Enquête sur les pyramides de Bosnie et quelques autres cas de pseudo-archéologie
Article published on 12 July 2013
We come now to the second part of the film, which contains much more extensive information about Jacques Grimault’s bibliographic references.
First, at 58 min 43s, we are shown a glimpse of a book that includes a paper by Rainer Stadelmann to which I’ve already referred in another article (fr), since it is this work that Jacques Grimault relies on for his claim that, at one time, the capstone of what is known as the Red Pyramid of Dahshur was exactly one metre in height. We may note that Stadelmann is the only contemporary Egyptologist who has written a paper in a book that is mentioned in the film, but it is rather a coffee table publication: Egypt: The World of the Pharaohs, edited and authored by Regine Schulz and Matthias Seidel, first published in French in 1999 (in German: Ägypten : die Welt der Pharaonen). There is no mention of any other book by Stadelmann, despite the fact that several other works of his mention this pyramidion.
The film then takes us (1h 00 min 10s) into Jacques Grimault’s library, where we have another glimpse of the books shown at the beginning of the film (Letronne on Hero of Alexandria, and Flinders Petrie, Pyramids and Temples of Giza). The viewer is then favoured with a shot of an eighteenth century translation of Pliny: Morceaux extraits de l’Histoire Naturelle de Pline (Extracts from Pliny’s Natural History) by P.C.B. Guéroult (fr), "Professor of Eloquence at Harcourt College," published in 1785.
One might wonder why, when there are many complete translations (fr) available, Jacques Grimault would use an old partial translation. Could this be for aesthetic reasons?
The Pliny extract cited can be found on page 479 of the Guéroult work; it comes from book XXXVI in the Natural History entitled "Dealing with the natural history of stones". So what was it that Jacques Grimault found of particular interest in this excerpt?
(1h 00 min 28s) Who, for example, has heard of the 2,000- year-old controversy reported by the Roman historian Pliny the Elder concerning the builders of the pyramids? Twelve leading writers of his time were unable to agree on the identity of the builders. But how many texts by those twelve authors survive today? Only one: that of Herodotus, on which Egyptology is so heavily reliant.
This passage reveals many wild surmises – read, completely unsubstantiated assumptions – on M. Grimault’s part:
The "controversy" mentioned by Pliny the Elder concerns the names of the kings for whom the pyramids were built. Contrary to Jacques Grimault’s assertion, neither Pliny, nor any other ancient author, was in any doubt that the pyramids were built by the Egyptians ... And there is nothing in Pliny’s text referring to any "controversy", since all he says is that (XVII): "The authors who have written about them [ … ] are not all agreed as to which kings were responsible for their construction, since chance, with the greatest justice, has caused those who inspired such a mighty display of vanity to be forgotten." This suggests, not a disagreement between the authors cited, but simply their ignorance of the names of the kings responsible for constructing the pyramids.
Apart from the eleven missing authors, we do have texts by other ancient authors, Greek and Roman. Besides Herodotus and Pliny, we may mention Manetho, Diodorus, Strabo, Plutarch, Ptolemy, Ammianus, Horapollo ... Even though several of them rely on Herodotus, they also use other sources that have now either completely or largely disappeared: Agatharchides of Knidos (to be discussed below), Artemidorus of Ephesus, Hecataeus of Abdera, Eudoxus of Cnidus , Chaeremon of Alexandria. Furthermore, also almost all of these authors either visited Egypt in person, or, like Ptolemy, were even born there.
