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Sitchin's Folly: Misinterpreting Pyramids


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#1    kmt_sesh

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Posted 27 November 2009 - 04:45 AM

I was recently browsing in a bookstore and came across some "cheap" sales, including one of Zecharia Sitchin's books The Stairway to Heaven. This is Book II in his Earth Chronicles series. This book was first published around 1980, I believe. It was some years later that I checked out a copy from a local library, because I was curious to see what the fuss was about. I wasn't too familiar with this man named Sitchin yet, and I wanted to get a better idea of what he was trying to say and how he was framing his arguments. I thought it would be a painful experience trying to read something like The Stairway to Heaven, and I was right. I found it so preposterous that I abandoned it less than a third of the way through, and returned it to the library.

I must be a glutton for punishment because I caved in and bought the book this time. What the hell, for around four bucks it wasn't too difficult for me to do. I probably could've spent the money more wisely, such as a lunch at McDonalds, but for the sake of fair play in my own debates here at UM, I thought I should do it. In attempting to read The Stairway to Heaven again, I find myself perplexed by the conclusions Sitchin reaches. They are so far from reality that I have a hard time buying the idea that even Sitchin takes these conclusions seriously. He has every right to earn a living by publishing his books and I do not deny him that, but I worry about sincere but gullible folks who buy the books, read them, and fall for them.

Another poster at UM says he likes to read Sitchin's material because it makes for a good story, but that's clearly not Sitchin's intent. He does indeed seem to want people to take him seriously. The books are listed as "nonfiction," after all. At the same time, I can't help but notice that in most bookstores I visit, publications by Sitchin and others such as Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval are not to be found in the history or science section but in the "mysticism" or "occult" section. I have to chuckle over the fact that even the bookstores don't seem to take these writers seriously.

In the interest of balance, then, I'd like to critique some of the arguments Sitchin makes in The Stairway to Heaven and detail why he is patently incorrect. Or as the historian Michael Heiser succinctly puts it in his own well-explained website, Sitchin is wrong. I honestly don't know how to interpret Zecharia Sitchin's motives, but he seems to operate under one of two guiding principles, which seem to be followed by nearly all fringe writers:

  • Stichin does not possess a working or meaningful understanding of the ancient cultures about which he writes, so he loosely defines them in terms that fit his agenda.
  • Sitchin does have a working knowledge of these cultures but has deliberately misinterpreted them to force them in a tormented fashion to fit his agenda.
For all I know it could be a melding of the two. In either case, for anyone who has studied the same cultures from a perspective of the scientific method and proper research protocols, Sitchin's conclusions are clearly erroneous.

I think we all know that Sitchin argues ancient civilizations, particularly the Sumerians, were founded by an alien race coming from a planet named Nibiru; the Nibiruans, in fact, genetically engineered the human race. So says Sitchin. I'm not going to spend any further time explaining his basic premise, however. For this post I am going to refer to some arguments Sitchin makes at the start of Chapter 8, entitled "Forging the Pharoah's Name." This chapter in particular is rife with inaccurate conclusions, and the faulty logic is simple to refute. I rather think even the average college freshman just starting to take up Near Eastern studies could have a field day tearing Sitchin's arguments to shreds.

The Step Pyramid
When it comes to ancient Egypt, Sitchin argues the two larger pyramids of Giza were built by the aliens he identifies as the Anunnaki (properly identified as a class of gods in Mesopotamian cultures), and served as their guiding beacons. All other Egyptian pyramids, Sitchin states, were pale imitations made by the Egyptians to try to emulate the mighty pyramids created by the Anunnaki. Sitchin questions the logic behind the form of the true pyramid, whose four sides are smooth in contrast to step pyramids, and even goes so far as to say the very first pyramid, created in Dynasty 3 for King Netjerikhet (a.k.a., Djoser), was in fact originally a true pyramid. Sitchin writes (2007: 337-338):

Quote

However, as new evidence suggests, even that final step pyramid was cased, to look like a true pyramid. The casing, uncovered by archaeological missions of Harvard University led by George Reisner, was primitively made of mud bricks, which of course crumbled soon enough...

