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:  

Kindle:  
Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Ancestral Night (SF) - Elizabeth Bear *****

Only a couple of weeks ago, reviewing a 1960s SF book, I bemoaned the fact that science fiction novels of ideas are less common now. Although it is correctly labelled a space opera, Ancestral Night delivers ideas with aplomb.

Let's deal with the space opera aspect first. Elizabeth Bear provides some excellent adventure scenes in space, and we've the usual mix of huge spaceships and interesting aliens. Main character Haimey Dz is an engineer on a ship that salvages wrecks - but, as we gradually discover - she also has a forgotten past. A major feature of the storyline (one that seems to link to the medieval idea of the lost wisdom of the past) is ancient technology from a long-dead race with capabilities, notably manipulating spacetime mentally (Bear has yet to point out that the travel technologies used here could manipulate time as well as space), which fit well with Arthur C. Clarke's magic definition.

I particularly liked the (surely intentional) nods to the much-misse…

The Creativity Code - Marcus du Sautoy *****

At first glance this might just be another 'What AI is good at and not so good at' title. And in a way, it is. But, wow, what a brilliant book! Marcus du Sautoy takes us on a tour of what artificial intelligence has achieved (and possibly can in the future achieve) in a range of fields from his own of mathematics, through game playing, music, art and more.

After a little discussion of what creativity is, we start off with the now very familiar story of DeepMind's AlphaGo and its astonishing ability to take on the hugely challenging game of Go. Even though I've read about this many times before, du Sautoy, as a Go player and mathematician, gives a real feel for why this was such a triumph - and so shocking. Not surprisingly he is also wonderful on what mathematicians actually do, how computers have helped them to date and how they have the potential to do far more in the future. After all, mathematics is by far the closest science to game playing, as it has strict rule…

The Demon in the Machine - Paul Davies *****

Physicists have a habit of dabbling in biology and, perhaps surprisingly, biologists tend to be quite tolerant of it. (I find it hard to believe the reverse would be true if biologists tried to do physics.) Perhaps one reason for that tolerance is Schrödinger’s lecture series and book What is Life?, which had a huge impact on molecular biology and with a reference to which, not surprisingly, Paul Davies begins his fascinating book. 

At the heart of the The Demon in the Machine (we'll come back to that demon in a moment) is the relationship between life and information. In essence, Davies points out that if we try to reduce life to its simple physical components it is like trying to work with a computer that has no software. The equivalent of software here is information, not just in the best publicised aspect of the information stored in the DNA, but on a far broader scale, operating in networks across the organism.
This information and its processing gives life its emergent compl…