Demythologizing the Giant Stone Boxes of Egypt


The belief that otherworldly beings with intelligences superior to that of humans were responsible for designing and constructing great works of architecture in the distant past is one of the most persistent and common forms of the argument from Personal Incredulity. Such beliefs are symptomatic of a cynical view of humans as incapable of amazing architectural feats. This cynicism in turn stems from the desire of people to believe that our species has not been alone in our sojourn as the only intelligent animals on earth.

Instances of the belief in superiorly-intelligent aliens aiding lowly humans in building monuments to ingenuity is everywhere to be found on the Internet. Here I offer my critique on just one instance that recently came to my attention, a claim concerning giant underground stones that exist beneath the pyramids of Egypt. These massive stones have stimulated the personal incredulity of Brien Foerster, an author and self-described “adventurer” who has appeared multiple times on the History Channel show Ancient Aliens.

In a YouTube video titled “Giant Underground Stone Boxes near the Pyramids in Egypt,” Foerster takes his viewers along on a trip to Egypt, where he visits the Serapeum of Saqqara. Situated to the northwest of the Pyramid of Djoser, this particular serapeum is an underground tomb or necropolis located near Memphis, Egypt. It was built in the 13th century BCE during the reign of Ramesses II. The word “necropolis” derives from an ancient Greek word literally meaning “city of the dead.”

In the video under consideration, Foerster is filming a walkthrough of the Serapeum of Saqqara. This is not a secret underground cavern worthy of an intrepid adventurer. The Serapeum is a public attraction open to tourists. There are a large number of people walking around in the necropolis with Foerster and his friends. The latter apparently imagine that they are about to share an astounding discovery that has evaded the notice of all the other tourists. This enigmatic find turns out to be large stone “boxes” made out of granite blocks weighing between 50 and 100 tons. These huge masses of granite once served as very large coffins (sarcophagi), larger than is necessary to contain the average human body.

Foerster films as his colleague Christopher Dunn measures the interior of one of the boxes and finds that they are extremely precise. As Foerster states in the video, “The interior surface of this is within a few ten-thousandths of an inch in terms of being perfectly flat.” The interior’s surface is also polished to a mirror-like finish. Foerster is also intrigued by the corners of the stone boxes:

The corners are 90 degrees – not 89, not 91. But he [Dunn] has a precision square that he uses in the manufacturing industry. That’s what he used, and he found that the corners were exactly-ish 90 degrees.

Yes, Foerster really does say “exactly-ish” in the video.

During the course of this measuring exposition, text is flashed over the video: “This precise to bury a bull?” According to historians and Egyptologists, the Serapeum of Saqqara was used to bury bulls in reverence to the bull-deity Apis. Foerster’s personal incredulity kicks in, and he finds it insane that ancient Egyptians would go to such great trouble to create painstakingly precise granite boxes just to hold dead bulls. “The idea that it was made for bulls, no matter how special they were, is just ridiculous,” he says.

Skeptical activist Rebecca Watson, founder of the Skepchick Network and co-host of the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe podcast, did a fine job of refuting Foerster’s implications in a recent Popular Science article on the subject. She shows that Foerster is clearly ignorant of ancient Egyptian culture and mythology:

The Apis bulls were incredibly sacred creatures to many ancient Egyptians, having been one of the first cults in Egyptian history. Bulls represented strength, determination, and virility, and so were often associated with pharoahs [sic]. The Apis bull was both a deity and manifestation of the pharaohs.

If there’s one thing the ancient Egyptians loved, it was post-mortal conspicuous consumption, so it’s impressive but not exactly beyond belief that they would spend so much time and effort to build elaborate tombs for the beings they worshipped.

Indeed, Foerster and his colleagues seem oblivious to the fact that throughout human history, people are prone to undertake elaborate rituals just for their belief system. The fact that such human behavior is unthinkable to him is indicative of a severely limited parochial mindset. And believers say us skeptics are unimaginative!

Foerster is also unappreciative or ignorant of the level of understanding and knowledge the ancient Egyptians had attained in the fields of applied mathematics and geometry more than 500 years before the Serapeum of Saqqara was built. Watson points this out in her article as well:

It’s also not surprising that they could create a flat surface or angles that are exactly-ish 90 degrees. The Egyptians boast some of the earliest known texts on geometry, like the Rhind Papyrus (from around 1650 BCE) and the Moscow papyrus (from about 1850 BCE). The latter papyrus indicates that the Egyptians could approximate pi (as 3.16049) and find the volume of a truncated pyramid. It stands to reason that 500 years later, they would be able to carve a flat surface and make a corner of exactly-ish 90 degrees.

“Aww, what’s in the Box?”

If Foerster does not believe that the ancient Egyptians were capable of pulling off these architectural feats, and denies that the Saqqara stone boxes were intended to hold bulls, what does he believe the purpose of these sarcophagi to have been? He does not tell us his views on the matter in the video, being content to allow the fringe blogosphere to provide their own speculations and assertions. And this they have been willing and eager to do. Searching Google with the title of Foerster’s video turns up a number of blogs and forums that feature breathless and bizarre commentary on the video.

