Egypt has a long and fascinating history. Find out how Ken Wheeler exploits public interest in the ancient kingdom to promote his own misguided, metaphysical notions.
There’s been an advanced civilization in the Nile Valley of northeast Africa for at least 5,000 years. Historians divide the history of Ancient Egypt into three major eras, the Old Kingdom (2700 – 2200 BCE), the Middle Kingdom (2000 – 1800 BCE) and the New Kingdom (1600 to 1100 BCE).
Ancient Egypt was one of the most stable dynasties in history, staying more-or-less intact for over 3,000 years. The Nile river’s fertile flood plain inspired a very cohesive, agricultural society which became one of the foundations of the ancient world.
Ancient Egypt’s most enduring accomplishments were in the fields of art, literature and especially architecture. They developed the most advanced quarrying, surveying and construction techniques in the ancient world.
Ken Has Never Been to Egypt and Has No Qualifications
Ken Wheeler has never been to Egypt and has no qualifications or experience in the fields of archeology or Egyptology. Naturally, this lack of credentials doesn’t discourage him from declaring himself an expert on the topic.
The Angry Photographer’s Egyptian notions centre around two topics – the ancient language of hieroglyphs and the origins and meaning of Egypt’s pyramids. We’ll address each of these topics in turn.
Hieroglyphs were a mystery to historians for centuries. Although they influenced both the Latin and Greek alphabets, they fell into disuse by about the 4th century CE.
Egyptians Started Writing with Hieroglyphs Around 3400 BC
The ancient Egyptians started writing with hieroglyphs around 3400 BCE, even before the Old Kingdom era. Hieroglyphs consist of pictures of plants, animals and features of Egypt’s environment.
There are three kinds of hieroglyphic characters or glyphs. Some represent sounds like the letters of our English alphabet. Others use pictures to represent full words somewhat like East Asian languages, while a third group of glyphs interpret the glyphs beside them, a bit like punctuation.
The Theoria Apophasis host claims to be a translator of hieroglyphs, although there are no translations from this dead language among the books and articles he’s posted online. Without evidence, he shares his own, self-taught explanation of what hieroglyphs mean.
Ken Insists Hieroglyphs Are a Mystical, Symbolic Language
According to Ken Wheeler, hieroglyphs were never the everyday language of ordinary Egyptians. Instead, he insists they’re a mystical, symbolic language used only by the priestly class as talismans.
In a very trivial sense, he’s right about that. Most everyday Egyptians couldn’t read at all, so it follows that they couldn’t read hieroglyphs or any other ancient writings.
Beyond that obvious point, as we’ll see, literate Egyptians used hieroglyphs for everyday interactions. They weren’t reserved for priests of the temple, nor do they contain any sort of mystical messages.
Picked Up Occult Notion from Medieval Neoplatonist Writers
The Angry Photographer seems to have picked up this occult notion from medieval, neoplatonist writers. In the Dark Ages, all understanding of hieroglyphs had been lost, leading to fanciful interpretations based on esoteric, allegorical and mystical assumptions.
Francois Champollion stood all this baseless speculation on its head in 1822. He’d been studying an artifact called the Rosetta Stone that Napoleon’s troops found in 1799.
The Rosetta Stone is a monument with a routine inscription declaring the authority of King Ptolemy V. It enabled Champollion to decipher hieroglyphs because its engravers wrote the same inscription in three languages.
Champollion Proved Hieroglyphs Were Everyday Language
Since the decree appears in Greek, Demotic and in hieroglyphs, the ancient Egyptian language returned to life, at least for Champollion, for the first time in 1400 years.
The use of hieroglyphs on an ordinary monument with a routine public inscription proves that everyday, literate Egyptians used that language for daily business. Since then, archaeologists have found several similar monuments with the same inscription, confirming this finding.
So, as always, Kentucky Ken is mistaken. Egyptian hieroglyphs weren’t talismans or magical symbols but an ordinary writing system used for routine public communication.
Egypt’s Monumental Ruins Attract Fake Experts
Speaking of fake experts, nothing has attracted more of them than Egypt’s countless, monumental ruins. Ken Wheeler claims to own every book ever written about Ancient Egypt, and to have watched every television documentary on the topic.
Of course, the most famous of these ruins are the pyramids. Over the course of their long dynasty, the ancient Egyptians built at least 118 pyramids, almost always on the west bank of the Nile, which they associated with the Land of the Dead.
The Angry Photographer seems to have stumbled upon pictures of a relic called the Pyramidion of Ramose. A pyramidion is a four-sided capstone that slips over the very peak of a pyramid.
Ken Stumbled Onto Pyramidion of Ramose
Ramose was a fairly affluent professional scribe during the reign of Ramesses II, but not a particularly important historical figure. He built himself three modest tomb structures in the village of Deir el-Medina.