The idea that Egyptology "is heavily reliant" on Herodotus reveals a readiness to downplay, or even completely ignore, the wealth of knowledge amassed by modern Egyptology. Certainly, Egyptology makes use of Herodotus, in the same way that it makes use of other rare textual sources about ancient Egypt. But the basis of every historical approach – and, when Egyptology uses texts, it makes no exception to this rule - is the critical analysis of these texts: external and internal criticism of sources, distinction between primary and secondary sources ... Herodotus is always being subjected to such analyses, one of the best known examples being that of the 1910 doctoral thesis by Camille Sourdille (fr). More recently, the University Lyon 2 devoted a study day (fr) to "Herodotus and Egypt," the proceedings (fr) being published by the Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée. There are numerous other examples, although the study of Greco-Roman texts forms only a tiny part of Egyptology, which by its very nature straddles multiple disciplines, contemporary archaeology being concerned with subjects of far more significance than the study of ancient texts ...
At 1h 01 min 00s, the film makes fleeting reference to John Taylor, although he might have deserved rather more attention than that. His book, The great pyramid; why was it built: & who built it?, assures him of a place as the true father of pyramidomania, at the head of a long line of pyramidologists, from Charles Piazzi Smyth to Jacques Grimault himself, via Charles Taze Russell (founder of the of Bible Student movement, forerunners of the Jehovah’s Witnesses) or the medium Edgar Cayce, all of whom have tried to find, within the dimensions of the Great Pyramid, evidence of a divine visitation, or traces of Atlanteans or aliens.
Moving now to the subject of the dimensions of the pyramid, the film briefly shows, at 1h 03 min 38s, and then a little later at 1h 04 min 04s, a few pages from the book Determination of the Exact Size and Orientation of the Great Pyramid of Giza, published in 1925 by J.H. Cole, an engineer working for the Survey of Egypt. As presented in the film, this book seems to give a very accurate value of the cubit as determined by the dimensions of the base of the pyramid. It is at this point that something very curious can be observed: the film begins by showing pages 5 ("Measurement of the base of the pyramid") and 3 ("Precise levelling") from the book:
Then, at 1h 04 min 04s, it shows the title page, zooming in to the bottom of the page where the viewer can see the date and place of publication:
Then, immediately, we are shown this page, with the value of the cubit calculated from the mean length of the base of the pyramid to five figures (i.e., one hundredth of a millimetre):
However, this page does not exist in Cole’s work! This is what Cole’s table of the dimensions of the base actually looks like (page 6):
The mean length of the base is given by Cole a little lower down on the page:
But this mean length contains only three digits after the decimal point (i.e., correct to one millimetre, which, given that the measurements were also effected in millimetres, is logical enough). Nowhere does Cole provide a value for the cubit, as the reader can verify for himself from the original text. I have not succeeded in finding the source of the values given by the film, but it is clear that a page from another book (or from Jacques Grimault himself?) has been inserted here, just after the camera has lingered over the title page of the work by Cole. That this interpolation is intentional is confirmed by the words of the narrator at this particular moment:
In 1925, experts deduced [the cubit – ed.] from the dimensions of the Great Pyramid and established its precise value as 52 cm, 3 mm and 6 tenths of a mm.
What is the purpose of all this? Why attribute to Cole the extraordinary degree of accuracy apparently considered necessary by Grimault? So that this figure could bear the imprimatur of orthodox Egyptology? To add to the confusion, never far from the surface of the film, between actual measures present in the field, and the calculated values of the cubit as suggested by the original dimensions of the pyramid? The answer is shrouded in mystery ...
Before we finish with the measurement of the cubit, we may note, at 1h 04 min 37s, one small anomaly. The narrator refers to estimates of the measurement of the cubit by the Egyptologists Jean-Philippe Lauer and Jean Kérisel, and to this list adds the name of the "Greek astronomer Eugène Emile Antoniadi." But, although it’s no more than a minor point, the name of the astronomer in question is in fact Eugène Michel Antoniadi, not "Eugene Emile” ...
Leaving the dimensions of the pyramid, the film now goes on to examine the supposed relationship between the pyramid and the Earth. This examination starts at 1h 22 min 19s, by mentioning the location of Giza "at the centre of the landmass," referring to the book by Father Théophile Moreux (fr), La science mystérieuse des pharaons (The mysterious science of the pharaohs), published in 1923.
