by Robert M. Schoch, PH.D.
February 15, 2014
ROBERT M. SCHOCH,
Ph.D., is renowned for his work on re-dating the Great
Sphinx. Based on his geological studies, he determined
the Sphinx’s origins
date prior to dynastic times. He has also focused his
the Great Pyramid and
various other temples and tombs in Egypt, as well as
studying similar structures around the world.
Dr. Schoch is an
author and coauthor of both technical and popular books,
including the trilogy with R. A. McNally: Voices of the
Rocks: A Scientist looks at Catastrophes and Ancient
Civilizations (1999), Voyages of the Pyramid Builders:
The True Origins of the Pyramids from Lost Egypt to
Ancient America (2003), and Pyramid Quest: Secrets of
the Great Pyramid and the Dawn of Civilization (2005).
Dr. Schoch’s most
recent book is The Parapsychology Revolution: A Concise
Anthology of Paranormal and Psychical Research (2008,
compilation and commentary by Robert M. Schoch and Logan
When and where did
How far back in time does high
Indeed, what do we mean by such
terms as civilization,
or sophisticated and high
When I was in college, more years ago
than I perhaps care to remember, I learned the standard story which
still holds sway in many circles:
Civilization and high culture date
back to, at most, perhaps five or six thousand years ago.
A handy marker for recognizing a true
civilization was written language, and it was generally agreed that
the earliest true writing could be dated to the late fourth
millennium BCE (that is, circa 3500 to 3000 BCE).
The Sumerians are generally
credited with developing writing about 3300 to 3200 BCE, although
the earliest Egyptian hieroglyphics may date back to the same
period, or even a century or so earlier, and there is also evidence
of writing possibly from as far back as 3500 BCE found at Harappa,
the Indus Civilization, in what is now modern Pakistan.1
But then there are reports of much earlier possible writing from
Henan Province, China, dated to 6600 to 6200 BCE, inscribed on
I recollect a book I read while still an
undergraduate, The Roots of Civilization by Alexander
Marshack, which argued that various lines, notches, and "scratchings"
on ancient bone artifacts dating to 10,000 BCE and earlier, before
the end of the last Ice Age, were in fact symbolic systems,
including lunar calendar notations.
Maybe our ancestors were not so
primitive and stupid after all.
Maybe defining civilization and high culture in terms of a written
language (or more accurately our knowledge of a recorded language;
we can easily miss things in the archaeological record) simply is
not a fruitful approach.
This is the conclusion I have come to
while pursuing my own research.
Re-Dating the Great
Sphinx of Egypt
I first came to the problem of the origin of civilization through my
the Great Sphinx of Giza, Egypt.
Combining a Ph.D. in geology and
geophysics from Yale University (1983) with a lifelong enthusiasm
for ancient cultures, on my first trip to Egypt in 1990 I was primed
to take a careful look at the Sphinx.
As I have recounted elsewhere,3 my colleague and
friend John Anthony West had suggested to me various silly
notions that the Great Sphinx might be older than the standard
Egyptological attribution of circa 2500 BCE.
I figured that through a careful
analysis of the geology, I could show the error in such thinking.
Surely all those professional Egyptologists could not be
wrong. It turns out they were.
Based on my geological and seismic analyses, utilizing the
weathering and erosion patterns correlated with the paleo-climatology
and subsurface features,4 I concluded that the
oldest portions of the Great Sphinx date back to at least the period
of 7000 BCE to 5000 BCE, and perhaps back to 9000 BCE or earlier.
To oversimplify a bit, the core body of
the Great Sphinx shows features that place it well back before the
onset of the current arid regime (the Giza Plateau is on the edge of
the Sahara Desert) some 5,000 years ago.
Such a conclusion has deep implications, suggesting that high
culture and civilization dates back much earlier than previously
believed. I have been told on more than one occasion that my
conclusions cannot be true because if they are, then "history
must be rewritten."
Certainly, we cannot have that, can we?