Sitchin does not disagree that the famous Step Pyramid of Djoser was built in stages, beginning as a flat square structure and ending up in pyramidal form, but the inference that it was finished as a true pyramid is unfounded. He tries to argue this simply to make it seem as though Djoser was the first in Egyptian history to try to make a monument like the ones "made" by the Anunnaki at Giza--which he of course says were already there, long before the rise of the Egyptian civilization.

Properly analyzed and as established through archaeology, it is known that:

Quote

At the outset, the structure had the form of a square mastaba (stage M1), which was gradually enlarged, first equally on all four sides (stage M2), and then only on the east side (stage M3). The mastaba...already had a step shape in the M3 stage (Verner 1998: 114).

The Step Pyramid never had the true form with smooth sides. That is an invention on Sitchin's part. It would go on to become a six-layer stepped structure (stages P1 and P2). The casing was not made of mud brick, as Sitchin asserts, but of fine limestone, as was the interior mass. It happens, however, that a lot of the limestone was cut to resemble the size and shape of mud brick in order to mimic the building material of earlier times, as is true of most of the expansive complex surrounding the Step Pyramid.

Pyramids of the Late Old Kingdom
Sitchin also questions the nature of pyramids following those built at Giza. He writes (2007: 337):

Quote

If the art of pyramid building was progressively improved, why were the many pyramids which followed the Giza pyramids inferior, rather than superior to those of Giza?

This is a question posed by fringe writers in general. They either don't understand the socio-political conditions of the late Old Kingdom and are making it up as they go along, or they are ignoring well-established history altogether. I've seen posters here at UM parrot the same skepticism about the later pyramids, but without the knowledge of what was happening after Dynasty 4. There is no question that state authority and the economy of Egypt were beginning to teeter after Dynasty 4. Egypt was slipping into decline. It would descend into civil war in the succeeding First Intermediate Period, when rival dynasties arose and fought one another for hegemony of Egypt (Shaw & Nicholson 2003: 100); in fact, the old capital of Memphis was even abandoned in this period. Kings in the late Old Kingdom no longer possessed the control to marshall the resources to build soaring pyramids. Instead, they erected smaller pyramids but with much larger and more elaborate temples than in Dynasty 4; several kings of Dynasty 5 also built large sun-temple complexes. These are indications of change not only in the socio-political situation but in the religion, as well.

Djedfre's Pyramid at Abu Rawash
Sitchin questions why the king who followed Khufu, his son Djedefre, did not build a pyramid at Giza: "Remember--the other two Giza pyramids were supposedly not there yet, so Radedef [Djedefre] had the whole site free to build as he pleased" (2007: 338). In fact, spacing at a particular site was but only one consideration when a king wished to start the building of his tomb. Many kings preferred to situate their tombs in virgin territory, to mark the space as their own. Djoser did this when abandoning the old royal necropolis of Abydos for North Saqqara, and Khufu did the same at Giza. Kings in Dynasty 5 spread their monuments throughout Abusir, while Unis chose to return to Saqqara. Djedefre chose Abu Rawash because it had not been used for any royal burial since the aborted construction of the so-called Lepsius Pyramid No. 1, also known as the Brick Pyramid for its brick-sized masory and tentatively attributed to King Huni (Dodson 2006: 47). Sitchin also wonders if the Egyptians had perfected their building techniques with the Great Pyramid, why did the builders at Abu Rawash erect "...the quickly crumbling one that bears his [Djedefre's] name?" (2007: 338) In fact it's most likely the case that the pyramid was never finished. Djedefre died too quickly. What was completed was about fifteen horizontal layers, including some carefully dressed granite casing stones (Verner 1998: 218-219). What was completed prior to abandonment of construction was, in fact, well done.

