Robert Bauval (1948- ) was born in Egypt of Belgian and Maltese extraction. He is probably best known as the original promoter of the Orion Correlation Theory (OCT), which claims that the layout of three principal Giza pyramids mirrors ‘Orion’s Belt’ in that constellation. This received widespread coverage when it was outlined in The Orion Mystery  written by Bauval and Adrian Gilbert and in Keeper of Genesis  written with Graham Hancock, published two years later. In fact, Bauval had first published his theory in 1989 in Discussions in Egyptology(a).
Nevertheless, Andrew Collins, in a recent paper(h) has disputed Bauval’s OCT and has instead offered evidence that the alignment of the three principal Giza pyramids matches more closely the ‘wing’ stars of the Cygnus constellation than the ‘belt’ of Orion!
Greg Little in considering the Orion vs Cygnus debate concluded that “the truth is that Cygnus fits the three pyramids at Giza far better than Orion does. Does that mean that Cygnus is correct? No, not really. It means that there is a lot more investigation has to be done. It also means that we may never know. I’m sure that somewhere in the night sky there are three stars that can be fit rather precisely onto Giza.” (I).
In 2008, Bauval published a paper(j) on the place of astrology in the ‘Sacred Sciences of the ancient Egyptians. Although this is not a popular view among Egyptologists, Bauval concluded that “it is my opinion that the ancient Egyptians practised an esoteric form of ‘religious astrology’ related to the conception and birth of their kings. It is also my opinion that this ‘religious astrology’ originated many millennia before in prehistoric times in the Eastern Sahara, as the astronomical alignments of the megaliths at Nabta Playa suggest. If this is true, then the stellar observations that originated in the Western Desert of Egypt sometime between 8000 – 5000 BC events on earth lie at the root of ‘Astrology’.”
In 2019 a paper(k) by Larry Pahl, who looked again at the Orion Correlation Theory and concluded that Bauval should not have confined his theory to Orion’s ‘belt’, but looked at the entire constellation and sought a more extensive reflection in the monuments of ancient Egypt. Prahl then proceeds to do exactly that.
Similarly, Jean-Pierre Lacroix claimed that other Egyptian structures may have been located to reflect the layout of other constellations in the sky. Specifically, he focuses on Aries and Thebes(l).
Alessandro Berio went further with the claim(m) that the entire Nile was ‘designed’ to be a reflection of the constellations above!
Another writer, Wayne Herschel, is claimed to have reinterpreted Bauval’s Orion theory in his book The Hidden Records  and not only claims that the Giza pyramids reflect the layout of stars in Orion’s Belt, but that a similar arrangement of ‘pyramids’ in the Cydonia region of Mars is also to be found. Emilio Spedicato is another supporter of this Cydonia-Giza-Orion association(g)!
Herschel’s volume is a glossy collection of balderdash, which includes such delights as the Martians having a penal colony on Earth, as well as a promise of a sequel that will reveal “two further shocking secrets of the Sphinx.” Eventually, The Alpha Omega Taurus Star Gate was published with a new collection of balderdash. The odd idea of Earth as an alien penal colony has also been put forward by Dr Ellis Silver an American ecologist(f).
During one interview Bauval declared that “To be very honest, I am not a believer in Atlantis.”(b) However, he has no difficulty in adopting the idea of ancient astronaut visitors a la von Däniken, as revealed in Cosmic Womb , written with Chandra Wickramasinghe and reviewed by Jason Colavito(c).>This conversion to the idea of ancient astronauts was seen by Len Kasten as a natural progression. In an article published in Atlantis Rising (Issue 5), Kasten noted that Bauval “didn’t start out with the extraterrestrial hypothesis, but arrived at it after a painstaking study of the Pyramid Texts, and a corresponding highly scientific astronomical study of the monuments.” [Kasten, a UFO researcher, was a regular contributor to Atlantis Rising.]<
Zahi Hawass, the former Egyptian Minister of Antiquities has repeatedly clashed with Bauval, particularly in connection with the proposed Orion correlation. In April 2015, Hancock was due to engage in debate with Hawass on the subject of their conflicting views of ancient history. However, when Hawass saw that Hancock included an image of Robert Bauval in his presentation, he refused to continue with the arranged format(d)(e) and after a lot of shouting, from Hawass, he stormed out. This sort of ‘prima donna’ behaviour, although not very professsional, is consistent with Hawass’s well-known temperamental manner.
