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Skeptical Intelligencer, Vol. 7, 2004



VOLUME 7, 2004

The Magazine of ASKE



Edited by Michael Heap


Editorial 2


An amateur looks at Egyptian pseudohistory by Lee L. Keener 2Spin doctoring history by John Wall 10The antiquity of man: Reviewing Hindu Creationism by Michael Brass 14The Newport Tower and the Plowden Petition by Doug Weller 19Linguistic reconstruction and revisionist accounts of ancienthistory by Mark Newbrook 22

Book Review

The History of England RevealedBy Mark Newbrook and Sarah Thomason 34

Special Features

Solution to crossword 37Visions of the year 2005 37

Skeptical Intelligencer, Vol. 7, 2004



The Skeptical Intelligencer welcomes formaland informal contributions on any subjectwithin the ambit of the Association forSkeptical Enquiry (ASKE).

Formal ArticlesFormal articles should be aimed at theintelligent layperson, and authors should takeparticular care to define or explain unusualterms or concepts. Equations, statistics or othernumerical and symbolic tools may beemployed whenever required. Articles shouldbe as succinct as possible, but may be of anylength.

Authors of contributions to the SkepticalIntelligencer should be take care to ensure thattexts are temperate in tone and free ofvituperation. They should also ensure thatarguments are either supported by expressevidence/arguments or identified asspeculative. Do not pretend conclusions arecertain that are not demonstrated ordemonstrable. (T.H. Huxley).

Before being accepted for publication,submitted texts will be reviewed by the Editorand any appropriate advisors. Whereimprovements or changes are desirable, theeditorial team will work with authors and makeconstructive suggestions as to amendments.

Whenever possible, authors should submit aprinted, double-spaced, hard copy of theirarticle or letter, together with a 3.5-inch DOS-formatted floppy disk to the address shown onthe front cover. Alternatively, contributionsmay be sent by e-mail direct to the editor at:. Texts should ineither ASCII text-only; Rich Text Format; orMS-Word.

When referring to another work, authorsshould: Cite only the surname, year, and (where

appropriate) page number within the maintext: e.g. ...according to Hyman (1985: p.123), the results of this test were not

convincing... or ...according to Bruton (1886;cited in Ross, 1996)...

List multiple references in date order: e.g. ...anumber of studies have thrown doubt on thisclaim (Zack, 1986; Al-Issa, 1989; Erikson,1997)...

In the case of electronic material, give theauthor and the date the material was accessedon line

Place Internet addresses URLs in anglebrackets: e.g.

A complete list of references in alphabetical orderof authors' surnames should be given at the end ofthe article. The list should be compiled using thefollowing conventions: Articles: Smith, L.J. (1990) An examination of

astrology. Astrological Journal, 13, 132-196. Books: Naranjo, X. (1902) The End of the

Road. London: University of London. Chapters: Griff, P. (1978) Creationism. In D.

Greengage (ed.) Pseudoscience. Boston:Chapman Publishers.

Electronic material: Driscoe, E. Another lookat Uri Geller. . Accessed21 April 1997.

Unless otherwise agreed or indicated, all originalmaterial published in the Skeptical Intelligencer iscopyright by the Association for SkepticalEnquiry.

The following details are for those readers,contributors and ASKE members who wish tocorrespond with the editor by post or communicateby telephone or fax:

Dr. Michael Heap, 10 Woodholm Road, Sheffield,S11 9HT. Tel: 0114 262 0468; Fax: 0114 2217319. The email address is:


Skeptical Intelligencer, Vol. 7, 2004



This issue of the Skeptical Intelligencer is devoted tounusual theories and beliefs in the fields of history,archaeology, anthropology and palaeontology. All arelargely unsupported by mainstream knowledge in thesedisciplines and run counter to existing evidence andacceptable standards of scholarship and practice. Some ofthe ideas, such as those of Mr. Graham Hancock, havereceived considerable public attention and if they have anyvalidity they would have astonishing consequences for our

understanding of the evolution of early civilisations. Yet, asalways, extraordinary ideas require extraordinary evidence,and such evidence appears not to have been forthcoming.