Absence of Hieroglyphs
Sitchin goes on to question the absence of hieroglyphs in the Giza pyramids. Many fringe writers do this, which is further evidence of their lack of understanding of the time and place. Sitchin says the lack of hieroglyphs proves these pyramids "...had either been built before the development of hieroglyphic writing, or were not built by the Egyptians" (2007: 339). This absence of hieroglyphs proves no such thing. It's convenient that Sitchin ignores the fact that aside from some inscriptions in the subterranean spaces of Djoser's Step Pyramid, no pyramid until that of King Unis, at the end of Dynasty 5, bears interior hieroglyphic inscriptions of any sort. Sitchin is compelled to ignore this basic fact because it's something most pyramids from Dynasty 3 to the end of Dynasty 5 have in common. Lack of inscriptions proves nothing, aside from the obvious fact that this was the nature of royal tombs through most of the Old Kingdom. Only the attendant chapels and sacred spaces of tombs were inscribed in this period, and in fact this is the case with every single excavated mortuary temple and valley temple in Old Kingdom pyramid complexes.

It should be noted that the graffiti in the relieving chambers of the Great Pyramid definitively prove the pyramid was built in the time of and for Khufu. This is something Sitchin tries to explain away, but that's the subject for another thread I intend to begin in the near future.

Pyramid Temples
Sitchin postulates that the temples that adjoined the masonry pyramids at Giza were indeed built by the Egyptians, and that kings like Khufu respectfully appropriated the previously existing pyramids in this way. He has to find some explanation for the temples because they were richly decorated with inscriptions specifically naming the kings, and adorned with beautiful statuary such as those found in the temples of Menkaure. Sitchin even goes so far as to state that Khufu was buried in his valley temple (2007: 340). This is absurd. Although later intrusive burials have been found in Old Kingdom valley temples, kings certainly were not buried in them. There is no evidence for this having occurred even once. It helps Sitchin's case that Khufu's valley temple has never been located and was probably long ago destroyed by the urban sprawl of Cairo, but he's stretching an argument to a point that cannot be supported by any evidence.

The Pyramids of Sneferu
Sitchin also discussed the three earlier pyramids of Khufu's father, Sneferu. He basically writes them off as crude attempts to mimic the Anunnaki pyramids of Giza. Anyone of sound mind ought to have a hard time with this notion. Although it's true that Sneferu's pyramid at Meidum and his Bent Pyramid at Dashur were not grand successes, they were still the first true pyramids in the world and remain massive, imposing monuments. And Sneferu's third monument, the Red Pyramid at Dashur, was a stunning success and is one of the most beautiful pyramids the Egyptians ever built. Also neglected by Sitchin are the architectural elements seen in Sneferu's monuments that appear in more advanced form in Khufu's Great Pyramid. As most fringe writers do, Sitchin conveniently ignores the natural and observable evolution royal funerary architecture followed in the early periods.

Conclusion
I realize this post got very long and I don't expect many people at UM will be interested in reading all of it, but thank you to those of you who do. I don't usually initiate threads here at UM, so I welcome comments and debate on those portions people read and on which they care to comment. I'd appreciate constructive debate based on the material as written. Simply chiding me for taking on Sitchin is not productive; I'd rather you take me up on the challenges I present to his arguments. Similarly, dismissing orthodox scholarship outright is also not productive, and bodes very poorly for those who approach the issue that way. I'd rather a poster not comment at all than to resort to the silly idea of "historians are out to hide the truth," which of course is nonsense. I of course have no say over what posters wish to write, but I'd like to keep the discussion mature and productive. Thanks. :)

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#2    TheSearcher

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Posted 27 November 2009 - 07:46 AM

I read it and I loved it. Well presented post and arguments, what more could we ask for. :tu:

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#3    pbarosso

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Posted 27 November 2009 - 08:54 AM

thankyou for this. i read the twelth planet and was at first enthralled. then about halfway through sitchin just showed himself to be the grandest of retards. Pure fringe propaganda, designed to cause a denial of higher learning and conjure controversy and mistrust of the established science.