Vested interests run high, and I have
been attacked from many sides, both by orthodox Egyptologists and
historians, and by various people not as closely associated with
Through it all over the last two decades, I have looked at the
alternative theories suggested to explain the data, and I continue
to maintain that the evidence clearly points to the origins of the
Great Sphinx being much older than 2500 BCE.
Indeed, the attacks and criticisms,
forcing me to carefully scrutinize and enlarge my dataset, have
served only to reaffirm my conclusions.
Under Water, or Under Fire?
Recently my work on the Great Sphinx has come under fire from a
Given the number of people who have been
asking me about this latest "Sphinx theory," I feel it is imperative
that I briefly address it here.
Robert Temple 5 has proposed a moat theory
(that is, the Sphinx Enclosure was purposefully filled with water
such that the body of the Sphinx was submerged and sat as a statue
in a small artificial lake) to explain the clear signs of water
weathering and erosion on the body of the Great Sphinx and on the
walls of the Sphinx Enclosure.
Temple contends that the moat theory explains the data
adequately without hypothesizing that the Great Sphinx dates back to
a much earlier period during which there was more rainfall than at
(Here I will not address his hypotheses,
which I do not find persuasive, that the Sphinx was the jackal [wild
dog] Anubis and the face seen on the Sphinx is that of the Middle
Kingdom pharaoh Amenemhet II, though I would point out that the
original Sphinx has been reworked and the head has been re-carved,
perhaps more than once.)
The body of the Sphinx, carved from the bedrock, sits largely below
ground level, and various moat, pool, or artificial fountain
hypotheses have been suggested for the Sphinx from time to time.
I considered such notions carefully as
far back as my early analyses of the geology of the Sphinx, starting
In summary, such moat and related
theories do not hold water (to use a bad pun) and are not compatible
with the features of the actual Great Sphinx, the Sphinx Enclosure,
and the general geology and paleo-hydrology of the Giza Plateau.
While in Egypt recently (March 2009) I made it a point to look at
the Great Sphinx and Sphinx Enclosure with fresh eyes to see if
there could be anything to the moat class of theories.
I will summaries briefly a half dozen
Based on my observations and
analyses, the Sphinx Temple (built out of blocks removed
from the Sphinx Enclosure when the body of the Sphinx was
initially carved) and the so-called Valley Temple to the
south of the Sphinx Temple show clear signs of heavy
precipitation-induced weathering on the limestone core
These limestone temples were
subsequently refurbished with Aswan granite ashlars during
the Old Kingdom (as evidenced by an Old Kingdom inscription
still found on a block located at the Valley Temple).
The moat theory cannot explain
the nature of the very ancient weathering seen under the Old
Kingdom granite veneer.
There is much heavier surface
erosion on the western end of the Sphinx Enclosure, and the
surface erosion tapers off dramatically toward the eastern
end of the enclosure.
This is exactly what is to be
expected based on the paleo-hydrology of the Giza Plateau
and is incompatible with a moat theory where it is
hypothesized that water was brought in from the Nile to the
Furthermore, the nature of the
surface erosion throughout the enclosure and on the body of
the Sphinx is as expected if there were water running over
or raining down on the rock layers.
The erosion actually observed is
not compatible with pooled water in the enclosure.
The highest levels of the middle
member strata, as seen in the Sphinx Enclosure on the
western end, are most severely eroded, which is compatible
with the agency of precipitation.
If the moat theory were true,
then the lower strata on the eastern end of the Sphinx
Enclosure would be most heavily eroded (caused by water
being brought in via canals from the Nile), but the opposite
is seen in reality.
The subsurface seismic data
demonstrating the depth of weathering below the floor of the
Sphinx Enclosure, based on my analyses (using areas
excavated during the Old Kingdom for comparison), even when
calibrated very conservatively, gives an age of initial
carving for the core body of the Great Sphinx of at least
More than one geological
colleague has suggested to me that a more realistic
calibration gives a date thousands of years earlier. And no,
standing water in the Sphinx Enclosure would not accelerate
the depth of weathering below the floor of the enclosure.
The vertical fissures observed
in the walls of the Sphinx Enclosure show diagnostic signs
of having been formed by precipitation and water runoff.