>The antipathy between Bauval and Hawass reached a new level with the publication of Breaking the Mirror of Heaven  written by Bauval and Ahmed Osman in 2012. The authors claim that “it is not merely the story of a man who dominated and controlled Egyptian antiquities for several decades as if they were his own but also the story of Egyptian archaeology itself and the way modern Egypt created such a man. These topics need to be properly reviewed, first to understand how, and why, Zahi Hawass became what he is and, second, to provide a new vision that is desperately needed to save Egyptian antiquities from decline and perhaps even total destruction.” David Rohl commented that “This is a book that needed to be written.”(o)<
In 2020, Massimo Barbetta published a review of Bauval’s OCT(n).
(a) Discussions in Egyptology, volume 13, 1989, pp. 7-18
William Matthew Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) was a renowned English Egyptologist, who developed improved archaeological methods, some of which are still employed today. One of his first publications was in 1883, entitled The Pyramids and Temples 0f Gizeh.>This is now available online, while a 1990 edition has additional material supplied by Zahi Hawass(c).<
Jason Colavito has drawn attention(a) to a short article written by Flinders Petrie in Ancient Egypt, September 1924, in which he finds value in the work of Reginald Fessenden, who was an advocate of Atlantis in the Caucasus. However, I note that he makes no explicit comment on Fessenden’s Atlantis theory. Petrie was interested in the evidence that strongly suggested that people from the Caucasus region had an influence on the development of the ancient Egyptian culture, noting again a couple of year s later “It appears, then, that the cultural connections of the earliest Egyptians, as well as the physical descriptions in their mythology, point to the Caucasus region. When, further, we find there the names of the principal places of the mythology in their relative positions, it gives strong grounds for regarding that region as the homeland of the earliest civilization of the Egyptians”. (Ancient Egypt, June 1926) (b) .
Dr. Margaret Murray (1863-1963), who worked with Petrie, was also sympathetic to this view. More recently, Ronnie Gallagher has taken up this cause and has gone further by suggesting the possibility that not only were migrants from the Caucasus responsible for kick-starting the development of Egyptian culture, but that people from the same region had a similar influence on the early inhabitants of Sumeria and the Indus Valley.
The Sphinx (at Giza) is considered by many to be considerably older than the usually accepted 3rd millennium BC. Its construction has been generally attributed to the Fourth Dynasty ruler Khafre, circa 2500 BC, whose head is believed to be currently represented on the Sphinx.
The controversial French scholar Rene Schwaller de Lubicz investigated several of Egypt’s ancient monuments. He was probably the first to remark on the apparent water erosion, on the Sphinx, as evidence of an earlier date for its construction than was previously accepted. He first voiced his views in 1949 and expanded his theories in 1957 . His work has now been translated into English(a).
Jason Colavito has added that “Schwaller de Lubicz got it from Gaston Maspero, who adopted it from Auguste Mariette, who came up with it because he mistook a Ptolemaic stela for an Old Kingdom one and therefore mistook a myth on the Inventory Stela(t) for a historical account.”(s)
However, in an extensive 2018 paper by Manu Seyfzadeh and Robert Schoch, they argue for the historical value of the Stele noting in the paper’s abstract that; “The Inventory Stele tells a story about Khufu and the Great Sphinx which contradicts the current mainstream narrative of when the Sphinx was carved. The story’s historical relevance has long been challenged based on its mention of names and certain details which are believed to be anachronistic to the time of Khufu. Here, we address the elements commonly cited by the critics one by one and find that they are largely based on misconceptions in part due to errors and oversights contained in the two commonly referenced translations and based on a missing context which relates to the economics and symbolism of supplying provisions to the royal house.”(z)
A recent article(h) on the Giza for Humanity website reveals the work of Shérif El Morsi, an Egyptian researcher, who has documented evidence of a ‘relatively recent’ incursion by seawater onto the Giza Plateau.