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#4    questionmark

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Posted 27 November 2009 - 03:01 PM

Good job...sadly it wont convince the likes Of K... he'll go back and buy another book.

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#5    KennyB

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Posted 27 November 2009 - 04:35 PM

questionmark, Not me. I'm satisfied with the free ones on the Internet. However, isn't it true that Hawass and his crew do everything they can to cover up information about the pyramids?  KennyB


#6    questionmark

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Posted 27 November 2009 - 04:37 PM

View PostKennyB, on 27 November 2009 - 04:35 PM, said:

questionmark, Not me. I'm satisfied with the free ones on the Internet. However, isn't it true that Hawass and his crew do everything they can to cover up information about the pyramids?  KennyB

No, they don't...but they sure are after all who spout bull about the pyramids.

I would be too if I had his job.

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#7    cladking

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Posted 27 November 2009 - 05:07 PM

View Postquestionmark, on 27 November 2009 - 04:37 PM, said:

No, they don't...but they sure are after all who spout bull about the pyramids.

I would be too if I had his job.

I'm not convinced they intentionally cover up any specific information
but surely you have to agree that the contempt they have for anyone who
isn't an accredited egyptologist severely distorts what we can learn
about Giza and the ancients.  It's not so much that one can't be an
egyptologist without believing in ramps as it is that egyptologists
rarely have the training in other fields.

Men fear the pyramid, time fears man.

#8    Hanslune

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Posted 27 November 2009 - 06:29 PM

Howdy Kmt_sesh

I'm shocked, shocked I tell you to learn that Sticky made stuff up. Who'd have thunk it?

LOL

Good overview the Sitchin stories KMT. To bad he didn't make it into a sci-fi story or make up a religion like the scientology guy.....

Edited by Hanslune, 27 November 2009 - 06:30 PM.


#9    cladking

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Posted 27 November 2009 - 07:22 PM

http://images.google...hl=en&sa=N&um=1


This could fit almost any thread around really.  

If he had permission to run the test I believe it would
prove him wrong but what is it Hawass fears?  Egyptology
is so dependent on the maintenance of the status quo that
even finding out internal ramps were used would upset the
applecart.  

This would be very valuable information to many people and
is already available to every major country with spy satel-
lites.  

Personally I think all that will be seen is more aspects of
the five step pyramid underneath.  But there will be on huge
thing and that is the counterweight runs will be cold.

Men fear the pyramid, time fears man.

#10    kmt_sesh

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Posted 28 November 2009 - 01:43 AM

View PostKennyB, on 27 November 2009 - 04:35 PM, said:

questionmark, Not me. I'm satisfied with the free ones on the Internet. However, isn't it true that Hawass and his crew do everything they can to cover up information about the pyramids?  KennyB

Categorically, no!

Who exactly are "Hawass and his crew," to begin with? Too many people make it seem as though Hawass rules with an iron fist and controls every aspect of archaeology in Egypt. This is not reality. Most of the teams excavating in Egypt come from foreign institutions. The SCA signs the paperwork that allows them to dig in Egypt and conduct research there, but they absolutely do not control the output of the findings.

Too many people also try to paint a picture that orthodox scholarship is out to "hide the truth," a subject on which I've commented many times. This is also patently absurd. When one approaches this from the perspective of reality, he realizes that orthodox scholarship is not some cohesive, homogenous team, nor is it a collective association of shady and nebulous conspirators. Orthodox scholarship is, in fact, a collection of academics from a wide array of scientific disciplines from institutions and universities all over the world. To suggest that orthodoxy has been "hiding the truth" from the start, we would have to believe that all mainline historians of the past couple hundred years have been working in tandem, in some utopian academic cabal, to suppress hidden "truths." This is of course nonsense.