In my opinion, they do not show
any characteristics that are diagnostic or even suggestive
of having been formed by artificial dredging of the Sphinx
Enclosure, as some have suggested.
If the Great Sphinx actually had
sat in an artificial pool or lake, either the water level
around the Sphinx would have had to have been the same as
that of the surrounding water table, or the walls and floor
of the pool in which the Sphinx sat would have had to have
been sealed up and watertight (and any artificial walls,
such as on the eastern end, would have had to have been
strong enough to withstand the pressure of the water).
Clearly, the ancient water table
was well below the level of the floor of the Sphinx
Enclosure (or else the Sphinx Temple, for instance, would
have been flooded).
The Sphinx Enclosure, if simply
carved from the bedrock (as all the evidence suggests) would
not have held a deep pool of standing water. The bedrock in
the enclosure is highly faulted, and characterized by a
karst morphology that would leak like a sieve (another
bad pun, perhaps).
The enclosure would have had to
have been fully sealed up (with some kind of mortar or
cement, perhaps), and there is no evidence of such sealing.
Furthermore, if the enclosure had been sealed in such a
manner, this would not be compatible with the dredging
theory for the vertical fissures mentioned in the previous
I would also note that the
chambers and tunnels under the Great Sphinx would have been
flooded from above if the Great Sphinx had been sitting in a
pool of water, unless the Sphinx Enclosure had been
watertight; yet the evidence suggests the enclosure was not
Sphinx be Hundreds of Thousands of Years Old?
Even as my re-dating of the Great Sphinx has been attacked as
impossible by some authorities, other serious researchers have
suggested that I have underestimated the true age of the oldest
portions of the Great Sphinx by a factor of ten or more!
For instance, two members of the National Academy of Sciences
of Ukraine, Vjacheslav I. Manichev and Alexander G.
Parkhomenko,7 citing my work, have
reinterpreted the geology and erosional features on the Great Sphinx
to mean that the core body of the statue could date back as far as
800,000 years ago.
And they are not referring to simply a
natural outcropping that may have existed 800,000 years ago that was
later shaped into a statue.
(Remember, too, that to carve the core
body of the Sphinx huge multi-ton blocks were removed from the
Sphinx Enclosure and assembled as the Sphinx Temple, so the original
Sphinx Temple is as old as the core body of the Great Sphinx).
The dating of Manichev and Parkhomenko could push the age of the
Great Sphinx into a very remote time period, one that has been
suggested for possible, but ambiguous, ancient structures,
sculptures, or simulacra that are found in many parts of the world,
Markawasi in Peru,8
the Romanian Sphinx,9 or a possible stone circle
Adam’s Calendar by researchers
Johan Heine and Michael Tellinger with a claimed date of
75,000 years ago.10
Personally, I am not convinced that the
Great Sphinx is anywhere close to the age postulated by Manichev and
Parkhomenko, or that various claimed very ancient, very eroded
statues are anything more than natural formations, but the prospects
Without going off on such limbs, there
is clear evidence for early high culture at a remote period beyond
just that of the Great Sphinx.
Back to The Sphinx at Giza
In the Sahara Desert of southern Egypt, west of Aswan, is an area
Here an ancient stone calendar circle,
as well as many other megalithic erections and structures, was
identified by archaeologist Fred Wendorf (Southern Methodist
University) and his team and dated to circa 4000 BCE and earlier.11
Thomas Brophy 12 has carried out extensive
analyses of Nabta. According to Brophy, three stones inside the
Nabta calendar circle represent the belt of Orion (just as the three
pyramids of Giza represent the belt of Orion according the research
of Robert Bauval).13
The stones on the Playa and the
corresponding stars in the sky aligned on summer solstice nights
between about 6400 BCE and 4900 BCE.
Brophy found even more correlations,
however. Three other stones in the Nabta calendar circle correspond
to the configuration of Orion’s head and shoulders as they appeared
in circa 16,500 BCE, about half a precessional cycle earlier than
the previously mentioned alignment.