I have already mentioned the "centre of the landmass” chronicle in this article, but, just to remind the reader of its gist: Father Moreux, a well known astronomer and popular writer, also had a penchant for the occult, and published books like L’Atlantide a-t-elle existé ? (Did Atlantis exist?), L’Alchimie moderne (Modern Alchemy) and Que deviendrons-nous après la mort ? (What happens to us after we die?)
So, while describing Moreux in the film as "a twentieth century astronomer" isn’t exactly incorrect, nor is it the whole story, especially as his book on Egypt is not a work of astronomy. Moreover, as I showed in my "centre of the landmass" article, Moreux has merely copied the (bogus) theory about Giza occupying " the centre of the landmass," together with the accompanying map, from Our inheritance in the Great Pyramid published in 1864, by Charles Piazzi Smyth, irreverently dubbed by Leonard Cottrell the "Great Pyramidiot".
At 1h 22 min 36s, we reach a particularly interesting reference:
Twenty centuries before [the Abbé Moreux], Agatharcides of Cnidus had stated that the Great Pyramid was a geographical image of the Earth.
This mention of Agatharchides (or Agatharcide, or Agatharchus...) of Knidos is accompanied by a portrait, an icon: not, however, of the second century BC Greek historian and geographer, but of Photios (or Photius), a ninth century Byzantine scholar and patriarch of Constantinople:
The confusion is easily explained. The little we know of Agatharchides comes mainly from Photios, who included in his famous Bibliotheca (a collection of reviews or codices of books that Photius had read) passages from two of Agatharchides’ books, and who gave us some biographical information (fr). This probably explains why, in the absence of a (nonexistent) portrait of Agatharchides, the film substituted one of Photios.
I decided to set about locating the text in which Agatharchides describes the Great Pyramid as a "geographical image of the Earth." The problem is that there are very few surviving texts by this author . Of his two great treatises on Europe and Asia, no more than a few fragments remain; only books I and V of his Treatise on the Red Sea were kept by Photios. The Agatharchides fragments were collected and translated into Latin by the philologist Karl Müller, who published them in two volumes:
Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, published in 1849: Volume III, pp. 190-197: containing several short fragments.
Geographi graeci minores, published in 1855: Volume I, pp. 111-195: containing books I and V of Treatise on the Red Sea, passed down to us by Photios.
Even readers with no knowledge of Greek or Latin can quite easily see that none of these texts makes any reference to the dimensions of the Great Pyramid. The Codex of Photios, containing Treatise on the Red Sea, was published in French in 2002 by Editions Anacharsis under the title of Les Codices du merveilleux (Codices of Marvels); a good portion of this French translation can be found online. Agatharchides talks about the etymology of the name of the Red (Erythraean) Sea, hunting elephants in Ethiopia, work in the Egyptian gold mines, the way of life of the Icthyophagi of the Red Sea, giraffes and rhinoceroses ... but nothing about pyramids.
But still, if the concept of the pyramid as an "image of the Earth" is not to be found in the Agatharchides fragments, perhaps it could have been mentioned by other ancient authors working from a text now lost? In antiquity, Agatharchides was often cited by other geographers, the best known being Diodorus, who claims to have taken from Agatharchides some of books I and III of his Bibliotheca Historica. In Book 1 - 41, he repeats Agatharchides’ analysis of the origin of the Nile floods; in Book 3 - 11, he mentions the number who "have composed works on both Egypt and Ethiopia" ; and, in Book 3 - 18, he discusses the Icthyophagi. Again, much of this book III by Diodorus seems based on, even if not necessarily directly citing, Agatharchides’ Treatise on the Red Sea (e.g., the passages on gold mines in Book 3 - 12-14). Contrast this with the fact that Agatharchides is not mentioned at all in the famous passage from Book 1 - 63 dealing with the pyramids and their dimensions; and, in any case, this passage conveys not the slightest allusion to any concept of using pyramids as representations of the Earth.