I don't know if even Sitchin is guilty of proposing either scenario. I haven't read enough of his literature to form an opinion on that, nor do I plan to. Sitchin is merely guilty of sloppy research and clearly faulty conclusions, which puts him in good standing with a very long line of whimsical fringe writers.

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#11    kmt_sesh

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Posted 28 November 2009 - 01:48 AM

View Postcladking, on 27 November 2009 - 07:22 PM, said:

http://images.google...hl=en&sa=N&um=1


This could fit almost any thread around really.  

If he had permission to run the test I believe it would
prove him wrong but what is it Hawass fears?  Egyptology
is so dependent on the maintenance of the status quo that
even finding out internal ramps were used would upset the
applecart.  

This would be very valuable information to many people and
is already available to every major country with spy satel-
lites.  

Personally I think all that will be seen is more aspects of
the five step pyramid underneath.  But there will be on huge
thing and that is the counterweight runs will be cold.

We're back to painting Hawass as some kind of boggy man. I am not even much of a fan of Hawass, but I don't by it. Houdin's theory has merit but he must have the backing of a proper institution to conduct examinations of Egyptian monuments, even if that institution is the SCA itself. That is common sense. We should not expect the Egyptian government to open up its monument to anyone and everyone with a theory, because the Great Pyramid would be crawling with anyone and everyone.

More importantly, perhaps, this doesn't really have anything to do with my OP or with Sitchin's arguments. I really, really do not want this thread to de-evolve into yet another debate about ramps. ;)

I'm editing to add something. I don't mean to come across as harsh, cladking. I just noticed that the only two commenters who espouse alternative views--KennyB and you--did not attempt to defend Sitchin or question Sitchin, or to challenge me on my critique of his material. Rather, you both made an end run for the old line about the meanies of orthodoxy. This does not address anything in my OP, and I'm hoping to keep things on track. I'm not reading The Stairway to Heaven from start to finish but rather am hopping from chapter to chapter to find information of interest to me, and to date I haven't even seen where Sitchin brings up ramps or alternative building theories. I plan to start other threads about the book and maybe the subject will come up elsewhere, but for now Houdin, Hawass, and ramp theories are not germane to the OP. Houdin's theory is interesting and is worth discussion, so why not start a new thread about it?

Edited by kmt_sesh, 28 November 2009 - 02:07 AM.

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#12    cladking

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Posted 28 November 2009 - 03:32 AM

View Postkmt_sesh, on 28 November 2009 - 01:48 AM, said:

We're back to painting Hawass as some kind of boggy man. I am not even much of a fan of Hawass, but I don't by it. Houdin's theory has merit but he must have the backing of a proper institution to conduct examinations of Egyptian monuments, even if that institution is the SCA itself. That is common sense. We should not expect the Egyptian government to open up its monument to anyone and everyone with a theory, because the Great Pyramid would be crawling with anyone and everyone.

More importantly, perhaps, this doesn't really have anything to do with my OP or with Sitchin's arguments. I really, really do not want this thread to de-evolve into yet another debate about ramps. ;)

I'm editing to add something. I don't mean to come across as harsh, cladking. I just noticed that the only two commenters who espouse alternative views--KennyB and you--did not attempt to defend Sitchin or question Sitchin, or to challenge me on my critique of his material. Rather, you both made an end run for the old line about the meanies of orthodoxy. This does not address anything in my OP, and I'm hoping to keep things on track. I'm not reading The Stairway to Heaven from start to finish but rather am hopping from chapter to chapter to find information of interest to me, and to date I haven't even seen where Sitchin brings up ramps or alternative building theories. I plan to start other threads about the book and maybe the subject will come up elsewhere, but for now Houdin, Hawass, and ramp theories are not germane to the OP. Houdin's theory is interesting and is worth discussion, so why not start a new thread about it?


I apologize.  My intention is not to derail the thread so much
as to attempt to explain why I think there are so many "crazy"
theories and why they are so well recieved.  Of course there are
crazy theories on almost all subjects so the pyramids are no ex-
ception but I think you have to agree this prevalence in this
field is nearly unprecedented.  