Archeologists have recovered the limestone pyramidion from one of those tombs, and it’s in remarkably good condition. It’s an excellent example of the mainstream symbolism a typical middle-class Egyptian would use in that period.
The official religion at the time of Ramose was sun worship. Appropriately, each of the four faces of Ramose’s pyramidion depict aspects of the cult of Horus, the sun god.
Each Face Engraved With Images and Hieroglyphs
Each face of the pyramidion is engraved with images and hieroglyphs. The north face depicts Horus, seated and crowned with the sun and Uraeus the cobra, holding an ankh symbol in his hand like a sceptre.
Readers may have watched movies depicting the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. If so, they’ve seen similar gold crowns with the cobra Uraeus’s raised head in front.
The south face depicts Horus in his alternative form as a falcon with the same solar/cobra crown.
The east and west faces depict a sun worshipper raising their hands in praise of Horus at sunrise and then at sunset.
Overlapping Imagery Along Borders of Each Face
An interesting feature is the overlapping imagery along the right hand borders of each face above. Overlap is a standard technique in graphic design to create a sense of depth, movement and realism.
The creators of the pyramidion overlapped Horus’s ankh sceptre on the north face and his cobra crown on the south face to make him seem more lifelike. Similarly, they overlapped each sun worshipper’s shoulder and hair on the east and west faces.
Despite his complete lack of training in Egyptology, the Theoria Apophasis host has taken it upon himself to reinterpret these images. He claims, without evidence, that these overlaps tell “one coherent, harmonic, perfection of metaphysical story.”
Misinterprets Four Insignificant Overalapping Details
Ken Wheeler misinterprets the four overlapping sideline details as “contact points.” They’re not. Visual artists in the ancient world placed the most important subjects in the centre of compositions, not at the edges.
Leaving that misinterpretation aside, the Angry Photographer goes on to claim that these contact points represent a path depicting the cycle of birth and death.
The shoulders of the two sun worshippers supposedly represent old age. Except, they don’t. Shoulders in ancient Egyptian imagery represent the energy of movement. That’s why the artists overlapped them, to suggest active motion.
Symbolism Claims Add Nothing to Understanding of Egypt
Kentucky Ken goes on to say that the Ankh symbol represents death. It doesn’t. Throughout the ancient world, the ankh is always a symbol for life, not death.
According to the Theoria Apophasis host, the cobra on Horus’s crown, Ureaus, represents life or rebirth. That’s also wrong. Ureaus is the symbol of sovereignty, which is why it appears on all Egyptian crowns, not just that of Horus.
So, to sum up, rather than reinterpreting the Pyramidion of Ramose’s imagery, Ken Wheeler has simply misinterpreted it. Perhaps more importantly, his claims about the imagery’s symbolism add nothing whatsoever to our current understanding of Egyptian history.
Iconic Pyramids at Giza, Near Cairo
Of course, the most iconic Egyptian pyramids are at Giza, near Cairo. The largest of these, the Pyramid of Khufu, or the Great Pyramid, is the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that’s still intact, and it’s also the oldest of those wonders.
Just like with hieroglyphs, humanity lost track of precisely how Old Kingdom, bronze-age Egyptians could have built such imposing and grandiose structures. However, modern archaeology has managed to piece together a fairly accurate impression of how they got it done.
In 2013, archaeologists Pierre Tallet and Gregory Marouard made what scholars are calling the greatest Egyptology discovery of the 21st century. They uncovered the Diary of Merer, which is the journal (written in hieroglyphs, incidentally) of a construction inspector during the reign of the pharaoh Khufu. (Yes, that Khufu!)
Merer’s Journal Describes Stone Blocks for Pyramids
In it, Merer tracks several months of work involving the transportation of stone from quarries in Tora to Giza. His crews produced and delivered these massive stones for Egypt’s most legendary pyramid, which Merer calls Akhet Khufu, or “Khufu’s Horizon.”
The journal entries detail how Merer’s crews ferried shipments of about 30, 3-ton blocks by boat every ten days, delivering roughly 200 blocks per month to the site at Giza. Merer’s crew included about forty boatmen.
Scientists still don’t fully understand how the builders lifted those enormous blocks into place. We do have some relatively old source documents describing the process, but these aren’t contemporary accounts.
Tiers, Wooden Levers and Earthen Ramps
For instance, in the 5th century BCE, Herodotus wrote, “This pyramid was made like stairs, which some call steps and others, tiers. When this, its first form, was completed, the workmen used short wooden logs as levers to raise the rest of the stones; they heaved up the blocks from the ground onto the first tier of steps; when the stone had been raised, it was set on another lever that stood on the first tier, and the lever again used to lift it from this tier to the next.”
