Searching for Egyptian Origins in Niger

Could the ‘Zinder Pyramid and Sphinx’ Hold Clues to Zep Tepi?

In March 2018, I had the privilege of traveling to Niger, West Africa, to inspect various archaeological and geological sites, and in particular study and evaluate features that have become known as the Dan Baki Pyramid and Dan Baki Sphinx, located near the city of Zinder. Dan Baki is the name of a site about 20 kilometers west of Zinder; it is slightly north of the village of Touroumouni (also known as Termini). Given their proximity to the city of Zinder, these structures have also become known as the Zinder Pyramid and Zinder Sphinx.

I first became aware of the Dan Baki/Zinder Pyramid and Sphinx when Dr. Sidney L. Davis, Jr., of the Niger Association of Global Africana Sciences (NAGAS), contacted me. Dr. Davis was collaborating on a project with Master Souley Garba, who is credited with discovering the pyramid and sphinx around 2011; furthermore, Dr. Davis had previously visited the site in late 2014. I was contacted due to my expertise regarding classic Egyptian pyramids and my work on the Great Sphinx of Egypt. After various discussions, I was invited to join Master Souley and Dr. Davis in Niger for an on-site reconnaissance survey of the possible pyramid and sphinx. My primary purpose was to offer my opinion regarding whether or not these structures are significant and worthy of further scientific pursuit. I flew from Boston to Niamey (via Istanbul) and then took a twelve-hour car ride from Niamey to Zinder where I met with Master Souley, Dr. Davis, and Sanounou Ybrah (who assists Master Souley). For the next two days (after first paying our respects to the local tribal leader, Barma Mahaman Rabiou) we explored together the pyramid, sphinx, and various other sites. I was always mentally comparing what I observed in Niger to the sites I know so well in Egypt.

One thing that initially struck me is the very different sizes and relationships of the Dan Baki Pyramid and Sphinx compared to the Great Pyramid, Second Pyramid, and Great Sphinx on the Giza Plateau in Egypt. Master Souley estimates that the current remains of the Dan Baki Pyramid are about 70 meters high, whereas the Great Pyramid at Giza (approximately 147 meters tall) and the Second Pyramid (approximately 136 meters) are each about twice the height. The Dan Baki Pyramid is approximately the same height as the Third Pyramid at Giza (which is approximately 65 meters in height). In Egypt the Great Sphinx faces due east and is some 500 meters east of the base of the Second Pyramid. At Dan Baki the Sphinx is approximately east of the Pyramid, but it is very close to the base of the Dan Baki Pyramid and, according to Master Souley’s reconstruction, faces west. Immediately the idea of two sphinxes, as recorded on the “Dream Stele” of Thutmose IV (circa 1400 BCE) erected between the paws of the Egyptian Great Sphinx came to mind, with one sphinx facing east (at Giza) and the second facing west (at Dan Baki). But this is, of course, assuming that the Dan Baki Pyramid and Sphinx really are a pyramid and sphinx and not just natural hills that have weathered, and eroded into their present vague forms resembling a pyramid and sphinx.

In Egypt the major pyramids, such as those on the Giza Plateau, are composed primarily of limestone with granite details, including the granite lining of the King’s chamber in the Great Pyramid, granite casing stones on the Third Pyramid, and a ring of granite around the base of the Second Pyramid. The primary rock types of the general area west and north of Zinder, and of which the Dan Baki Pyramid and Sphinx are composed, appear to be various forms of highly weathered “dirty” sandstones—that is, the rocks consist not only of cemented sand grains composed of quartz but also various other types of mineral grains, many of which have weathered to silts and clays. Overall, the rocks are eroding to a fine sand and dust that blows with the wind and forms the uppermost layer (essentially the soil and superficial covering) of the semi-desert to desert landscape. On the surface, the rock is generally very highly weathered, and in some cases even crumbles to the touch. According to one simple geologic map that I saw, the area of Zinder in the vicinity of the Dan Baki Pyramid has been mapped as composed of Mesozoic marine shelf and continental sediments; that is, rocks that originally formed some 65 million to 250 million years ago. This is compatible with the rocks I observed.