Michael Baigent has pointed out[141.167] that Dr Zahi Hawass in 1992 ‘reported that analysis of the rear leg of the Sphinx proved the earliest level of masonry around the body dated instead from the Old Kingdom period, that is from about 2700 BC to 2160 BC. The pyramids were constructed in the middle part of this period…….. For if Khafre had built the Sphinx along with his pyramid around 2500 BC, and if repairs to its heavily eroded body were made before 2160 BC, then this severe erosion covered up by the facing stones must have occurred in only 340 years – perhaps less: an extremely unlikely event. In practical terms, given the extent and depth of the erosion, it seems impossible.’
John Anthony West was inspired by the writings of de Lubicz and enticed the American geologist Robert Schoch to inspect the Sphinx and give his professional assessment of the age of the monument. Schoch concluded that the Sphinx had suffered extensive water erosion and should be dated no later than 7000 to 5000 BC. On a second trip to the Sphinx Schoch and West brought Thomas Dobecki, a geophysicist, to carry out additional tests. The results reinforced Schoch’s initial conclusions.
In 1996 Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval published The Message of the Sphinx  in which they endorse Schoch’s water erosion theory. but considered his date to be too conservative. Instead, they proposed that around 10,500 BC was more appropriate! However, Colin Reader, an English geologist, disputes Schoch’s conclusion(I) and explains why in an extensive 1997/9 paper(j).
When Schoch announced his findings they were greeted with hostile criticism from conventional Egyptologists. A. Harrell, a Professor of Geology at Ohio’s University of Toledo, was probably the first geologist to challenge Schoch’s geological arguments in 1994(v).
However, experts in Schoch’s discipline have agreed in growing numbers with his published views, but the debate is far from over. For an overview of the case for an early date follow this link(b).
One Egyptologist who postulated an early date for the Sphinx was Cairo-born Moustafa Gadalla, who concluded that “there is no other rational answer except that the water erosion occurred at the end of the last Ice Age c.15,000-10,000 BCE”(e). Concerning the traditional attribution of the building of the Sphinx to Khafre, Gadalla refers to the ‘Inventory Stela’ and notes that “This stela describes events during the reign of Khufu, Khafra’s predecessor and indicates that Khufu ordered the building of a monument alongside the Sphinx. This means that the Sphinx was already there before Khufu and therefore could not have been built by his successor, Khafra. The stela was dismissed by some because its stylistic features appeared to be from the New Kingdom. This is not a sufficient cause to dismiss it, since there are numerous stelae and texts from the Old Kingdom that were later copied in the New Kingdom and no one dismissed their authenticity.”(y)
The German researcher Klaus Aschenbrenner has added his support for an early date for the Sphinx. He claims that the water erosion was caused by acid rain resulting from a 7600BC asteroid impact postulated by Alexander Tollman.
These proposed early dates pale into insignificance when contrasted with the claims made by two Ukrainian researchers at a conference in Sofia in 2008 when they proposed a date of 800,000 years ago(n), an approximate date which their paper(u) explains is also based on a study of water erosion, but unlike Schoch, who investigated the effects of rainwater on the Sphinx, Manichev & Parkhomenko focussed their attention on horizontal wave-cut hollows that correspond to a time of higher sea-levels and greater intrusion into the Nile Valley.
There is by now little doubt that the head of the Sphinx that we see today is quite different from its original size and shape. West had a New York City police artist,>Lieutenant Frank Domingo,<compare the head of the Sphinx with a known head of Khafre and demonstrated that they had distinctly different facial structures(ac). Comparative photographs are to be found in one of West’s books. A further anomaly is the fact that the head of the Sphinx is disproportionately smaller than the rest of the body suggesting a radical recarving of a larger head in antiquity. Robert Schoch has an interesting article(c) on his website, written by his colleague, Dr Colette Dowell, regarding the shape of the Sphinx’s head. Colin Reader, who disagrees with Schoch’s dating of the Sphinx does, however, share his view regarding the size of the Sphinx’s head(l), an opinion that is also held by architectural historian, Dr Jonathan Foyle(k).>Not only is the identity of the Sphinx disputed, but even its race and gender are questioned(ad).<
The late Alan Alford argued that the commonly accepted idea that the Sphinx represents a lion may be incorrect and that it is a model of a dog, possibly intended as an image of Anubis the divine guardian of the Earth and the Underworld. This idea was recently endorsed and investigated extensively in a fascinating book by Robert Temple, who has also pointed out(m) other anomalies with the shape of the Sphinx apart from the size of the head.
