a spiral groove on the unfolded latex impression of the Petrie's Core 7
plate 26
Ramses Statues 1. The Luxor Temple
Ramses Statues 1
Ramses Statues 2. View of Ramses in the Temple from the Nile Corniche
Ramses Statues 2
Ramses Statues 3. Entering the Ramses Hall, visitors are faced immediately with extraordinary features cut in hard granite
Ramses Statues 3
Ramses Statues 4. The White Crown of Upper Egypt toppled from Ramses head in antiquity
Ramses Statues 4
Ramses Statues 5. The nooks and crannies in the Ramses Hall reveal extraordinary attention to detail
Ramses Statues 5
Ramses Statues 6. An "in relievo" figure of Nefertari pushing against the back of Ramses' calf to keep him moving
Ramses Statues 6
Ramses Statues 7. The White Crown: Smoothly finished and apparently to strict specification
Ramses Statues 7
Ramses Statues 8. A copied reverse transparency to compare one side of the crown to the other
Ramses Statues 8
Ramses Statues 9. A surprising symmetry is discovered on the crown
Ramses Statues 9
Ramses Statues 10. Comparing sides of a different crown to the same radius
Ramses Statues 10
Ramses Statues 11. Is it possible that the crowns are crafted using the geometry of an ellipse?
Ramses Statues 11
Ramses Statues 12. It appears that the crowns were modified ellipsoids
Ramses Statues 12
Ramses Statues 13. Coming face-to-face with Ramses outside the Temple
Ramses Statues 13
Ramses Statues 14. Creating a reverse image transparency and comparing one side of the face to the other
Ramses Statues 14
Ramses Statues 15. Using the extraordinary geometry of the mouth, a Pythagorean Triangle grid finds correspondences with other features of the face
Ramses Statues 15
Ramses Statues 16. A different Ramses statue in the British Museum displays the same symmetry
Ramses Statues 16
Ramses Statues 17. Applying approximate computer measurements to the jawline
Ramses Statues 17
Ramses Statues 18. An error in the cutting where the tool dug into the corner of the mouth. Note that the lips were cut deeper to compensate
Ramses Statues 18
Ramses Statues 19. A close up of the mouth showing the rectangular toolmarks
Ramses Statues 19
Ramses Statues 20. An approximate comparison right to left. As a reference point, both photographs were taken by aligning the camera so that the tip of the nose grazed the outline of the cheek
Further studies need to be made of the Ramses' statues using 3-D scanning equipment
Ramses Statues 20
Chapter 2 ♦ The Shadows of Ramses
Ramses' Head

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. – SHAKESPEARE, HENRY IV, PART 2, ACT 3, SCENE 1


Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens.

This fact, as far as it symbolizes the moral fact of the Unattainable, the flying Perfect, around which the hands of man can never meet, at once the inspirer and the condemner of every success, may conveniently serve us to connect many illustrations of human power in every department. – RALPH WALDO EMERSON, ESSAY ON CIRCLES

Flgure 2.1. The Cosmic Egg
Flgure 2.1. The Cosmic Egg

The symbols left behind by the ancient Egyptian culture, a civilization that was brought down by a force of nature we tremble to imagine, have been the inspiration of countless scholars, artists, and ordinary laypeople. When it comes to studies of ancient Egyptian art and sculpture, the images we see evoke admiration and wonder and spark the imagination about what the Egyptian civilization found important. Resoundingly, what emerges is that the ancient Egyptians were deeply immersed in the mysteries of life and the survival of the soul after death. At the same time, they were not so submerged in spiritual matters that they eschewed materialistic comfort and pleasure. They acknowledged the hand of superior forces in the universe, and they spent a considerable portion of their wealth paying homage to the fickleness of gods as nature was interpreted by them and appeasing and preparing to be affected by nature's cycles on both a personal and community level.

From what we studied in chapter 1, we can gather that as a community, the Egyptians must have had an education system that taught citizens to understand geometry, and that they used geometry in a sophisticated way. The crowns in the Luxor and Karnak temples provide insight into a heretofore hidden school of design and manufacturing that started on the drawing board and resulted in finely crafted, very exact, and exquisite artifacts. Though they have been severely damaged by unknown forces, a sufficient amount of evidence remains that allows us to gather data with which to make an accurate analysis. Scattered on the ground from Alexandria to Cairo to Aswan, the evidence tooled into granite, diorite, quartzite, and basalt – the hardest substances the ancient Egyptians could find in large amounts – may be all that is left to tell us how technically advanced these people were. To seriously consider replicating their accomplishments is a step toward understanding their advancement.

Continuing with the Ramses challenge, in this chapter we will study the head on the Ramses statue that sits outside the Temple of Luxor just a few feet from the obelisk. We don't know what forces separated the head from the body, but for our purposes, it seems quite fortuitous, in that it allows for a close inspection.

The ancient Egyptian engineers and craftsmen were more than capable of designing and manufacturing elegant, sophisticated, and precise shapes out of difficult-to-work granite, and they crafted impressive Hedjets and Pschents – the crowns of Egypt. It goes without saying – and, as we will see, the evidence shows – that the designers of the Ramses statue used the same talent to set about designing and crafting the pharaoh’s head. As we can see by reviewing the process, this proved to be even more of a challenge than the crafting of the crowns.

During my visit in February 2006, I took photographs of the Ramses head after I photographed the crowns. At the time, I had not analyzed the crowns and was not expecting the symmetry and exactness that I saw in them. Similarly, from the perspective of a manufacturer, I pondered the symmetry of the Ramses head without really expecting the results that I ultimately gathered. It seemed highly improbable to me that a complex, three-dimensional surface profile could be replicated with exact precision from one side of the head to the other without employing some fairly sophisticated manufacturing techniques. I took my photographs not knowing what I would later uncover.

Figure 2.2. Ramses Head
Figure 2.2. Ramses Head
Figure 2.3. Reverse transparency overlay matching the jawline
Figure 2.3. Reverse transparency overlay matching the jawline

Ramses' exaggerated smile cannot be seen on the faces of normal people. I have looked for examples of such a smile and have not seen one on even the happiest face. Certainly, there are mouths that curl up at the corners, and a smile from such a mouth is a pleasure to behold. Ramses' face, however, is relaxed, and only the mouth appears to be smiling; there is no effect on the eyes and cheek muscles. We might wonder whether such a mouth was seen in ancient Egypt among the citizenry or whether the designers were trying to please their gods by presenting an idealized image to them that they would find pleasing.

When I imported my original image of the head into the computer (see figure 2.3), I struck a horizontal line across the face and rotated the image until the line was barely touching the underside of the bottom eyelid. I then duplicated this image and flipped it horizontally so that the left cheek became the right cheek. I then made a 50 percent transparency of the image and lined it up with the jawline. As shown in figure 2.3, there is no variation between the left jaw and the right jaw.

Thinking about only this correspondence in the geometry of the face made me sit up and take notice. This symmetry means that the face was crafted so that a mirror image of the outline of the face was transposed to the opposite side. It is an incredible accomplishment that this exact line moved in three-dimensional space to create a perfect mirror image when viewed in two dimensions. My mind was racing at this point. What did the ancient Egyptians use to create such perfection? How did they inspect the geometry of the face? The same questions I asked when I studied the crowns flashed into my brain – though with more force and consternation. A human face is by far more complex and sophisticated than an ellipsoid that is blended with another form to form a crown (which we examined in chapter 1).

Of note, also, is the close alignment of the ears. Figure 2.2 shows clearly Ramses' left ear with some of its upper portion missing. In figure 2.3, this is evident, but at the same time, the ear cavity is very close to a perfect match. To be able to define the geometry of the ear is a challenge. To reproduce the geometry in three dimensions on opposite surfaces with 3 feet of granite in between these points – and to control their positions as precisely as these photos indicate – dispels forever the notion of ancient sculptors chipping away with stone hammers and stone or copper chisels.

Close your eyes and imagine a line that bisects your head vertically down the center, and then lightly touch the same point on your left and right ear with your index fingers. The touch of each finger feeds through pathways to the brain, the ears, and the fingers to create a sense of orientation. While undertaking this exercise, notice how your index fingers move slightly until you have a sense of equilibrium between the two. Yet how close is each fingertip to the imaginary axis bisecting your head? It’s impossible to tell! Even though the left hand does know what the right hand is doing and both fingers provide sensory feedback to the brain – through the fingertips and ears – the brain cannot determine how precisely each ear was placed in relationship to the central axis of the head. Even the visual benefit of performing this exercise in front of a mirror will leave you lacking accurate data.

Figure 2-4. Left and right view of Ramses' head
Figure 2-4. Left and right view of Ramses' head

Figure 2.4 shows Ramses from two different angles and provides a view of each ear that is close to perpendicular to the face of the ear. I set up the camera to capture an image that was the same angle from the central axis. To accomplish this, I made adjustments so that the tip of the nose seemed barely to touch the far cheek from both angles. It should be noted that I could not achieve absolute precision under the circumstances because of the terrain and the lighting: I took the image on the right at a lower elevation than the one on the left, and this causes a misalignment with the statue, because the camera angle is tilted up more for the right shot than when I shot the left side. Nonetheless, the results are quite intriguing.

The lines were applied to the photographs as references in order to size the two images of Ramses in the computer. I should stress here that the images were not distorted from their original aspect ratio during this process. I superimposed the Fibonacci spiral there to see if any correspondences occurred. Amazingly, there seems to be an uncanny and harmonious congruity between the spiral and the circle, as well as between the spiral and elements of both sides of the head. As I sized it to fit one side, then mirrored it for the other, the spiral was not changed in its size or aspect ratio.

Fibonacci, also known as Leonardo Pisano, published his discovery of the properties of the series 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, and so forth, in his book Liber Abaci in 1202,1 but the mathematical construct was previously used in Indian mathematics by mathematician Virahanka (sixth century CE).2 It has also been said, not without controversy, to have been used by the Egyptians in their architecture – to define, for instance, the geometry of height and slope of the Great Pyramid.

Figure 2.5. Fibonacci spiral
Figure 2.5. Fibonacci spiral
Figure 2.6. Ramses' ears
Figure 2.6. Ramses' ears
Figure 2.7. Reverse transparency matching the eyes and mouth
Figure 2.7. Reverse transparency matching the eyes and mouth
Figure 2.8. Reverse transparency matching the nose
Figure 2.8. Reverse transparency matching the nose

I should state here that my inclusion of Fibonacci spirals and circle geometry is not the result of a search for esoteric symbolism in the statue; it is simply a means to discern how the ancient Egyptians had created Ramses. I am not arguing that the ancient Egyptians intentionally encoded it into their statue. My investigation is intended more to illustrate the symmetry and exactness of the piece and explore the manufacturing implications than to argue for secret mystery schools, sacred science, and Leonardo da Vinci-style occult symbolism. Though I find these subjects fascinating, they are outside the scope of this book, and there are others who are far more knowledgeable than I on these subjects – so I will leave any such discussions to them.

The line that follows the shape of the ear in figure 2.6 is not a Fibonacci spiral but was generated from one ear, then copied and mirrored on the other. From the photographs, it is clear that there are slight differences between the two ears – but one ear is damaged and the lighting on both varies such that we cannot state with confidence that they are identical within precise tolerances. What we can state, however, is that figures 2.3, 2.4, and 2.6 illustrate a nearly impossible task for a sculptor. The probability of the finger on your left ear and the finger on your right ear being positioned within the tolerances shown in this series of photographs is virtually zero. The possibility of a sculptor creating a head with a jaw line that is identical on both sides and two ears that are within the tolerances as shown in these photos is also vanishingly small.

To accomplish what we see here, one has no other option but to focus on precision. We are confronted here not with a coincidence, a stroke of luck impressed with crude, handheld tools, but a stark reality that the order of precision found on Ramses' head demanded that the sculptor move into the realm of engineering and its essential science of measure: metrology.

If we study the face further, it becomes obvious that the reverse image is not a perfect match. The nose, mouth, and eyes – all principle features of the face – do not match with the jaw in alignment. Nonetheless, moving the transparency over these features slightly brings them together, though not all at the same time.


1 See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fibonacci_number (accessed April 13, 2008).

2 Sixth century CE; See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_mathematics (accessed February 4, 2010).

Ramses' Shadow

Figure 2.9. Top view of camera setup
Figure 2.9. Top view of camera setup. The central axis is identified with an L overlapping a C, which is the standard notation engineers use in their drawings to denote a centerline
Figure 2.10. Rotated head
Figure 2.10. Rotated head
Figure 2.11. Double image
Figure 2.11. Double image

Given the off-center alignment of the photographs of Ramses' head, it became clear that I had to return to Egypt. When I examined the photographs I took of Ramses' head in February and began to compare the symmetry from one side of the face to the other, I realized that in the photographs I took when my camera was handheld (as opposed to on a tripod), the central axis of the camera frame was not quite in alignment with the central axis of the statue. I knew that I could not capture an image that was perfectly in alignment without trial and error, and what I had produced had errors, so I determined that I could do better if I was able to use a tripod stand and take a series of photographs while moving the stand incrementally around the head and keeping the nose in the center of my viewfinder. To understand why this tripod setup is so important, we can consider the following series of sketches that represent a view from above looking down on the head.

