by Jason Colavito
The Great Pyramid is largely anonymous, but controversial
hieroglyphs hidden above the King's Chamber say who built the
pyramid. We look at efforts to discredit the glyphs.
For millennia, the Great Pyramid has stood in mute testimony to the
architectural genius of its builders. Within its walls no hieroglyph
proclaims the name of the architect and no cartouche celebrates the
life of the pharaoh for whom it was built. When the caliph Mamoun
forced his way in over a thousand years ago, he found no record of
who had built the massive structure.
Not in the Subterranean
Chamber, nor the so-called Queen's Chamber or even in the
much-vaunted King's Chamber. Not until 1837 did any marking or
identifier turn up within the pyramid's walls, and only then deep
inside the secret relieving chambers which keep the pyramid's bulk
from crushing the flat roof of the King's Chamber.
researchers believe that these marks were faked to bolster the
traditional identification of Khufu with the Great Pyramid.
first relieving chamber came to light in the 18th century, as Martin Stower says in
Forging the Pharoah's Name:
"The four remaining compartments were discovered by Colonel Howard
Vyse, and his assistants, in 1837; ... they had been sealed since
the pyramid was built, and were reached only by tunneling; this was
done by hired quarrymen, using gunpowder."
Computer programmer and part-time amateur pyramidologist
gives the conspiracy theory of what happened next:
"'Quarry Marks' exist in the relieving chambers above the King's
Chamber, including one mark which is reported to indicate Khufu, the
pharaoh under whose reign the Great Pyramid was built. One source
suggests that these quarry marks were faked by Howard Vyse in 1837.
The reasons give[n] are many, but the main ones are: These marks
appear only in the 4 relieving chambers opend by Vyse and not in the
original relieving chamber opened by Davison in 1765. Vyse's diary
for that day described a thorough examination of the relieving rooms
but no mention of the hieroglyphics and quarry marks.
The marks were
mentioned only the next day, when Vyse returned with witnesses.
There are problems with the hieroglyphics in that they are a mixture
of styles and syntax/usage from differing time periods of Egypt. And
finally, in the marks bearing Khufu's name, mistakes were made.
Those same mistakes occur in the only two hieroglyphics references
that would have been available to Vyse at that time."
anonymous Geocities web page takes this theory to heart, saying,
"The evidence outlined above shows beyond reasonable doubt that Vyse
faked the inscription and that Khufu did not build the Great
Of course, even if the inscriptions were fake, that alone
does not disprove Khufu's ownership. If the "Made in China" sticker
fell off a pair of sneakers, that does not mean that they suddenly
sprang from Mexico instead.
While Hunker goes on to espouse a firm belief in pyramidology, the
belief that the Great Pyramid holds profound meaning in its
measurements. But where did he get this strange idea that the quarry
marks are fakes? He says only in the text that "one source suggests"
this is the case.
Turning to the notes at the end of his article, he
informs the reader that he gleaned this information from "The Message of The Sphinx," 1996,
Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval.
Originally titled Keeper of Genesis in its first press run in Britian,
Message of the Sphinx represents the first joint book by
Fingerprints of the Gods author Graham Hancock and Orion Mystery
co-author Robert Bauval. Together, they combined their theorizing
about a pre-Ice Age advanced civilization into a unified theory of
Briefly stated, the two men came to believe that an
advanced culture disappeared during the Ice Age, and its survivors
gained footholds throughout the world, establishing ancient cultures
like the Egyptians, the Maya and the Easter Islanders. (see
Dusting For Fingerprints)
The two authors devoted three pages to questioning the validity of
the Vyse find, elaborating on the information summarized above. They
then say the Egyptological acceptance of
Howard Vyse's quarry marks "verges
on intellectual chicanery."
They claim that while they raise
troubling questions about the Vyse find, they,
"are frankly puzzled
that such questions are never asked."
They say, however, that the
questions are irrelevant to their larger argument about who owns the
"[E]ven if the quarry marks were not forged by Vyse, what do they
really prove? Isn't attributing the Great Pyramid to Khufu on the
basis of a few lines of graffiti a bit like handing over the keys of
the Empire State Building to a man named 'Kilroy' just because his
name was found spray-painted on the walls of the lift."
But Hancock and Bauval were not the first to market these theories.
Alternative-history believer David Pratt explains where the authors
got their ideas about the mason's quarry marks:
"The authenticity of these masons' markings has been challenged by
Zecharia Sitchin, who argues that they were forged by Vyse and his
assistants in the hope of gaining fame and fortune.
He claims that
the hieroglyphs are ungrammatical and misspelt (with the sign for 'ra',
the supreme god of Egypt, being written instead of 'kh'), that the
cursive script in which they were written dates from a later era,
and that they were copied (complete with mistakes) from standard
contemporary works on hieroglyphics.
