Enquête sur les pyramides de Bosnie et quelques autres cas de pseudo-archéologie
Article published on 10 July 2013
Jacques Grimault, the author behind the film Revelation of the Pyramids, is often described as a scholar who spent no fewer than forty years researching the pyramids of ancient Egypt. In the film itself, everything serves only to strengthen this impression: the author, wearing his “anonymous researcher" hat, is shown (at about 1h 00 min 10s) in a magnificent library, repeatedly handling antique tomes.
On another front, the author is very critical of Egyptologists, whose conclusions he is swift to reject. Thus, at 1h 00 min 10s, in the words of the narratrix:
Let us first go back a little, to the time when my informant advised me to find out what had been said about the Great Pyramid in the past. Independent researchers are often criticized by the mainstream for not applying sufficient rigour. However, I discovered that Egyptologists themselves had failed to clarify various points connected with their sources.
It therefore seemed not unworthwhile to try to find out a little more about the sources used – though rarely named - by Jacques Grimault himself. What Egyptologists has he read? On what basis does he suggest that Egyptology lacks rigour, and itself fails to "clarify various points"? The film, of course, provides no bibliography, but regularly, at key moments in the author’s narration, the viewer is shown pages from books, books that presumably form part of Jacques Grimault’s sources.
Let us start with the beginning of the film: at 2 min 28s from the start, the narratrix tells us that the video is about to "seriously undermine the commonly accepted view of the history of ancient Egypt.” Then, after reviewing the "eight major achievements of the builders constructing the Great Pyramid," she says, at 8 min 42s:
I’ll start from the beginning, when I still believed that Egyptological theories were based on facts, and, above all, demonstrable facts. I was well off the mark.
This speech was accompanied by a series of views showing pages from various books, among which can be recognized the following:
This print, entitled "Pyramids of Memphis View of the Pyramids and the Sphinx, taken at sunset", is the work of the engraver Louis-Pierre Baltard, after a watercolor drawing by Charles-Louis Balzac probably executed in December 1799:
This print appears in Volume V of the “Antiquities” plates from the monumental work, Description de l’Égypte, ou Recueil des observations et des recherches qui ont été faites en Égypte pendant l’expédition de l’Armée française (Description of Egypt, or compendium of observations and research carried out in Egypt during the expedition of the French Army), written following the Egyptian expedition of 1798, and published in 1809. The entire work, consisting of nine volumes of text and eleven volumes of plates, has been digitized by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Some plates are also available on this website: http://description-egypte.org/, and plate 8 from the film can be found there:
This is the second recognizable work:
Recherches critiques, historiques et géographiques sur les fragments d’Héron d’Alexandrie (Critical, Historical and Geographical Studies on fragments from Hero of Alexandria) is the title of a book by Jean-Antoine Letronne, a French epigraphist and philologist from the first half of the nineteenth century, who was successor to Champollion in the Chair of Archeology at the Collège de France. This work, published in 1851, is actually a posthumous edition of a memoir written in 1816 in Letronne’s youth, and awarded a prize that same year by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres (Academy of Humanities and Literature). Extensively reviewed by the editor A.J.H. Vincent, the book discusses the relationship between Greek, Roman and Egyptian measures, based on what was known at the time  of fragments from the work of the 1st century Greek mathematician, Hero of Alexandria.
The film then shows a plate taken from a third item:
This particular one is Plate XIV, entitled "Early Egyptian Stone Cutting - Specimens of Sawing, Drilling and Turning;. From Giza, etc." from the work, The pyramids and temples of Gizeh, by W.M. Flinders Petrie, published in 1883:
As far as Jacques Grimault is concerned, the "Egyptological theories" referenced in this part of the film seem largely identifiable with ideas dating from the nineteenth century. Admittedly, the works shown in the film, particularly Description de l’Egypte and the book by Flinders Petrie, are seminal works of Egyptology: but Egyptology in its infancy! Would we, in the 21st century, criticize modern physics by pointing to the shortcomings of Ampere or Gay-Lussac; or reject 21st century surgery on the basis of nineteenth century surgical mortality rates?
