Book Reviews

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The Secret History of Ancient Egypt Electricity
Title:The Secret History of Ancient Egypt Electricity
Author(s):Herbie Brennan
Publisher:Judy Piatkus
Reviewer:Jon Allen

So why am I reviewing a book about Ancient Egypt for a Perl website? Well please bear with me - there is a connection, I promise!

Herbie Brennan starts his book with the theory that Egyptian technology was so different from our own that the early archaeologists just didn't notice it. He gives the compact disc as an example - if these were found in the future by a historian with no knowledge of lasers or electricity, the idea that they were used for data storage would be completely alien. More likely they would be described as ornaments, or some sort of ritual object.

This shows a big problem with the conventional view of Ancient Egypt - Egyptologists are trained as historians, not as engineers. For example, almost every structure with no obvious purpose is referred to by traditional Egyptologists as a 'burial chamber' (including some which are too small to hold a human corpse). The author notes that while there is no doubt that some pyramids were used for burials, this doesn't necessarily prove that this was their original purpose.

Brennan then takes an in-depth look at the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza. There are various estimates for the time taken to build the pyramid, ranging from 23 to 50 years. With current technology, these figures are ludicrous. Just to quarry and ship the stone today would take 81 years. With construction time taken into consideration as well, either the historians' time scales are wrong or the Egyptians had radically different (and better) ways of quarrying and moving stone than we have today.

Several theories on the construction of the Great Pyramid are given, but lack of compelling evidence makes it difficult to reach a firm opinion. One thing is certain though, the orthodox idea (huge amounts of manpower dragging the stones up ramps) would simply not have worked.

In my opinion the most interesting part is chapter 9, where we find out the true purpose of the Great Pyramid (hint: it was not a tomb). But I'm not going to give the game away in the review, you'll have to buy the book to find out what it was. All I will say is that Brennan's hypothesis is based on solid engineering principles, backed up with figures, and is a lot more convincing than the traditional viewpoint.

Throughout the book, 'The Secret History' deals with a number of other forms of technology which could conceivably have been used by the Egyptians. Broadcast power distribution, sonics, psychotronics, and psychokinesis are all looked at. This reinforces the fact that our current understanding of technology is not necessarily the only way that would work, and that we should not reject alternative concepts out of hand simply because they do not fit in with our preconceived ideas. Obviously without hard evidence this is purely speculative, but even so Brennan makes a very good case. I suppose that when dealing with this sort of timescale, you eventually have to think along the lines of "this is one explanation, can you come up with anything better?". Engineers 1, Historians 0.

Overall I would say that this book provides a most refreshing perspective on Egyptian history. Even if the historical side of things does not interest you, the engineering ideas will. I would consider this to be just as much a technical book as a historical study. Brennan has quite a fast paced writing style, but still manages to provide clear descriptions of complex principles, and to build confidence he draws on the results of modern day experiments to establish concepts before applying them to Egypt. Highly recommended.

Oh, and the Perl connection? TMTOWTDI!