This argument has been repeated
by several other writers, including Graham Hancock (though he has
since rejected the forgery theory), Eric von Däniken, and Colin
We will return to Hancock's acceptance of the quarry marks in a
Zecharia Sitchin is one of the most famous proponents of the
astronaut theory today, second only to the father of the theory,
Erich von Däniken, in importance to true believers.
to be the only person who can "correctly" interpret Sumerian
writings. While many have disputed his translations and conclusions,
Sitchin maintains that the Sumerian writings show that aliens called
Anunnaki from an exploded planet visited earth and created humanity
to mine gold for them.
Author Ian Lawton:
"In order to support his revised chronology of mankind, and his
contention that these pyramids were built as 'ground markers' for
the Anunnaki's incoming space flights, it was Sitchin who first
suggested that Colonel Richard Howard Vyse faked the hieroglyphics
in the Relieving Chambers in the Great Pyramid, some of which
include the name Khufu."
Like von Däniken before him, Sitchin needed the Great Pyramid to
represent something greater than a pharaoh's magnificent
To "prove" the theory of alien intervention, it must
be a construct of the alien visitors.
As Martin Stower said,
"Zecharia Sitchin - a writer in the 'Ancient Astronaut' genre - is
by no means the first to see the problem these marks pose for
'alternative' accounts of the Great Pyramid. They show that the
pyramid was built by Ancient Egyptians, for the Pharaoh Khufu. It
was NOT built by aliens..."
Stower demolishes Sitchin's theory in clear and simple language:
"In 1837, even Samuel Birch [Vyse's assistant and Sitchin's assumed
forger] couldn't have faked the quarry marks. They have features
which even experts didn't understand, but which have become clear
since. In fact they fit in perfectly with later discoveries and
Stower shows that the hieroglyphs' "misspellings" and errors were
actually imperfections in 19th century knowledge of hieroglyphs
projected onto the correctly-spelled hieroglyphs themselves.
Nevertheless, the authority of Zecharia Sitchin gave free license to
over a dozen alternative authors to cite the "forged" quarry marks
as proof that Khufu did not build the pyramid.
For this reason von Däniken could still say in 1996's Eyes of the
"[T]he Great Pyramid is a huge, largely anonymous work...
There is not a single inscription that would indicate how it was
[built]. No one left behind even the briefest note to answer any of
our questions regarding its construction. The pyramid itself
features no hieroglyphics at all."
As we have seen from the earlier discussion of the quarry marks,
this is patently false. Whether they are genuine or not, the quarry
marks do exist, and they are hieroglyphics.
While von Däniken sticks to the forgery line, Graham Hancock changed
his mind in the light of "new" evidence known to Egyptology since
the 19th century.
"Cracks in some of the joints reveal hieroglyphs set far back into
the masonry. No 'forger' could possibly have reached in there after
the blocks had been set in place - blocks, I should add, that weigh
tens of tons each and that are immovably interlinked with one
The only reasonable conclusion is the one which orthodox
Egyptologists have already long held - namely that the hieroglyphs
are genuine Old Kingdom graffiti and that they were daubed on the
blocks before construction began."
Hancock wrote those words in 1998, just months before the launch of
his high-profile television series "Quest for the Lost Civilization"
and his book Heaven's Mirror.
Hancock seemed to be seeking
credibility as a serious researcher at the time, and he revised his
"Although I was still open to the erroneous forgery theory while
Keeper/Message was being written, I was also very much open to the
orthodox theory that the Giza pyramids were Fourth Dynasty work -
irrespective of the provenance of the quarry marks."
This statement of 1998 does not seem to square with Hancock's 1996
claim that accepting quarry marks "verges on intellectual
chicanery." To this reporter, that statement did not sound like
someone who was "open to the orthodox theory."
Hancock sets the record straight about his beliefs about the
"For the record I believe that
Khufu did build the Great
Pyramid - or anyway most of it (perhaps the subterranean chamber and
some other rock-hewn parts of the structure may be earlier)."
And so we have come full-circle, from the Egyptological acceptance
of Vyse's findings, to alternative history's rejection and then
acceptance of them.
Along the way, each author's acceptance of the
Sitchin theory compounds the damage done. A Google search turned up
61 pages that repeat some iteration of the Sitchin theory, whether
from the mouth of Sitchin, Alan Alford or Graham Hancock.
As Ian Lawton says,
"Bearing in mind that it was this original
attack by Sitchin which prompted so many other 'alternative
Egyptologists' to repeat his accusations without question - although
fortunately now most of them have seen the light - this saga perhaps
more than any other tells us a very great deal about Sitchin and his