Skip to main content

Black Genesis – Robert Bauval & Thomas Brophy ***

A long time ago, the archaeological world was turned on its head by Stonehenge Decoded, a book by an astronomer that suggested Stonehenge was a complex astronomical calculator. The archaeologists didn’t seem too pleased at the intervention of an outsider, but they did eventually take on some of the ideas from the book (it seems to be accepted that other of the ideas were taking astronomical alignments too far).
The same thing seems to have happened with some aspects of Robert Bauval’s theories, excellently laid out in the highly readable The Egypt Code. In that book, Bauval put forward astronomical explanations for the positions and alignments of many Egyptian structures (including the great pyramids), and even for special shafts in the structures that allowed for certain sightings to be taken. Once again, the initial reaction was dismissal, but since then the Egyptologists seem to have grudgingly accepted some of the astronomical data, while still leaving some of it out in the cold.
Now Bauval is back with a co-writer, new structures from ancient Egypt, and another theory to wind up the experts. It has to be said straight away that this book doesn’t work nearly so well as its predecessor. It has too much technical detail, the newly discovered structures are a lot less impressive than those covered in the first book, while his underlying theory is difficult to prove.
Bauval introduces us to a miniature stone circle out in the Sahara that seems to date back to a prehistoric period of Egyptian civilization, the precursor of the ancient Egypt we know and love. Assuming the whole thing isn’t a hoax, it’s both fascinating and saddening to see these relics studied – and messed up by a seeming lack of care from the local authorities that end up with one of the most significant stones smashed into two and the whole stone circle removed from its position.
Some of the alignments and links seem very sensible, but there is always a certain danger when discovering alignments. I was reminded of another book by an image Bauval shows of an alignment fitting with a notch in a hill. This was Alfred Watkins’ book The Old Straight Path, which introduced the concept of ley lines. There are, without doubt, some ancient routes and pathways that can now be represented as ley lines, but many of Watkins’ alignments (which often used notches in hills) simply reflect how easy it is to set up alignments when there are so many objects to choose from. It has recently been pointed out that every postcode in the UK can be put into an alignment with at least 3 ancient structures. Alignments are just going to happen sometimes, and it doesn’t necessarily signify an intention.
The underlying theory of Bauval’s book is that the ancient Egyptians were black, or at least had black ancestors. Of course this has to be true, depending on how far you go back – we all have black ancestors, assuming the ‘out of Africa’ theory is correct. But Bauval highlights various pointers that suggest the ancient Egyptians were more directly descended from black African tribes.
All in all, then, an interesting but not hugely readable book that should intrigue anyone with an interest in ancient Egypt, but that leaves a number of questions unanswered.
Paperback:  
Also on Kindle:  
Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The AI Delusion - Gary Smith *****

This is a very important little book ('little' isn't derogatory - it's just quite short and in a small format) - it gets to the heart of the problem with applying artificial intelligence techniques to large amounts of data and thinking that somehow this will result in wisdom.

Gary Smith as an economics professor who teaches statistics, understands numbers and, despite being a self-confessed computer addict, is well aware of the limitations of computer algorithms and big data. What he makes clear here is that we forget at our peril that computers do not understand the data that they process, and as a result are very susceptible to GIGO - garbage in, garbage out. Yet we are increasingly dependent on computer-made decisions coming out of black box algorithms which mine vast quantities of data to find correlations and use these to make predictions. What's wrong with this? We don't know how the algorithms are making their predictions - and the algorithms don't kn…

Infinity in the Palm of your Hand - Marcus Chown *****

A new Marcus Chown book is always a treat - and this is like a box of chocolates: a collection of bite-sized delights as Chown presents us with 50 science facts that are strange and wonderful.

The title is a quote from William Blake's Auguries of Innocence: 'To see a World in a Grain of Sand, / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, / And Eternity in an hour.' It would seem particularly appropriate if this book were read on a mobile phone (so it would be literally in the palm), which could well be true for ebook users, as the short essays make excellent reading for a commute, or at bedtime. I found them distinctly moreish - making it difficult to put the book down as I read just one more. And perhaps another. Oh, and that next one looks really interesting...

Each of the 50 pieces has a title and a short introductory heading, which mostly give a feel for the topic. The very first of these, however, briefly baffled me: 'You are a third mus…

How to Invent Everything - Ryan North ****

Occasionally you read a book and think 'I wish I'd thought of that.' This was my immediate reaction to Ryan North's How to Invent Everything. The central conceit manages to be both funny and inspiring as a framework for writing an 'everything you ever wanted to know about everything (and particularly science)' book.

What How to Invent Everything claims to be is a manual for users of a time machine (from some point in the future). Specifically it's a manual for dealing with the situation of the time machine going wrong and stranding the user in the past. At first it appears that it's going to tell you how to fix the broken time machine - but then admits this is impossible. Since you're stuck in the past, you might as well make the best of your surroundings, so the aim of the rest of the book is to give you the knowledge you need to build your own civilisation from scratch.

We start with a fun flow chart for working out just how far back in time you are…