Based on these and other analyses of
monoliths in the area, Brophy concludes that the early inhabitants
of Nabta Playa possessed incredibly sophisticated knowledge, the
type of knowledge we associate with high culture and civilization.
Furthermore, the dates of the Nabta
structures are in line with my dating of the oldest portions of the
Great Sphinx, and at both Giza and Nabta the constellation of Orion
(which represented the god Osiris during dynastic times) was of
If the dating of the Great Sphinx remains controversial (after all,
old ideas die hard), and the analyses of Nabta Playa are
questionable in the eyes of some researchers, there is one site that
even the most ensconced conventional archaeologists cannot ignore.
In modern Turkey, just north of the border with Syria, is a site
Göbekli Tepe that has yielded
dozens of carved limestone megaliths, many of which date back to the
extraordinarily early period of 9000 BCE to 10,000 BCE.14
Klaus Schmidt, of the German
Archaeological Institute, has been heading an excavation team there
since 1994, and there is no doubt as to the importance,
authenticity, and dating (based in part on radiocarbon) of Göbekli
This is a discovery made by mainstream
Göbekli Tepe boggles the imagination on many accounts. The date is
incredibly early, even earlier than my "conservative" estimate for
the date of the Great Sphinx. Göbekli Tepe dates back to the end
of the last Ice Age.
The monolithic megaliths are in the
range of two to seven meters high (the latter is the height of an
unfinished megalith left where it was being quarried).
Sculpted onto the surfaces of the
monoliths are a variety of animals, including snakes, boars, foxes,
vultures, spiders, scorpions, a centipede, and a three-dimensional
figure that has been interpreted as a lion. The megaliths excavated
thus far had been erected into four distinct stone circles, ranging
from ten to thirty meters in diameter.
Based on geophysical surveys, the entire
site may cover three dozen hectares (about 90 acres) and contains
another twenty or so stone circles.
Although very different from the Great Sphinx and the Sphinx Temple,
in my estimation, taking the entire Göbekli Tepe site as a whole
into account, just as much effort, social organization, and
sophisticated or high culture must have been required to construct
the Göbekli Tepe complex as the Sphinx complex.
When I first presented my findings on
the age of the Great Sphinx, I was told over and over again by
mainstream archaeologists and historians that my dating was simply
impossible because it was well known that nothing so elaborate and
sophisticated, requiring an advanced level of social organization,
could occur so early.
Göbekli Tepe proves these assertions
false and helps place the Great Sphinx in a larger context.
The work at Göbekli Tepe has literally just begun.
Most of the site has yet to be excavated
Who can predict what surprises
might be in store for us?
Who were the people that built
the site, and why did they build it?
So far there is no evidence that the
site was inhabited; no living areas have been excavated, though the
thousands of animal bones found (the most common animal represented
is the aurochs, a type of extinct ox) are evidence of feasting at
Was it a holy, sacred site?
An area for religious
Or perhaps an ancient centre of
My instinct is that the positions of the
monoliths, and the specific carvings on their surfaces, probably
encode information… but what?
And what happened to the people who
built and used Göbekli Tepe? Curiously, the site did not simply fall
into disuse and gradually decay. It was intentionally buried
somewhere around 8000 BCE.
The mystery only deepens...
The Origin and
Demise of Early High Culture
There has been space here to mention only a few examples of
archaeological sites that challenge the conventional view of when
high culture, advanced knowledge, and civilization arose.
Admittedly, I have dwelt on those that
most interest me, including the Great Sphinx with which I have
Put all the evidence together and there
is no doubt in my mind that what we can term high culture existed at
least 11,000 years ago (and possibly much earlier)
Where did early civilization
And what happened to it?
Is there a lost primordial
ancient civilization, one that was destroyed in some
cataclysmic natural catastrophe?
Could the legend of Atlantis
have some truth to it?
These are questions I have pondered long
and hard for many years.
Being a geologist, I view Earth and our environment as unstable,
full of unexpected surprises, at least over the long term.
