An Engineer’s View of Ancient Egypt. (Book Review)
I watch YouTube videos about megalithic sites around the world, including Peru, Cambodia, Russia, Bolivia, and especially, Egypt. I have been fascinated in the subject for over 50 years, since reading an article in National Geographic as a teenager, about the almost unbelievable stone work in Peru which was then ascribed to the Incas, (but that Inca origin theory now has many serious doubters).
One of those YT sites, “UnchartedX” , (to which I subscribe and support), frequently refers to the book “Lost Technologies of Ancient Egypt”, and recently did a 2 hour interview with the author, Christopher Dunn. The book was published in 2010, based on many visits to Egypt by the author. The interview led me to purchasing and reading the book. Although now 9 years (oops 11 years) since publication, his work is respected by Egyptologists, academics, and more free thinking enthusiasts such as YouTubers like Ben of UnchartedX, quite an accomplishment considering the degree of hostility between the opposing views.
Christopher Dunn is/was a toolmaker, engineer, and manager in the US aerospace industry, and expert user of CAD, CAM, lasers, metrology, and photogrammetry. He is also into ancient history. So when he visited Egypt he looked at the pyramids and other buildings and monuments, with the eyes of an engineer, and wondered how they “did it”. Over the course of many visits, he took increasingly sophisticated metrology devices and started to measure and take detailed photographs of monuments, temples, statues and quarries. He was staggered to discover the degree of precision to which many of these huge objects were made, in many cases of granite or basalt some of the hardest of all stones.
And he examined magnified views of the surfaces, to see the marks which remained, which might give clues about the tools which were used to create the objects, which in some cases are at least 4500 years old.
He carefully analyses the Egyptologists’ views that the tools were simple and primitive. Like copper chisels, and stone pounding rocks, and while not dismissing those views out of hand, leaves us with the impression that such results would be almost impossible in this CAD CAM era, and much less with copper tools and stone pounders. He does not mention aliens or pre-dynastic civilisations, but just states that the tools which made the pyramids, obelisks, huge precise statues, and stone boxes, those tools, unlike the copper chisels and stone pounders, have never been found.
He does point out evidence of large circular saws with a 38 feet diameter blade, hole saws up to 6″ diameter, and straight saws which have left tell tale marks in stone objects and quarries in many places.
In many cases, such as the huge, incredibly precise stone boxes in the Serapeum, and the absolutely identical pair of 40′ statues of Rameses 2, he just states “we have no idea how this was done”. The precision is not just in linear measurements, but in complex curves, and surface shapes and areas.
Dunn’s analysis is principally about the tools and engineering of Ancient Egypt. Equally fascinating, but not covered in this book, are the mathematics associated with the pyramids, but that is another story. Also, he does not believe that the Great Pyramid was designed as a tomb, but as a machine. But that also is the subject of another of his books, which I have not, as yet, read.
“Lost Technologies” is 360 pages, paper bound, illustrated with many black and white photos of variable quality, many excellent diagrams, and 16 pages of good colour plates.
The text is technical, but quite readable cover to cover. I found it difficult to put down. If you enjoyed Simon Winchester’s “Exactly” you will probably like this one.
Cost about $AUD30 from Amazon Books.
Can’t wait to visit Egypt.
Thanks for the recommendation, John. I thoroughly enjoyed Exactly, so will have a look at this one. In case you haven’t heard it, there is an interview with Simon Winchester on Radio National Conversations podcasts. Although it doesn’t cover anything that is not in the book.