I spent ten days in Egypt this summer. It was blissful, truly. We landed in Sharm El Sheikh, spent a day in Cairo, snorkeled, swam with dolphins and had an evening with the Bedouin people. There was no part of it I didn’t enjoy, except perhaps the repetitive buffets, standard of an all-inclusive.
Cairo was exquisite, or more specifically, the pyramids of the Giza desert. It was surreal to be propped outside a great wonder of the world, gazing up at the 137 metre Great Khufu pyramid. We were told of the pyramids’ brutal defacing, where limestone was stripped from its exterior, centuries before. To have seen these magnificent artifacts prior to their rape would have been to witness a gold tip that touched the sun and sprayed its rays across the valley.
Upon relaying various theories about the building of these structures, including alien constructionists, our guide mentioned that he could not concur with any of these ideas. He believes that the pyramids predate the wonderful Egyptians of Pharaohs, citing hieroglyphics as one pertinent example as to why they are more ancient than we can imagine. Our guide asked me what happened in Noah’s time and I replied, ‘the flood.’ And so, with warning not to become obsessed with this idea, he reminded me of how the flood wiped out entire civilizations. Including, potentially, the creators of the pyramids. And without so many words, the message may very well be that the Egyptian Pharaohs quite simply took the credit for these mind-blowing buildings.
It is certainly a wonderful possibility, but what struck me most is how we underestimate our predecessors. It seems we cannot quite get our head around the fact that we are not necessarily the most advanced people to have walked the earth. As our guide pointed out, while history teaches us that the pyramids may have been built using mud sloshed ramps to heave large blocks upwards, there is much doubt to this belief. It is far more likely that they used a form of advanced hydraulics we today cannot envisage.
In any case, we speculate and are incredulous towards ancient peoples and their intellectual capability. Consider Newgrange in County Meath, or the more widely known Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Like the pyramids, these sites inspire awe. They were designed with astronomical intent, and if we can be accurate, within a similar era, circa 3,000 years B.C. But where are these civilizations today? Despite the evidence they have left behind, they, themselves, have vanished. Our guide informed us that there is only about 30% of knowledge procured from the pyramids. The other 70% is undiscovered, though much of it may be deep in the pyramid walls.
So what can we make of this? What is the point? It may very well be that civilization has a time limit. And as we all know, human life has a very short history in the world’s existence. Species come and go, replaced by alternate creatures with a new ambition for survival. In all this talk of global warming, overpopulation and the recession, what do we really know? How relevant are we? And is it too depressing to consider that there might be more to life than human economics?