The ideal camera setup is illustrated in figure 2.9. To achieve this, the camera axis is oriented exactly along the central axis of the head, which is a theoretical line that bisects the features of the head. If an image of the head is then taken, flipping the image on its horizontal axis would make for an identical image.

Figure 2.10 shows the head rotated 1 degree from center. What this means is that when the image is copied and flipped and compared to the original, some features will not match.

The arrangement we see in figure 2.11 is the same one that was captured by my camera with my first set of photographs of Ramses' head – when I copied, flipped, and overlaid a transparency onto the original. As we saw in figure 2.3, the mouth, nose, and eyes do not match, but the jaw outline matches perfectly. This is because the outline of the face is used to establish the central axis of the photograph and the nose is rotated slightly off-center.

As depicted in figure 2.7, by making the mouth the center point, the outline of the face is thrown off axis and the nose is thrown off axis. The eyes, because they are approximately at the same distance from the camera as the mouth, then come into alignment.

Even with a less than perfect alignment, however, I was elated by this discovery. The implications were immediately clear to me – and they were enormous.

Figure 2.12. Ramses’ symmetry
Figure 2.12. Ramses’ symmetry, taken in incremental steps while moving the camera in an arc around the statue
Figure 2.13. Ramses’ nose symmetry
Figure 2.13. Ramses’ nose symmetry

My preliminary studies indicated that the statue was crafted so that the left side was a mirror image of the right side. I realized then what was needed: I had to take another series of photographs and hope that one of them presented a closer alignment with the central axis of the head.

The photographs I took in May 2006 were certainly an improvement upon those I took in February. However, I was still not quite satisfied with the results and returned in 2008 with a better camera that resulted in figure 2.12, which is photograph 70 of a series of 94 photographs that I took while moving the camera in action mode while panning in an arc around the statue, keeping the nose in the center of the viewfinder. I then duplicated the image and mirrored it and made a transparency, then positioned this over the original to match the features of the face.

As we can see, the match is much closer, but not perfect. Figure 2.12 shows that the jawline, mouth, and eyes match, but the nose is slightly off center. Figure 2.13 shows a close-up of the nose and mouth with the nose in alignment. It should be noted that the amount of error in the orientation of the camera is actually half of the width of the shadows revealed when different features are brought into alignment. If the camera was adjusted by half the amount of the error shown, then all shadows may disappear.

As we can see from studying figure 2.13, the jawline, mouth, and eye from the right side appear to line up perfectly with the left, but it appears that the nose is slightly off center. In figure 2.14, the nose is brought into alignment and a shadow appears around the jaw and the lips. The shadow is quite useful for our study, because it actually provides a reference line with which to calculate the percentage of error from one side of the face to the other. These results are stunning – beyond anything I had imagined.

Figure 2.14. Ramses precision
Figure 2.14. Ramses precision

Though visually the comparison between the two sides of the face is remarkably similar, dimensionally it requires further examination with metrology equipment to measure exactly the differences between the two sides. From a manufacturing perspective, the dimensional variation from a perfect form (i.e., the tolerance band) on the contoured surface of a form die depends on the ultimate function or purpose of the piece. Todays machine tools can produce complex contoured surfaces to a level of accuracy that was not within the capability of machines forty years ago. When we compare Ramses' head and modern machined surfaces, the analogy does not register as relevant or fitting, because the end products are created for completely different reasons, and a statue does not require the same precision as a contoured surface for, say, a rocker panel, a trunk lid, or a hood for a car body. Nevertheless, the comparison using a digital photograph compelled me to try to determine some kind of dimensional reference so that we can say with a reasonable amount of certainty that I was not influenced by an optical illusion.

To this end, and in order to draw from the photograph a relative dimension from one cheek to the other, I enlarged the photograph to approximately five times that of a human head and applied dimensions (measured in inches) from a vertical centerline to the outline of the jaw. In this way, there was no interference with an overlying transparency and the resulting shadow; thereby there was less uncertainty as to exactly where the edge of the face was.

The results in figure 2.14 show that the camera's axis was shifted to the left of the axis of the head, and the dimensions of the nose and the ears indicate that a mere 0.140-inch (3.55-millimeter) rotation of the camera to the right would bring these dimensions closer to being the same. On a human scale, the amount of error in the orientation of the camera would be 0.028 inch (0.711 millimeter), just slightly more than the thickness of a thumbnail. The dimensions of the jaw line are within a tolerance band of plus or minus 0.010 inch (0.254 millimeter), which on a human scale is plus or minus 0.002 inch (0.0508 millimeter). Close to the ears the tolerance band increases to plus or minus 0.065 inch (1.65 millimeters), which on a human scale is plus or minus 0.013 inch (0.33 millimeter).

Though they do not achieve perfection – but are much closer to the central axis of the head than those I had taken in February and May of 2006 – the photographs featured in figures 2.12, 2.13, and 2.14 taken in November 2008 illustrate that slight variations in the camera angle can yield different results. Without specialized equipment and special permission, it is impossible to achieve the laboratory-type analysis that I am convinced must be achieved in order to quantify exactly the accuracy to which these statues were crafted. With the aid of two-dimensional computer software, though, we can extract some basic geometric information about the artifacts and compare one half of each face against the other. In this manner, we can glimpse, through the fog of millennia, the minds of the designers of the sculpture, and we can conclude that a sophisticated geometric protocol was used. Designers, engineers, and craftspeople in the modern era may relate to the complex sculpted surfaces that have been proven here to create both sides of the face in mirror image.

The contoured surfaces of Ramses' symmetrical face would be familiar to designers of everyday products that are created routinely today with computer algorithms known as non-uniform rational B splines (NURBS), which allow them to smoothly morph one shape to another with unbroken perfection. By using NURBS, computer-aided design programs create contours of airplane wings, turbine blades, and even the computer keyboard at your fingertips. Surfaces are now routinely designed and manufactured to the apparent precision of Ramses' head. Incredibly, the ancient Egyptians were also able to routinely craft Ramses' head and achieved the same results again and again from the north to the south of their linear, Nile-based empire.

The stunning implications are analogous to looking through the static interference pattern of time and confusion and seeing the elegance and precision that is normally built into a Lexus in a place where only the most rudimentary techniques of manufacturing are thought to have existed. The techniques that the ancient Egyptians are supposed to have used – those taught us in school – would not produce the precision of a Model T Ford, let alone a Lexus or a Porsche.

Back to the Drawing Board

There should be no question in our minds now that Ramses' face was carefully designed using a system of measure that was based on geometric proportions. But what geometric shapes did the ancient Egyptians use, and how were they applied in the design?

We know that the ancient Egyptians used a grid in their designs,3 and that such a method or technique for design is intuitively self-evident. It does not require a quantum leap of an artisan's imagination to arrive at what is today a common design method. In fact, it is used now not just for design, but also for describing organizational and conceptual methodology. Grids, graphs, and charts are used to convey information and to plot and organize work.

With this in mind, therefore, I took the photograph of Ramses and laid a grid over it. Of course, my first task was to establish the size and number of the cells used in the grid. I assumed that the features of the face would lead me to the answer, and studied which features were most prominent. After musing over this question for a while, I took a chance on a grid that was based on the dimensions of the mouth. It seemed to me that the mouth had something to tell us due to its unnatural shape, so I placed a grid with cell dimensions that were the same height and half the width of the dimensions of the mouth. It was then a simple matter to generate circles based on the geometry of the facial features. I didn’t expect, though, that they would line up with grid lines in so many locations. In fact, I was astounded by this discovery. Going through my mind was: “Okay – now when does this cease to be a coincidence and become a reflection of truth?”


3 R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, The Temple of Man.

Pythagoras meets Ramses

Plate 4. Ramses geometry
Plate 4. Ramses geometry speaks of unambiguous quality and exactness

Plumbing the grid for further information, I discovered that Ramses’ mouth had the same proportions as a classic 3-4-5 right triangle. The idea that the ancient Egyptians had known about the Pythagorean triangle before Pythagoras, and they may have even taught Pythagoras its concepts, has been discussed by scholars, though not without controversy.4 Ramses presented me with a grid based on the Pythagorean triangle, whether it was the ancient Egyptians’ intentions or not. As we can see in plate 4, the Pythagorean grid allows us to analyze the face as it has never been analyzed before.

In a manner similar to that of the geometry of the crowns, as discussed in chapter 1, plate 4 shows that circle geometry was also used in the design of the face. The correspondences that appear between the grid and the circles that are generated by the facial features are numerous and noteworthy. This design scheme is fairly simple and elegantly harmonious, because all elements are interrelated and have connections to each other, whether crossing or touching their companion elements. For example, Circle A, the bottom eyelid, and Circle C, which describes the top of the upper eyelid, touch Circle F, which outlines the jaw. At the same time, Circle A is tangent to the grid and crosses the grid and Circle B at the same point. All the circles are tangent to the grid except circle C, which is tangent to the jawline. Circle G, which describes the arc of the lower lip, is tangent to the grid and Circle C. These elegant correspondences were created with full knowledge that minor changes in the circle diameters would provide different information, so it could be argued that a different geometric scheme could have been intended. However, the point in presenting it this way is to illustrate the geometric constructs that an artist might use if they were going to paint a portrait of a perfectly symmetrical head. What elevates the importance of this design is the fact that it was three dimensionally crafted, with elegance and precision, in hard granite.


4 R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, The Temple of Man, 144.

Fibonacci meets Ramses

Figure 2.15. Ramses' outline drawing
Figure 2.15. Ramses' outline drawing
Figure 2.16. Ramses, Pythagoras, and Fibonacci
Figure 2.16. Ramses, Pythagoras, and Fibonacci
Figure 2.17. Ramses with four Fibonacci spirals
Figure 2.17. Ramses with four Fibonacci spirals

We may ask if there might be another way to describe the geometry of Ramses' face. I pondered this question for a long time, and while examining the shape of the ear, I thought perhaps a Fibonacci spiral might have been employed in the design.

A Fibonacci spiral is created by blending a series of arcs that are generated using three corners of each of the squares depicted in figure 2.5 with one corner as the center point of each radius. As it turns out, the Fibonacci spiral did not match the geometry of the ear. Yet because I had already drawn the spiral in the computer and had the image of Ramses up on my computer screen, I tried to see if there were any correlations using a Fibonacci spiral with the geometry of the face and the Pythagorean grid. Once I established the grid pattern and the circles, I trimmed back the circles and drafted the outline of the nose to create figure 2.15.

Using the outline of the Ramses face with just the Pythagorean angle grid, I applied a series of well-known geometric constructs to determine whether any correlation existed between Ramses' head and more advanced geometry than what I had seen so far. Quite remarkably, the oval that frames Ramses face is based on the Pythagorean 3-4-5 triangle (its height is 1.333 times greater than its width).

As we discovered earlier, the Fibonacci spiral is based on the number series 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, and so forth (see figure 2.5). Figure 2.16 illustrates how the spiral corresponds to the drawing of the Ramses' face and the grid.

Figure 2.16 illustrates the construction of the Fibonacci spiral using the Fibonacci series 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, and 8. As we can see, the spiral has been sized to touch the right jaw and to circle the eye. We can note other correspondences to the bottom line of the grid and the top of the oval that was created from the outline of Ramses' jawline.

Figure 2.17 was created using copies of the spiral that are mirrored horizontally and vertically. The vertically flipped pair was aligned with Ramses' mouth. We can see correspondences where the spirals cross and where they end on grid lines at the top and the bottom.

Leonardo meets Ramses

Figure 2.18. The Golden Ratio
Figure 2.18. The Golden Ratio
Figure 2.19. The Golden Rectangle
Figure 2.19. The Golden Rectangle
Figure 2.20. Ramses’ Golden Rectangles
Figure 2.20. Ramses’ Golden Rectangles

The Golden Ratio, or Greek Phi Φ expressed as the mathematical constant 1.6180339887, has been used in art and architecture, including in such Renaissance masterpieces as Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper and in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Its proportions are said to be embodied in the human form and can also be found in nature, but certainly it is used deliberately by those who strive to achieve aestheticism in their work. The proportions of the Golden Ratio, also known as the Golden Section, are expressed using both triangular and rectangular shapes.

Figure 2.20 illustrates four Golden Rectangles of equal proportion. The rectangles that frame the width of the nose look narrower than the other two, but this is an optical illusion caused by two overlapping and offset rectangles. The rectangle was generated using the width of the nose as the base square multiplied by 1.618033, the Golden Ratio, to achieve the height ratio. The rectangle was then positioned under the nose, where we see it lined up with the eyebrow grid line.

Three copies of this Golden Rectangle were then made, and two were then fitted to the bottom corners of the Golden Rectangle that frames the oval shape of Ramses' face, with one Golden Rectangle on the left bottom corner rotated 90 degrees. The third Golden Rectangle was then shaded differently and placed with the bottom surface aligned with the Ramses’ mouth. As figure 2.20 illustrates, the top of this Golden Rectangle corresponds with the grid line that is tangent to Ramses' eyebrows.

