Monthly Archives: October 2015

Review: The Lost Technologies of Ancient Egypt by Christopher Dunn

Christopher Dunn is an American engineer who has some serious questions about the technological history of ancient Egypt. He has spent many years traveling to Egyptian temples, pyramids, and archaeological sites in his spare time, examining the remains of this once great culture. In The Lost Technologies of Ancient Egypt, Dunn presents his latest findings, many of which challenge the teachings of establishment Egyptology.

Alternative histories of Egypt (and elsewhere) have been popularized as of late by the Ancient Aliens crowd, often suggesting that extraterrestrials had a hand in early human accomplishments. Rest assured, ET makes no appearances here. The author remains wholly down to earth, and gives no suggestion that any species other than mankind was responsible for the pyramids. The text is strictly analytical, and only sensational in so far as it disagrees with the more popular academic views on the technology used by the ancient Egyptians.

While most Egyptologists are archaeologists or historians by trade, Dunn is a lifelong engineer, with an in-depth knowledge of manufacturing processes. Rather than studying artifacts in terms of the people who created them, Dunn wants to know what we can learn about how they were created. Where an archaeologist might see a coffin or a statue of an old god, Dunn sees manufactured objects exhibiting subtle errors and tool marks that can speak to their means of creation.

The author takes tools for precision measurement and a digital camera to each location. He singles out individual objects which he feels exhibit particularly telling features, and uses a combination of physical inspection and computerized analysis of his photographs to complete the evaluation. He attempts to determine, based on the various shapes and surface features, what tools may or may not have created the artifacts, and what mathematical calculations would have gone into their design. The book contains numerous black and white images in line with the text (often marked up to indicate points of interest or measure), as well as a series of color panels to further illustrate key findings. Dunn makes frequent references to geometric principles throughout his work, and an understanding of these is somewhat critical to following along.

The pace of the text varies, in some places feeling a bit dry, as scholarly works are prone to do. The only real intrigue is in the mystery of the artifacts themselves, and how the story presented to tourists and the media, of armies of Egyptian slaves with hand tools of wood and copper, fails to jive with the reality of mathematically precise, seemingly machined, stonework. My biggest complaint is probably that the black-and-white photos were rather small and low resolution, and were in some instances hard to reconcile with the corresponding discussion in the text. There were certainly a few times where “I’ll take your word for it” was as likely a result as “oh, I see it!” for me, but I don’t feel it significantly damaged the case the author was trying to make.

By the end though, the arguments really do pile up, leaving one to wonder what the true history of Egyptian technology could be. The evidence seems convincing, based on all the apparent signs of advanced mathematics and mechanical processes currently unaccounted for, that more complex technology must have been available to somebody, at some point. I have no less difficulty believing Dunn’s claims, given the reasonable degree of photographic and analytical proof, than any other historian claiming the same miracles were worked with much less. It’s a shame that so many scholars would seemingly rather argue amongst themselves than reexamine the evidence, when the truth shouldn’t be a matter of opinion. Maybe the field of Egyptology could use a few good engineers in its ranks.

Recommended for anyone with an interest in Egyptian history or ancient technology; no aliens required.

Rating: 4/5

Review: Tom Slick: True Life Encounters in Cryptozoology by Loren Coleman

Tom Slick was a Texas oilman who took an interest in anomalous creatures from a young age. He was fortunate enough to have the wealth necessary to sponsor expeditions around the globe, and today he is most well remembered in cryptozoology circles for his pursuit of the Himalayan Yeti, or Abominable Snowman. Tom Slick: True Life Encounters in Cryptozoology is a biography of Slick’s life, with a specific focus on his contributions to the early days of cryptozoology.

Loren Coleman is the author of numerous books in this field, and is currently the curator of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, ME. His credentials make him a logical candidate to produce this sort of biography, and it’s clear that a lot of time and effort went into researching the private and somewhat enigmatic individual that was Tom Slick. Having died suddenly and unexpectedly in a plane crash, Tom did not leave behind a formal record of his activities, making it necessary to piece together his story from family members, colleagues, and correspondence.

The text begins with a relatively straight biographical introduction to Tom Slick, addressing his parents, family atmosphere, and general upbringing. This serves as background as we progress toward the main event, which will constitute the remainder of the book: Tom’s contributions to cryptozoology. These early chapters, on up through Slick’s involvement in the Himalayan expeditions, are informative and satisfying, and really shed a great light on his character.

After covering the Yeti years, the content starts to get off track and begins to ramble. Chapter 10, supposedly on the Orang Pendek, somehow manages to discuss neither Tom Slick, nor the Orang Pendek in any real quantity. The following chapter (“Other Cryptozoological Side-Trips”) again makes only glancing mention of Slick, instead choosing to address a couple other cryptids at length. It felt as though Coleman couldn’t quite help himself in turning at least a few chapters of this otherwise-biography into another book of creature tales, justified only by making the vaguest of connections with Tom Slick in the process.

A few appendices follow the main body of the text, the first of which is purportedly an exploration of Tom Slick and potential connections the CIA. Why this would be in an appendix rather than a chapter is not immediately clear, as it is at least a full chapter in length. Sadly, the content is a mess of mostly random facts and coincidences, few of which seem to involve Slick at all. The conclusion seems to be that no, Slick probably wasn’t involved much in covert government operations, and if he was, the book fails completely at providing coherent evidence of the claim. In my opinion the entire section should have just been dropped for lack of relevance.

Finally, as a more material complaint, the editing in much of the text was horrible. It was really surprising to see a book by a seasoned author be released with so many blatant typographical errors. Simple words were misspelled, punctuation wandered, and names changed spelling from one sentence to the next. (I also found the parenthetical reference format less than ideal, but it’s better to be distractingly referenced than not referenced at all.)

It’s nice to see a book paying homage to Tom Slick’s personal, and largely private, quest for the unknown. His role in early cryptozoology deserves to be recognized and appreciated, and Loren Coleman’s research does justice to his ambitions. It’s just unfortunate that poor editing and a lack of focus manage to hinder the enjoyability of the final product.

Rating: 3/5