A little later in the film, at 34 min 28s, we come to Easter Island, where the narrator announces:
To summarize the accepted history on the subject, the islanders are descendants of a group of Polynesians who, after a canoe journey of 4000 km, settled on the island they named Rapa Nui, " navel of the world." Once more, we are faced with assumptions [...].
Again, by way of reference to this theory of the "accepted history", we are shown a few pages from a book whose title does not appear:
These pages come from a book called L’Ile de Pâques et ses mystères : La première étude réunissant tous les documents connus sur cette île mystérieuse (Easter Island and its mysteries: The first study based on all known texts concerning this mysterious island), written by Stéphen Charles Chauvet, known as Dr Stéphen-Chauvet. To the best of my knowledge, the original French version of this book, published in 1935, is not available in digital format on the internet. However, there is an excellent online English translation, which also includes all the original plates. The two plates shown in the film are 10 and 11:
The same book by Stéphen-Chauvet is used again a little later in the film, at 37 min 20s; the illustration showing rongo-rongo symbols is plate 55 from the book:
It should be noted that Dr. Stéphen-Chauvet, who, according to Jacques Grimault, is the source of the "official history" of Easter Island, was neither an historian, nor an archaeologist, nor an anthropologist. Instead, he was a keen collector of what today we might call “indigenous” art, known in the early twentieth century as "primitive" or "native" art: but he never set foot in Easter Island. His book is a compilation of accounts by the first visitors to the island, and is valuable because of the number and quality of illustrations included, at a time when there were still few publications available about the island. The book, marred by numerous errors and unfounded speculations on the part of the author (see Shawn McLaughlin’s preface to the English translation), can hardly be considered as a work of scientific reference on Easter Island. Furthermore, Stephen-Chauvet, a student of Charles Richet, was, like the latter, interested in the paranormal, and published an article about his experiences with a "clairvoyant" entitled "Les possibilités mystérieuses de l’homme" ("The mysterious possibilities of man") in the Bulletin de l’Institut Métapsychique International (Bulletin of the International Metapsychic Institute) founded by Richet. On the subject of Easter Island, Stephen-Chauvet endorsed the now discredited theories of Guillaume de Hevesy on the similarities between rongo-rongo symbols and symbols from the Indus Valley, and drew unsafe conclusions about the migration of the later inhabitants of Easter Island from West Asia. We may also note that his bibliography includes a work by Mme Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy, about the origins of the modern myth of Atlantis and Lemuria. Moreover, the fact that Jacques Grimault considers Stephen Chauvet as a reference is perhaps not surprising: in 1933, in issue 45 of the magazine Atlantis, Chauvet in fact published (see the bibliography of his book) an article entitled "Les origines mystérieuses des habitants de l’Ile de Pâques" ("The mysterious origins of the inhabitants of the Easter Island"). In this issue, devoted to" Lemuria”, Paul Le Cour, founder of the magazine and the Atlantis Association, of which Jacques Grimault was president for several years, also published an article on "The hieroglyphic tablets of Easter Island."
But even in Stephen-Chauvet’s time there were already in circulation various works of a more serious nature on Easter Island, as, for example, the publications by Henri Lavachery following the Metraux-Lavachery expedition of 1934-35. Readers wishing to get an idea of the current state of knowledge about the island and its archeology can refer, inter alia, to the bibliography in the appendix to the English translation of Stephen-Chauvet.
We will pass very quickly over the Andean episode, which shows a very brief glimpse (42 min 35s) of a page from a book, apparently Cusco Forever by Mallku Aribalo:
The only problem here is that the author, Mallku Aribalo, described in the film as "a writer, researcher and historian" or "Andean researcher" has no connection whatever with science: he describes himself as an Inca "shaman", author of several books on various forms of initiation, and as a guide to New Age tourism in Cusco and Macchu Pichu. At Cuzco, he also runs a "shamanic-vegetarian" restaurant where tourists can digest quinoa while participating in a shamanic ceremony.
 The Metrica, the three main works by Hero on measure, were not discovered until 1896.