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and forgery inside the Great Pyramid?
writers in the field of alternative history/archaeology are as
controversial as Zecharia Sitchin. For one, he has been largely
responsible, via René Andrew Boulay, for carving out the
ideological framework dear to some of the more outlandish conspiracy
theorists, such as David Icke: that there are extra-terrestrial
controllers living on Earth, which are reptilian in nature, who
have and continue to use Mankind as a slave race.
You either hate or adore Sitchin; there does not appear to be
a middle ground. His fame – or distaste – is largely
derived from his alternative decipherment of the Sumerian legends,
which for Sitchin point towards the existence of a twelfth planet
in our solar system, whose inhabitants colonised the Earth –
and genetically engineered Mankind to work the Earth’s goldmines.
Faced with such extraordinary
claims, few if any historian have taken Sitchin seriously. Once
heralded as one of the few people on this planet who could read
the Sumerian script, today, he is more generally introduced as
a “journalist” or a “New York writer”.
But amidst all the controversy and the spectacular claims, it
is less known that Sitchin has created an enduring legacy that
is seldom attributed to him directly, by arguing that the famous
pyramid explorer Howard Vyse forged an inscription in the Great
Pyramid. If true, it would mean that the only available hard evidence
that the pyramid was built by Khufu would be reduced to an archaeological
fraud – and one of the most famous explorers to a common
Sitchin’s “The Stairway to Heaven”, published
in 1980, the chapter entitled “Forging The Pharaoh's Name”
argues that Colonel Richard Howard Vyse did not discover, but
forged a cartouche containing the name of Pharaoh Khufu inside
the Great Pyramid, in one of the relieving chambers above the
King’s Chamber. Vyse was credited with this groundbreaking
discovery that placed his name in the annals of Egyptology in
his book “Operations Carried on at the Pyramids of Gizeh
in 1837”. These relieving chambers were never meant to be
entered and had in fact been sealed at the time of the pyramid’s
construction. Hence, they dated back to the time the pyramids
were built. The discovery of Khufu’s name inside thus provided
definitive evidence this Pharaoh was responsible for the Great
For someone, like Sitchin, who believes that the pyramids are
far older than the Fourth Dynasty (ca. 2400 BC) and constructed
by alien overlords, the cartouche thus posed evidentiary problems
for their theories. And whereas some chose to ignore the problem,
Sitchin argued that the cartouche was a fraud. Indeed, Sitchin
said that it had not been seen by previous visitors to the relieving
chamber in question. How could they have missed what Vyse so easily
found? Furthermore, Sitchin writes: “Wasn’t it odd,
I thought, that for centuries no markings of any kind were found
by anyone, anywhere, in the pyramid, not even in Davison’s
Chamber above the King’s Chamber – and only Vyse found
such markings where only he first entered?”
Next point of debate: the cartouche was executed in red paint.
The experts had difficulty distinguishing it from other –
recent – inscriptions and its possible status as a recent
addition wasn’t helped with claims that people had been
seen entering the structure with red paint. Perring’s memoirs
“The Pyramids of Gizeh” do state that the red paint
“was a composition of red ochre called by the Arabs moghrab
which is still in use. […] Such is the state of preservation
of the marks in the quarries that it is difficult to distinguish
the work of yesterday from one of three thousand years”.
But the best evidence, Sitchin argued, was that the name of Khufu
was misspelled – and conform to a notorious misspelling
in a book to which Vyse had access. It is particularly the latter
allegation of misspelling the Pharaoh’s name that has been
hotly contested by experts in the field; so when they argue Sitchin
was wrong, they conveniently wipe the other doubts under the carpet
Sitchin claims that the inscription reads Ra-ufu, not Khufu. This
mistake would have been unthinkable for ancient Egyptian writers
to make, but it is explainable if the inscription was done in
1837. That year, an academic book about hieroglyphics had been
published, “Materia Hieroglyphica”, in which the name
of Khufu was erroneously entered: the lines of the sieve were
so close together, that they appeared in the print like a massive
disc, which is in fact another way of writing “Ra”.
