Friday, November 06, 2015

Ben Carson and the pyramids

POLITICS MEETS JUNK HISTORY: Israeli Experts: No, Ben Carson, the Pyramids Were Tombs, Not Grain Silos. Archaeologists counter GOP hopeful’s view that Egyptian pyramids were built by Joseph to store grain with the known facts.
Israeli Egyptologists are snorting at Republican hopeful Ben Carson’s latest bombshell – that the ancient pyramids of Egypt weren’t built as tombs for pharaohs, but as grain silos.

Admittedly, said bombshell was dropped in 1998, while Carson was speaking at Andrews University, a school associated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, to which he belongs. It’s low to trash people for things they did as kids. But Ben Carson is now 64, so he must have been about 47 then, which is old enough to know better.

Moreover, according to the Telegraph, he told CBS News last week that he still holds that opinion, based on ... well, nothing.

No, Joseph did not build the Egyptian pyramids as grain silos. They are tombs of Pharaohs from long before any viable time frame for Joseph, if there was a historical Joseph, which seems doubtful. Mr. Carson's "theory" is a new one as far as I know, but it reminds me of the notion, still sometimes circulating in Egypt, that the Israelites built the pyramids. That one seems to have been started by Josephus, with the later help of a Scotsman names Smyth and then Menachem Begin. So there is precedent for a politician advancing goofy notions about the pyramids. On that see here, here, here, and here.

Two other thoughts. First, who are these "scientists" who say, "Well, you know there were alien beings that came down and they have special knowledge and that’s how they were"—? Second, it must have taken the media an extraordinary amount of rooting around in Mr. Carson's past to come up with this one. If this is the worst scandal they can find, he's doing pretty well. It bothers us historians, but most people won't care.

UPDATE (8 November): More here.