Although other authors cite or reference Agatharchides, they never, to my knowledge, do so in any connection with the pyramids. Athenaeus of Naucratis mentions him several times in his Deipnosophistae in connection with events in Greek and Macedonian political life. Flavius Josephus, in Antiquities of the Jews, discusses Agatharchides’ views on the Jewish people. Lucian of Samosata, in his List of people famous for reaching extreme old age, mentions his name in connection with a certain Hieronymus known to have lived to the age of 104. Strabo also mentions him in Book XVI Chapter 4 of his Geography, on the subject of the etymology of the Red (Erythaean) Sea. And, finally, Pliny mentions him in his Natural History (Book VII Chapter 2), although not in connection with the pyramids, but on the subject of some people of Africa.
So, unless he had access to some completely unknown fragments of Agatharchides, which would be a real turn-up for the books, Jacques Grimault could not have discovered the idea of a pyramid as an image of the Earth directly from this author.
So where does it come from?
Agatharchides is often mentioned by Hellenists and authorities on Classical Antiquity, but never in connection with anything that he wrote on the dimensions of the pyramids. However, the idea of a link between the dimensions of the Great Pyramid and that of the Earth, with variations of varying complexity, does appear on many pyramidological and pseudo-archaeological websites. Some examples:
"The Greek geographer Agatharchides of Cnidus (second century BC) wrote that the measurements of the pyramid of Cheops included units of geographic measure," and "Agatharchides of Knidos was right. The dimensions of the pyramid of Cheops reproduce the polar diameter and circumference of the Earth at a scale of 1/43.200." Source (fr)
"In the second century BC [...] the Greek geographer and historian Agatharchides of Cnidus concluded that it "incorporated fractions of geographical degrees." In other words, the very configuration of the Great Pyramid is a reflecting microcosm of the Earth itself." Source: Opening the Ark of the Covenant: The Secret Power of the Ancients, the Knights Templar Connection, And the Search for the Holy Grail pg. 56, by Franz Joseph and Laura Baudoin, 2007.
"In fact, towards the end of the second century BC, the Greek grammarian Agatharchides of Cnidus, the tutor of the Pharaoh’s children, was told that the base of the Great Pyramid was precisely one-eighth of a minute of a degree in length – that is, it was an eighth of a minute of a degree of the earth’s circumference … " and: "As we saw in the last chapter, a tutor of one of the late Ptolemies, Agatharchides of Cnidus, was told that the base of the Great Pyramid was an eight [sic] of a minute of a degree in length. And from this it is possible to work out that the pyramid builders knew that the circumference of the earth was just under 25,000 miles [... ]. " Source: From Atlantis To The Sphinx: Recovering the Lost Wisdom of the Ancient World by Colin Wilson, 2011; pgs. 79, 110.
"Agatharchides of Cnidus, a Greek historian and geographer, who lived in the time of Ptolemy VI Philometor and his successors, reported that the base of the Pyramid of Cheops corresponded to 1/8th minute of one degree and the apothem to 1/10th of a minute of one degree. He also reported that the pyramid was topped by a pyramidion, or capstone, of four cubits, which could be included in a calculation, or excluded, depending on the problem to be resolved. I think Agatharchides was using the 12.1 inch foot in his description giving 750 feet for the base and so 4 cubits equates to 6 feet." Source
One could find yet more examples. None of these authors displays any reservations about relying on Agatharchides, some going so far as to insert quotation marks, although without indicating the source or specifying which fragment by the Greek geographer contains all the details about the dimensions of the base and the apothem, the reference to the earth’s circumference, or the existence of a capstone.
All in all, it seems to me that the original source of all these statements (in any event, the oldest text that I could find suggesting a relationship between Agatharchides and the pyramid) is a book by Peter Tompkins, Secrets of the Great Pyramid, first published in 1971.
