Book Review: "Voyages of the Pyramid Builders"

Robert Schoch's latest book "Voyages of the Pyramid Builders" is now available in paperback. He first gained renown for his work on re-dating the Sphinx with John Anthony West. Schoch has a PhD in geology from Yale University and is currently a professor at Boston University. The new book delves into the memory of ancient floods and the application of modern science in establishing dates for various catastrophes that have taken place since the end of the last ice age.

General warming and cooling of the Earth's climate is explained in the book as a complex interplay of natural cycles in the Earth's elliptical orbit around the sun, as well as the tilt and wobble ("precession") of the Earth's spin about its own axis of rotation. Schoch discusses in much greater detail how these general warming and cooling patterns are altered by meteorite strikes, especially those caused when the Earth crosses the path of a comet.

Large meteorite strikes on land force dust into the upper atmosphere, which can bring about a rapid and extreme cooling effect, a concept most of us already understand due to the modern threat of "nuclear winter." A meteorite "shower" induced by the debris tail of a comet can drastically lower temperatures worldwide for an entire decade. Large volcanic eruptions also cause cooling for the same basic reason, but generally can affect climate for only three years at most. However, in both cases new weather patterns can be established (due to increased snow cover and reflection of the sun's energy back out into Space) that last long after the upper atmosphere has returned to normal. Schoch explains that large meteorite strikes on the oceans have the opposite effect. They not only spawn devastating tsunamis, but also contribute to a sustained warming of world climate.

The glaciers of the world had reached their maximum extent around 18,000 B.C. The general trend toward glacier meltdown has continued until our time, but has not been altogether uniform and orderly. Schoch states that warming was accelerated rapidly due to meteorite activity around 11,500 B.C., 9500 B.C., and 6000 B.C. Between the final two events, a cool-down period resulted from one or more meteorites that struck dry land about 7553 B.C. (deduced from the synthesis of ice core and tree ring data). The warming period after 6000 B.C. was apparently the most intense and destructive. Schoch writes: "As ice melted in the sudden warming, the land beneath the vanished glaciers rebounded at the loss of their weight, setting off tremors, earthquakes, uplift, and subsidence; something of a seismic chamber of horrors. The sudden collapse of ice sheets into the oceans could have set off superwaves, towering walls of water that spread for thousands of miles and sweep suddenly onto low-lying coastlines."

The application of ice core and tree ring data has also been used to identify land strikes of meteorites in 4400 B.C., 3150 B.C., 2345 B.C., 1628 B.C., 1159 B.C., 207 B.C., and 536 A.D. There were probably ocean strikes during this period, but they cannot be pinpointed with ice core and tree-ring data. There has also been a slight decrease in sea level since 4000 B.C., which indicates that ocean strikes (leading to global warming) have not been a dominant factor since that time, at least in comparison to land strikes and other factors that have caused a slight cooling of the planet.

On average there has been at least one major land impact catastrophe each millennium. The planet evidently dodged the last bullet in the 12th Century A.D. Meteor activity was very strong at this time and officially documented in China. In England, a massive impact on the Moon was witnessed and documented by monks at Canterbury in 1178 A.D. Schoch states that the probable candidate of this impact is known as the Giordano Bruno crater, estimated to have been caused by an explosion equivalent to five times the force of the world’s present day nuclear weapons (see p 210 of the book). Such an impact might well have introduced a significant change in relative motion between the Earth and Moon and invalidate retro-calculation of lunar eclipses prior to 1178 B.C. (This is not a conclusion of Schoch but seems plausible to me. There were probably other strikes on the Moon in the past millennium that were not documented, but of equal or even greater size than that of 1178 B.C.)

Schoch proposes that pyramid ("pure mountain") building was in part a response by ancient man to the peril of meteorites (p 236). He also observes that the major pyramids on various continents were periodically renovated, including the Giza Pyramids. In the case of Giza, organic material extracted from the major structures yielded radiocarbon dates that were on average almost 400 years earlier than even the currently accepted time of the Egyptian Fourth Dynasty of Khufu. Also, samples from the top of the Great Pyramid were considerably older than those taken from the bottom. These results have been explained away by Egyptologists, but Schoch takes it as concrete evidence of repair work and states: "No doubt the Giza Plateau was a holy site whose importance reached back into time well before the Fourth Dynasty, possibly to before the original sculpting of the Great Sphinx." (Schoch dates the Sphinx to the 5000-7000 B.C. timeframe.)

According to Schoch, pyramid building began in the Far East and only spread to Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Americas as part of some kind of Post-Ice Age Diaspora from the Orient. In his thinking, the arrival of the gods in the Near East was not an extra-terrestrial event, but simply colonization by refugees from the Far East. They brought with them their knowledge and form of government, i.e., an assembly of "Seven Sages", which Schoch believes was itself based on astronomical and particularly cometary symbolism. As an example, he notes that the "Seven Sisters" (stars) of the Pleiades "preside" over the constellation of Taurus "the Bull", which is the portion of the night sky that is most active in terms of comet activity (see pp 232-235), and that they are chased (figuratively "hunted") by the constellation of Orion. A large portion of the book is devoted to evaluating anthropological and mythological evidence in support of an "Atlantis" of the East. This is fascinating material, but it is difficult to assign a degree of certainty. However, in my opinion, it is at least plausible. Have you ever noticed portraiture of the Egyptian mother goddess Hathor with her round face and narrow eyes. They certainly suggest an oriental race, and oriental ways (particularly the sense of fatalism) pervaded what would become Near Eastern royal culture.

One interpretation of Near Eastern Mythology would then be that the "gods and goddesses" of the Near East were actually a branch of an older family from the Far East. Perhaps they readily assumed roles that were even in their time considered to be extremely ancient. In an attempt to capture the essence of that legacy, these persons were later attributed with fantastical life spans in king lists – for they represented the continuation of a great culture that was forced to pull up roots and find new "garden" spots.

Unfortunately, the material remains of an advanced Ice Age civilization are yet to be found, but possibly we have been too obsessed with looking for them only in the West. The low-lying or seaside communities of the Far East (and elsewhere) not wiped out by intermittent tsunamis were eventually submerged permanently as the sea level rose as much as 400 feet all-in-all. Understandably, those who could escape did so, and sought the safety of higher and holier ground.

Those of you that have plunged into the new book chapters and charts of Archaeology & the Patriarchs now realize that the timeline of the ancient world is being further compressed. Prior to the publication of Part III, the beginning of the pharaonic dynasties was placed around 1450 B.C. This date seemed to correspond well with the eruption of Thera. However, the material presented in Part III dictates that at least 200 more years be removed from what is called the Third Intermediate Period in Egypt. Consequently, the founding of the Old Kingdom must be lowered to about 1250 B.C. This is edging closer to the catastrophe of 1159 B.C. mentioned above.

It then seems necessary to conclude that about 90 years be removed from the Greek and Roman Periods in order to synchronize with the "Flood" of 1159 B.C. (Should we be surprised that it is appropriate to reduce the Greek and Roman timelines after seeing how inflated those of earlier periods are?) Schoch states that the Greenland ice core and tree ring data reveal "unspeakable cold" (p 217) in 1159 B.C. for some regions of the globe, however tree growth patterns in Asia Minor specifically indicate that it was exceptionally wet there.

Lowering the Biblical Flood to circa 1159 B.C. means that the eruption of Thera which is dated either to 1628 B.C. or 1390 B.C. was not associated with Noah but actually took place during the time of the so-called gods. (Greenland ice core data indicates a major volcanic eruption occurred around 1390 B.C. +/- 50 years, but the limited number of years affected indicates that it was not associated with a larger meteorite impact.)