By far, the most common answer as to the stone boxes’ origin is that ancient aliens built them. The tinfoil-hat views expressed on the blog 2012: The Big Picture is representative of this line of thought:

I think you’ll find that these boxes underscore the fact that ancient man alone—as described in the Illuminati-approved history books— could not possibly have constructed these boxes, nor the pyramids themselves.

If the Egyptians had the technology to do this many thousands of years ago, where would they—and we—be now in our ability to construct buildings and excavate and relocate stone?

The answer I believe to be true: that technology came from the stars, and when the star beings left, or died off, their technology went with them, or was destroyed by those who wished to control us.

What did the ancient aliens of Egypt intend to bury in these sarcophagi? One claim, propagated on the forums of the online conspiracy/UFO believer community Godlike Productions, is that they were used to entomb the giants which roamed the earth back in those days.

Other fringe bloggers hold different views concerning the origin of the Saqqara boxes. Some implicate ancient angels in their construction. This strikes me as not much different than the alien hypothesis. After all, what criteria distinguish aliens from angels? If the celestial beings called angels really exist, wouldn’t they qualify as aliens under most modern definitions? But apparently the more biblically intoxicated woo-blogs, such as Tim Clark’s NoWorksSalvationApocalypseNow, have firmly-held doctrinal reasons for preferring angels to aliens. Clark describes himself as a “retired biblical archaeologist” and writes,

I think that this type of archaeology is amazing especially when you consider history based on the Bible. It is obvious that the technology displayed in Egypt was not from the local Egyptians. The world wants to give credit to Ancient Aliens to avoid discussing the Bible. However, If you believe the Bible and the story of the Fallen Angels, you will look at things differently. . . . I think that a case can be made for these giant boxes as being made for Nephilim hybrids, possibly the hybrid gods of ancient Egypt like Anubis. Of course, there are no remains in these tombs but who is to say what was in these sites before the public was allowed to view them.

“Who is to say” indeed? In the absence of any confirming evidence of Clark’s extraordinary claim, the reasonable and rational approach is to opt for the null hypothesis. The lack of any remains in the Saqqara tombs does not justify filling that gap in our knowledge with Nephilim hybrids.

For those who don’t follow Bible mythology or Christian UFOlogy, “Nephilim” are the giant offspring of fallen angels who are said to have come to earth in the distant past to copulate with human women in order to produce a hybrid race. There is, of course, no archaeological, paleontological or biological evidence of any kind to indicate that giant Nephilim once roamed our planet. I refer interested readers to Brett Palmer’s excellent 4-part documentary series on YouTube titled Giants of the Bible, which skeptically examines claims made by believers regarding biblical giants.

It makes orders of magnitude more sense to conclude that the Serapeum of Saqqara and the giant stone boxes it contains were built by humans who had a fondness for bulls and were about as intelligent as humans are known to be. There is no anomaly that rationally justifies invoking the existence of ancient aliens or angels. Not only is such a postulation too extraordinary in the absence of confirmatory evidence, it also demeans and belittles the ingenuity and creativity of human effort, which is far more awe-inspiring than the infantile notion that aliens or angels were compelled to think and act for us.

Related Posts

Edward Snowden and the Alien Conspiracy

Iguana Found on Mars?

The $100 Apocalypse


About Nathan Dickey

I am a freelance writer trying to finish my degree in Journalism. I attended Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon. My interests are many, and include investigative reporting, science, philosophy, history, classic rock music, and pop culture analysis. My motivation in writing is to contribute what I can to the promotion of science and skepticism among the public. My goal is to use my journalism training to be active in the skeptical and freethought movement, analyzing dubious but popularly-believed claims involving the supernatural, the paranormal and religion.
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91 Responses to Demythologizing the Giant Stone Boxes of Egypt

  1. Matt W. says:

    They never once mention aliens in the video despite your constant attempt to pin that attribution on them.

  2. cara says:

    Hey Dickey, I do not support the idea of extraterrestrial oddly inteligent beings build all these stone objects, but putting aside all your yadda yadda, the real interesting question is that there is no evidence that egyptians had technological means to build that, period…. that is the only thing we ned to know, ergo, this was not build by the egyptians

    • Enzo says:

      I agree a hundred per cent with you. I’m an architect and in my historical point of view there’s a clear difference between the tecnology of making the boxes and the later inscriptions. The only thing that I can say for sure is that the tecnology means to make the boxes are why more advanced then the making of the inscriptions. I can’t say who built them, but I can say that it really seems like a no linear tecnology-improvment.