It would seem reasonable at this juncture to suggest that the key to Ramses' geometry has been discovered. The face, grid, and Golden Rectangle working in unison strongly imply that all three were used in the placement of the different features of the face. This geometry and the circles seem to give us enough information to explain the two-dimensional drawing of Ramses. However, while this is a compelling argument, the testimony of the famous architect I. M. Pei may cast doubt on the intentional application of the Golden Section by the ancient Egyptians. His design of the pyramid at the Louvre in Paris is considered to be a masterpiece and incorporates the Golden Section in its design. During an interview with Ekwanim Productions of Paris he was asked if he was inspired by the same proportions that are found in the Great Pyramid. Pei claimed that he came by the Golden Section naturally and that he has abandoned strict adherence to measurement, preferring to arrive at his designs through his intuitive and artistic eye for what is pleasing, and the Golden Section appeals to a more right-brain approach to shaping the architectural landscape. The question should be asked, therefore, whether the ancient Egyptians were similarly influenced. Regardless of what their answer might be, however, engineers working under the direction of Pei, as well as those involved with the designers of Ramses, had to apply measurement to convey to the craftspeople the information they needed in order to bring what may have been inspired creativity into physical manifestation.

Unfortunately, the question of Ramses' head is much more complicated, because it involves three-dimensional geometry, not just lines and circles on a flat piece of paper.

Ramses Bouquet

Figure 2.21. Ramses bouquet: the Flower of Life
Figure 2.21. Ramses bouquet: the Flower of Life

While working in my CAD program, my wife suggested that I see how the Flower of Life fit with the geometric scheme that was crafted into Ramses’ face. I didn't think much of the idea (probably a typical left-brain engineer response), but nevertheless, I set about drafting a Flower of Life in my computer. The results are fascinating to look at, but far be it from me to suggest that the designers were dropping flowers all over their plans! Yet this superimposition illustrates, in an analogous way, the complexity of the three-dimensional geometry of Ramses.

The Flower of Life symbol is considered to be sacred among many cultures around the world and is seen as symbolic of the connectedness of all life and spirit in the universe. It is found inscribed in some temples in Egypt – most notably at Abydos, where it is drawn, with meticulousness, in red ochre on a giant granite support column in the Osirian. The temple contains several of these drawings, and they are believed to have been placed there when the Osirian was filled with sand, for they are located high on the column.

The geometry of the flower consists of intersecting circles that create six equally spaced petals. The arrangement of the flowers in a mandala is supposed to symbolize unity with the cosmos and aspiration for harmony and perfection. It is a powerful icon in the Indian culture, and it commands profound philosophical and religious reverence.

Though I am not arguing that the use of these geometric elements were necessary to create Ramses' head, the correlations with the statue of Ramses do illustrate the reality of a greater sophistication than what two-dimensional images can convey.

Frozen Music

Figure 2.22. Harmonic scale of Apollo Zeus harp
Figure 2.22. Harmonic scale of Apollo Zeus harp
late 6. Divine harmony and iconic art combine in a symphony cut into stone
Plate 6. Divine harmony and iconic art combine in a symphony cut into stone

The mathematical principles of musical harmony are directly related to geometry. Pythagoras brought these concepts to the Western world and inspired the orderly and disciplined understanding of objects we observe and create. Leonardo da Vinci used geometric archetypes, sometimes called sacred geometry, in his art. The German writer Goethe and the English expatriate Oscar Wilde, as well as the philosopher A. W. Schlegel, considered architecture to be “frozen music.”

Grand musical events are planned with the accompaniment of the imposing grandeur of frozen music. To celebrate the inauguration of Cairo's Theatre de l’Opera in 1869, Ismail Pasha, Khedive of Egypt, commissioned Guiseppe Verdi to write an opera. Inspired by ancient Egyptian architecture and with the help of Auguste Mariette, he produced Aida, which has played for large audiences at Luxor and more recently on a large, specially built stage at the foot of the Giza Plateau. Egyptologist Zahi Hawass pleaded for the set to be removed, because it detracted from the archaeological value of the area.5

Though we don’t normally consider objects around us to be musical, as a carefully designed and crafted geometric shape, a musical instrument that sits quietly in the corner of the living room could be considered frozen music. In this respect, the analogy between architecture and music can be considered correct – but it may also pose the question of whether there is such a thing as frozen music at all. It could be argued that when an observer is introduced to and interacts with a geometric structure, whether it is an instrument to play or a building within which to pray, it has an effect on the senses. Without the presence of people, the building responds to subtle energies from the earth and the environment through seismic or thermal movement of its structural components. An instrument adds its own voice, responding in resonance to weak forces, but the output cannot be discerned by the human ear. The grand piano sitting in the corner of my living room plays a faint encore after all sources of sound are turned off and nothing but quiet reigns.

Scottish composer Stuart Mitchel discerns frozen music in the design of the Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. His analysis of the architecture of this structure reveals archetypal designs that are associated with certain frequencies that affect membranes that have been dusted with fine sand or powder. The powder organizes itself into patterns on the membrane according to the acoustic wave pattern generated by the frequency on the surface of the membrane. Stuart’s music can be sampled at www.tjmitchel.com.

The geometric proportions of the Temple of Amun Mut Khonsu (commonly known as the Temple of Luxor, though it is not the only temple in Luxor) were measured by Schwaller de Lubicz and were found to have been designed with harmonic proportions encoded in the dimensions of their architecture. To experience the temples of Egypt is to become absorbed in harmonic proportion, and they have influenced many travelers.

In The Beginners Guide to Constructing the Universe, Michael Schneider writes, “Earthly Music was seen as a mirror image of the heavenly ideal descending from above.”6 After working with a Ramses’ head and discovering the correlation between its features and well-known geometric shapes, I decided to draw the example that Schneider gives in his lavishly illustrated book of the harmonic sequence of an Apollo Zeus harp. One of the sequences given includes the notes B flat, E flat, A flat, D flat, and G flat (the five black notes on a piano). The notes were played on the harp covering three octaves, from high notes to low notes, and are described as overlapping circles with nodes that represent the length of a string.

Ramses’ Harp Correlation Table I then overlaid the image of Ramses with the Flower of Life with the geometry of the head, rotating it 90 degrees and scaling it so that the small circles were the same size as the flowers. The top circle was then placed over the uppermost flower. The correspondences that flowed from this arrangement are shown in plate 6.

With the Flower of Life, the face takes on a more three-dimensional appearance, which is necessary in order for us to appreciate fully what was accomplished. The geometry is more complicated, but not as complicated as what is necessary to create two identical, mirrored, three-dimensional surfaces in granite. The intricate web of correspondences among the face, the harmonic sequence, the flower, and the grid seems to establish a physical manifestation and integrated expression of art, mathematics, music, and engineering.

In chapter 1, we saw the perfection of the Hedjet and the Pschent. They presented us with a hint of techniques in ancient Egypt that have been unknown until now – techniques whose application required workers with both the knowledge of absolute accuracy in manufacturing and the tools to accomplish it. We are leaving Ramses' face with a greater understanding of the difficulty involved in manufacturing the head. Though we have worked thus far with only a two-dimensional view, our results have yielded enormous implications. In the next chapter, we will examine the third dimension of Ramses' head: a 90-degree view of its profile from both left and right. We will then examine other Ramses figures to compare their geometry to the one we have been studying and examine some ideas as to how these mammoth objects could be created today.


5 “Why the Pyramids,” www.egyptvoyager.com/aida_mainpage.htm (accessed February 4, 2010).

6 Michael Schneider, A Beginners Guide to Constructing the Universe: The Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art, and Science (New York: Harper Collins, 1994), 241.

Chapter 3 ♦ The Ramses Challenge
Ramses’ Smile

An answer brings no illumination unless the question has matured to a point where it gives rise to this answer which thus becomes its fruit. Therefore learn how to put a question.1  – ISHA SCHWALLER DE LUBICZ, HER-BAK: THE LIVING FACE OF ANCIENT EGYPT

Figure 3.1. Nefertari, Ramses’ guiding hand
Figure 3.1. Nefertari, Ramses’ guiding hand
Figure 3.2. Ramses’ smile at Luxor
Figure 3.2. Ramses’ smile at Luxor
Figure 3.3. Ramses' iconic features
Figure 3.3. Ramses' iconic features

As I pondered the features of Ramses' face, I found it quite curious that his mouth was turned up in an exaggerated smile (see figure 3.2). Though some might argue that having a wife with the attributes of Nefertari would give any man cause to smile, visitors to the temple are faced with what seems to be a synthetic smile that gives the face of Ramses a rapturous countenance. Examining the mouth closely, there appears to be anomalous geometry that does not blend with the contoured surface of the face. In fact, it appears that the face was cut first and then a separate tool shaped the mouth — and that this tool followed a contour that left a sharp cusp along the upper vermilion border (the junction between the mouth and the facial skin) of the mouth. It is particularly pronounced at the philtrum (the trapezoid-shaped indentation that joins the nose with the mouth) and forms a sharp, triangular point.

The triangular point where the philtrum meets the vermilion border on the Ramesseum Ramses is even more pronounced. The smile, though, does not appear as exaggerated as on the Ramses at Luxor.

Why is the curve of the Luxor Ramses’ smile so exaggerated? Further, as we’ve seen, only the mouth is smiling; the rest of the face is at rest. Even if the muscles of the cheeks were pulled up, as they would be if anyone tried to smile this big, it is doubtful such curved lips could be achieved.

I puzzled over Ramses’ unnatural smile, but it seemed to me that it wasn’t shaped this way merely to achieve a Pythagorean triangle; perhaps there was another reason for its appearance. Creating a line drawing from the features of the face and then removing the photograph revealed an image that was uncomplicated and distinct (see figure 3.3). Then it dawned on me that I was studying a face that was not in situ, but close to eye level — originally, the head was connected to a statue that was approximately 40 feet tall.

The seated Ramses figures at Luxor tower above the tourists at the temple. The proportion of both the people and their interaction with the statues has some bearing on the design of the statue, as we can discern from the face. Ramses' smile appears exaggerated only when we view the head at the same elevation. When viewed from the ground, the smile from the shortest to the tallest statue, 40 to 60 feet (13 to 18 meters) high, appears more natural. We can see one illustration of this effect when we look at our own mouth in the mirror, then notice that when we raise our head, our mouth appears downturned. To understand this effect even further, we can hold an egg vertically by the ends and draw a straight line horizontally from one side to the other. When we rotate the egg either toward or away from ourselves, the straight line appears curved. Obviously, when the ancient Egyptians visited the temple, they preferred to meet with a beneficent- looking king, rather than one who had a frown frozen on his face. Thus, the seemingly unnatural smile of Ramses when we view it straight on was calculated to appear natural via the perspective of someone at ground level. This is why the Ramesseum Ramses' smile looks natural: the photograph was taken looking up at the statue.


1 Isha Schwaller de Lubicz, Her-Bak: The Living Face of Ancient Egypt, quoted in “From the Outer Temple,” www.duboislc.org/html/Proverbs.html (accessed February 4, 2010).

Plate 7. Ramses at Memphis
Plate 7. Ramses at Memphis provides further evidence of uncompromising precision with ancient three-dimensional profiling

We can note another example of geometric warping for visual effect in the fluted Doric columns of the Parthenon. The Greeks developed a technique known as entasis to avoid an optical illusion caused by the shaft's fluting (parallel vertical lines): In a tall structure such as the Parthenon, these lines appear concave. To compensate, the Greek architects made the columns slightly convex, so that to the viewer they seemed straight.

Modern architects and engineers are still trying to understand how the ancient Greeks were able to build the Parthenon in ten years when the restoration of the monument has continued for more than three decades and is still not complete. What they have learned and shared along this arduous path of rediscovery is that the Greeks were highly skilled at building visual compensations into their structures. Columns were crafted and positioned to compensate for how the eye interprets what it sees at a distance. Subtle variances in the surfaces of platforms, columns, and colonnades provide the appearance of geometric proportion, whereas if they had worked from the perspective of a flat datum surface, the brain would interpret the results as being slightly skewed.2

In the face of Ramses, we see that such compensatory concepts did not originate with the Greeks, but instead were used by the Egyptians at Memphis and Thebes more than a thousand years earlier. If a normal mouth had been crafted onto Ramses' face, it would appear from the ground to be turned down in a frowning shape. To confirm this, we can look at the image of the statue of Ramses at Memphis, near Saqarra.

The statue of Ramses at Memphis is estimated to have originally weighed more than 300 tons. Though it once stood upright, the statue now lies on its back in the open-air museum at Memphis. It is crafted of fine limestone and, as the photograph taken from the viewing mezzanine illustrates (see plate 7), is manufactured using the same inexplicable precision and product value as the Ramses statues at Luxor. The symmetry is maintained between both halves of the face, and the exact surface of both sides of the face of the statue is composed of curves of varying dimensions that flow together. The Memphis Ramses provides us with information that we are able to infer by viewing the front and side views of the Luxor Ramses, because the photographs of the front and side of Ramses' head at Luxor provide two-dimensional views of three- dimensional geometry. The Memphis Ramses, on the other hand, provides us with information that clearly shows that the features on both sides of the face are mirrored in not just two dimensions (x and y), but three (x, y, and z).