It is known that Vyse had this book with him.
Vyse had the opportunity to commit this fraud. But in any crime,
motive is an important consideration… and Sitchin is able
to provide one: Vyse’s expedition was running short of funding,
and had largely not uncovered any major revelation that would
grab headlines, which is what he needed to receive more funding.
The discovery of the cartouche was therefore a gift from heaven.
Too good to be true?
Perhaps, though it seems that accusations of forgery work both
ways. Sitchin’s opponents have pointed out that the visual
evidence for the misspelling that Sitchin provides is erroneous
at best, and some claim Sitchin has actually forged evidence in
support of his conclusions of forgery! His opponents point out
that various other photographs, including those circulated by
Rainer Stadelmann when he was working on the ventilation system
in the Great Pyramid in the 1990s, reveal that the correct sign
was used in the writing in the relieving chamber – hence,
Ra-ufu is in fact Khufu. In their opinion, Sitchin, not Vyse,
is guilty of forgery.
Queen's Chamber, Great Pyramid
In Sitchin’s possible defence,
when he first published his accusation in 1980, several photographs
now in existence, including Stadelmann’s, had not yet been
made; only drawings existed, and perhaps these showed the inaccuracy
as well? Unfortunately for Sitchin, that is not the case: a sketch
of the cartouche appears in Perring’s book, published in
1839. Sitchin gives no precise source where he got the cartouche
from, but as Perring is listed in the bibliography, most assume
it was his book that provided Sitchin with a drawing of the cartouche.
And, as such, the conclusion drawn by those antagonistic towards
Sitchin is that he purposefully faked the story of a forgery –
in an attempt to predate the pyramid to several millennia before
Khufu – and have the evidence conform to his theory.
of the Casing Stones by Colonel Vyse (Drawing by J.S. Perring)
than a quarter century after the original allegation, Sitchin
nevertheless sticks to his original charge. Sitchin adds that
in 1983, Walter M. Allen of Pittsburgh, Pa. contacted him, stating
that his great-grandfather, Humphries W. Brewer, had been one
of the stonemasons employed by Vyse. Allen said that he possessed
family documents in which Brewer said he witnessed Hill, a man
working for Vyse, go into the pyramid with red paint and a brush.
He said that Brewer objected to such forgeries, but was then fired
and banned from the site. Allen was unable to provide first-hand
evidence to his claim, but, to his credit, he did have written
family accounts written in the 1950s that said as much; he furnished
Sitchin with copies of those entries.
Interestingly, Brewer later worked for the German Egyptologist
Lepsius and tried to examine the marks inside the pyramid, but
was refused permission by Vyse. So irrelevant of the allegations
made by Sitchin, namely that the copying of Khufu’s name
was erroneous, the suspicion cannot be entirely shaken that someone
in Vyse’s entourage (correctly) added a cartouche with Khufu’s
name to the fabric of the Great Pyramid.
Sitchin has brought in circumstantial evidence, by drawing the
attention to the discovery of a coffin lid bearing the name “Menkaure”
that was discovered inside the Third Pyramid in 1837, again, by
Howard Vyse and John Perring. He argues that Vyse twice tried
to link the structures of the Gizeh plateau with the Fourth Dynasty,
and twice got what he wanted by committing fraud. However, the
case for fraud in regards to the Third Pyramid is a rather loose
The story of the coffin lid is indeed interesting. Originally
seen as genuine, more than a century after its discovery, carbon
dating techniques revealed that the coffin lid was not from 2600
BC (but 660 BC) and that the skeleton inside dated from the first
or second century AD. It was, in short, not Menkaure at all, as
Vyse had promoted the find. The discovery was therefore dropped
and the British Museum removed the coffin lid from its catalogue.