Tompkins was a former spy and anthroposophist who, along with some more or less historical books on the Second World War, published works on various mysteries (the Pyramid of Khufu, Mexican pyramids, obelisks and Freemasons ...) as well as some works inspired by Steiner such as The Secret Life of Nature that claims to present scientific proof of the existence of "nature spirits." In Secrets of the Great Pyramid, the Tompkins text is followed by an appendix of about a hundred pages entitled Notes of the Relation of Ancient Measures to the Great Pyramid written by Livio Catullo Stecchini. Stecchini was a curious character: a university professor and expert in ancient metrology, he wrote several texts on ancient coinage, agrarian measures and measures of volume in antiquity. But he was also considered by many of his peers to be a pseudoscientist; on the one hand, because of his metrological obsession, using any means, including numerology, to search for a system of measures that was common to all ancient peoples; and, on the other hand, because of his unqualified espousal of the scientifically absurd ideas developed by Immanuel Velikovsky in his book Worlds in Collision.
It is Stecchini’s appendix that is the real source of the countless mentions of Agatharchides by pyramidologists. The Greek geographer is repeatedly mentioned in pages 372-375 of the book (Harper & Row, 1971 edition), and goes into great detail on what he had written:
The interesting feature of Agatharchides’ report about the dimensions of the Pyramid is that he excludes the pyramidion from the reckoning. [...] From Agatharchides’ account one gathers that the Great Pyramid of Giza was topped by such a pyramidion, "small pyramid," as the Greeks called it . ln the case of this Pyramid, at least, the pyramidion was used to achieve a mathematical result. (page 372)
[...] the top of the Pyramid was conceived as cut off in the computation presented by Agatharchides.
An essential point ot Agatharchides’ account is that he describes the Pyramid as having an apothem which measures a stadium up to the pyramidion and having a side which measures 1 1/4 stadia. The term stadium has a double meaning: it refers to 1/10 minute of degree and it refers to a specific unit ol measurement. Agatharchides uses the term
in both senses. (page 372)
From Agatharchides we learn that the apothem up to the pyramidion had a length of a stadium, that is, 1/10 of a minute of degree. (page 373)
Agatharchides interprets the dimensions ot the Pyramid also by taking the word stadium as referring to the stadium of 600 geographic feet. (page 373)
According to Agatharchides the side of the Pyramid is 1 1/4 stadia or 750 feet (230,847 millimeters), and the apothem is a stadium or 600 feet. The side of the base of the pyramidion is 9 feet. The figures indicate that Agatharchides was not concerned with presenting the actual dimensions of the Pyramid, but in illustrating the mathematical principles according to which the Pyramid had been conceived. (page 373)
Having started with the mentioned meridian triangle, Agatharchides cut off the side so as to reduce the apothem to 600 feet and the base to 371 feet, excluding the part of the base below the half of the pyramidion. (page 374)
This is a truly extraordinary amount of detail from an author for whom we have only a few fragments or quotes! And, once again, the thorny problem of sources rears its head, even though it might have been expected that Stecchini, a university academic, would have provided exhaustive citations. As far as I could ascertain, the authors listed in the bibliography of the appendix, pages 403 and 404, make scant reference to Agatharchides, and even those sparse mentions are unrelated to the subject of the pyramids. For example, Hermann Kees undeniably mentions him on page 67 of Ancient Egypt; a Cultural Topography, but only in connection with the information on gold panning described in Treatise on the Red Sea. So it was not in these books that Stecchini found all his information .
Indeed, Stecchini himself recognizes that everything he presents as being from Agatharchides is no more than supposition: "l do not pretend to have reconstructed the authentic reckoning of Agatharchides, but I feel confident that I have understood the general drift of his interpretation" (page 375). Stecchini assumes that the common source of ancient geographers writing on Egypt (Diodorus, Strabo, Pliny ...) is Agatharchides, or Agatharsides (page 372; see also here), and from these geographical texts he "reconstructs" what Agatharchides might have written about the pyramids ... Except that:
1° Stecchini provides no specific citations to the particular ancient geography texts from which he is working; and:
2° as noted above, none of these ancient geography texts contain any details whatsoever about the pyramidion, or about any correlation between the dimensions of the pyramid and those of the Earth.
