Christopher Dunn is well known to the readers of Atlantis Rising. His many investigations of the fantastic technologies of the ancients have been among our most popular features and constituted a major part of our bestselling book Forbidden History (Inner Traditions/Bear, 2005). Now Dunn has produced a new book focussing on the extraordinary technical achievements of the ancient Egyptians. What follows is from the foreword by professional engineer Arlan Andrews.—Editor
What researcher Christopher Dunn has accomplished in his new book Lost Technologies of Ancient Egypt (Inner Traditions/Bear, 2010) and in his previous work, The Giza Power Plant, is more than a paradigm shift; it is more of a paradigm seismic event. Because once a person with a manufacturing or machining background—engineer, technician, machinist, artisan—reads and understands what Dunn has discovered and analyzed in ancient Egyptian stonework, that person will never look at ancient Egyptians the same way ever again. That reader will become skeptical of portrayals of ancient Egyptians as primitives in any sense. That reader will begin to analyze every new Egyptian archaeological discovery, to see what else conventional Egyptologists have overlooked. That reader will become part of the new paradigm.
In these pages, Chris Dunn demonstrates an underlying system of incredible precision in the machining, layout, and positioning of both individual objects and groups of features, ranging from the toolmark details in the “Rose Red Rosetta Stone of Abu Roash” to the symmetries of the giant heads of Ramses at the temples in Luxor, to the layout of the column capitals of the Great Hypostyle Hall at Denderah, to the base of the Great Pyramid itself. Thanks to this work, the modern reader sits back in awe and admiration of the Egyptian geniuses of five thousand years ago. The ancient artifacts contain amazing messages, but the stones cannot speak for themselves. This book speaks for them.
In November 2008, I accompanied Mr. Dunn and others to what some have called “the Lost Pyramid” at Abu Roash, some ten kilometers northwest of Giza. I was anxious to see the rose-colored granite piece that the author had described to me years before, and was anticipating seeing the compound radial cuts and distinguishing toolmarks. I was not disappointed. To any technophile, this one cut stone challenges the arguments made for primitive tools and primitive peoples. More than any other artifact, it embodies an ancient “language” that still speaks to modern engineers. I immediately dubbed it “The Rose Red Rosetta Stone of Abu Roash.”
I called the stone a “Rosetta” because its discovery reminded me of another paradigm-changing artifact: in 1799, Napoleon’s soldiers found a curious object embedded in a wall of an Egyptian village. Their original report, “A Report on a Stone Found in the Village of Rosetta,” describes a black rock slab inscribed with three languages, one of them being ancient Greek, the others the unknown Egyptian hieroglyphic writing and the cursive or “demotic” Egyptian writing. Reading the Greek portion, the antiquarian Champollion was able to translate the names of the Pharaohs— written within cartouches—and thence the rest of the hieroglyphic writing itself. He opened up an eventual understanding of the millions of carved figures decorating the ancient temples and tombs of the Nile. Nobody would ever again look at the hieroglyphic carvings as mere magical, mystical figures but would read the translations of experts who deciphered those cuts and reliefs, uncovering the lost history of Egypt.
The Rosetta stone thus facilitated a change in the worldview of moderns who looked back at ancient Egyptians. Nothing would ever be the same. I maintain that this book has accomplished a similar feat, every bit as meaningful to an understanding of ancient Egypt, if not more so. Once understood, Dunn’s discoveries will forever change the perception of the serious researcher.
In a similar manner to Champollion’s reading ancient Greek and comparing it to the unknown hieroglyphic figures, researcher Christopher Dunn was able to “read” the machine-cut tool marks on the Abu Roash stone and compare them to those made by modern tools capable of the same operations. With years of experience and a trained eye for such details, and armed with the proper paradigmatic perspective, Dunn was able to recognize at once what it meant to produce a stone with a curved cut some 37 feet in diameter and to reproduce that cut in small, uniform steps across a three-foot width—over 700 nearly identical radial tool cuts! This feat is simply not achievable by human hand alone, using any known tools.
Such tool marks require at the very least a large saw blade or cutting tool and sophisticated fixtures to produce the steps between cuts. To suggest that the primitive tools ascribed to the ancient Egyptians could have produced anything like these markings is ridiculous. In my opinion, this machined stone by itself demonstrates the existence of sophisticated tooling that did not exist again until the 1900s.
To the modern engineer, machinist, or toolmaker, the tool marks on the Rose Red Rosetta Stone of Abu Roash are proof enough that the ancient Egyptians possessed technologies not replicated until the twentieth century—if even then. But Lost Technologies of Ancient Egypt shows more examples, each of which have similar impact—the Ramses heads in Luxor, the carvings and columns at Dendera—further reinforcing the genius of the ancient machinists, engineers, designers, and planners. Taken together, they represent arguments in stone that refute current Egyptological conclusions.
When civilization fails for any reason, metals of all kinds become precious commodities. They become knives, spear points, scrapers, fishhooks, even plows. Ancient Egypt underwent numerous upheavals caused by droughts, earthquakes, civil wars, religious strife, and foreign invasions. During the times of collapse, the advanced metal tools that the ancient Egyptians used were probably disassembled, cut apart, or melted down. What wasn’t immediately used would corrode and disappear after thousands of years. And perhaps some other advanced technology was also employed, the remnants of which we wouldn’t recognize today.