I have discussed how such natural
cataclysms may have influenced the history of ancient civilisations,15
and in particular I have pointed out that Earth has experienced a
series of encounters with comets during historical and prehistoric
Depending on the severity of the encounter (size of the comet,
whether it actually touched the surface of Earth or perhaps resulted
in a mid-atmosphere explosion, and so forth), dramatic climatic
changes could be affected on Earth, which in turn could affect sea
levels, and weather extremes can wreck havoc on animal and human
populations, causing famines.17
In 2003 I suggested that the end of the last Ice Age may have been
brought about in part by comets bombarding Earth,18
and this hypothesis has received dramatic support with physical
evidence for an impact around 10,900 BCE.19
There is also evidence for impacts
around 7600 BCE, 4400 BCE, 3150 BCE, 2345 BCE, 1628 BCE, 1159 BCE,
207 BCE, 536 CE, and 1178 CE.20
Bottom line, based on all the evidence, there is no doubt in my mind
that these incidents, these cosmic catastrophes, had a profound
influence on ancient civilizations. In some cases migrations were
sparked, in other cases entire cultures may have been wiped out.
At the end of the
last Ice Age, from before around
18,000 BCE to perhaps 11,000 BCE or later (dates at such a far
remove are approximate), when sea levels were significantly lower
(by seventy-five to a hundred and twenty meters), a sub-continental
expanse of land was exposed in Southeast Asia where there is now
only water in the area bounded by Indochina, the Malay Archipelago,
the islands of Indonesia, and Borneo.
To geologists this drowned region is
Sundaland, and there is a variety
of evidence that here an early civilization was located; they fled
as the waters rose and the comets came down.21
Could this be the primordial
lost civilization that so many of us suspect once existed?
And what about that intentional
burial of the structures at Göbekli Tepe?
Did they see their fate in the
As the comets rained down did
those ancient builders do their best to cover and preserve
that which they had so carefully created, perhaps hoping to
return one day to uncover their monuments?
Or did they leave them for us to
1. David Whitehouse, "‘Earliest
Writing’ Found", BBC News Online, 4 May 1999; John Nobel Wilford,
"Who Began Writing? Many Theories, Few Answers", The New York
Times on the Web, Science, 6 April 1999.
2. Paul Rincon, "‘Earliest Writing’ found in China", BBC
3. Robert M. Schoch with Robert Aquinas McNally, Voices of the
Rocks: A Scientist Looks at Catastrophes and Ancient
Civilizations, New York: Harmony Books, 1999.
4. Robert M. Schoch, "Redating the Great Sphinx of Giza", KMT, A
Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 52-59, 66-70
(Summer 1992); Robert M. Schoch with Robert Aquinas McNally,
Voyages of the Pyramid Builders: The True Origins of the
Pyramids from Lost Egypt to Ancient America, New York: Jeremy P.
Tarcher/Penguin, 2003; Robert M. Schoch & Robert Aquinas
McNally, Pyramid Quest: Secrets of the Great Pyramid and the
Dawn of Civilization, New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2005;
T.L. Dobecki & R.M. Schoch, "Seismic Investigations in the
Vicinity of the Great Sphinx of Giza, Egypt", Geoarchaeology,
vol. 7, no. 6, pp. 527-544 (1992); Robert M. Schoch, "Life with
the Great Sphinx: Some Personal Reflections", Darklore, vol. 1,
pp. 38-55, 291 (2007).
5. Robert Temple, "What was the Sphinx?", New Dawn, no. 112, pp.
47-52 (January-February 2009); Robert Temple with Olivia Temple,
The Sphinx Mystery: The Forgotten Origins of the Sanctuary of
Anubis, Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2009.
6. For more details pertaining to some of these points, as well
as various comments on the criticisms of K. Lal Gauri and his
colleagues as cited by Temple with Temple , see Robert M.
Schoch, "Geological Evidence Pertaining to the Age of the Great
Sphinx", in New Scenarios on the Evolution of the Solar System
and Consequences on History of Earth and Man (Eds. Emilio
Spedicato and Adalberto Notarpietro), 2002. Proceedings of the
Conference, Milano and Bergamo, June 7-9th, 1999, Universitŕ
degli Studi di Bergamo, Quaderni del Dipartmento di Matematica,
Statistica, Informatica ed Applicazion, Serie Miscellanea, Anno
2002, N. 3, pp. 171-203.