Limestone and granite in Egypt versus the sandstones of the Niger structures—does this argue against the authenticity of the Niger structures? I think not. It is logical that the people in the Zinder area would construct their pyramid and sphinx from the local rock, the sandstones. Likewise, the predominant material of which the vast bulk of the Giza pyramids are constructed, as well as the Egyptian Great Sphinx, is the local limestone (the granite was imported from Aswan in the south of Egypt). However, there is a distinct difference between the pyramids of Giza and the Dan Baki Pyramid. In Egypt the pyramids are assembled from quarried stone blocks, in some cases very carefully fitted together. This is not the case with the Dan Baki Pyramid. Examining it closely, I am convinced that the Dan Baki Pyramid is composed of bedrock that most likely weathered and eroded into a general pyramidal shape. It may have also been modified and reworked by humans to further define the pyramid shape, making it more symmetrical, and adding various details; but overall it is composed of solid (although highly weathered, eroded, and degraded) bedrock. Likewise, the Dan Baki Sphinx is composed of the natural bedrock.

So, does this observation—that the Dan Baki Pyramid and Sphinx are composed of bedrock rather than being constructed of quarried and assembled blocks of rock—mean that they are not a genuine pyramid and sphinx at all? Some people might answer “Yes, this proves that they are not really a pyramid and sphinx”; however, I disagree. To make my case, I will point out that the Egyptian Great Sphinx is not constructed of quarried blocks (although it appears that way superficially to some people, as the Great Sphinx has been heavily repaired with a partial casing of small limestone blocks) but, rather, it is cut from the solid bedrock. If it had not been repaired and reworked over the centuries and millennia, it may well have come to look very similar to the Dan Baki Sphinx. Does this “prove” that the Dan Baki Pyramid and Sphinx are genuinely (however one defines “genuinely”) a pyramid and sphinx? No. But it also demonstrates that we cannot “prove” that they are not a pyramid and sphinx based solely on the argument that they are composed of bedrock.

Honestly, I have many questions regarding the Dan Baki Pyramid and Sphinx, and if there was nothing more of interest in the Zinder region, and no corroborative evidence for their possible authenticity, then I would have left feeling that I had not seen anything of genuine significance. Of particular interest, however, is the manner in which Master Souley located the Dan Baki Pyramid and Sphinx, as well as other sites that I discuss below. While he is an engineer in the telecommunications industry, Master Souley is also an Egyptologist who was trained in Strasbourg, France. For many years he has been studying and translating various ancient Egyptian texts, focusing especially on the “Litanies” (also referred to as the “Litany, or Litanies, of Re [Ra]”) and “The Book of the Divine [Heavenly or Celestial] Cow.” These texts date to the New Kingdom (circa 1570–1070 BCE); but, according to Master Souley, they refer to a much earlier period and describe the origins of the Egyptians, telling a very different story than mainstream Egyptologists generally accept.

The key to Master Souley’s revolutionary new translations and interpretations of the Egyptian texts is that he argues the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, and the language they represent, are most closely related to Hausa among modern languages. Hausa is a West African language centered on Niger that is still spoken by tens of millions of people. In order to truly understand the dynastic Egyptian hieroglyphs, according to Master Souley, one must understand Hausa. Furthermore, the origins of Hausa, as far as has been determined, can be traced back to the Niger region. Indeed, Souley suggests, Hausa and the origins of the dynastic (pharaonic) Egyptians may be centered on the Zinder area in particular. According to Master Souley’s analysis of the ancient texts, it was only after a major catastrophe, discussed below, that the distant ancestors of the pharaonic Egyptians migrated from their Zinder home to the Nile Valley. Master Souley is currently working on a book in which he will present his new translations of the “Litanies” and “The Book of the Divine Cow” as well as an explanation of how he developed these translations. Essentially, he promises to demonstrate a new manner by which to read and understand the Egyptian hieroglyphs. I very much look forward to reading his book once it is completed.

Returning to the physical evidence in the field, does it in any manner support Master Souley’s translations and interpretations of the hieroglyphic texts? The first point I would make is that Master Souley stated definitively that all of the sites he showed me, and more, were originally located based on his readings of the hieroglyphic texts. He did not know of these sites until he searched for them using the hieroglyphic texts as a guide. With reference to the Dan Baki Pyramid and Sphinx, according to Master Souley’s interpretation of the texts, these structures date back to a very early period (the period which I associate with the dynastic Egyptian’s concept of “Zep Tepi”, the “First Time”) and in fact the Dan Baki Pyramid may represent the ancient Egyptian “primordial mound” of creation—central to the creation of the Universe, according to dynastic Egyptian mythology. So, in my assessment, even if the Dan Baki Pyramid and Sphinx are entirely natural structures, a possibility that I cannot rule out (and which I believe may even be very likely), if Master Souley is correct, these structures were known and venerated by the ancestors of the ancient dynastic Egyptians. Dan Baki and its structures formed a holy, sacred site that was revered for millennia. On both the Sphinx and the Pyramid at Dan Baki, Master Souley has found apparent artificial “cupules” or “cup holes” chiseled into the rock that may have been used in some sort of religious ritual.