The appearance of true arcs on the contour of the eyelid of the Memphis Ramses suggests that the eyeball itself is an accurate sphere around which a radius is drawn in one axis to create the eyelid and, as a naturally occurring function of geometry, when viewed at other angles, always appears as a radius, though with different dimensions. In fact, similar to the crowns that we studied in chapter 1, the entire face has the appearance of being made up of nothing but blended spheres or ellipsoids that predict that, regardless of the angle from which they are viewed, they would present to the eye natural blended radial surfaces.


2 Evan Hadingham, “Unlocking the Mysteries of the Parthenon,” Smithsonian (February 2008).

Figure 3.4. The four Ramses statues
Figure 3.4. The four Ramses statues: (1) Ramses in the open-air museum at Memphis; (2) Ramses bust from the Ramesseum; (3) Ramses bust outside the Temple of Luxor pylon, taken with the camera facing west; (4) Seated Ramses in the Ramses Hall in the Temple of Luxor, taken with a telephoto lens and with the camera facing east, from the Sharia al-Corniche outside the temple

The down-to-earth reason for the unnatural smile, therefore, is that when viewed from the ground, it appeared to be natural. The photographs of the bust of Ramses at Luxor were taken with Ramses' head at ground level. We see Ramses at Memphis along his length, and the mouth seems to be turned in a downward arc. As we can see in figure 3.4, when viewed from the side, each of the Ramses statues — at Memphis, Luxor, and the Ramesseum Ramses — has a mouth that curls up in an exaggerated smile.

Initiates who entered this temple of learning would see an affectionate gaze and normal smile on the lips of Ramses. As they approached the front pylons of the temple and passed through into the Ramses Hall, they would look up at the faces of Ramses and see that they were being observed.

Figure 3.5. Jessica's perfect lips
Figure 3.5. Jessica's perfect lips
Figure 3.6. Imperfect lips
Figure 3.6. Imperfect lips
Figure 3.7. Lips that are too perfect?
Figure 3.7. Lips that are too perfect?

Not only is the mouth designed to appear normal from below, but also the eyes were crafted with the same consideration as the smile. Their geometry is such that they appear normal when viewed from below. Full of challenges and surprises, Ramses in figure 3.4 clearly presents us with another technique of its creators: the top eyelid is pushed forward, giving the appearance of an eye that is looking down rather than straight ahead, while the head remains erect. And why wouldn't this godlike statue give an appearance of love and caring? Why wouldn't he smile down at the temple's initiates, as they gathered to feed their spirits and luxuriate in the majesty of inspired science, engineering, and craftsmanship that is the Temple of Amun-Mut Khonsu?

From a manufacturing perspective, in the case of the Luxor bust, it appears that the geometry of the face was contoured and finished before the lips were cut with a different tool that followed a different tool path in order to profile the lips with precision — though not quite dead center to the face. We can discern a small radius where the lips meet the vermilion border (though this is more distinct on the Ramesseum Ramses). Intriguingly, the depth of cut increases beneath the uncommonly sharp and distinct philtrum. In figures 3.5, 3.6, and 3.7, the level of precision is greater in the Egyptian Ramses than in the Greek statue and, perhaps, dimensionally superior to the perfection of a woman's lips.

plate 8
Plate 8. The Ramesseum Ramses inspires those in his presence to pay respect and understand what they behold
Figure 3.8. Shadow of the Ramesseum Ramses
Figure 3.8. Shadow of the Ramesseum Ramses
Figure 3.9. Measuring the face of the Ramesseum Ramses
Figure 3.9. Measuring the face of the Ramesseum Ramses

A colossal granite statue of Ramses II towering 60 feet (18 meters) once greeted the ancient Egyptians as they walked through the Temple of the Ramesseum, the mortuary temple of Ramses II. The temple is situated on the west bank of the Nile where the statue was felled by forces unknown and the torso and head separated from the body, which now lies supine within the temple walls. The bust weighs more than 7 tons and is dated from around 1270 BCE. A photograph of this statue, plate 8, shows the shape of the mouth from below. As the ancient Egyptians intended, from on high, Ramses is smiling down on pilgrims in the temple. As you can see, the mouth appears natural.

It is evident in plate 8 that the Ramesseum Ramses has equal, if not more, exact symmetry than the Ramses at Luxor. The geometry of the face is changed, and the question may be asked if this is because the two Ramses were made differently. At this juncture, it is difficult to say without a more detailed examination because of the difference in the camera angle when each Ramses was photographed. When we perform the reverse transparency overlay and bring all the facial features together, however, it is clear that the Ramesseum Ramses was crafted with the similar geometric patterns and with remarkable symmetry from the tip of the nose to the ears and moving along the skull to the upward curve of the Nemes crown.

When I further investigated the symmetry of the jawline, I drew a line to bisect the head midway between the jaw. The photograph was expanded to five times the size of a human head, and then I made measurements using the measurement tool in CAD using 2 decimal point precision in inches. Figure 3.9 confirms that the geometry of the Ramesseum Ramses is more precise than that of the head outside the Luxor Museum.

The design protocol described in chapter 2 seems to be evident in all the Ramses statues. Surely, the implications of this discovery would prompt another study to coax from the Ramses statues all three-dimensional measurements from which accurate models could be created and analyzed further, yielding even better results.

Witness to a Small Mistake

Figure 3.10. Ramses’ mouth
Figure 3.10. Ramses’ mouth

Ramses’ smile in the statue of Ramses from the Ramesseum may appear innocent enough, but the mouth is loaded with silent information regarding a manufacturing mistake and the work that was performed in an attempt to correct it. Figure 3.10 shows this close-up. As in other Ramses faces, it appears that when the statue was created, the contours of the face were crafted first and then another tool was employed to cut the contours of the lips, leaving an unnatural cusp at the vermilion border. In fact, it would appear that for some reason, the lips on the Ramesseum Ramses were cut deeper than necessary, particularly when we compare them to those of the Luxor and Memphis Ramses heads shown in figure 3.4. This detail is not present on the statue of Ramses at Memphis — perhaps because the Memphis statue was crafted from limestone instead of granite, which would make it easier to remove material in order to smooth the cusp. On the other hand, when the heads sat 40 feet, or 12 meters, in the air, these mistakes would be imperceptible to visitors and, therefore, not considered important. They do, however, become more pronounced when we study them in closer detail out of the context of the overpowering majesty of a grand temple.

In figure 3.10, we perhaps find a reason for the lips being cut deeper into the face. In the corner of the mouth on the left side of Ramses' lips is an undercut that gives him an almost snarling appearance. This is clearly a mistake in the crafting of the mouth, but what does the mistake imply? From a manufacturing perspective, this undercut is obviously the reason for the lips being cut deeper. It seems this was done to remove as much of the mistake as possible without going too deep into the face. If the craftsmen had pushed the contours of the lips uniformly into the face in order to remove the undercut entirely, the margin between the vermilion border and the lips would be even more unnatural and bizarre looking. Moreover, this would have taken much more work to accomplish. As it is, the cusp is overlooked by casual observers — including me, until I started to examine the photographs in greater detail in my computer. What is more startling to me and to others who have performed work in brittle materials is the uniformity of the lips and, though they are cut deeper into the face, the existence of the cusp that is so sharply defined without significant crumbling of the edge. This point alone may cause us to wonder what kind of tools the ancient Egyptians possessed. It does not seem possible that such a mistake could result from the slip of a stone chisel. The undercut and the cusp on the Ramesseum Ramses point clearly to a previously unknown method of stone cutting in which a substantial amount of material is removed by mistake — and without being noticed.

Figure 3.11. Detail of right vermilion border
Figure 3.11. Detail of right vermilion border
Figure 3.12. Detail of left vermilion border
Figure 3.12. Detail of left vermilion border
Figure 3.13. Tool marks on Ramses’ mouth
Figure 3.13. Tool marks on Ramses’ mouth

When we examine a close-up of the Ramses statue at Luxor, it appears that the lips are similarly crafted, though not cut as deep into the face as on the bust of the Ramesseum Ramses — and without the mistaken undercut. Intriguingly, we can see a faint tool path that follows the contour of the upper lip from the nostril to the vermilion border on Ramses' right upper lip. Associated with these lines appear to be several cuts that are slightly deeper, causing a ripple effect at the border — but this observation deserves more investigation and cannot be considered conclusive at this juncture. Nevertheless, the irregularity at the vermilion border seems fairly conclusive, especially as seen in figure 3.11, where the shadow from the light reveals the variations. On the other hand, Ramses' left lip, seen in figure 3.12, has a shadow that is consistent with the graceful arc of the lip that keeps the light from shining onto the upper lip.

If we examine the upper lips more closely, faint marks left by a cutting tool (witness marks) show that a mistake was made on Ramses' right lip, causing a jagged edge at the vermilion border, but his left lip was shaped accurately — though there, too, we can detect faint witness marks of the tool that cut the contour from the nose down to the border (see figure 3.13).

For purposes of displaying here the best evidence possible, this was too tantalizing to ignore. I had previously traveled to Egypt specifically to photograph the Ramses heads to determine their symmetry, which demanded a technique that did not include zooming in on small sections of the head. I needed the entire head in my viewfinder. Yet with the ability to take high-resolution photographs, what appeared to be tool marks became evident when I zoomed in digitally on my computer. It became clear to me while writing this chapter that in order to finish it properly, I had to make another trip to Egypt. The digital zooms were intriguing, but I could obtain better photographs using optical zooms with a macro lens. I would then have high-resolution, close-up images with greater detail and clarity.

Figure 3.1. Nefertari, Ramses’ guiding hand
Figure 3.1. Nefertari, Ramses’ guiding hand
Figure 3.14. Nefertari's gown
Figure 3.14. Nefertari's gown
Figure 3.15. Seated Ramses
Figure 3.15. Seated Ramses

In chapters 1 and 2, we learned that if we are to accept Ramses' challenge to create another just like him, in simply creating the head and crown alone, we are faced with an enormous task. These, however, are only a small fraction of the entire statue. As we have learned, the seated statues at Luxor are approximately 40 feet in height, and the raw block from which each was made must have weighed up to four hundred tons. The head is a small representation of the fine craftsmanship that fittingly swells modern Egyptians' pride in their ancestors.

For our study, it is bittersweet fortuity that a head was available for close study, but I would certainly not have enjoyed being in the vicinity when it fell to earth. The forces that caused it to separate from the body must have been enormous — for one characteristic of the Ramses statues is their “unnatural” appearance because they are controlled by engineering considerations that must take into account strength and stability rather than anthropometric accuracy. The arms and legs of Roman and Greek statues do not have the same substantial connections to the principle mass of stone that Egyptian statues have, and therefore, they are more natural in appearance. The standing statues in the Ramses Hall do not have arms and legs that separate from the body. They are cut more in alto relievo; the body of each statue is carved out of and is firmly a part of a sturdy pillar, a gargantuan rock. There is no separation of any appendage from the torso or the pillar.

The Nemes crown, which is adorned with a uraeus (cobra), is more of a headdress than a crown, and most statues have this feature. From an engineering viewpoint, the headdress serves to give stability and strength to the head, because it provides mass by being integrally a part of the body, flaring outward to span the width of the shoulders. Stability and strength at the front of the neck is provided by the false beard, which is firmly attached to the chest and provides a buttress to the chin. With the characteristics of a bas relief, the ears are a part of the head and the Nemes crown. False beards were worn by the pharaohs of Egypt because they were believed to provide them with godlike powers. The false beard on all the statues in Egypt are carved from the native rock, just like the rest of the statue.

In the standing statues, native rock connects the pillar to the back of the legs. In figure 3.1, we can see that a little added symbolic support to the pharaoh's outstretched leg is given by his wife, Nefertari, who appears to be naked, but because of the smoothness around the groin, may be depicted as wearing a seductive, diaphanous garment. Figure 3.14 seems to clarify this conjecture. Note in figure 3.1 that Nefertari also has a web of granite between the back of her leg and the back pillar.

The seated statues of Ramses have modified arms that allow the forearm to rest unnaturally on the thigh. A human’s elbow and forearm does not rest on the thigh when a person is seated upright with his hands on his knees. By adding length to the upper arm and mass to the forearm, the designers eliminated a potential weak spot in the statue, and they firmly attached all elements of the body by leaving webs between arms and chest, and legs and pillar.

Figure 3.16. Ramses absent his knuckles
Figure 3.16. Ramses absent his knuckles
Figure 3.17. Ramses' toes
Figure 3.17. Ramses' toes
Figure 3.18. Constantine's toes
Figure 3.18. Constantine's toes

Seemingly, the ancient Egyptians were more focused on engineering strength and efficiency than on creating true-to-life statues. The forearms and the hands of the seated Ramses are relatively smooth and devoid of natural human features, such as knuckles on the fingers and the toes.

The absence of knuckles on the fingers and toes of Ramses is more pronounced when we compare him to the statue of Constantine, now on display in an interior courtyard at the Musei Capitolini, Rome.