I’ve already provided a link to the text by Diodorus, and readers anxious to know more can find on this page (fr) all known texts by ancient authors on the subject of the pyramids. Readers can check for themselves that, although some do mention the measurements of the pyramids, none of these authors makes any reference to a correlation with a degree of latitude, or the shape and size of the Earth; nor do they make any mention of a pyramidion, let alone one made of gold or silver as suggested by Stecchini (page 372) ; and nor do they present any calculation with or without the pyramidion ...
And there is more yet. On this site, a compilation of papers by Stecchini, we learn that Agatharchides supposedly obtained his information from another Greek geographer, Aristagoras of Miletus. It is not easy (Stecchini, as ever, provides no source) to identify this particular Aristagoras. It cannot be the tyrant Aristagoras of Miletus, described by Herodotus as having brought to Sparta a map showing the whole of the Earth. There is, however, a Greek historian of that name, briefly mentioned by Diogenes Laertius in Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers and in Pliny’s Natural History (see above). This Greek historian, Aristagoras, was the author of texts on Egypt of which some surviving fragments have been assembled by Karl Müller (Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum volume II). For his part, Stecchini maintains that the Aristagoras in question lived "in the first half of the fourth century BC", so about "half a century after Herodotus". A few scholars do actually attribute a fourth century BC date to Aristagoras the Greek historian, on the basis of a sentence written by the 6th century AD Stephanus of Byzantium ("Aristagoras, slightly younger than Plato," Müller: fragment 6, page 99). But it seems that Aristagoras the historian might in fact have lived during the time of Ptolemy II Philadelphus, which would mean the third century BC. This would have the advantage of corresponding better to Pliny’s chronological list of authors who wrote about Egypt; he places Aristagoras between Duris of Samos (early 3rd century BC) and Artemidorus of Ephesus (1st century BC). Whever the truth of this situation, the fact is that not only has Aristagoras left even fewer fragments for posterity than Agatharchides, but also there is no text anywhere by anyone called Aristagoras on the subject of pyramids ... so we are free to argue whichever way we choose! In the words of my friend LC (who will recognize himself): "According to this, Aristagoras is the hypothetical source of the putative source (Agatharchides) of Diodorus ... Pure speculation: no different from Fontenelle’s The golden tooth!"
To return to Jacques Grimault: whether he took the idea of the pyramid as an "image of the Earth" from Stecchini, or whether he found it on one of the many pyramidological websites, it is clear that he did not take the trouble to make any basic checks on those sources, a tendency that had already become apparent here and here.
 At the same time as explaining that he was inspired by these historians: "Since, to bear witness ourselves, during the time of our visit to Egypt, we associated with many of its priests and conversed with not a few ambassadors from Ethiopia as well who were then in Egypt; and after inquiring carefully of them about each matter and testing the stories of the historians, we have composed our account so as to accord with the opinions on which they most fully agree,” (Diod. 3: 11) Diodorus is therefore making it clear that he was not relying solely on texts written by his predecessors.
 A little clarification is needed: the word "pyramidion" is not a Greek word, and does not appear in any of the main dictionaries of ancient Greek. According to the dictionary of the French Academy, the word dates from the nineteenth century, and, according to the CNRTL, was probably first used by Champollion in Précis du système hiéroglyphique des anciens Égyptiens (Summary of the hieroglyphic system of the ancient Egyptians) in 1828.
 Only Philo (the Paradoxographer) of Byzantium (Seven Wonders of the World, 2 (fr)) mentions that the pyramid "would end in a point." Diodorus says that at “the top, [ … ] each side is six cubits long … " (1: 63: 2), suggesting that the top was flat. No other writer has anything at all to say about the top of the pyramid.