I am very grateful to Michael Brass, Lee Keener, MarkNewbrook, Sarah Thomason, John Wall and Doug Wellerfor their contributions. Much of the material in this issuewas presented at the 11th European Skeptics Congress inSeptember 2003, organised by ASKE.


Lee L. Keener

Lee Keener is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Northern British Columbia.

1. IntroductionSome years ago I was browsing in a bookstore and chancedupon a large new book by Graham Hancock. I found itinteresting because it discussed a topic about which I hadan avocational interest: the history of Ancient Egypt. A fewminutes examination convinced me that I was not dealingwith what might be called conventional scholarship.Included were some of the old arguments about thepresence of certain mathematical constants in thedimensions of the Great Pyramid, arguments that I havealways considered unconvincing. I speculated about thedegree to which my response was conditioned by whatothers had written on the topics rather than on my ownobjective investigation and analysis. From this time, Ifound myself engaged in an informal project to conductthat investigation and analysis. I set a few rules for myself:I would not personally consult other experts, I would useonly information available in my personal library, thelibrary of my university, or on the web, and I would striveto examine any evidence presented in a dispassionate andunprejudiced way.

In the title to this article I have described myself as anamateur. I have very little formal training in astronomy. Iam not entirely ignorant of the history of Ancient Egypt;

but this knowledge helped me mostly in determining whatresources to consult. And though I am a professionalmathematician, the mathematics required for my analysiswas typically of the secondary school sort. Perhaps I amwhat might be referred to as the educated reader. Thenature of my background was an important aspect of theproject. I was anxious to see what someone with thisbackground could conclude when presented with theevidence that will be described below.

To be more specific, this article will examineskeptically what for convenience I will call the earlycivilisation theory. The theory has been developed in aseries of books: The Orion Mystery by Robert Bauval andAdrian Gilbert (1994), Fingerprints of the Gods by GrahamHancock (1995), and The Message of the Sphinx by Bauvaland Hancock (1996). Although John West is not a co-author of any of these books, he plays a major part in theirtheories and is frequently quoted. Hancock continues topublish books in this vein. While the cited books are fairlyrecent, they may be considered an extension of ideas putforward on Atlantis by Ignatius Donnelly (1882) in thenineteenth century; by Charles Hapgood on earth-crustdisplacement in a series of books (1958; 1966; 1970); byArthur Posnansky (1945) on the South American site of

Skeptical Intelligencer, Vol. 7, 2004


Tiahuanaco in 1945; and by a number of other writers. Thistheory also has both an historical and an astronomicalaspect, and indeed there are similarities to some ofVelikovskys work.

Briefly, the idea is that there existed some time prior to10,000 BCE, an accomplished protocivilisation (my term)possibly situated in Antarctica, which was itself located inmore temperate climes than currently. The protocivilisationinfluenced the subsequent development of descendantcivilisations around the world but has left little directevidence of its existence. However, the Great Sphinx ofGiza is an exception and was built around 10,450 BCE1. Infact, the entire complex on the Giza Plateau (including, inparticular, the pyramids of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure)was laid out in very early times and constructed over anextremely lengthy period. The Great Pyramid is not that ofKhufu, the Sphinx was not built by Khafre, and theEgyptologists (who are generally absurdly conservative andimmensely incompetent) have most of their dates muddled.

The astronomy component comes in a series of rathercomplicated arguments that purport to show that certainstructural alignments are consistent with the proposeddatings of Hancock et al. Some of the arguments are relatedto the precession of the Earths axis of rotation. Owing togyroscopic effects, the axis wobbles about a lineperpendicular to the plane of the Earths orbit. A full cycletakes about 26,000 years. This has the effect of changingthe position of all the celestial bodies with respect to thecelestial north pole. We will look at some of thesearguments in more detail.

The so-called Sleeping Prophet, Edgar Cayce, plays anodd role in the theory. He claimed many years ago (he died in1945) that there was what he called a Hall of Recordsburied under the paws of the Sphinx, and that it would likelybe discovered in 1998. (It wasnt.)

2. Expert WitnessesAs we will see below, the age of the sphinx plays animportant role in the early civilisation theory. To estimate theage of this monument from