Writing in the 1st century BCE, Diodorus Siculus tells us that, “The edifices were raised by means of earthen ramps, since machines for lifting had not yet been invented in those days; and most surprising it is, that although such large structures were raised in an area surrounded by sand, no trace remains of either ramps or the dressing of the stones, so that it seems not the result of the patient labor of men, but rather as if the whole complex were set down entire upon the surrounding sand by some god…
“The same multitude of workmen who raised the mounds returned the entire mass again to its original place; for they say that three hundred and sixty thousand men were constantly employed in the prosecution of their work, yet the entire edifice was hardly finished at the end of twenty years.”
Archeologists Unearthed Ramp from Reign of Khufu
In 2018, a team of archaeologists unearthed a ramp similar to those Diodorus described, dating from the reign of Khufu, at a quarry in Hatnub, Egypt. Professor Yannis Gourdon, one of the mission’s co-directors, told Scientific American, “Using a sled which carried a stone block and was attached with ropes to these wooden posts, ancient Egyptians were able to pull up the alabaster blocks out of the quarry on very steep slopes of 20 percent or more.”
So, the best explanation that covers all the facts is that the stones came from quarries and were hauled to the site in boats. Then, massive crews of workers lifted the stones into place using a combination of ramps and levers over decades of backbreaking work.
None of this sits well with Ken Wheeler. He calls these explanations “completely ludicrous.” To counter the facts and evidence provided above, he draws on the work of several fake experts.
Robert Bauval Falsely Claims Pyramids Align with Orion
The first questionable source is a writer from Belgium named Robert Bauval. The Angry Photographer refers to a book by him called The Sirius Mystery. There’s no such title, so presumably he means Bauval’s best-known book, The Orion Mystery.
Bauval claims the Giza pyramids form a pattern corresponding to the belt in the constellation Orion. They don’t. He also says there are shafts inside the pyramids that align with Orion’s belt. There aren’t.
Kentucky Ken then goes on to make an even more dubious claim. He insists that the pyramids were built using what he calls “geopolymers.”
Joseph Davidovits’s ‘Geopolymers’ Debunked
Geopolymers is a word made up by a French fake expert named Joseph Davidovits. Back in 1974, he claimed the ancient Egyptians molded the pyramid blocks on-site using some sort of artificial concrete-like substance.
In 2007, Dr. Dipayan Jana, a licensed professional geologist and an expert on construction materials, refuted this claim in a study he presented at the 29th Conference on Cement Microscopy. He showed that the stones in the pyramids had none of the textural characteristics of reconstituted limestone.
Dr. Jana’s study concluded that “We are far from accepting, even as a remote possibility, a ‘man-made’ origin of pyramid stones.” That’s the polite, scientific way of saying the geopolymer notion is nonsense.
Houdin’s Internal “Ramp is Not There. I Think We’ve Lost.”
Another fake expert named Jean-Pierre Houdin has also attracted Ken Wheeler’s attention. Houdin’s claim to fame is a theory that the ramps the ancient Egyptians used to build the Great Pyramid were arranged in a spiral inside the structure.
In 2015, the Scan Pyramids Mission proved there were no internal ramps in Khufu’s Pyramid. Archaeologist Bob Brier, who once supported Houdin’s work, said “these data suggest that the ramp is not there. I think we’ve lost.”
Summing up, the Giza pyramids aren’t aligned with the constellation Orion. They’re not made of some sort of anachronistic, bronze age-concrete, and they have no internal ramps.
Perennialists Look to Egypt for Supposed Ancient Wisdom
Ken Wheeler’s fascination with Ancient Egypt arises from his obsession with a belief system called perennialism. Perennialists claim that all religions and philosophies stem from a common, ancient root.
Because Egyptian civilization arose so early, perennialists often look to it as the source of their supposed ancient wisdom. However, perennialism isn’t as popular as it used to be.
Back in 1978, philosopher Herman T. Katz published a devastating paper refuting the idea that all religions have one common, metaphysical root. Outlining the benefits of rejecting perennialism, Katz wrote, “One is in a position to respect the richness of the experiential and conceptual data involved in this area of concern: ‘God’ can be ‘God’, ‘Brahman’ can be ‘Brahman’ and ‘Nirvana’ can be ‘Nirvana,’ without any reductionist attempt to equate ‘God’ with Brahman’, or ‘Brahman’ with ‘Nirvana.”’
Ken’s Self-Declared Egyptology Expertise Is Delusional
As with so many other topics, Ken Wheeler’s self-declared Egyptology expertise is delusional. Relying on discredited sources, he’s consistently arrived at monumentally wrong conclusions through antiquated reasoning.
Fortunately, the Angry Photographer’s pyramid scheme won’t stand the test of time. It also takes far less work to debunk than it took to build the awe-inspiring tombs of Giza.