From its head to its toes, Ramses presents a unique challenge to modern engineers. How would we replicate such a piece of art? While there are areas of the statue that are asymmetrical, they do not detract from the places that are. If we had a statue that was more humanlike in appearance, with natural variances between left and right, the challenge would be easier — we could rule out the need for extreme precision and the tools and engineering considerations that go along with it. As it is, the symmetry between both sides of the face epitomizes and summarizes the most difficult aspects of the challenge.

To gain an understanding of what we are faced with in trying to replicate the statues, we can select a familiar item in the home or office — a computer mouse, a telephone, a CD player or radio. These are symbols of modern technology. If we were asked what technology they symbolize, we would probably answer “communication” or “entertainment.” They certainly symbolize these two; more meaningful to me is that they symbolize the evolution of manufacturing.

If we study these items closely, we note that they have smooth contours with geometries that blend to create a three-dimensional shape that is pleasing to the eye. For functional engineered devices, however, this kind of contouring was not always the case. When product design and development were in the hands of engineers who accessed their left brain more than their right brain, all kinds of monstrosities were created. We may remember some of the original appliances that were developed to make our life easier — but for those who don't recall, there are museums and books to teach us of these baby steps toward what we enjoy today. An old steam iron or vacuum cleaner has engineering functionality, but compared to what is available today, neither may appeal to our artistic sensibilities.

Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, the evolution of manufacturing has reached a point where the poorest quality product that comes to market today is vastly superior to the finest quality that was available one hundred years ago. Machines and manufacturing processes have been perfected to the point that many of the variables and imperfections that used to appear randomly have been all but eliminated. We take them for granted, but high-quality, inexpensive consumer goods were not always available.

Influencing the evolution of manufacturing all along have been artists who were employed to exert their influence on consumer products quite simply to make them more visually appealing and feed the desire to buy more products. As a case in point, a Bang and Olufsen phonograph turntable has been exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art. To put it bluntly, it was the desire for profit that forced the evolution of manufacturing. Behind this desire for profit, however, were the desires of the population to have in their possession creations that gave them pleasure — whether from making their lives easier or impressing their friends and neighbors with their latest acquisitions.

For most people today, the science and engineering behind a product is subordinate to its visual appeal. Little notice is given to how a device works — to how electrons move through circuits and cause motion such as sound or how energy moves through cavities to produce motion such as propulsion. Shapes and colors that appeal to the right brain overpower the analytical left-brain function in the majority of people and are usually the deciding factors when we select a product for purchase.

Yet even if we ignore the functionality of a product, its external appeal still speaks of technologies that are employed in its creation. We probably have, within arms length, numerous examples of high technology. A soda can or a water bottle exhibit evidence of some of the processes necessary to make them. The roundness and uniformity of a drink container clearly indicates the use of a lathe. By studying a water-bottle top, we can discern the action of an injection mold that, when separating from the plastic, has to turn slightly in order to clear the helical screw threads. Examine your cell phone and wonder how such product came to be. It is a perfect example of science and technology as well as manufacturing excellence. The book you are now holding in your hands came into existence through the function of machines — through wonderful examples of manufacturing precision that have evolved over the centuries.

Ramses' Symbol

The Temple of Amun Mut Khonsu has inspired philosophers to try to understand the symbolism behind its walls. R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz discerned a structure that by its design and dimensions symbolized a connection with the cosmos. It is a structure that conveys principles of harmony found in music and art. The Golden Ratio and dimensions of harmonic intervals are encoded in the walls and columns through their placement and the application of reliefs. Schwaller de Lubicz stressed that the ancient Egyptians had a sacred science in which there was no distinction between the material and the spiritual. They believed both worked in harmony.

For me, the symbolism in the temple was that the statues of Ramses reflected the state of the art that was present at the time they were created. The question, therefore, is this: What minimum requirements must be met to produce a statue such as those of Ramses? To answer this question, we first must consider the most difficult tasks to accomplish, both in design and execution — perhaps, re-creating the head and replicating its geometry and precision. Once we have decided how this could be done, knowledge of the production of the rest of the body will follow. To re-create the head, we would have to design and build a means of mirroring one side of the face in order to create the other. Perhaps we could create a model and a pantograph-type device with a stylus that could follow the contours of a model while cutting the granite. That may solve how the granite was cut, but then we are still left with how the model was made to such exacting standards.

Figure 3.19. Charting Ramses’ face
Figure 3.19. Charting Ramses’ face
Figure 3.20. Cross section
Figure 3.20. Cross section

The statues of Ramses are exact. Using computer graphics and comparing the geometry of one side of the crown and head with the other and also with drafting elements such as rectangles and circles, it becomes clear that these statues must have been cut with the assistance of mechanical devices that caused the cutting tool to move along predetermined boundaries to produce an accurate representation in granite of the specific design. The only remaining question: To what quantifiable measure does the right side of the face vary with the left? In other words, after further analysis using laser scanning equipment and comparing both sides, to what extent will they vary?

Figures 3.19 and 3.20 illustrate two-dimensional grids that would produce in three dimensions a point cloud — that is, every point on the right side of the face would have an identical point on the left side of the face. We assume a point lies where each horizontal line on the grid crosses a vertical line. This point is projected on the contour of the features of the face using Cartesian coordinates. When the tool has finished cutting, with regard to the jawline, we can see a perfect radius in the two-dimensional view and, creating that radius, a curve moving in three dimensions.

Figure 3.20 represents a simple cross section of the Ramses head at the tip of the nose, the x, y, z zero point as identified in figure 3.19 and figure 3.20. With the nose now turned up, the z axis is now vertical and the y axis would be represented by a line moving away from the observer and graphically represented as a dot. In other words, the head has been rotated 90 degrees around the x axis seen in figure 3.19, and a vertical flat plane has been established through the tip of the nose. The profile was created by drawing the right side, then copying the profile in mirror image. Sectioning the head in this way, in 1-inch increments along the y axis, would result in many different profiles and an infinite number of profiles in between. These are the constraints we are faced with when we attempt to understand how the head of the statue was designed. We can only wonder at how these profiles were applied to granite.

Historically, the quality of products has improved over time, and consumers of those products — you and I — would not tolerate the quality that was commonplace even fifty years ago. Some manufacturers have gone out of business by not being able to improve operations enough to compete with higher-quality and cheaper products. If we draw a parallel between the precision of the Ramses statues and the precision of modern products, we are faced with Egyptian artifacts that conformed to specific standards of design and measure in their world. In other words, the Ramses statues had to have received similar attention with respect to geometry and exactness as the automobile in your driveway. In fact, without receiving such attention, they could not have been made.

The questions we must ask the Ramses statues are these: “What do you truly represent? What tools did your maker have to allow him or her to create you?" It is one thing to draw a circle on paper, but it demands extraordinary attention to define in granite a circle that moves along a third axis but that, when viewed in two dimensions, is a perfect radius. We have the technology to do it today — but what may have existed in ancient Egypt? Besides Ramses' head, what other indications are there that Egyptians in a long-past epoch had similar advanced technology when all we have found in the archaeological record are simple tools? Is there evidence of such accuracy elsewhere in Egypt? What conclusions can we draw from other temples? Or is Luxor an anomaly and a miracle of superhuman touch guided by the gods? This is not an uncommon conclusion. It is often reached by many a confounded visitor to the miracle that is the Temple of Amun Mut Khonsu.

The Cosmic Egg
Figure 3.21. Ramses' egg
Figure 3.21. Ramses' egg


Proverbs were an important part of the ancient religion of Egypt. A concept that was burned into the Egyptian philosophy was “know thyself.” Ancient Egyptians were reminded of the spiritual aspect of this concept when they visited their temples — that is, the divine essence of the Creator and the heavens was encoded within them. The Egyptians' heart was their temple, and all the Egyptians needed to learn about the universe could be found there. The expression was inscribed on the temple walls, and the ancient Egyptians also took it with them to the afterlife by having it inscribed in their tombs:
“The kingdom of heaven is within you; and whosoever shall know himself shall find it.”

Chapter 4 ♦ The Shadows of Karnak
Shadows of a Photograph

We read the past by the light of the present, and the forms vary as the shadows fail, or as the point of vision alters. – JAMES ANTHONY FROUDE, SHORT STUDIES ON GREAT SUBJECTS VOL III. SOCIETY IN ITALY IN THE LAST DAYS OF THE ROMAN REPUBUC

Figure 4.1. Monolithic trunkless legs of hewn granite at Karnak
Figure 4.1. Monolithic trunkless legs of hewn granite at Karnak

The quotation illustrates the conflict that can arise when we study the shadows of a photograph. Using shadows to form conclusions presents a double-edged sword. Though a clearly outlined geometric shape that is free of shadows and is taken in the full light of day provides substantial evidence to form an analysis, shadows can either be your friend or they can be misleading. For instance, the shadow that light throws on the upper lip of the Ramses statue (as shown in figures 3.11 and 3.12) reveals a difference in the smoothness between Ramses' the upper right and the left lip. To state more than what is obvious in the photograph would be to read more into your analysis than there is. Similarly, the parallel striations that we can see on the upper lip and the philtrum in figure 3.13 are not the best evidence to conclude that the tool that cut the statue followed these particular paths. On the other hand, to achieve the symmetry and precision found on the statues, the craftsmen's tool had to have a precise geometric path to follow. Perhaps, then, these telltale witness marks or "ghost" marks can actually provide us with evidence of the method of manufacture. If so, more of them may be found if we look closer.

It is estimated that the Parthenon in Athens took ten years to build. Rebuilding efforts of portions of the temple that have suffered the ravages of natural and human forces have been ongoing painstakingly for the past thirty years. A shadow thrown across the cusp of the fluted columns of the Parthenon provides information regarding the geometry and precision with which the flute was cut. The restorers of these columns carefully scrape and chisel the flutes after a specially made machine has cut the flutes in replacement sections. Why? Because the machine could not replicate the ancient technique. Senior science editor of PBS's Nova, Evan Hadingham, writes:

quote big

Today's restorers have been replacing damaged column segments with fresh marble. To speed up the job, engineers built a flute-carving machine. The device, however, is not precise enough for the final detailing, which must be done by hand. This smoothing of the flutes calls for an expert eye and a sensitive touch. To get the elliptical profile of the flute just right, a mason looks at the shadow cast inside the groove, then chips and rubs the stone until the outline of the shadow is a perfectly even and regular curve.1

No records exist that explain how the ancient Greeks built their temples, but modern attempts to replicate their achievements inspired Mr. Hadingham to ask if the original builders had better tools than today's artisans.

Similarly, no credible records explain how the ancient Egyptians built their temples, and we could ask the same question of them that is asked about Greek artisans: What tools did the ancient Egyptians use to craft their statues? If we listen to conventional archaeologists, we might conclude that they used a combination of round and straight copper saws charged with abrasive sand, stone hammers, and stone chisels to cut granite. All of these tools were wielded using the energy, skill, and eye of human artisans. But the geometry and symmetry of these statues raise a troubling question about the efficacy of these ancient tools. To be certain, they have been demonstrated to be capable of removing material and shaping hard stone such as granite,2 but not to the level of precision and sophistication that we see in a Ramses statue.


1 Evan Hadingham, “Unlocking the Mysteries of the Parthenon,” 39.

2 Denys A. Stocks, Experiments in Archaeology: Stoneworking Technology in Ancient Egypt (London: Routledge, 2003).

Figure 4.2. Signs of a tool's path on a statue of Ramses?
Figure 4.2. Signs of a tool's path on a statue of Ramses?
Figure 4.3. Tool paths on aerospace tools
Figure 4.3. Tool paths on aerospace tools
Figure 4-4. Geometry of a tool path formed by a ball-end cutter
Figure 4-4. Geometry of a tool path formed by a ball-end cutter

In today's manufacturing shops, some products can be machined to desired geometric tolerances without requiring that the marks left by the tool be removed by a secondary process, such as polishing. Any process whereby a tool affects material along a defined path will, without polishing, leave witness to the path of the tool. The tool might be a three-dimensional printer, building discrete amounts of plastic material in thin layers to create all manner of three-dimensional shapes, or a rotating tool bit that cuts material along a geometric path that's defined by mathematically and incrementally slicing a three-dimensional object along one of its axes. If we are driven to the conclusion that the symmetrical accuracy of the Ramses statues could be achieved only with the assistance of mechanical axes that guide the tool along a predetermined path, then the striations found around the eyes (see figure 4.2) would not be surprising. These marks follow a path that a guided tool would follow to create these features. We should also note that these marks are not visible to the naked eye, but instead were captured by a 15.2 mega-pixel camera using an ultraviolet filter.

If we speculate that these marks were secondary to the handcrafted creation of the piece, then we might wonder what created them and why. Are they water stains left on the surface of the granite after a downpour? Or are they inherent features of the granite? To answer these questions, we need to understand what modern tool marks look like and then compare them to those on the Ramses statues. Moreover, if the methods for creating the geometry of the Ramses heads used a tool that was meticulously controlled through mechanical means, then the method would have been used on other statues.

Figure 4.3 illustrates two types of tool marks. Inset 1 shows the surface of a conical steel die that was cut on a lathe. The witness marks of the tool are helical; the tool moves constantly along a linear path while the material rotates. Though these marks are quite clear, to the touch the surface is very smooth; we can feel no ripples. Sheet metal is formed around the shape of this die in a press.