But the link between Menkaure and the Third Pyramid has remained
intact and though Vyse could easily have been merely mistaken
in his conclusions, Sitchin sees this rather as further evidence
of guilt and fraud.
interest in the pyramids does not end there. In “Journeys
to the Mythical Past”, largely a collection of travel reports
he performed in recent years, Sitchin claims that on one visit
to the Great Pyramid, in 1997, he was “almost killed”
and seems to allege that forces within the Egyptological establishment
tried to kill him for his views and opinions.
Of more interest – and less dramatic, though more sensational
– are allegations, supported by signed affidavits and several
photographs, of the existence of an unknown room behind the niche
in the Queen’s Chamber. The main character in this saga
is John Cogswell, a member of Sitchin’s travel party. The
account of his discovery is the subject of an affidavit dated
January 28, 2004, relating to events of February 1995.
It states that when Sitchin and Cogswell entered the Queen’s
Chamber, they found a different niche covering was in place than
seen on previous visits. They opened the cover, to look inside.
There, they found plastic pipes and bottles, suggesting someone
had either used the niche as a garbage dump… or something
else was occurring further along the niche.
Cogswell was tasked with crawling inside, to see what could lay
ahead. And what he found, was a secret chamber. To quote from
the affidavit: “I crawled along for about 15 feet when a
tunnel veered to the left. Along this way, I noted some old black
plastic pipe that was badly damaged. The tunnel during this first
stage of the journey was approximately 2.5 feet square. […]
After the first 15 feet, the tunnel veered to the left approximately
30-45 degrees and continued for about another 15 feet. As I went
on, the tunnel got roomier. At the end, I entered into an area
roughly circular in nature and approximately 10-12 feet in diameter
from the waist up and approximately 12 feet high. It was not a
finished room but appeared to be a room created by the removal
of building stones.”
Photographs of the room reveal a relatively small place, rough,
with a blackened ceiling. Though it appears to harbour no great
secret, the question is why no-one has catalogued it – or
announced its discovery. Furthermore, it is this area that is
one of the areas of interest to the French architect Gilles Dormion,
who believes that the niche – which many believe was meant
to hold a statue of the Pharaoh – instead betrays signs
– as does the floor of the Queen’s Chamber –
of having been reworked. Dormion speculates that the true King’s
Chamber – containing Khufu’s sarcophagus – might
be hidden underneath the floor of the Queen’s Chamber.
revelation, as surprising as it may be to many, is not groundbreaking
news as such. Indeed, Sitchin should be commended for having the
gusto to let his party crawl where few others dared to go and
come back with photographic evidence in support of their exploits.
The question is whether we are confronted with a room which Egyptologists
are purposefully keeping secret, or something else. And Sitchin
once again argues or a cover-up.
In truth, the hole and room in the back of the niche is known
about. Though seldom discussed (and one does wonder why), it is
not a secret. It is subject of mystery, though the most common
explanation is that it was done by treasure seekers at some moment
in the paast and Caviglia is often identified as the most likely
suspect, apparently in an effort to reach the King’s Chamber
(above) via another route. That the “room” was created
by treasure seekers could explain the roughness of the chamber’s
look, as well as the blackening of the ceiling – the possible
result of the treasure hunters’ torches.
In conclusion, it is clear that
Sitchin is a controversial character when it comes to the Great
Pyramid. Though often having been pushed out of the limelight
by Robert Bauval and Graham Hancock – both of whom often
relied on pieces of Sitchin’s material – he has been
a powerful force in the debate as to the true nature of the Great
Pyramid, and specifically attempts to predate it by several millennia
and link it with alien or lost civilisations. Though the jury
is definitely out whether Vyse carved the Pharaoh’s name
inside the relieving chamber, Sitchin has carved out a name for
himself by continuing the Pyramid debate, at a time when some
of the others, like Bauval and Hancock, seem to have given up.