Last updated on October 1, 2022
In last month’s article, titled Conspiracy or Hoax: Part 1, I tried to make the case that there are some special differences between what we might choose to call a conspiracy and a hoax – differences that go a little beyond what we might gather from the standard definitions of these terms.
This dipped into some topics like magical workings and spell casting and such – topics that I won’t prattle on about here, except to repeat that a magic spell is an activity that attempts to create a change in consciousness in accordance with someone’s will.
Mainly, I’m writing Part 2 here to fulfill a promise.
In Part 1 I tried to make my case by having a go at an author named Allan W. Eckert. I tried to demonstrate that he was more of a hoaxer than a conspirator, a guy with some personal agendas – peculiar itches that needed to be scratched – rather than any particularly evil axes to grind.
Now about that promise: In Part 1 I said I was going to dredge up one other historical, but lesser-known hoaxer, another itch-scratcher type, and offer him up as an additional example of a hoaxster. So, I had better do that now.
Without further ado, it’s my pleasure to introduce Colonel Richard William Howard Vyse.
Colonel Richard William Howard Vyse (1784-1853) was a British dandy of sorts, and his legacy to us is neatly summarized in the opening statement in Wikipedia’s entry for the Great Pyramid of Giza, which reads as follows:
“The Great Pyramid of Giza is the largest Egyptian pyramid and the tomb of Fourth Dynasty pharaoh Khufu. Built in the early 26th century BC during a period of around 27 years, the pyramid is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact.”
Wikipedia is doing an excellent good job of laying down the currently accepted “facts” about the Great Pyramid, for sure. But the really juicy parts of the above statement are demonstrably untrue. It turns out that the Great Pyramid of Giza is not the tomb of the 4th Dynasty Pharaoh, Khufu (a.ka. Cheops), nor was it built in the early 26th century B.C., nor was it built over a period of 27 years. These three “facts,” which form the foundation of an entire branch of modern Egyptology, are derived directly from a hoax pulled off by Colonel Richard William Howard Vyse, way back in 1837.
The details of Vyse’s ruse are skillfully exposed by author, Scott Creighton, in his book, The Great Pyramid Hoax: The Conspiracy to Conceal the True History of Ancient Egypt. If you’re into ancient Egypt at all, it’s a hell of a good read. (I’m not holding it against Creighton that he uses the terms hoax and conspiracy interchangeably!) The gist of what Vyse did was this: He went inside the Great Pyramid with some buddies and dynamited his way into several chambers up above the so-called King’s Chamber, whereupon he “discovered” some painted (not carved) quarry marks and royal cartouches (Egyptian hieroglyphs indicating a royal name). Yes, crawling inside the pyramids and blowing some shit up in the name of the Queen and God and Country and so on was perfectly acceptable back in 1837. Those were the days. Anyway, the painted quarry marks and royal cartouches are fake, and as it turns out…these forgeries are the primary, sole evidence that the Great Pyramid has anything to do with the Egyptian Pharaoh, Khufu. Meaning: Had Vyse never “discovered” those quarry marks and hieroglyphs in those chambers that he blasted open in 1837, we would still, to this day, not know who built the Great Pyramid. Or why. Or when. Interesting, ain’t it?
So, what was Vyse’s motivation for forging some hieroglyphs inside the Great Pyramid?
It appears that he blasted his way into those chambers and discovered something close to zilch. And, to him, this was not acceptable. So, he decided to tell people that he did discover something. Something important, no less. And then he went ahead and made up that something.
Looking back, his motivations appear to have been along these lines:
- He spent a bucket load of personal and borrowed money to go exlorin’ down in Egypt, and his personal journal indicates that he was compelled, by golly, to make a major discovery of some kind or another. His personal journal also indicates that he had it clearly in his head (as did most people at that time) that the Great Pyramid must certainly be a tomb of some Great Pharaoh. After all: What other purpose could such an impressive structure possibly serve? The only question was: Which Pharaoh? Discovering the answer to that question would be a great discovery indeed.
- According to period accounts, Vyse was a deeply religious man (read: possibly a nutty Christian fundamentalist). It would have made a great deal of sense to him – and may have been very pleasing to some of his benefactors – to have his “discovery” line up neatly with the Church’s teachings at the time. For context: Just a few years before, in 1828, the Catholic Church funded the famous French archaeologist, Jacques Joseph Champollion-Figeac, on his first and only trip to Egypt on the explicit condition that he would never reveal anything that might contradict the teachings of the Church. So, what were the Church’s teachings in 1837, when Vyse went to Egypt? Well, one of the relevant Church-isms was that Creation, according to the Bible, occurred in 4004 B.C. (This date had been “calculated” by the 16th century Archbishop, James Usher, and held to be scientific truth in Vyse’s time.) Based on this, one can be sure that Vyse was not going to “discover” anything that challenged the accepted chronology of the Bible or most certainly anything that could possibly predate Creation itself. Pharaoh Khufu reigned from 2589 – 2566 B.C., and his royal cartouche had been cataloged by 1837. That apparently made for a pretty nice fit. Vyse to Khufu: “Tag, you’re it!”
It’s pretty clear that Vyse, even though he had assistants that were in on his little scheme – helping him set off explosives and paint some fake hieroglyphs and whatnot – was more of a hoaxster than a conspirator. His primary intention was not to alter the consciousness of humanity (although he may have accidently done so a little). His primary intention was to not embarrass himself by returning to England empty-handed after his great (and expensive) Egyptian adventure. Mission accomplished, Colonel Vyse.
Phil’s Two Cents
The Vyse hoax story has some conspiratorial loose ends. One would assume that knowing what we know now, modern Egyptologists would come to clearly realize that Vyse simply pulled a fast one on them. They’d shake loose all that blast dust from 1837, and open anew their research into the origins of the Great Pyramid. But they have not done so.
Had Vyse discovered and then subsequently hid the real purpose and build date of the Great Pyramid, one could certainly accuse him being the mastermind of a conspiracy. But this does not appear to be the case. Instead, Vyse made up his own story and then presented it as an archeological discovery. But a question comes to mind: Has anyone else since Vyse’s time done exactly this?
This opens up some other questions, which I’ll leave with you to ponder: What if Vyse’s “discoveries” are now known by qualified Egyptologists to be fake, but they have kept the old story alive in order to mask discoveries that have occurred between 1837 and now? Would the withholding of information and knowledge about the Great Pyramid qualify as a conspiracy? Meaning: Would this act be creating a change in consciousness in accordance with someone’s will?