Inset 2 shows the surface of a manufacturer's model for a jet engine part. The tool marks are more pronounced on the top of the fin – the result of a convex radius cutting a convex radius and leaving a pattern of concave cuts. Figure 4.4 shows an example of the type of surface created with multiple passes from a ball-end milling cutter that leaves a cusp between each pass. The distance between the passes could be reduced to create a smoother surface, but for the purpose of this model, it was not necessary and would have added more cost to its manufacture.

Given what appear to be tool marks on the Ramses head at Luxor, we next must study other statues to see if there are witness marks from the tools that created them. Lighting and the angle of the camera contribute greatly to the ability to see these kinds of witness marks, though this figure is not the clearest example and provides only a hint of what was discovered after we left the Temple of Luxor and visited the Temple of Karnak in the mid-afternoon on November 12, 2008.

The Temple of Karnak is a sprawling site that covers more than 247 acres. It is considered the largest temple in the world, rivaled only by Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and presents to visitors a stunning collection of monolithic pieces of stone crafted into statues, obelisks, columns, and walls. Karnak is made up of three main temples with several smaller, enclosed temples and outer temples. Construction continued on the temple for thirteen hundred years under approximately thirty different pharaohs.

The sheer volume of granite, diorite, and alabaster that was cut precisely into statues around Luxor attests to the ancient Egyptians' mastery of their craft. The Greeks and Romans did not sculpt statues in igneous rock. Granite was not fashioned into statues until the development of more modern power tools with steel bits. In The Materials of Sculpture, Nicholas Penny writes:

quote big

Granite had occasionally been worked in shallow relief, for architectural ornament where it was the local building stone, and for the stiff figures of sixteenth-century calvaries in Brittany, but, before the advent of improved metals and power-driven tools in the nineteenth century, the idea of making statues out of it was seldom seriously entertained by sophisticated sculptors.3

Whether using a hand-powered chisel or a power tool, shaping granite with a chisel is accomplished by percussive forces acting perpendicular to the surface of the granite. The marks left by these tools, if not polished out, are randomly scattered over the surface of the stone. Similarly, if a bush hammer (one that has nine or more hardened, pyramidal points ground into the face) is used, a mottled surface is created. Bush hammering is a common method of giving stone a rough surface – and is often used for steps in order to make them skid-proof.

Plate 9. The shadow cast along the face of Ramses at Karnak reveals the path of ancient tools
Plate 9. The shadow cast along the face of Ramses at Karnak reveals the path of ancient tools
Plate 10. Though unseen by the visitor, these ancient tool marks are revealed with the help of a telephoto lens and a computer’s digital zoom
Plate 10. Though unseen by the visitor, these ancient tool marks are revealed with the help of a telephoto lens and a computer’s digital zoom

The tool marks visible on the Ramses statues in the Temple of Luxor do not have the appearance of being made by chisels or hammers of any kind. So what kind of tool would the ancient Egyptians have used? Down the left side of the head of one of Ramses statues at Karnak are some tantalizing clues that may give us a clearer idea of what took place in these ancient statuary workshops. I was close to the end of my visit to Karnak when I set up my tripod to photograph the Ramses statue in the forecourt just outside the Great Hypostyle Hall. I peered through my camera lens fitted with a 300 mm zoom lens as the sun set in the west and cast its light across the left side of the face. The evening light revealed a series of striations that flowed in graceful arcs down the cheek and into the neck of the statue. Are the striations on this statue and the Ramses at Luxor simply the result of dirty water running down the statue, or are they witnesses to a sophisticated method of cutting? A close-up of the cheek (see plate 9) provides more detailed information of cusps between what may be the route taken by a mechanically guided tool. These marks demand further attention before reaching clear conclusion.

Upon examining plate 10, though, we see the shape of the tool that was most likely used to perform fine detailing on the face and around the eyebrows. At the top of the eyebrow are marks that follow a path down the crown and the brow and end at the top of the eyebrow, where it cut slightly deeper than the surrounding surface leaving rectangular indentations. The indentations are conspicuous by the shadow on the bottom surface caused by the sun grazing across its edge in the corner, and the path of the tool is discernible in the striations that flow down the brow to where we can see the top-of-the-eyebrow indentation. There are six of these indentations, which appear to be equally spaced. Also, below the eyebrow is an area where the tool cut away part of the eyebrow. This cut is noticeable down to the eyeliner. These indentations lie along distinguishable striations that flow from the top of the brow down to the neck. These mistakes tell us that those who created the statue must have determined that the errors were not severe enough to need correcting – a logical conclusion, for they are not noticeable to the naked eye from ground level.

How did these mistakes happen? I consulted with Greg Brown, a sculptor and an editor at The News Gazette in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, and he regarded the mistakes as not those that a skilled sculptor would make with the tools at his or her disposal on a sculpture of that scale. For one thing, the parallel striations down the face into the neck are not the kind of marks that would be left by a sculptor using hand tools. We both concurred that these marks have all the characteristics of machining. Further, when a tool that applies force in order to remove material along a specified path is stopped while the force is still being applied, it will continue to remove material in the place where it has stopped. In other words, if a rectangular tool that is energized like a jack hammer and that's guided along a geometric path on a piece stops moving, the tool will continue jack-hammering away at the material, causing an indentation. Given the mistakes left on the statue at Karnak during the cutting process, possible methods used by the ancient Egyptians are brought out of the shadows and into the light.


3 Nicholas Penny, The Materials of Sculpture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), 21.

Figure 4.5. Karnak Ramses' tool marks beneath the ear from the front
Figure 4.5. Karnak Ramses' tool marks beneath the ear from the front
Figure 4.6. Karnak Ramses' tool marks beneath the ear from the side
Figure 4.6. Karnak Ramses' tool marks beneath the ear from the side
Figure 4.7. Karnak Ramses' tool marks beneath the side-rear
Figure 4.7. Karnak Ramses' tool marks beneath the side-rear

We gained a rough estimate of the size of the rectangular depressions by comparing the size of a human face to Ramses at Luxor, overlaying a transparency of the Karnak Ramses over the Luxor Ramses, then measuring the rectangles. The measurement reveals a tool size of approximately 0.30 inch (7.62 millimeters) × 0.180 inch (4.572 millimeters). From a technical perspective, these dimensions are probably optimal for a tool that is performing finish cuts. The surface area that strikes the granite is not large, so fine detailing can be accomplished with such a tool. The tool marks show that the orientation of the tool as it made a pass over the granite provided the widest cut. That the width's dimension is greater than the height means that the distance between passes can be greater than if a square tool face was used with the same surface area.

Figures 4.5, 4.6, and 4.7 show different views of the statue and the remarkable striations that are evident from the top of the crown to the neck. Inserted in the photographs are magnifications of an area below the ear that show more mistakes made by the manufacturers of this piece. They say that the devil is in the details and these details raise some thorny questions. Branching from the fundamental question of "why?" we can ask: What extra effort went into creating these mistakes? We might conclude that usually, a sculptor who shaped a piece of granite into a human head with a hammer and chisel would expend enough effort to reduce the material to the required shape, and then would have only to polish away the tool marks. There doesn't appear to be any logical reason for a sculptor to make and leave these marks of superfluous cutting in such a hard material. These are more than a slip of the chisel and may be more the result of an unattended machining process than the work of a proud and highly skilled sculptor.

Introducing the concept of machines capable of performing this kind of work in ancient Egypt is highly controversial. For many engineers, the product is enough to show that machines had to have been used, but to archaeologists and Egyptologists, the absence of machines in the archaeological record is enough to say that all these works were created by hand. Here, however, I present this information to provide engineers, technical people, and even interested modern sculptors with observations that they may not find in a textbook.

Plate 11. The path a modern machine would take to craft a human head
Plate 11. The path a modern machine would take to craft a human head

For those who may not be familiar with how a sculpture of a Ramses' head would be made today, we can look at plate 11 as an example. This image resulted from a search on the Internet. Anyone with a computer can Google "tool path software" and receive hits for all manner of products that are created with three-dimensional modeling and machining software. This example is reprinted here with the kind permission of Joakim Moller, president of MadCAM Mould and Die CAM Systems, in Romakloster, Sweden. Mr. Moller's permission was freely given without knowledge or endorsement of the context within which his image was being displayed

As we can see in plate 11, the protocol for guiding a tool across a three-dimensional contour has not changed for more than three millennia. This is not surprising if we consider the geometry and precision of the Ramses heads, but this does not mean we can conclude that the ancient Egyptians possessed sophisticated computers and software that could generate code to feed into machines that in turn shaped their environment. Machines moved along exact, mechanically guided axes for many years before the advent of computer software. But as mentioned earlier, creating a Ramses head on one of these earlier machines would have been a significant challenge. Yet the evidence seems to be stacking up in favor of revising what we have been taught about the level of technology possessed by the ancient Egyptians.

Figure 4.8. Close-up of a Luxor Ramses' mouth
Figure 4.8. Close-up of a Luxor Ramses' mouth
Figure 4.9. Close-up of a Luxor Ramses' eye
Figure 4.9. Close-up of a Luxor Ramses' eye
Figure 3.10. Ramses’ mouth
Figure 3.10. Ramses’ mouth
Figure 2.13. Ramses’ nose symmetry
Figure 2.13. Ramses’ nose symmetry

Once I had a good idea of the kind of impressions the ancient Egyptians' tools left on the surface of the granite, I examined other photographs that I had taken to see if the marks showed up on other statues.

Going back to Luxor, we see that a close-up of Ramses' mouth (figure 4.8) reveals that the irregular, jagged edge along the vermilion border of the upper right lip was created by a series of cuts from a rectangular tool. A closer look at the left lip indicates that though the line is more precise, it is still the result of a rectangular tool being applied in one place before being moved over and reapplied to cut again. This is a very curious feature, because the lips themselves show no sign of "pick" marks, but instead are smoothly contoured surfaces. Only at the upper vermilion border can we see these marks. No doubt where the upper and lower lips meet, the tool used was much smaller. The marks here indicate that a round tool was used to define the junction of the closed lips, with a rough estimate of the size being a diameter of 0.09 inch (2.286 millimeters). The tool probably had a bull nose and the shape of a punch. It appears that this detailing was done by plunging the tool into the granite and then moving it across the profile of the lip the distance of a tool width, and then repeating the process.

When considered with the mistake made on the mouth of the Ramesseum Ramses (figure 3.10), a strong argument can be made that these details were applied by hand after the head was carved with larger and more efficient tools and methods. A logical sequence of steps would be to cut the geometry of the head using one program or model and a large, more robust tool that would remove material efficiently. Then, with a smaller tool use separate programs or models to cut the mouth, eyes, and ears. A close-up of Ramses' right eye with magnified inset provides more evidence of the plunge technique used to craft the finer details of the statue (figure 4.9). After these tasks had been completed, a hand tool could have been applied to create a sharper definition at the borders of the facial features – the shape of which had already been defined using mechanical assistance. A more distinct view of a cusp left between paths that the tool followed is seen in figure 4.9. Finding the mouth slightly off center with the jaw line and nose (seen in figure 2.13) is not surprising in this scenario and may be explained by the introduction of another tool and a reorientation of the mechanical axes with the geometry of the head.

Figure 4.10. Amenophis III from the Temple of Mut in Thebes
Figure 4.10. Amenophis III from the Temple of Mut in Thebes
Figure 4.11. Red granite figure of king from the temple of Karnak with elliptical design
Figure 4.11. Red granite figure of king from the temple of Karnak with elliptical design

Even if we ignore the seeming imprecision of the existence of tool marks on the Ramses' statues, we cannot ignore the exactness of their geometry. This degree of accuracy proves an important point. To achieve geometric perfection by hand involves an enormous amount of very careful grinding and polishing. Yet there are no scratches on the Ramses head that we would normally associate with grinding and polishing. Moreover, grinding and polishing would show more of the random direction of the artisan's stroke. It appears, from all the evidence that I have seen in Egypt, that the ancient artisans had achieved the net shape of their final product without leaving behind any areas that we could look at and identify as an area that required a little more polishing than another, which has long been the hallmark of crafting precision products by hand. In modern times, on the other hand, very exact surfaces can be cut on a machine, and tool marks are left to show the path over which the tool traveled. Depending on the requirements of the tool, sometimes the tool marks have to be removed, other times, as in figure 4.3, it is not necessary.

While there are over one hundred known Ramses in Egypt, it is astonishing to learn that Amenophis III, also known as Amenhotep, had more than two hundred fifty statues crafted in his likeness. Once we see the exacting accuracy on one statue, we can only imagine more than two hundred fifty being created. We can imagine a production assembly line, with roughers, finishers, and fine detailers; followed up by an army of craftsmen applying deeply etched hieroglyphs and reliefs. Moreover, the execution of the design across Egypt, from Abu Simbel in the south to Memphis and Alexandria in the north, implies that a standardized system of measure and production-line manufacturing must have existed that would not be out of place in today's society.