Bassam el Shamma, an Egyptian Egyptologist, has recently promoted the idea of the previous existence of a second sphinx on the Giza Plateau. His theory, based on a range of evidence, is outlined on the Atlantis Online website(d). The idea of a second Sphink is also supported by Gerry Cannon and Joseph P. J. Westlake in a paper also available online(f). Cannon has co-authored a book(r) with Malcolm Hutton, entitled The Giza Plateau Secrets and a Second Sphinx Location Revealed, in which they expand on this idea.
Antoine Gigal, the French researcher, has posted a two-part paper offering the evidence that originally there had been two sphinxes(w)(x).
It should also be kept in mind that sphinxes were found in several other cultures particularly Mesopotamia (see image right). Further east in India we have the Purushamriga(q), while in Burma the sphinx is known as a Manussiha. Back in the Mediterranean, many images of sphinxes have been discovered in Greece, where lately (2014) two sphinxes were recently found in a 300 BC tomb(g), each weighing about 1.5 tons. However, in my opinion, the claim(o) of a huge sphinx in Romania’s Carpathian Mountains is nothing more than a case of mistaken identity, a good example of pareidolia.
Closer to home the Welsh Griffon (Gryphon) is a local form of a sphinx. Lee R. Kerr is the author of Griffin Quest – Investigating Atlantis, in which he sought support for the Minoan Hypothesis based on his pre-supposed link between griffons and Atlantis or as he puts it “whatever the Griffins mythological meaning, the Griffin also appears to tie Santorini to Crete, to Avaris, to Plato, and thus to Atlantis, more than any other single symbol.” I don’t see it.
The Atlantic magazine published an interesting collection of photos of the Sphinx dating from 1849 until the present.(aa)
(e) See: Archive 2937
(h) See: Archive 2635
(j) See: Archive 2646
(o) See: Archive 3003
(p) See: Archive 3598
(x) An Undiscovered Sphinx of Giza, Part I (gigalresearch.com) (Despite the URL this is Pt.2)
(y) 1996 – Historical Deception (archive.org) (Chapter 19)
Graham Hancock the well-known investigator of prehistoric mysteries has never discussed the Atlantis enigma in depth. In fact, he once remarked on BBC Television that he avoids using the word ‘Atlantis’ in his books “because most people when they hear the word Atlantis immediately think that they’re dealing with the lunatic fringe”.
Furthermore, he emphasises the potential value of myths as transmitters of historical facts, albeit distorted.
In his 1995 tome on civilisations submerged at the end of the last Ice Age, Fingerprints of the Gods [275.462] he briefly discusses the subject of Atlantis. He accepted that the Atlantic was not harbouring any lost continent, although he was seeking a continental-sized home for his vanished civilisation. Paul Heinrich has posted a review(v) of ‘Fingerprints’.
Similarly, in his earlier work, The Sign and the Seal [678.319], Hancock had clearly discounted the Atlantic as the home of Atlantis. At this point, he appeared to be considering the Antarctic location proposed by the Flem-Aths.
His book, Underworld  was published in 2002 and was followed by a TV programme, Flooded Kingdoms of the Ice Age, which was based on it. The latter evoked a highly critical review(s) by N.C. Flemming, who has written widely on maritime matters including sea-level changes and sunken cities . Hancock wrote an equally strong response(r) to this.
Hancock maintains an interesting website(a) that is regularly updated with contributions from a wide range of contributors. His bestselling Fingerprints of the Gods is now available online(b).
