Mark Lehnerís Default

An outstanding Egyptologist, well known around the world, is Mark Lehner. He is Visiting Assistant Professor of Egyptian Archaeology at the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago and a Research Associate at the Harvard Semitic Institute. From 1979 to 1983 he directed the Sphinx and Isis Temple Project and since 1984 he has been director of the Giza Plateau Mapping Project. He is famous for his PBS-Nova TV programs through WGBH Boston, and through the British BBC, on experimental efforts to duplicate the construction of pyramids and the difficult task of raising obelisks. He has published important professional papers about his survey of the Giza Plateau.

He is also well known for his book, The Complete Pyramids, Thames and Hudson, London, 1997. This is a beautiful book, excellent in organization, handsomely illustrated, comprehensive in subject, and a pleasure to study.

Unfortunately Lehner, like so many of his fellow Egyptologists, has deluded himself about historic reality. He, along with most of the modern scholars of the world, believe the human race evolved from primitive savagery, through the dawning twilight of civilization, until today. They absolutely reject any genetic or social influence that may have introduced a higher and more noble element to man, with which they themselves are so fortunately blessed.

As a result of this conceptual blunder they condition all of our discoveries about our ancestors to this mental framework. I shall now offer just one small illustration of this thesis.

Below are photocopies of two pages from Lehnerís book. They offer a summary of the pyramids similar to that which I showed from I. E. S. Edwards. They also illustrate the pyramids in outline form, as so many authors have done in the past. The pyramid outlines are to scale with one another. Thus it would seem that Lehner is being meticulously honest.

Not so! Lehner has used the illustration to support his view of manís history.

He used two deceptions.

First, he included outlines for pyramids that never existed. He is honest for the proposed structure of Sekhemkhet at Saqqara, and the Layer Pyramid at Zawiyet el-Aryan by showing dotted lines. But then he shows the ?Nebkha Unfinished Pyramid at Zawiyet el-Aryan as an actual structure, with full outline, although it was never built. Only a pit in the ground gives evidence for its existence. This choice helps him to preserve his pyramid evolution theories.

Second, he shows the linear dimensions of the base measurements to scale, not the volumes. The difference is that the volume of a pyramid is proportional to the cube of the base dimension. The equation

V = 1/3 area of the base X height

expresses this relationship. But the height is proportional by some arithmetic factor to the length of the side, (h) X base. Then the volume can be expressed by

V = 1/3 (h) basecubed.

The amount of work in building a pyramid depended upon its volume, not upon its linear dimension. Thus Lehner suppresses this information. He felt more comfortable by not facing the stupendous tasks necessary to the four pyramids of the Great Geometric Set.

See my discussion in companion papers.

Thus he styled his illustration to more comfortable images with which he and his fellow Egyptologists could live.

An important note in this respect is the actual volumes of the Fourth Dynasty Structures. Six structures constitute 75% of all Egyptian pyramid volume. The four pyramids of the Great Geometric Set, two at Daschur  and two at Giza, comprise 67% of all pyramid volume. The remaining 25% is distributed among two dozen much smaller structures.

For larger size click on the pictures below.


I shall now show an illustration of the actual volumes of the pyramids with time. This will help us recognize how much Lehner suppressed real understanding. I do not show hypothetical unfinished pyramids. We do not know the social forces that may have prevented those structures from being built, and hence cannot report them.

We can see the stupendous effort that went into the early pyramids. If the Zoser pyramid, the earliest on this graph, was a trial run, an attempt to understand what it meant to work in large stone structures, we can see where the real construction began. The pyramid builder next went to Meidum before he began the four huge structures. Everything that follows is puny.

I have altered chronology in one respect: I place the Khafre pyramid before the Khufu because it makes sense in terms of size, and construction quality. The Great Pyramid was the wonder of this entire planning; it should come last.