7. Vjacheslav I. Manichev & Alexander G. Parkhomenko,
"Geological Aspect of the Problem of Dating the Great Egyptian
Sphinx Construction", in Geoarchaeology and Archaeomineralogy
(Eds. R. I. Kostov, B. Gaydarska, and M. Gurova) 2008.
Proceedings of the International Conference, 29-30 October 2008,
Sofia, Publishing House, "St. Ivan Rilski", Sofia, pp.308-311.
8. Robert M. Schoch, "Introduction", in Markawasi: Peru’s
Inexplicable Stone Forest (Ed. and Author, Kathy Doore, with a
foreword by Peter E. Schneider), Surprise, Arizona: Kathy Doore,
2006, pp. 14-20.
9. Anonymous, "THE BUCEGI – Sphinx," article dated 10 October
2002 and posted at: www.ici.ro/romania/en/turism/c_sfinx.html.
Accessed 4 April 2009.
10. Angelique Serrao, "‘Oldest Man-Made Structure’ Unearthed",
Article dated 14 July 2008 and posted at: www.iol.co.za/index.php?from=rss_South%20Africa&set_id=1&click_id=13&art_id=vn20080714062546858C113827.
Accessed 4 April 2009.
11. J. McKim Malville, "Oldest Astronomical Megalith Alignment
Discovered in Southern Egypt by Science Team", Press release
dated 31 March 1998 and posted at: www.colorado.edu/news/releases/1998/101.html.
Accessed 5 April 2009.
12. Thomas G. Brophy, The Origin Map: Discovery of a
Prehistoric, Megalithic, Astrophysical Map and Sculpture of the
Universe (Foreword by Robert M. Schoch and Afterword by John
Anthony West), New York: Writers Club Press (iUniverse), 2002;
Mark H. Gaffney, "The Astronomers of Nabta Playa: New
Discoveries Reveal Astonishing Pre-Historic Knowledge", Atlantis
Rising, no. 56, pp. 42-43, 68-70 (March/April 2006).
13. Robert Bauval & Adrian Gilbert, The Orion Mystery: Unlocking
the Secrets of the Pyramids, New York: Crown Trade Paperbacks,
14. Graham Chandler (photographs by Ergun Çağatay), "The
Beginning of the End for Hunter-Gatherers", Saudi ARAMCO World,
vol. 60, no. 2, pp. 2-9 (March/April 2009); Andrew Curry
(photographs by Berthold Steinhilber), "The World’s First
Temple? Predating Stonehenge by 6,000 years, Turkey’s Stunning
Gobekli Tepe Upends the Conventional View of the Rise of
Civilization", Smithsonian, vol. 39, no. 8, pp. 54-58, 60
15. Schoch with McNally, 1999.
16. Schoch with McNally, 2003.
17. For a discussion of the effects of a sixth century CE
cometary event, see Ker Than, "Comet smashes triggered ancient
famine", New Scientist, issue 2689, p.9 (7 January 2009).
18. Schoch with McNally, 2003.
19. R.B. Firestone, A. West, J.P. Kennett, L. Becker, T.E.
Bunch, Z.S. Revay, P.H. Schultz, T. Belgya, D.J. Kennett, J.M.
Erlandson, O.J. Dickenson, A.C. Goodyear, R.S. Harris, G.A.
Howard, J.B. Kloosterman, P. Lechler, P.A. Mayewski, J.
Montgomery, R. Poreda, T. Darrah, S.S. Que Hee, A.R. Smith, A.
Stich, W. Topping, J.H. Wittke, and W.S. Wolbach, "Evidence for
an extraterrestrial impact 12,900 years ago that contributed to
the megafaunal extinctions and the Younger Dryas cooling",
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 104, no.
41, pp. 16016-16021 (9 October 2007).
20. Schoch with McNally, 2003; Undoubtedly this list is
incomplete, especially for the period between 10,900 BCE and
21. Schoch with McNally, 2003.