The other side of the coin is that Hancock’s evidence supporting his theories has been heavily criticised as flawed(g) and misleadingly presented(h).
>Hancock “ regularly draws attention to what he considers mystical relationships between the Great Pyramid of Giza and the radius, circumference, and axial precession of the earth…….. Proponents of these “mystical” relationships contend, in addition to existing in the first place, that the relationships must be purposeful and therefore provide direct evidence of advanced capabilities in technology, mathematics, and precise astronomical observing techniques that scholars have long asserted were not available to humans when the pyramids were constructed.” These are among the opening remarks by Thomas W. Schroeder, who published two papers in 2019 criticising Hancock’s scholarship.(y-z)
Further criticism of his scholarship has come from Garrett Fagan, particularly in relation to his comments regarding Antarctica.(aa)<
Jason Colavito has written(c) a critical review of Hancock’s work and his recent advocacy “for ayahuasca, a South American hallucinogen. Since taking the drug for his 2005 book Supernatural, Hancock has supported the concept that mind-altering substances give their users access to a spirit world where one can commune directly with the ‘gods’.”
In April 2015, Hancock was due to engage in a debate with Zahi Hawass on the subject of their conflicting views of ancient history. However, when Hawass saw that Hancock included an image of Robert Bauval in his presentation, he refused to continue with the arranged format(d)(t).
In September 2015, Hancock published his, Magicians of the Gods , which worryingly sounds like a von Däniken book title! Already, he is trailing this publication with teasers, such as a claim that he has finally identified the ‘smoking gun’ that demonstrates that a cometary impact destroyed an advanced civilisation in the Antarctic 12,800 years ago(e) Shortly after the initial report was published, Hancock had to correct errors in it(f), the principal one being that the impact site was the North American ice cap NOT Antarctica. An interview with Hancock shortly before the publication of ‘Magicians’(n) is online as is also a review of the book itself(o). A full-length video lecture based on the book is available online(x).
Hancock also climbed aboard the Gobekli Tepe bandwagon, incorporating it along with Noah’s Ark and Atlantis into one narrative(p).
Hancock’s book also engages in scaremongering, with a sales-boosting prediction that an asteroid impact is possible in 2030 when the Earth once again enters the orbit of the remains of Encke’s Comet!
Jason Colavito’s critical review of ‘Magicians‘ is now online(j). A more favourable evaluation of his book is now available from Dr. Jon Epstein of Greensboro College, who expresses some interesting views on the closed-mindedness of many academics(k). Epstein’s review prompted further comments from Colavito(l). Following correspondence between Epstein and Colavito, additional claims of academic conspiracy to block Hancock have emerged.
Hancock recently received the endorsement of the South African Professor of Philosophy, Bert Olivier, which swiftly produced a response from Colavito(q).
Hancock’s next book, America Before, published in April 2019, proposes that North America was inhabited 130,000 years ago and was home to an advanced civilisation that was destroyed by a cometary impact at the end of the Younger Dryas period, around 10,000 BC.
When asked what he meant by ‘advanced’ Hancock revealed(u) that “I think we’re talking about a civilization – more than 12,000 years ago – which was as advanced as our civilization was, say in the late 18th century or early 19th century. In other words, they could navigate the world, they could explore the world, they could measure the world accurately, they had precise astronomy, they could create beautiful maps that were accurate in terms of latitude and longitude. That kind of level of civilization.”
(o) Archive 2904
Bosnia was dragged into the Atlantis debate in 2006 when a self-styled archaeologist, Semir Osmanagic, claimed that he had discovered five pyramids in his ancestral Bosnia near the town of Visoko. His claim received widespread media coverage and sparked a debate that continues today.