Large saw blades and other machine tools, if not secreted away from armies, earthquakes, floods, and mobs, would not endure very long. Over the millennia, few metal objects from our own time would survive or be recognizable. Life After People, a popular cable television show that debuted in 2009, shows example after example of the deterioration of man-made objects after years, merely because of lack of maintenance. In five thousand years, approximately the time span estimated in Lost Technologies of Ancient Egypt, almost nothing of today’s technology would be left. In a world of resourceful (and destructive) human beings, the devastation would be much worse than Mother Nature alone could cause; marauding bandits and nomads would re-use, recycle, or otherwise destroy even our ubiquitous automobile engine blocks and our porcelain toilet bowls!
It may be that future archaeologists will one day uncover an untouched ancient factory or workshop under the sands or in the caves of Egypt, a place that was purposefully hidden away from destructive recycling, a place that would show us exactly what the ancients used and how. Such a discovery would be the equivalent of the unexpectedly sophisticated two-thousand-year-old Greek computational mechanism, the Antikythera Device! But to recognize their finds as evidence of ancient technologies, those future discoverers must have minds that are open to the possibilities that Christopher Dunn has been the first to reveal. Otherwise, that advanced machine shop of the ancients could wind up stored in unnumbered boxes in the basement of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, labeled merely as “funerary objects.”
Recent discoveries at the archaeological site Göbekli Tepe, in Turkey, indicate that twelve thousand to thirteen thousand years ago, so-called primitives were erecting T-shaped monuments as tall as six meters, ranging in weight from ten to fifty tons, perhaps building a Neolithic cathedral of sorts. Many of these stone pillars exhibit carvings of wildlife and even some human-shaped reliefs. For unknown reasons, the site was deliberately buried approximately ten thousand years ago. Because this site can be dated as existing prior to previously established dates for the beginnings of agriculture and urbanization, not to mention cooperative construction of stone monuments, we can readily believe that conventional chronology is at the least incomplete, if not wholly inaccurate. We see that every new archaeological discovery pushes back civilized development further and further into the past, never in the opposite direction.
So here we have evidence of moving massive stones and the carving of them in intricate detail dating earlier than 10,000 BCE—thousands of years before the ancient Egyptians were believed to have begun the stone machining that Dunn examines in this volume and in his previous works. Several thousand years passed between the time of Göebekli Tepe and that of the Egyptian First Dynasty, millennia in which artisans and engineers of ancient times could have perfected their craft, invented their complete suite of enabling tools and supportive technologies, and eventually emigrated to the Nile Valley, becoming part of the incipient civilization emerging there. With centuries of experiment and practice, those who worked in stone could have kept their knowledge secret, offering their finished products to leaders, priests, and the wealthy. As Dunn points out in this volume, even today trade secrets and proprietary knowledge are closely held, even in an educated worldwide civilization with widespread literacy and training. In ancient times the impulse to secrecy may have been even more necessary for survival.
Alas, the human beings who worked the Rose Red Rosetta Stone of Abu Roash, who machined the statues of Ramses, the columns of Dendera and the stones of the pyramids, were more fragile and evanescent than the mighty tools they employed in their work. If tools of metal are lost in war or natural catastrophe, their flesh and blood designers and operators are even more subject to the vagaries of Fate—disease, injury, wounds, and famine can take away technicians, inventors, planners, and managers, while leaving behind marvelous tools fit only for destruction by desperate people ignorant of their value.
If the knowledge of a specific task, the operation of a given machine tool, or the procedure for laying out vast projects is resident in just a few people, maybe just one, then the loss of that person or group means the knowledge is gone forever, unless it is recorded. This is an eternal problem, not limited to the ancient Egyptians of five thousand years ago. As a modern example, in 1992 while working at the White House Science Office, I invited to a meeting there a person from the National Science Foundation. Although only peripheral to the agenda, this older scientist regaled us with a tale of a lost technology of modern times, namely how to start up the engines of the Saturn V rocket that took American astronauts to the Moon from 1969 to 1972. Incredibly, this leading scientist averred that no one was alive who knew how to start up the engines on the largest rocket ever flown. No one had written down the standard operating procedure, and the rocket men who had developed the technique had all passed away.
So in 1992 CE or 1992 BCE or further back in time, we can find sufficient examples to demonstrate that technologies are not always lost as a result of conspiracy. Ordinary human pride, greed, stubbornness, selfishness, and even carelessness, can account for much of our loss.
In two groundbreaking works, author Christopher Dunn has opened our eyes to the fact that ancient Egyptians, and maybe others in the past, designed, planned, laid out, and precisely machined stone statues that would be difficult to reproduce even with today’s manufacturing technologies. As the first person to uncover and develop this new paradigm, he has gone on to investigate other ancient Egyptian artifacts, temples, tombs, and pyramids using this new way of looking at information. He has retrieved knowledge that all before him have overlooked, save Flinders Petrie, whose interest was not primarily proving advanced ancient technology, merely commenting upon interesting findings. A new way of looking at old data could bring new respect to ancient civilizations that left magnificent ruins in a still troubled part of the world. As we understand more about the origin of Egyptian temples and pyramids, we find a way to bridge the past and the present, a way to look for still other revelations that affect us as human beings.
This article is an edited excerpt from the foreword of Christopher Dunn’s new book, Lost Technologies of Ancient Egypt (Inner Traditions/Bear, 2010) and is reprinted here with permission. Arlan Andrews, Sr., ScD. is a registered Professional Engineer and for many years has worked at the highest technical and management levels in both the private and public sectors of the American aerospace industry.