The amount of time it would take to accomplish all of this work in igneous rock is extraordinary. The statues of Egyptian pharaohs were crafted with symmetry – as though each sculpture was a stylized representation of only their most perfect image. Was this a self-image that the pharaohs wished their subjects to see, or was it the result of techniques that the craftsmen developed in their cloistered workshops with tools of which we have yet to gain knowledge? Ramses is not the only pharaoh with perfect symmetry. Amenophis III and most other Egyptian statues are also crafted to an extraordinary symmetry.

The dimensions applied to the outline of the jaw on Amenophis III indicate a precision of plus or minus 0.06 inch (1.52 millimeters), which on a human scale would be 0.01 inch (0.254 millimeter), or half the thickness of a thumbnail. The continuation of the use of ellipses in the design is evident in the face and crown of figure 4.10 as well as in figure 4.11.

4.12a - Left ear of standing statue of Ramses in the Ramses Hall, Luxor
Figure 4.12a. Ramses' ears with Amenophis III left ear
Left ear of standing statue of Ramses in the Ramses Hall, Luxor
4.12b -Right ear and left ear of Ramses outside Luxor Temple
Figure 4.12b. Ramses' ears with Amenophis III left ear
Right ear and left ear of Ramses outside Luxor Temple
4.12c - Left ear of Amenophis III at Karnak
Figure 4.12c. Ramses' ears with Amenophis III left ear
Left ear of Amenophis III at Karnak
Figure 4.13. Ramses' ears at the Ramesseum with Amenophis III's ear from the temple of Mut
Figure 4.13. Ramses' ears at the Ramesseum with Amenophis III's ear from the temple of Mut
Figure 4.14. Jeanne's ear
Figure 4.14. Jeanne's ear

Some of the statues I photographed, though severely damaged, have outstanding features that invite this kind of photographic study. While little attention is given to the ears of a statue because there are more outstanding features to look at, in studying the ears of Egyptian statues, there appears to be a mechanical precision and application of geometry in how they were crafted. A close-up of Ramses' ears at Luxor and Karnak and on the remains of the shattered bust at the Ramesseum (see figure 4.13) reveals uncommonly sharp inside corners and fine detailing. We cannot help pondering the kinds of tools employed to create these features. Though there is evidence on the Karnak Ramses statue of a rectangular tool driven against the granite (see plate 9), leaving several depressions above the eyebrow, the shape of this tool could not have been responsible for the final finish of the ears.

The Ramses at the Ramesseum, especially, reveals inexplicable features that are not found in a normal ear. The insides of the cavum conchae and the cymba conchae come to sharp corners, whereas a normal ear is rounded in the corners. From a manufacturing perspective, if the ear was created using a hammer and stone chisel, these features would require more work to accomplish than would the rounded corner that we see in a human ear. If the feature resulted from a special tool being driven into the granite, then a tool with a small radius with a rake angle would remove the material more efficiently, because there would be less surface area to cut.

From this chapter, along with chapters 1, 2, and 3, the picture that is beginning to emerge is that the ancient artisans were more interested in efficiency than exact replication of the human form. We have studied in detail only the head and crown, but all over these ancient statues we can find examples of mechanical exactness and economical production. Features left out, such as the knuckles, along with standardized design, may suggest an intentional stylization, but they might also have been ways simply to make the already enormously difficult manufacture of a statue slightly less taxing.

Of all the statues I have studied, one shows a most perfect ear, free of damage and dirt: the only ear that Amenophis III has remaining is his right ear (see figure 4.13), which epitomizes in its simplicity of form a perfection on a smaller scale with what the ancient artisans did on a larger scale: applying simple geometry using a minimum number of circles, or radii, to create three-dimensional form.

Without quantifiable measurements, we cannot argue that the geometry and symmetry of ancient Egyptian statues were dimensionally perfect. We can only, as up to now, provide a preliminary study. What has been shown could have the effect of combining imperfections to give the impression of perfect geometry, and the process of overlaying one image with another may produce a "forced" symmetry in which features blend and appear to become one. Nonetheless, there can be no doubt that symmetry was the Egyptians' objective in creating these statues, and even if they did not achieve perfection, they came much closer than what could be accomplished by visual comparison.

Today, archaeologists employ modern imaging tools to analyze ancient artifacts. In Thebes, archaeologists are reconstructing a colossus of Ramses II that was destroyed by Christians hundreds of years ago. Like a puzzle, hundreds of pieces lay strewn on the ground. Each piece is photographed in three dimensions on a revolving metal caster plate, then the images are analyzed in a computer and reconstructed in virtual space. This technology can record images that are within 40 microns (0.00157 inch) of the surface that is measured, and these will be used to determine the feasibility of reconstructing the colossal statue.4

Replicas of ancient statues have also been made using modern, computer-controlled machinery. The information that is given to the computer to create the shapes is taken from the statues themselves using laser scanning or stereo photographic imaging techniques. The results are then fed into the computer, and paths are generated for tools to follow in the machine. A replica of the bust of Emperor Constantine was created in this manner using Delcam CAD/CAM software generated from the information gleaned from the original bust in Rome.

The next likely step in analyzing the Ramses statues would be to scan their geometry into the computer to create a computer model, then bisect the head and compare one side to the other to accurately determine the variation between the two halves. From what we have studied in chapters 2 and 3, there is good reason to believe that the information gathered will contribute significantly to our understanding of our past. We might find further evidence that the ancient engineers were more like us than we previously thought.

The ancient Egyptian artisans had to have had some means of taking precise measurements. This statement becomes more meaningful when we study artifacts with less complex geometry that can be measured with simple, modern-day instruments in the field. This is where we will go next. From Luxor, we will travel to Cairo, where there is much to be learned in a mysterious underground complex near the Step Pyramid at Saqarra.


4 “Preserving Ancient Treasures Using Modern Technologies,” www.world-mysteries.com/sci__3dm.htm (accessed December 16, 2009).

Chapter 5 ♦ The Shadows of the Serapeum
The Serapeum

Art without engineering is dreaming; engineering without art is calculating.  – ANONYMOUS

The difference between men is in their principle of association. Some men classify objects by color and size and other accidents of appearance; others by intrinsic likeness, or by the relation of cause and effect. The progress of the intellect consists in the clearer vision of causes, which overlooks surface differences.  – RALPH WALDO EMERSON, ESSAY ON HISTORY

Figure 5.1. The entrance to the Serapeum
Figure 5.1. The entrance to the Serapeum
Figure 5.2. Entering the Serapeum
Figure 5.2. Entering the Serapeum
Figure 5.3. Queen Unas’s pyramid with massive casing stone
Figure 5.3. Queen Unas’s pyramid with massive casing stone

Before I experienced exalted vistas of granite and a rush of wonder in the temples in Upper Egypt, I undertook a descent into the shadows of what must be the most confounding and enigmatic archaeological site in the world. While the statues of Luxor and columns of Dendarah provide lift to the mind and spirit, we find a different perspective in the subterranean vaults of a temple located northwest of the step pyramid at Saqqara. There is little above ground to identify these vaults except the hut of an Egyptian tomb guard (also known as a ghajfir) and low walls on both sides of an inclined path that lead to formidable, dungeonlike iron doors. Attached to the iron bars that form a transom light above the yellow painted doors, a sign painted in Arabic and English reads: SERAPEUM DYN XVIII PTOLEMY XII CA.1405-30 BCE.

I first visited the Serapeum in 1995 with a Canadian researcher named Robert McKenty. Since that time, my mind has returned to its mystery and the confounding challenge that it presents modern researchers. It is not on the tourists’ venue because it is considered too dangerous to visit, and it is closed to the public. At the time of my visit in 1995, I possessed a precision-machined parallel that I had been using to determine the flatness of numerous granite blocks scattered around the Giza Plateau. The edge on the parallel was accurate to within 0.0002 inch (0.005 millimeter), or ⅒ the thickness of a human hair.

I brought it with me on the day of our visit because Robert had asked me to accompany him to Saqqara, where, in the courtyard in front of Unas's pyramid, he thought he had discovered a piece of granite that might be the result of machining. As it turned out, the object was not exact, and there was nothing about the piece that indicated that it was machined. Above the entrance to the pyramid, however, was a very impressive casing stone that surpasses those found on any of the pyramids on the Giza Plateau – one block above the entrance passage measures approximately 25 feet (7.62 meters) long and 5 feet (1.524 meters) high. Much has been written about the casing stones on the Great Pyramid, but this was the first time I had knowledge of this massive limestone block on the minor Queens pyramid.

Unknown to me at the time I visited the pyramid were other artifacts not too far away that would receive my attention and put my parallel to good use. It was about noon and a typical hot day at Saqqara, with the sun beating down unmercifully on our heads. We had already kicked up a great deal of sand traipsing all around the step pyramid and the associated temples and lesser pyramids, so we headed over to the Serapeum, where the Netherland Television people – who had brought me to Egypt to interview me with Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval – were filming. I was not on the storyboard today, having fulfilled my obligation in the Great Pyramid a day earlier, but I appreciated the opportunity to wander a site that is not normally visited by tourists.

First to greet a visitor who enters the Serapeum tunnels is a massive piece of granite sitting on the floor in an entrance hall. The piece is estimated to weigh approximately 20 tons and has a rough finish. To the right, a larger piece of granite sits in a dimly lit passage where there is barely enough room to get around. The rough outside dimensions of the piece are 7 feet (2.133 meters) in height, 7 feet (2.133 meters) in width, and 13 feet (3.962 meters) in length. With granite weighing 175 pounds per cubic foot, as a solid piece this piece would weigh approximately 55 tons. Peering at the top of the piece, though, I could see that the inside had been roughed out, leaving a wall thickness of approximately 1.5 feet (45.72 centimeters). With this material removed, the box weighs approximately 38 tons.

Figure 5.4. Roughed out box and lid in the Serapeum
Figure 5.4. Roughed out box and lid in the Serapeum
Figure 5.5. Serapeum entrance hall with rough and random depressions cut in wall
Figure 5.5. Serapeum entrance hall with rough and random depressions cut in wall
Figure 5.6. The Unfinished Obelisk at Aswan with evident quarry marks (Photograph courtesy of Dan Hamilton)
Figure 5.6. The Unfinished Obelisk at Aswan with evident quarry marks (Photograph courtesy of Dan Hamilton)

The entrance hall is larger in width and height than the tunnels where the boxes are installed. Cut into the walls are rectangular depressions that bring to mind images of large cutting tools boring into the rock to remove material quickly. Along their vertical length, the bottoms of some of the depressions are concave, while others are flat. Some have an arched top and others do not. The arrangement of depressions is haphazard and does not appear to conform to any particular design criteria. Egyptologists' accounts of the Serapeum speak of hundreds of votive stelae lying in the passageways or embedded in the walls: “These stelae contained dedications to Osiris-Apis and, as already mentioned, were sometimes dated by the regnal years of the reigning monarch.”1 From these stelae, scholars gathered the chronology of the site, for they provided data giving the duration of reigns from the beginning of the twenty-sixth dynasty to the end of the Ptolemaic period.

The niches in the wall are curious features and look remarkably similar to the depressions that are seen on the unfinished obelisk at Aswan. There, on the top of the obelisk and around the trench, we can see similar rectangular depressions, though these have been interpreted as being the result of bashing the area with stone balls. If we consider the discovery of votive stelae installed in these niches, it would be logical to assume that the niches were created specifically to house them. On the other hand, if these depressions were the marks left by the tunnel borers, they may have been convenient places to place the stelae, for not all the stelae were installed in wall niches, and the walls beyond the entrance hall are mostly devoid of them.

From a historical perspective of the purpose of these niches, the final analysis will surely come down on the side of the Egyptologists. The stelae have been found in situ and the tunnel boring tools have not. Nonetheless, from an engineers perspective, they do have the same appearance as the tool marks on the Unfinished Obelisk at Aswan, and an argument could be made that the stelae were made to fit existing depressions in the wall that were left by ancient tools plunging into the rock to carve out this mysterious underground cavern.

Though dark and dusty, the Serapeum was a welcome relief from the heat. Shadows were thrown at intervals along the numerous tunnels by incandescent bulbs, and the place appeared more mysterious because a number of alcoves or crypts were cut at right angles on each side of the tunnel. Both the tunnels and the crypts had barrel-shaped vaulted ceilings that had suffered damage over the millennia, as evidenced by places where large pieces of limestone had separated from the bedrock and fallen. Some areas were protected by wooden frames with thick plywood sheets on top. A fine dust that had been kicked up from the floor hung in the air.


1 Mohamed Ibrahim and David Rohl, “Apis and the Serapeum,” Journal of the Ancient Chronology Forum 2 (1988): 10.

Figure 5.7. Boxes in the Serapeum
Figure 5.7. Boxes in the Serapeum

In the center of each crypt there was a large granite box with a lid on top. All of the boxes were finished on the inside and the bottom side of the lid, but not all were finished on the outside. It appears that work stopped suddenly in the Serapeum, for there were boxes in several stages of completion: boxes with lids, boxes that had yet to have the lids placed on them, and the rough box and lid near the entrance. The floor of each crypt was several feet lower than the tunnel floor. Iron railings were installed to prevent visitors from falling.

The historical explanation for the boxes in the Serapeum is that they were funerary sarcophagi that were used to hold the carcasses of the sacred Apis Bull – even though no bulls (or their skeletons) were found inside them, so it is assumed that they were rifled in antiquity.

