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From the pyramids in the north to the temples in the south, ancient artisans left their marks all over Egypt, unique marks that reveal craftsmanship we would be hard pressed to duplicate today. Drawing together the results of more than 30 years of research and nine field study journeys to Egypt, Christopher Dunn presents a stunning stone-by-stone analysis of key Egyptian monuments, including the statue of Ramses II at Luxor and the fallen crowns that lay at its feet. His modern-day engineering expertise provides ...
From the pyramids in the north to the temples in the south, ancient artisans left their marks all over Egypt, unique marks that reveal craftsmanship we would be hard pressed to duplicate today. Drawing together the results of more than 30 years of research and nine field study journeys to Egypt, Christopher Dunn presents a stunning stone-by-stone analysis of key Egyptian monuments, including the statue of Ramses II at Luxor and the fallen crowns that lay at its feet. His modern-day engineering expertise provides a unique view into the sophisticated technology used to create these famous monuments in prehistoric times.
Using digital photography, computer-aided design software, and metrology instruments, Dunn exposes the extreme precision of these monuments and the type of advanced manufacturing expertise necessary to produce them. His computer analysis of the many statues of Ramses II reveals that the left and right sides of the faces are precise mirror images of each other, and his examination of the mysterious underground tunnels of the Serapeum illuminates the finest examples of precision engineering on the planet. Providing never-before-seen evidence in the form of more than 280 photographs, Dunn's research shows that while absent from the archaeological record, highly refined tools, techniques, and even megamachines must have been used in ancient Egypt.
“This is an extremely important and original book. Christopher Dunn indisputably demonstrates that the ancient Egyptians were much more technologically advanced than the vast majority of modern Egyptologists, archaeologists, and historians ever dared imagine.”
“Utilizing almost 50 years of professional experience in engineering, manufacturing, tool-making, and space-age precision, Chris Dunn has provided an in-depth analysis of ancient Egyptian statuary, temples, and manufactured artifacts that has never been presented previously. This outstanding book, supremely well researched, amply illustrated, and complete with detailed photographs, will be cited as a major paradigm shift and reference source in the field for many years to come.”
SHADOWS OF THE SERAPEUM
Before visiting the temples in Upper Egypt, I descended into the shadows of what must be the most confounding and enigmatic archaeological site in the world—the Serapeum. The site has little left above ground to identify it except a gaffirs’ hut and low walls on both sides of an inclined path that lead to formidable dungeonlike iron doors. Attached to the iron bars that form a transom above the doors there is a sign in Arabic and English that reads:
SERAPEUM DYN XVIII PTOLEMY XII C.1405–30 B.C.E
Though dark and dusty, the Serapeum was a welcome relief from the heat. Shadows were thrown at intervals along the numerous tunnels by incandescent bulbs, and alcoves or crypts cut at right angles on each side of the tunnel made the place even more mysterious. Both the tunnels and the crypts had barrel-shaped, vaulted ceilings that had suffered damage over the millennia with places where large pieces of limestone had separated from the bedrock and fallen. Some areas had wooden frames with thick plywood sheets on top for protection. A fine dust kicked up from the floor hung in the air.
In the center of each crypt was placed a large granite box with a lid on top. All of the boxes were finished on the inside and the bottom side of the lid, but not all were finished on the outside. It appears that work stopped suddenly in the Serapeum, for there were boxes in several stages of completion: boxes with lids, boxes that yet had to have the lid placed on them, and a rough box and lid near the entrance.
The historical explanation for the boxes in the Serapeum is that they were funerary sarcophagi used to hold the carcass of the sacred Apis Bulleven. The Apis Bull was considered to be a god by the ancient Egyptians, and the Serapeum was reputed to house the burial vaults of the Apis cult. Bull heads were found in niches in the tunnels, and a statue of a bull was retrieved from the tunnels and now sits in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
The ancient Egyptians worshipped the Apis as a god, and a search was made throughout the land for a replacement of a bull that died or was about to be sacrificed. When an Apis died, there was mourning throughout the land and a self-imposed celibacy. Until another Apis with the specific markings was found, there was no sex. To say that the mourners were motivated to find one, and in a hurry, would be an understatement. Once found, the new god incarnate was installed with celebration and joy, in that continuity of the Apis god among the Egyptians was assured and signifying that the heavens were pleased and the land and its people would be protected and flourish.
One of the crypts has a granite box that has a corner broken out of it and is accessible by means of steps down to the lower floor. The outside of the box appeared to be roughly finished, but the glint of a high polish on the inside surfaces beckoned me to climb inside. Running my hand along the surface of the granite reminded me of the thousands of times I have run my hand along a granite surface plate when I was working as a machinist and later as a tool and die maker. The feel of the stone was no different, though I was not sure of its flatness, or precision. To check my impression I placed the edge of my precision-ground parallel against the surface—and saw that it was dead flat. There was no light showing through the interface of the steel and the stone, as there would be if the surface was concave, and there was no rocking back and forth along the length of the steel, as there would be if the surface was convex. To put it mildly, I was astounded. I did not expect to find such precision, because this order of precision is not necessary for the sarcophagus of a bull, or any other animal or human.