After introducing me to the Dan Baki area, Master Souley took me to another site that he has identified via the hieroglyphic texts. Known now as Garin Mama, it is located east of Zinder in the area of Mirria (Mirryah, Mirriah). I was astounded when Master Souley showed me that here is found ancient vitrified rock—surface layers of rock that have apparently been melted under extremely high temperatures and then re-congealed and solidified once again, showing flow structures and resembling the slag produced during the smelting and refining of some metals; but there no evidence of smelting or other metalworking here. The Garin Mama vitrification is very similar to vitrification that can be attributed to a major solar outburst, such as the one that ended the last ice age circa 9700 BCE, bringing about the catastrophic demise of the civilizations at that time (see my 2012 book, Forgotten Civilization). Essentially plasma strikes (high-speed electrically charged particles ejected from the Sun) struck our planet in places, appearing as huge lightning strikes and thunderbolts, not only melting surface rock where they struck but also incinerating less resistant materials and setting fires. This occurred around the globe, and as temperatures suddenly warmed, and “fire” (the plasma/lightning strikes) hit glaciers and bodies of water, widespread evaporation of the water caused the atmosphere to become saturated with moisture and torrential rains (as recorded in ancient myths around the world) spread over the land. According to Master Souley, a story of catastrophe that is compatible with this brief reconstruction of some of the events occurring at the end of the last ice age is found in the hieroglyphic texts he is translating. Furthermore, according to these same texts, this is what caused the ancestors of the dynastic Egyptians to migrate from the Zinder region of Niger across Africa and ultimately, after a long “dark age,” reestablish their civilization in the Nile Valley.

At another site known as Dan Karfa, west of Zinder and not far from Dan Baki, we found vitrified rock associated with ancient human skeletons and pottery fragments. Regarding the pottery fragments found on the surface at Dan Karfa, some may be extremely ancient while others may be more recent; I do not know how far back in time pottery may have been used in this region. Another interesting feature that Master Souley pointed out to me was an “engraving” or “petroglyph” on the side of a rock in the Dan Karfa area that he referred to as a carved hieroglyphic sign or symbol for the Sun (or Re). I am not sure if it is an artificial carving or a natural feature in the rock; even if natural, it does catch the attention of passersby.

Close to the Dan Karfa site, at a location known as Konami, more skeletons have been found; according to Master Souley and Dr. Davis, additional skeletons have been uncovered in many nearby areas as well. These skeletons may have originally been deeply buried in the sediments; however, due to recent erosion they are now close to the surface. The local people often find bones exposed during the rainy season. I was particularly excited to find these skeletons in apparent association with vitrified rock at Dan Karfa. Could these possibly represent members of the ancient population who died during the solar outburst and resulting catastrophe at the end of the last ice age? I have to wonder. At any rate, we all agreed that this area deserves serious study and the skeletons should be carefully excavated and preserved. I fear that they are currently being destroyed by natural erosion combined with animals and people walking over them.

I am pleased to report that at the highest levels of the Niger government, there is genuine excitement regarding these important archaeological finds. Upon returning to Niamey, we met with military and government officials associated with the office of the president of Niger who have become seriously interested in, and expressed a deep personal enthusiasm for, the Zinder discoveries. These officials have encouraged the project to move forward. Depending on what is found in the future, especially if full-scale excavations can be organized, the Zinder Project may radically reshape what we know about early civilization in West Africa and the origins of the dynastic Egyptians.

 

CAPTIONS:

Dan Baki Pyramid (left) and the Dan Baki Sphinx

Local tribal leader Barma Mahaman Rabiou (center) and his entourage with Sidney Davis (seated left), and Robert Schoch

Hand sample of vitrified rock found at Garin Mama

(All photographs courtesy of Robert Schoch)

 

Robert M. Schoch, Director of the Institute for the Study of the Origins of Civilization at Boston University, a full-time faculty member at B.U.’s College of General Studies, and an Honorary Professor at the Nikola Vaptsarov Naval Academy, earned his Ph.D. in geology and geophysics at Yale University. Best known for re-dating the Great Sphinx, he is the author of Forgotten Civilization: The Role of Solar Outbursts in Our Past and Future, and many other books. Website: http://www.robertschoch.com

By Robert M. Schoch, Ph.D.