The Apis Bull was considered to be a god by the ancient Egyptians, and the Serapeum was reputed to house the burial vaults of the Apis cult. With the passage of time and following the removal of many artifacts and dust and rubble from the site, the Serapeum probably looks different today than it did one hundred thirty years ago, and early explorers gave their attention primarily to what could be gleaned from the debris. Yet nagging questions still dwell in my mind about this mysterious, hypogeal refuge from the sandy desert and piercing sun – questions about significant details not found in the historical literature. With the debris removed, my attention was drawn immediately to the engineering of the granite boxes.

Auguste Mariette (1821–1881) is credited with the modern discovery and exploration of the bedrock tunnels that are what is left of the Temple of Serapis – the Serapeum. Mariette is considered one of the greatest explorers and Egyptologists of his era, and he was the founder of the world-famous Cairo Museum. He is credited with doing more for the preservation of Egyptian monuments and prevention of the pillage of antiquities than any other scholar of his generation. In his exploration of the Serapeum he followed on the heels of other explorers, and he notes the work of the Roman geographer Strabo, the first person to have written about the Serapeum and a recorder whose work has survived the centuries. In his Geography, Strabo writes: “There is also a temple of Serapis, situated in a very sandy spot, where the sand is accumulated in masses by the wind. Some of the sphinxes which we saw were buried in this sand up to the head, and one half only of others was visible. Hence we may conceive the danger, should any one, in his way to the temple, be surprised by a [sand] storm.”2

In Le Serapeum de Memphis, Mariette writes with no small amount of intensity and passion and reveals a mind that believes it is on the trail of a major discovery:

quote big

Did it not seem that Strabo had written this sentence to help us rediscover, after over eighteen centuries, the famous temple dedicated to Serapis? It was impossible to doubt it. This buried Sphinx, the companion of fifteen others I had encountered in Alexandria and Cairo, formed with them, according to the evidence, part of the avenue that led to the Memphis Serapeum…

It did not seem to me possible to leave to others the credit and profit of exploring this temple whose remains a fortunate chance had allowed me to discover and whose location henceforth would be known. Undoubtedly many precious fragments, many statues, many unknown texts were hidden beneath the sand upon which I stood. These considerations made all my scruples disappear. At that instant I forgot my mission (obtaining Coptic texts from the monasteries), I forgot the Patriarch, the convents, the Coptic and Syriac manuscripts, Linant Bey himself, and it was thus, on 1 November 1850, during one of the most beautiful sunrises I had ever seen in Egypt, that a group of thirty workmen, working under my orders near that sphinx, were about to cause such total upheaval in the conditions of my stay in Egypt.3

Mariette’s workers began to excavate the avenue flanked by these sphinxes, which were carted off for display in various museums. After some wrangling with the Egyptian government over permissions, which delayed the work for several months, Mariette's workers continued and eventually gained access to the tunnels.

Apparently unknown to Mariette at the time of his discovery was the report of the Englishman A. C. Harris (1790- 1869), who identified the Serapeum as the same one described by Strabo and announced his discovery in a lecture in London in 1848. Prior to Harris, a French explorer named Paul Lucas (1664- 1737) published his account of a somewhat terrifying descent into the dark and mysterious tunnels in Voyage de Louis XIV dans la Tuquie, LAsie, Soutie, Palestine, Haute & Basse Egypt, &c. (Rouen, 1719):

quote big

After examining this monument [the obelisk at Matariya] and viewing the three beautiful pyramids that we found on our way, we finally arrived at the pit that we were looking for. It appeared square from the outside and 12 feet in diameter and around 30 feet deep. We all went down and lit up several candles that I had brought with me. As soon as we reached the bottom, we found a hole in which we had to lie on our stomachs for about twenty feet. This first entrance was guarded by a snake that frightened us, and which we killed. If the entrance to Lake Aveine had been as frightening as the one I have just mentioned, poets could have written more dreadful descriptions of Hell that they have left us. After having traversed, with much trouble, this narrow channel, we found ourselves in a large corridor, on both sides of which one could see an endless number of pots of clay of which I have spoken, and of which the covers were sealed with mortar. There were a large number that were broken; the others were still intact: there were within these pots birds, embalmed and swathed in bands and cloth, like the mummies. The underground vault was huge and had many galleries leading to the right and to the left. It was impossible to visit them all. Adopting the strategy of Ariadne and her lover before he entered the Labyrinth to fight the Minotaur, I had brought two thousand fathoms [3,646 meters] of string, but this ran out before I reached the end of the cavern, after which we were not prepared to penetrate further.

All the galleries were cut in the rock, and there were a mixture of kinds of chambers, those filled with these pots, and the others with mummies, most of them reduced to dust. I noticed in many of the niches the heads of bulls, from which I deduced that this was the place where the god Apis was interred; I have no doubt that the bullhead that was given to me for M. de Valincourt by M. le Maire, Consul in Egypt, came from this place. It had been found by the Arabs of Sacara in a chamber cut in the rock and hermetically sealed, which by a singular chance was opened and an embalmed bull found.

I found something similar in the catacombs that I have described; this bull was buried in a large case, upon which the head was represented: this case was gilded and painted, and surrounded by a beautiful balustrade around 5 feet high, also gilded and painted in various colours. There was also found in the same area eight urns of white stone, upon the covers of which are represented the heads of young girls, and upon the sides many sorts of hieroglyphs…4

Aidan Dodson assesses Lucas’s discovery:

quote big

The large gilded and painted case that was surrounded by a five-feet high balustrade, by Lucas’s account, is considered to have been made of wood by modern Egyptologists. However, there is some doubt cast on the accuracy of Lucas’s work because of his presumed lack of literary skills and the fact that his book was assembled from his notes by a ghost writer.5

Also clouding an accurate understanding of the provenance of the site is the disappearance of Mariette’ s excavation journals after he entrusted them to Eugene Grebaut at the Louvre in Paris. The archaeological report of Mariette's excavations was left to Gaston Maspero, who completed it in 1880, using an incomplete manuscript left by Mariette.

With uncertainty and confusion surrounding the discovery of the Serapeum, experts on the archaeology of the site, such as Dodson, Ibrahim, and Rohl, have attempted to bring some sense of order to the history of the Serapeum, but they are working with artifacts that provide less than the best evidence for a solid, scientific theory – and they are working with hearsay accounts from ghost writers who cannot provide the accuracy of the original researcher whose methods, by today’s standards, are considered crude: “When Mariette first undertook excavation work at Sakkara he was 29 years of age and without previous archaeological experience. In those days tomb clearance and analysis of finds in situ were still crude operations, to say the least, for it was not until the 20th century that archaeology became a more exacting science.”6


2 Strabo, Geographyy Book XVII, 23, http://rbedrosian.com/Classic/Strabol7b.htm (accessed May 20, 2010).

3 Jimmy Dunn, “The Serapeum of Saqqara,” www.touregypt.net/featurestories/serapeum.htm (accessed January 16, 2010), quotation of Auguste Mariettes Le Serapeum de Memphis.

4 Aidan Dodson, “The Eighteenth-Century Discovery of the Serapeum,” KMT 11, no. 3 (Fall 2000): 50. (KMT is the ancient spelling for the name Khemit, which is the land that is now Egypt.)

5 Ibid., 52.

6 Mohamed Ibrahim and David Rohl, “Apis and the Serapeum,” 14.

Figure 5.8. The Apis Bull
Figure 5.8. The Apis Bull

Despite the confusion, there seems to be no equivocation from Egyptologists about the purpose of the site. This was indeed the burial place of the sacred Apis Bull: Bull heads were found in niches in the tunnels, and a statue of a bull was retrieved from the tunnels and now sits in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Because the ancient Egyptians worshipped the Apis as a god, a search was made throughout the land for a replacement of one that died or was about to be sacrificed. When an Apis died, people throughout the land mourned and practiced a self-imposed celibacy. Until another Apis was found – a bull recognized by distinct black and white markings with a saddle mark and white blaze on the forehead – there was no sex. To say that the mourners were motivated to find a bull, and in a hurry, would be an understatement. Once the animal was found, the new god incarnate was installed with celebration and joy. The continuity of the Apis god among the Egyptians was assured, signifying that the heavens were pleased and that the land and its people would be protected and flourish.

Exploring the tunnels of the Serapeum for the first time was both intriguing and frustrating. Along the dusty corridors were more than twenty-two large boxes. Each was cut from a solid block of granite, and remarkable to each was a feature that was characteristic of fourth-dynasty boxes. The inside corners have small radii (see figure 5.7), and such features are significant to engineers and craftsmen because of the added difficulty and time required to create a sharp inside corner in hard igneous rock that is made up of 55 percent silicon quartz crystal (a hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale). The technological questions it raises are straightforward – for example, what type of tool was used and why such sharp corners were needed – but after the passage of time, we can only speculate based on circumstantial evidence (the boxes themselves) and engineering sense. Reconciling these technical questions and their implications with the cultural context of the site as described by Egyptologists requires some mental gymnastics. One question in an engineer’s mind: Why did the Egyptians transport 70 tons of rock five hundred miles down the Nile just to house the body of an animal? Though we must recognize that different cultures have invested significant expense in worshipping animals, there is something about this particular site that does not add up.

In one of the crypts there is a granite box with a broken corner, and this box is accessible by means of steps down to the lower floor. The outside of the box appears to be roughly finished, but the glint of a high polish on the inside surfaces beckoned me to climb inside. Running my hand along the surface of the granite reminded me of the thousands of times I have run my hand along a granite surface plate when I was working as a machinist and later as a tool and die maker. The feel of the stone was no different, though I was not sure of its flatness or accuracy. To check my impression, I placed the edge of my precision-ground parallel against the surface – and I saw that it was dead flat. There was no light showing through the interface of the steel and the stone, as there would be if the surface was concave, and the steel did not rock back and forth, as it would if the surface was convex. To put it mildly, I was astounded. I did not expect to find such exactitude, because this order of precision is not necessary for the sarcophagus of a bull – or any other animal or human.

I slid the parallel along the surface both horizontally and vertically, and there was no deviation from a true, flat surface. The flatness was similar to precision-ground surface plates that are used in manufacturing for the verification of exactly machined parts for tools, gauges, and myriad other products that require extremely accurate surfaces and dimensions. Those familiar with such products and the relationship between gauges and surface plates know that the gauge may show that the stone is flat within the tolerance of the gauge – in this case 0.0002 inch (0.00508 millimeter) flatness. If the gauge is moved 6 inches along the stone surface, however, and the same conditions are found, it cannot be claimed with certainty that the stone is within the same tolerance over 12 inches – unless the plate has been inspected by another means and is calibrated to a known standard.

Nonetheless, moving the steel edge along the granite provided enough information for me to conclude that I needed a longer straight edge – and, preferably, even more sophisticated alignment equipment – to determine the accuracy of the inside surfaces of the box. I was also impressed to find that each corner of the box had a small radius that ran from the top of the box to the bottom, where it blended with the corner radius of the floor of the box.

Returning to the hotel that evening, my mind was consumed by what I had seen. These artifacts were meticulously crafted boxes on a very large scale. Whoever decided to make them in this way did not have a whimsical fantasy about how pretty they would be as the bulls' final resting places. It just didn't make sense to think that the ancient Egyptians would pour such resources into manufacturing coffins while the mausoleum where the god Apis rested was rough cut and undecorated, except for a jumble of stelae with no pretense to geometric balance and harmony. As for the boxes, once the lid was on top of each of them, nobody would see the perfectly flat and polished surfaces or the conformity to orthogonal precision. Visitors would see only a dusty, dark, and rough-hewn catacomb that looked more like a London Underground tunnel than a mausoleum designed for a god.

The challenges that these boxes would present to an engineer with modern stone-working tools are significant. This was confirmed for me when I arrived back in the United States and contacted Tru-Stone Corporation, a Minnesota-based manufacturer of granite surface plates, angle plates, V-blocks, and machine bases. In 1995, I provided Eric Leither, their engineer, with the specifications for creating one of these boxes, and he responded:

quote big

Dear Christopher,

First I would like to thank you for providing me with all the fascinating information. Most people never get the opportunity to take part in something like this. You mentioned to me that the box was derived from one solid block of granite. A piece of granite of that size is estimated to weigh 200,000 pounds if it was Sierra White granite, which weighs approximately 175 lb. per cubic foot. If a piece of that size was available, the cost would be enormous. Just the raw piece of rock would cost somewhere in the area of $ 115,000.00. This price does not include cutting the block to size or any freight charges. The next obvious problem would be the transportation. There would be many special permits issued by the D. O. T. and would cost thousands of dollars. From the information that I gathered from your fax, the Egyptians moved this piece of granite nearly 500 miles. That is an incredible achievement for a society that existed hundreds of years ago.7

Mr. Leither goes on to say that Tru-Stone did not have the equipment to create this box and that they would have to create it in five pieces, then ship it to its destination and bolt it together on site.

After my treatment of this discovery in my earlier articles and my first book – which reflected my excitement – some readers concluded and have claimed that such work cannot be done today, but it was not my intention to mislead read