I slid the parallel along the surface both horizontally and vertically, and there was no deviation from a true flat surface, similar to precision-ground surface plates used in manufacturing to verify precisely machined parts that require extremely accurate surfaces and dimensions. Those familiar with the relationship between gauges and surface plates understand that the accuracy of the reading is constrained to the length of the gauge with which the comparative check is made. In other words, the gauge may show that the stone is flat within the tolerance of the gauge—in this case .0002 inch (.00508 mm) flatness. However, if the gauge is moved six inches along the stone surface and the same conditions are found, it cannot be claimed with certainty that the stone is within the same tolerance over the full 12 inches—unless the plate has been inspected by another means and is calibrated to a known standard. In light of this, I determined that a longer straightedge was needed and, preferably, even more sophisticated alignment equipment before I could come to any further conclusions.
Returning to the hotel that evening, my mind was consumed by what I had seen. These artifacts were precision-crafted boxes on a very large scale. It just didn’t make sense to think that the ancient Egyptians would pour such resources into manufacturing a coffin while the mausoleum where the God Apis rested was rough cut and undecorated. Once the lid was on top of the box, nobody would see the perfectly flat and polished surfaces or the conformity to orthogonal precision.
But I am not thinking like an Egyptian or an Egyptologist. I am thinking like an engineer, and the challenges that these boxes would present to an engineer with modern stone-working tools are significant.
Foreword: Shifting Paradigms Arlan Andrews ix
Foreword: Recognizing the Brilliance of Ancient Manufacturing Judd C. Peck xvi
Photographic Credits xxii
1 The Shadows of Luxor 8
2 The Shadows of Ramses 40
3 The Ramses Challenge 68
4 The Shadows of Karnak 93
5 The Shadows of the Serapeum 113
6 The Shadow of the Sphinx 137
7 The Shadows of Denderah 168
8 Sticks and Stones: Tools of the Trade 197
9 In the Shadow of an Obelisk 205
10 In the Shadow of Egyptian Megamachines 247
11 Walking in the Shadow of William E Petrie 290
12 Suspending Disbelief 325
Selected Bibliography 346
Posted August 4, 2010
Here is a book the world has been waiting for. Do not let the clinical sounding title fool you, either. If they had asked me, I'd have called it The Joy of Discovery: A Humble Materials Engineer's Adventures In Ancient Egypt. It's a great ride, not a text book. It is a truly rigorous analysis of the artifacts the ancient Egyptians left behind, but it's also the story that surrounds Chris Dunn's exploration of this astonishing world. It makes you feel like you were along on an amazing adventure.
Dunn wrote the indispensable The Giza Power Plant, an astonishing analysis of the Great Pyramid, and his fans have been eagerly awaiting this new effort. None will be disappointed. This time, he's writing about the places in Egypt many of us have overlooked. Trust me, the Ramses statues at Luxor are every bit as astounding an accomplishment as the Great Pyramid, although I had no idea 'til I read this book.
Dunn has been a materials engineer for decades. He works for a company that you might hire if you have an idea on paper, a drawing, for instance, and want someone to make a physical object out of it in stone or steel. When he looks at a cell phone, his mind sees the tools that were required to make the curved plastic shell the guts of the phone are packaged in. It's how his mind works. So where most of us glance at nice statues and columns, and walk on to the next nice thing to glance at, Chris Dunn stops in his tracks. How did they DO that?, he asks. He photographs them, and subjects the photos to cutting edge Computer Aided Design analysis. He measures them carefully. He zooms in, and notices almost invisible flaws that are evidence of the manufacturing processes that human beings used to craft these objects.
He's cheerful amateur. The world of academic egyptology is as stodgy and calcified as any stuffy field. Dunn has no credentials there. But he has a fresh set of eyes, and a mind not preprogrammed to interpret what he sees when he looks at these artifacts. Egyptologists have no doubt that these masterfully crafted objects were created using stone and soft copper tools, even though the objects are made of the hardest stone, granite, which even we in our advanced stage of technology find quite difficult to work. Dunn sees the extreme depth of very narrow, very sharp-edged engraving in a granite obelisk, and knows better. It's impossible.
But he has no agenda. You never sense he has an ax to grind. He's unfailingly kind and respectful of all he encounters, even when the reader (me) would have reacted with scathing sarcasm when presented with preposterous propositions (like the idea that deep, sharp, curved, writing can be cut into granite with copper chisels).
He never hypes the possible implications of his findings, but presents them with the hope that others will replicate them, and carry on the work. In fact, he often takes the opportunity to revisit his prior speculations, from The Giza Power Plant, and corrects them when he finds out he was wrong.  Science at its best.
In short, Dunn takes up the challenge the ancients left us, and we are delighted.
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