Osmanagic maintains that the largest one is bigger than the Great Pyramid at Giza, and that the Bosnian pyramids date to 12,000 B.C. In response Archaeology Magazine noted that “Construction of massive pyramids in Bosnia at that period is not believable. Curtis Runnels, a specialist in the prehistory of Greece and the Balkans at Boston University, notes that “Between 27,000 and 12,000 years ago, the Balkans were locked in the last Glacial maximum, a period of very cold and dry climate with glaciers in some of the mountain ranges. The only occupants were Upper Paleolithic hunters and gatherers who left behind open-air camp sites and traces of occupation in caves.”(j)
The Atlantis connection emerged from the belief of Osmanagic that the original ancestors of the Maya, Basques and other ancient peoples were descended from the peoples of Atlantis and Lemuria whose founders arrived on earth from the Pleiades. According to Osmanagic’s strange logic this gives the ‘pyramids’ of Bosnia an Atlantean pedigree.
Fortunately, Mark Rose, editor of Archaeology, who published a critical review(a) of Osmanagic’s weird ideas in Archaeology magazine, was also widely quoted, adding some balance to the debate. The same magazine carried a brief but highly critical review of Osmanagic’s theories from Zahi Hawass(h).
In 2006, Robert Schoch visited the Bosnian ‘pyramid’ and subsequently wrote a highly critical assessment of Osmanagic and his theories. However, some time later, Osmanagic responded with a scathing review(c) of Schoch’s work!
In September 2014 the Science Channel aired an episode of The Unexplained Files series in the US, which attempted to justify Osmanagic’s claims. However, Jason Colavito has highlighted the many flaws in the program’s content(d).
A more sober attempt to link the Bosnian region with Atlantis has been made by Fatih Hodzic(b). Part of his theory attempts to identify the thousands of stone blocks or ‘stecaks’, spread widely in Bosnia, as remnants of Atlantean buildings. His ideas are interesting but unconvincing.
In 2014, Paul A. LaViolette visited the Visko pyramid in Bosnia and published an extensive illustrated article in which he expressed his amazement at what he saw there and concluded(g) that he considers “this to be one of the most important archaeological excavations going on at this time on our planet.”
Philip Coppens has also defended the reality of Osmanagic’s pyramids in The Lost Civilization Enigma[1275.39], nevertheless, the debate is still open as can be seen in a February 2016 blog(f), in which many reasonable questions relating to the construction of the ‘pyramids are still unresolved. For my part, I find Osmanagic’s personal credibility questionable, considering his previous claims regarding Atlantis and ancient aliens, which are not, in my view, the conclusions of a person with his critical faculties intact.
Another claim from Osmanagic emerged in April 2016, when he claimed that huge stone spheres that exist in Bosnia ‘prove’ the existence of an advanced civilisation more than 1,500 years ago(e)!
>Nevertheless, a pretty vigorous defence of the reality of the Bosnia pyramids was published by Richard Hoyle on the Ancient Origins website in January 2020(k).<
Late 2018 saw the UK’s Express tabloid’s online edition entertain us with the headline(I) – Bosnian pyramid SHOCK: ancient civilisation received knowledge from SPACE.
(f) See: Archive 3187
Radiocarbon Dating was developed by a team led by Willard F. Libby (1908-1980) just after World War II and won him a Nobel Prize for the work. However, in his acceptance speech, Libby generously acknowledged the contribution made by the earlier work of Serge Korff (1906-1989).
Radiocarbon Dating is based on the fact that when organisms die the amount of Carbon-14 in the remains decay at a fixed rate. Although initially hailed as a definitive dating method for organic remains, it soon became obvious that it was not quite as reliable a tool as initially thought, although still widely used.
Originally a Carbon-14 half-life of 5568±30 years was used and is known as the Libby half-life. Later this was revised to 5730±40 years and is known as the Cambridge half-life. The initial theory was based on the assumption that Carbon-14 was being produced at a constant rate. However, this constancy has been questioned, as it can vary as a result of changes in the earth’s magnetic field. The intervention of man in the form of atomic bomb tests briefly doubled the amount of Carbon-14 produced(I). Local events can also have a dramatic effect on measurements; for example, the Tunguska explosion left the soil there so enriched with Carbon-14 that it gives a date in the future (1)! Emilio Spedicato has also pointed out that Carbon-14 can be created in the atmosphere by any cometary or asteroidal impact and so alter the assumed constant ratio of C12 to C14.
