Egyptologists would have us believe that the Great Pyramid and its two sister pyramids were built in the early dynastic period of the Old Kingdom, about 4,600 years ago. Looking at the evidence objectively, however, their case is far from clear cut.
THE ADOPTION THEORY
In his book ‘The Phoenix Solution’ (1998), Alan Alsford claimed that much of the evidence for the 4th dynasty origin of the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx actually pointed to an adoption scenario, rather than construction of the monuments during that time period. Thus, according to this theory, the Egyptian pharaohs Khufu and Khafre adopted the Great Pyramid, the Second Pyramid and the Sphinx, rather than built them. In addition to renovating these structures, they and their successors built the causeways which ran between the mortuary and valley temples, and the smaller pyramids and masteba. According to Alsford, this massive building program would explain the presence of the early dynastic workers’ villages which have recently been excavated at Giza.
THE WORKMEN’S GRAFFITI
The most solid piece of evidence supporting the premise that the Great Pyramid, and by inference the other Giza monuments, originated in the 4th dynasty is the ‘workmen’s graffiti’. This graffiti was discovered by an English adventurer, Colonel Howard Vyse in 1837. It was found inside sealed chambers (the ‘relieving chambers’ above the King’s Chamber) and contained references to Khufu. Thus, on this basis, it was concluded that Khufu had indeed built the pyramid.
The authenticity of the workmen’s graffiti in the Great Pyramid is questionable. Alsford and many other authors claim that the graffiti could have been faked. It was known at the time that Colonel Vyse had expended many years and a great deal of money on expeditions to Egypt, but had failed to unearth anything of major significance until his ‘amazing’ discovery in the Great Pyramid. The Graffiti could have easily been fabricated by copying inscriptions which had already been discovered on other structures and in the quarries nearby. Interestingly, the graffiti was only found in the chambers broken into by the Colonel. The so called Davidson chamber, lying below the other chambers and discovered by an earlier explorer, had no such graffiti. Indeed the rest of the pyramid is strangely devoid of markings of any kind. In the absence of any attempt to radiocarbon date the ‘red ochre’ paint which was used to daub the graffiti onto the massive granite blocks in the relieving chambers, debate as to the authenticity of the graffiti will continue.
The Inventory Stele, found in 1857 by Auguste Mariette to the east of the Great Pyramid, dates to about 1500 B.C. According to Maspero and other experts, however, it shows evidence of having been copied from a far older stele originating in the 4th Dynasty. In this Stele, the pharaoh Khufu speaks of his discoveries made while clearing away the sands from the Great Pyramid and Sphinx. He dedicated the account to Isis, who he called the ‘Mistress of the Western Mountain’, and the ‘Mistress of the Pyramid’, and identified the Great Pyramid itself as the ‘House of Isis’.
The Stele describes how Khufu, ‘gave to her (Isis) an offering anew, and built again (to restore or renovate) her temple of stone’. According to the text, the Pharaoh inspected the Sphinx and found that the monument and a nearby sycamore tree had been struck by lightning. The lightening strike had knocked off part of the headdress of the Sphinx, which Khufu restored. Egyptologist Selim Hassan, who dug the Sphinx out from the surrounding sands in the 1930’s, observed there was indeed evidence that portions of the Sphinx were damaged by lightning, and the location of the ancient repairs was clearly visible. He also discovered that sycamore trees once grew to the south of the monument. The Stele finishes with the story of how Khufu built small pyramids for himself, his wife, daughters and other family members, next to the Great Pyramid. Today, the ruins of three small pyramids are indeed situated on the eastern side of the monument. Archaeologists have found independent evidence that the southernmost of the three small pyramids, flanking the Great Pyramid, was dedicated to Henutsen, a wife of Khufu.
4th dynasty inscriptions found at Giza also confirm that Khufu was building mastaba fields for his senior officials to the west of the Great Pyramid in the fifth year of his reign. Given the time frame and huge resources necessary for the construction of the Great Pyramid, it would appear highly unlikely that he would have diverted significant manpower and materials from the building of his own ‘tomb’ to build these masteba and smaller pyramids. The inscriptions make a great deal more sense if the Great Pyramid was already in existence.
The 1983-84 ‘Pyramids Carbon-dating Project’, directed by Mark Lehner and Robert Wenke, delivered results that do not support the building of these structures during the 4th dynasty. For example, thirteen samples of mortar taken from the Great Pyramid gave construction dates in the range 3101-2853 B.C., and an average date of around 3000 B.C. Similarly, samples of mortar removed from the Second Pyramid produced a comparable date. It is interesting to note that all of these samples were taken from stone courses on the outside of the pyramids. As such, using these samples to date the structure is questionable. The mortar samples could have had a much later origin than the massive stone blocks from which they were taken, as part of a restoration project; much better to have taken the samples from deeper into the stone work.
Such was the confusion caused by the carbon-dating project that a second study was carried out in 1995. The results of this study were published in 2001. In the case of the Great Pyramid there was still considerable scatter in the data over a range of about 400 years.
In September 1872 a British engineer, Waynman Dixon, discovered the openings of two shafts on the south and north walls of the Queen’s Chamber. In the horizontal section of the shafts that lead into the chamber he found three small relics; a granite ball, a small bronze hook and piece of ‘cedar-like’ wood. The relics were taken to England.
Unfortunately, the small piece of wood went missing, and thus no carbon-14 dating of the relic was possible. A German Engineer, Rudolf Gantenbrink, explored the shafts of the Queen’s Chamber in the Great Pyramid in 1993 using a miniature robot fitted with a video camera. He discovered a long wooden rod whose shape and general appearance seemed identical to that of the shorter piece found by the Dixons in 1872 at the bottom of this shaft. The wood could, of course, be carbon-14 dated and provide further insight as to the age of the Great Pyramid. So far the wooden rod has not been retrieved by Dr. Zahi Hawass, the Director-General of the Giza monuments, in spite of the many requests for him to do so.
REFURBISHMENT OF THE VALLEY TEMPLE AT GIZA
Geologist Robert Schoch and others have demonstrated that the granite casing blocks of the Valley Temple, close to the Great Pyramid, are fitted to limestone blocks which had already been severely weathered. Since the casing blocks have been dated to the 4th dynasty, the inner limestone core, i.e. the original temple blocks, must date to long before the 4th dynasty. Such being the case, it then becomes highly likely that the other megalithic temples at Giza, which are credited to Khufu and Khafre, were also originally constructed long before the 4th dynasty. As some of the enormous blocks of stone are known to have been quarried from the limestone of the Sphinx enclosure, this would date the temples to the period when the Sphinx was carved.
From an extensive study of the highly-weathered limestone rock of the Sphinx, and the enclosure in which it is situated, Robert Schoch concluded that the monument was exposed to prolonged heavy rainfall, and he has therefore dated its construction to a much earlier period than the 4th dynasty of the Egyptian Old Kingdom. If the Sphinx is indeed far older than orthodox Egyptologists would have us believe, it calls into doubt the dating of the other monuments at Giza.