It offends me as an archaeologist II

12 Nov

Part II: In which a leading candidate for the United States presidency claims that the Giza Pyramids were built by the biblical Joseph to store grain.


This story from the Washington Post includes Republican candidate Ben Carson’s quote from a 1998 commencement:

“Now, my own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain,” Carson continued. “Now all the archaeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs’ graves. But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big — when you stop and think about it, and I don’t think it’d just disappear over the course of time — to store that much grain.”

“And when you look at the way that the pyramids are made, with many chambers that are hermetically sealed, they’d have to be that way for a reason. And various of scientists have said, ‘Well, you know there were alien beings that came down and they had special knowledge and that’s how they were —’ you know, it doesn’t require an alien being when God is with you.

Yes, archaeologists “think” that the Giza Pyramids were built as tombs for pharaohs. (Bonus question: what are archaeologists’ reasons for thinking that and how do they differ from Carson’s reasons for thinking they were grain silos?). Yes, there are people who think they were built by aliens, but these people are not “various of scientists.”

Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty responded by not responding: “Does he even deserve a response? He doesn’t.” There’s something to be said for ignoring outrageous claims. On the other hand, we don’t want them to gain legitimacy by going unchallenged. I think it’s important for people (especially Americans) of all political and religious perspectives to reiterate that Ben Carson does not speak for us.

2 Responses to “It offends me as an archaeologist II”

  1. jrabdale 11/19/2015 at 7:48 am #

    I understand your outrage. However, I think you need to put this into a bit of perspective. Ben Carson’s opponents are obviously trying to dig up as much negative stuff on him as they can in order to hurt his chances of getting elected. One way that they can do that is by looking for any stupid things that he said in the past. So, they’re dredging up material from twenty years ago in order to ruin his image. Yes, he’s wrong about the pyramids. They were not grain silos. They were not built during the time that Joseph was supposedly around. His so-called “theory” isn’t a theory at all. In fact, it isn’t even a hypothesis – it’s just an idea. One thing that I would like to ask is “Do you still believe this?” Understandably, people’s ideas and knowledge change over time. If he replied “No, I don’t think my idea was right”, then it shows that he’s receptive to new information and new ideas. If he replied “Yes, I still believe this”, then I think all people who are knowledgeable in ancient history would have to have a serious and lengthy talk with him.

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