Immanuel Velikovsky offered the following valuable observation(j) “as the method was refined, it started to show rather regular anomalies. First, it was noticed that, when radiocarbon dated, wood grown in the 20th century appears more ancient than wood grown in the 19th century. Suess explained the phenomenon by the fact that the increased industrial use of fossil carbon in coal and in oil changed the ratio between the dead carbon C12 and the C14 (radiocarbon) in the atmosphere and therefore also in the biosphere. In centuries to come a body of a man or animal who lived and died in the 20th century would appear paradoxically of greater age since death than the body of a man or animal of the 19th century, and if the process of industrial use of fossil, therefore dead, carbon continues to increase, as it is expected will be the case, the paradox will continue into the forthcoming centuries.”
Graham Phillips mentions that ‘recent evidence suggests that that the level of Carbon 14 in the atmosphere may have decreased permanently around 3,500 years ago due to changes in the earth’s magnetic field.’ This has resulted in dates around that period being up to 500 years out. Calibration figures are now available to take account of some of these deviations based on data from dendrochronology, ice and sediment cores and coral samples. Further refinements are not to be ruled out.
These weaknesses in radiocarbon dating have been seized upon by some fundamentalist Christian groups determined to justify their ‘young earth’ beliefs(d). However, attacks on the basic concepts underlying radiocarbon dating have been refuted by its supporters(e).
In 774/5 AD an increase of 1.2% of Carbon14 was detected through tree ring studies(c). This is thought to be the result of an external event such as a supernova or solar flare. Since many other episodes of a lesser or greater intensity have probably occurred, a growing shadow is being cast over the reliability of radiocarbon dating that may only be dissipated by further studies. Further complex recalibration is not to be ruled out, as it is highly unlikely that this eighth-century event was the only such occurrence.
A recent report(h) has drawn attention to the danger of using fossil fuels, as it pumps a type of carbon into the atmosphere that confuses the dating technique. Scientists say that by 2050, new clothes could have the same radiocarbon date as items 1,000 years old!
Radiocarbon dating is only useful up to a maximum of around 50,000 years. In February 2010, researchers at Queens University Belfast announced a new calibration curve that extends back over the 50 millennia. The production of this calibration curve is the result of 30 years of research into the variations in atmospheric Carbon 14 caused by solar activity, the earth’s magnetic field and the oceans. Other radiometric dating methods are now available to deal with dates beyond this limit.
2010 also saw another important refinement of radiocarbon dating with the development of a ‘non-destructive carbon dating’ method which will enable the dating of very delicate, rare or highly valuable artefacts, without having to destroy any samples from them, as is required at present(a).
One strong dissenting voice was that of the archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, former Secretary-General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities who said “Carbon-14 dating has a margin of error of 100 years. In order to date Egyptian dynasties, we need to have specific dates; you cannot use carbon dating,” Hawass explained further to Al-Masry Al-Youm(s), that “this technique shouldn’t be used at all in making changes to the chronology of the ancient Egypt, not even as a helpful addition.” Incidentally, in April 2015, a temperamental Hawass walked out of a debate with Graham Hancock over the inclusion of an image of Robert Bauval in Hancock’s presentation(g).
Emmet Sweeney tells a disturbing story of how some establishments have treated inconvenient C14 results, recounting[700.221] “the fate of samples from the tomb of Tutankhamun subjected by the British Museum to radiocarbon testing. The samples, consisting of fibers of a reed mat and a palm kernel, produced dates of 844BC and 899BC respectively. These were broadly in line with the date for Tutankhamun predicted by Velikovsky, but roughly 500 years too recent for textbook chronology. Despite assurances given to Velikovsky that the results would be published, they never saw the light of day.” [758.xvi]
>One can be forgiven for cynically interpreting Sweeney’s abandonment of radiocarbon dating as an absolute necessity, otherwise, all of Sweeney’s radical ancient chronology revisions collapse. Undoubtedly, all dating methods have their problems and radiocarbon dating is no exception. However, it makes better sense to address the problems, rather than discard the method entirely. I think it foolish to ignore entirely the body of work developed in connection with radiocarbon dating over the past three-quarters of a century.
