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April 24, 2012

Book Review: Before the Pharaohs

There are some fascinating books out there on "Alternative History," and I'm not talking about science fiction "what if this happened instead of that?" books. I mean books that take a look at history in a new light, presenting new and interesting theories about what really happened. Some of them are idiotic ancient conspiracy theories, but others are food for thought, even if they do turn out to be crap in hindsight.

Back in 2006, I was on one of these kicks and I read two books that purported to turn History on its head. One of them was about the Templars and North America (maybe I'll post it later), but the other one fits this week's Egypt theme.

It's a book by Edward Malkowski called Before the Pharaohs, and it's a truly fascinating book that puts forth a lot of theories, both about the Sphinx (which is prominent on the cover) and about Egyptian civilization in general. Did you know that some people believe the Great Pyramids of Giza are not tombs but actually power conduits, a power source to create massive amounts of electricity?

Yeah, that's in there.

Malkowski's book is also the source of the "Sphinx must be dated before 10,000 BC because of soil erosion around it" theory that I mentioned in Sunday's post on Robert Temple's The Sphinx Mystery, though Malkowski is just telling us about that theory. He didn't come up with it.

In fact, there's a lot of that in Before the Pharaohs.

That doesn't mean it's a bad book, of course. It's actually very interesting.

If you can get through the first 60 or so pages.

From my review on Curled Up With a Good Book:
"Malkowski begins the book by looking at the Sphinx. "Aha!" I thought. "Starting at the top and then working his way down." In fact, no. Instead, we get several pages of in depth analysis of erosion and how the differing levels of such indicate that the Sphinx must be older than is currently claimed. There is no way that the erosion the Sphinx has suffered, via both wind and water, could have happened in the period of time estimated. This is fine in itself, but halfway through the chapter I just wanted to grab the author by the throat and cry "We get it! Get on with it!" Instead we get diagrams showing the different levels of the Sphinx and how far the erosion would go. What's even worse, one of the two experts whom Malkowski spends a lot of time detailing actually claims that rainfall runoff could account for the Sphinx being built from 3000 B.C.E to 2500 B.C.E. This dating, of course, falls within the current projections. So what was the point of this? The other scientist whom Malkowski heavily details claims that erosion and weathering on the Sphinx would mean that it must have been built between 7000 B.C.E and 5000 B.C.E. This could be an important point, but to begin the book with it?

The next chapter is on climate change. Malkowski tells us that the Saharan desert went through three cycles of climate change, getting wetter and then more arid and then back again, between 10,000 B.C.E. and 2800 B.C.E. He gives us much more than we could ever want to know about this, and then goes back to erosion rates, this time with graphs and tables! He uses all of this information to disprove the 3000-2500 dating for the Sphinx, stating that the other theory must be correct. He may very well be right, but by this time, I was ready to close my eyes. This was the most difficult beginning of a book I've had to get through in a while."
I had actually forgotten about the expert Malkowski quotes that mentioned rainfall erosion, since that's one of Temple's theories.

Then the book gets really good, talking about ancient timekeeping, the Giza Power Plant theory, and so much more. It's incredibly intriguing, and even if only part of it is true, it's still interesting stuff to read and theorize about.

For example, the theory that Mayan god-figures actually came to Egypt and became Egyptian gods, instead of the commonly-theorized other way around? That's cool. May be bull. But it's still cool.

This review has the most positive votes of any of my reviews on Amazon. I'm proud of that fact (not to mention proud of the fact that my Curled Up review is quoted in the "Editorial Reviews" section of the book's Amazon listing).

It's an endlessly fascinating book if you can get past the extremely detailed soil erosion theories. They literally almost killed me (and I use "literally" in the Joe Biden sense of the word).

Check out the review, and also let me know some of your thoughts on this kind of subject. Do you like "alternative history?" Any theories you'd like to share?


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