I won't rebut your point in this thread since you're right that
it's not entirely on topic.

As to Sitchen I'm just not sufficiently knowledgeable to have much
of an opinion.  I disagree with the concept that extraordinary
claims require extraordinary proof or at least that the one time
existence of ET's is not really so very extraordinary.  People are
just funny.  If they landed tomorrow everyone would take it as a
matter of course in mere days.  Why would something so mundane be
so impossible just because they've left.  

I would agree that such a claim as this requires either solid ev-
idence which I assume doesn't exist or a raft of circumstantial ev-\
idence.  Since there doesn't seem to be a void which needs to be be
filled this way it seems not worth my time to investigate.

I really want to avoid insulting him but generally things that ap-
peal to the masses generally won't hold much interest to me.

Men fear the pyramid, time fears man.

#13    Harte

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 09:57 PM

Taking on the Sitchinistas there Kmt_sesh?
Watch out - there's waaay too much material and you might attract an idiot that believes every bit of it.

Are you prepared to discuss VA-243?

How hard you gonna lean on Heiser?

You know that Heiser has his own "Ancient Astronaut" theory out there?

They're gonna git you hoss. Afore you know it, you'll be a-usin that ignore feature.

Mark my words!

Harte

PS - Nice threads.  Both of them.

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#14    kmt_sesh

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 11:51 PM

View PostHarte, on 30 November 2009 - 09:57 PM, said:

Taking on the Sitchinistas there Kmt_sesh?
Watch out - there's waaay too much material and you might attract an idiot that believes every bit of it.

Are you prepared to discuss VA-243?

How hard you gonna lean on Heiser?

You know that Heiser has his own "Ancient Astronaut" theory out there?

They're gonna git you hoss. Afore you know it, you'll be a-usin that ignore feature.

Mark my words!

Harte

PS - Nice threads.  Both of them.

Yep, Harte, I'm taking on the Sitchinites, so bring 'em on! Honestly, I am not intimidated. I am reading only The Stairway to Heaven and it's unlikely I'll subject myself to anything else that Sitchin has written, but what I've read so far in The Stairway to Heaven is so comically erroneous that I can't help but try to shed some light of reason into Sitchin's murky world of silly fantasy.

I might be prepared to discuss VA-243 if I knew what it is. What in the hell is VA-243? Is it something Sitchin brings up in the book I'm reading?

Now stop saying that about Heiser! What are you trying to do, ruin my respect for the man? The material on his website is so well written and factually sound that I have a hard time picturing this guy pondering alien astronauts. Or is it more like the Mark Lehner thing, where he started out as a nut case and eventually saw the light?

To this point I haven't used Heiser's material at all. I've just pointed people to his website. Thus far I've kept it to Sitchin's misrepresentation of ancient Egyptian evidence because that's where I'm strongest, and I have my own library to turn to for corroborating facts.

But bring 'em on, man! I've never been impressed by any of Sitchin's arguments and in fact find them simple to destroy, so I doubt his acolytes are going to do much better.

Thanks for your kind words, though. I only wish more people would respond, but I fear my long-winded OPs turn people off. To be honest I had rather hoped to start something of a firestorm, but it looks like my firestorm is little more than a fizzling match. :rolleyes:

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#15    questionmark

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 12:06 AM

View Postkmt_sesh, on 30 November 2009 - 11:51 PM, said:

Thanks for your kind words, though. I only wish more people would respond, but I fear my long-winded OPs turn people off. To be honest I had rather hoped to start something of a firestorm, but it looks like my firestorm is little more than a fizzling match. :rolleyes:

I think your "long winded" OPs contribute a lot to the understanding of ancient Egypt.

And I have to give you this much, the only way we know that Sitchin's rantings are pure crap is reading his books (or at least one of them). And having read his drivel does not really bother me...what severely gets my gout is THAT I PAID FOR IT!

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