Nevertheless, Sweeney makes the valid point that radiocarbon dating is based on the questionable assumption that the proportion of carbon14 in the atmosphere has always been constant, but does not offer any details regarding the extent of any such variations. While Sweeney may have his reasons for wanting to undermine the value of radiocarbon dating, as also do creationists. So in defence of radiocarbon dating a 2022 paper by David H. Bailey noted that “radiocarbon dates, determined by well-established procedures and calculations, are compared directly with dates determined by the other methods, thus permitting the radiocarbon dates to be accurately calibrated with distinct and independent dating techniques.”(x)<
In Forgotten Civilization and his earlier Pyramid Quest, Robert Schoch has drawn attention to some difficulties that have arisen with radiocarbon dating and the implications for Egyptology. A warning about future difficulties with the reliability of radiocarbon dating has been issued by Heather Graven, a climate-physics researcher at Imperial College London. She has found that the rate of fossil-fuel emissions is skewing the carbon ratios used to determine an object’s age. She estimates that by 2050 atmospheric carbon dioxide will make new organic material appear to be 1,000 years old(2). Graham Hancock has also expressed reservations regarding the use of radiocarbon dating, urging both caution and open-mindedness(m).
Hancock’s son, Sean, has written a couple of papers on the subject of radiocarbon dating, one concerning the subject generally(u), the other, regarding its application at Tiwanaku(v). He concluded the former with the comment that “radiocarbon dating is useful as a complement to other data; this is when it is strong. Until the day comes that every variable can be controlled and every error eliminated radiocarbon dates will never have the final word on archaeological sites.” Concerning Tiwanaku, he is equally critical noting that “The question we have to ask is whether or not these radiocarbon dates are archaeologically representative? I believe the answer to that question is no. What is called for is a more thorough excavation programme at Tiahuanaco that would once and for all close this case.”
An even more jaundiced view of current dating difficulties is expressed(l) by Jonathan Gray.
One of these, namely, the potassium/argon method has been claimed by writers such as Richard Milton to have its inherent problems and must be treated with caution. It appears that although dating methods have advanced greatly further improvements can be expected.
The latest refinement of radiocarbon dating techniques has shortened the time taken from six days to two and additionally, now allows on-site testing(f).
The Malagabay website(n) posted a series of blogs through April 2017 under the heading of ‘Deranged Dating’ highlighting weaknesses in radiocarbon dating!
There is now a valuable list of papers(o), with links, devoted to the many problems that have gradually emerged concerning radiocarbon dating. This is just part of the ‘A New Chronology’ website(p).
June 2018 saw a report issued from Cornell University that highlighted some inaccuracies that have been found in dates relating to the southern Levant region, which includes parts of Jordan, Israel and Egypt. Archaeologist Sturt Manning and his colleagues “have revealed variations in the radiocarbon cycle at certain periods, affecting frequently cited standards used in archaeological and historical research.” (q)(t)
Currently, standard calibration curves assume that at any given time radiocarbon levels are similar and stable everywhere across each hemisphere. It seems therefore that the calibration of radiocarbon dates will have to take account of regional factors in future. In March 2020 a further study(r) from Cornell confirmed the value of regional calibration, which can now be applied to contentious issues such as the date of Tutankhamun’s death and the eruption of Thera (Santorini).
In September 2021 a paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science claimed to have solved the problem of current radiocarbon analysis typically used to reconstruct past human demographic changes relies on a method “easily skewed by radiocarbon calibration curves and measurement uncertainty.” Lead author Michael Holton Price claims that he has developed a new statistical method for summarising sets of radiocarbon dates. Price developed an approach to estimating prehistoric populations that use Bayesian reasoning and a flexible probability model that allows researchers to overcome the problem of ‘equifinality’, where a single carbon14 value can correspond to a different date. “This paper is just the first step. Next, through ‘data fusion’, the team will add ancient DNA and other data to radiocarbon dates for even more reliable demographic reconstructions.” (w)
(1) New Scientist (7/9/02, p.14)
(2) Fortean Times (FT340) May 2016, p.16