      (really sorry for my bad english, its just my 4th language)

  3. says:

    The only ‘buried bull’ was not found in the ‘grand gallery’ where the granite boxes are but rather in the extended and poorly constructed ‘lesser tunnels’ that are attached… These lesser galleries were also found full of wooden (not granite boxes/coffins), jewelry and pottery and burial stones.
    In the original and stunningly constructed ‘grand galleries’ all of the granite boxes were found empty. The 2 should not be confused as the same architect or builder, as although now the same site, (connected by passageways) they were clearly of different construction methods and time periods.

  4. Danny says:

    “There is, of course, no archaeological, paleontological or biological evidence of any kind to indicate that giant Nephilim once roamed our planet.” Firstly, in order to KNOW that, you would have to know EVERY RELEVANT ARCHAEOLOGICAL, PALEONTOLOGICAL AND BIOLOGICAL DATA ON PLANET EARTH, which you of course do NOT. So in other words, you are in this article not expressing science, but your own personal opinion. Secondly, when you write “of course”, you also reveal that within your world view there is no room for the nephilim, no matter what evidence you would come across. You also say it as if you expect the readers to agree with you as if that`s the only world view that is out there. I, for one, respectfully disagree. The fascination for ancient history, however, we absolutely share.

  5. Alan Godden says:

    Very interesting, i do not see any giant coffins made anywhere on Earth today as there is no need for them. The amount of work to carve a giant granite sarcophagus would be incredible let alone move it, so in closing i believe the Bible is accurate, Giants lived in the past.

  6. Richard Bruce says:

    Stuff the giants& xtraterries,BUT how specifically did the ancients cut these really hard rocks? HOW did the sth americans cut the precise fitting blocks/ the drill cores look really ‘Modern’ were their copper tools diamond tipped/ Do not over rubbish the artefacts verify their reality/ or not1

  7. Contractions of Fate says:

    Crikey, there is so much utter drivel and gibberish posted in these comments by under-educated buffoons.


  8. I don’t think Brian Foerster ever pushes any notion that it was built by aliens, or nephilim, or anything other than other human beings that simply came before the dynastic Egyptians. I don’t see why you’re connecting him with anything about aliens.

  9. james says:

    I was really hoping for a rebuttal that sheds some light on how these 100-ton boxes were placed into this underground area.
    That’s the real question for me, not WHY but HOW.

    • Contractions of Fate says:

      They used physics. Enormous knowledge, training, experience and expertise in a long, long tradition of stone masonry and moving large, heavy objects. Because they knew how. They had the expertise. We don’t as we don’t do that sort of thing. But arguing that because a 21st century imbecile has no idea how it was done, therefore a 30th, 20th, 10th, 3rd century BC expert could not possibly have known how to do it either is beyond Dunning-Kruger.

      Dr Josh at Digital Hammurabi has a story of how his 60-odd year old father and 8 months pregnant wife moved a 2 ton hot tub off his dad’s truck and moved it into position. Dr Josh had no idea it was even possible without a crane, nor did his pregnant wife. But his father had DECADES of experience in doing it. I’ll try and find the link for you.

  10. Jennifer says:

    The poverty of this response and indeed the pathetic imaginations of modern academics is what created the impetus for the ancient alien theory in the first place. This particular response attacks a straw man, as the video never mentions aliens, as others have pointed out. What needs explaining is not whether ancient humans understood geometry (they did) but rather *how* these precise cuts were made. And, how did these large stone boxes get into position? And, why are they empty? I think it understandable that people question the bull tomb theory based on the lack of evidence.Please learn to think straight and stay on topic before you go for your next public rant.

  11. denn says:

    Interestingly, there is a video on YouTube which shows how large blocks of stone can be moved without too much effort by one person, but I don’t have the address. However, as to the why, one or two people have suggested that the boxes were used for seed or grain storage.

  12. Kevin Hickey says:

    Brien Foerster does not mention any aliens in his videos. you completely miss the point that he is making about the serapeum. It is widely acknowledged by Egyptology that the dynastic Egyptians did not possess the tools to cut or shape granite. The mystery is how they were able to do this and move these enormous boxes in to such a small space. It has been accepted that todays civilization would struggle or would be incapable of achieving this today. Maybe you should do a bit more research before you undermine somebody who dedicates their life to ancient mysteries. Have you even been to the serapeum. Whats the point in being a skeptic for the sake of being a skeptic. Don’t be so closed minded.

  13. Eyeball news says:

    Bottom line is no one knows – including YOU. So saying it was aliens or whatever is no less stupid as saying it was done by the Eygptians.

  14. Branden says:

    This article fails to explain anything. Total waste of time.

  15. Achol Paco says:

    The way white supremacy reasons is that if it was not made by Europeans, then it must have been aliens.

  16. Will says:

    Concluding that the boxes were made by aliens without direct evidence for said aliens is as invalid as concluding Bronze Age artisans created them without direct evidence of how they were done.
    Having fabricated and installed granite countertops myself, I challenge anyone using all modern technology to re-create even one of these boxes and place it in a similar tunnel. Fifty ton boxes with twenty ton lids immaculately cut and polished, moved five hundred miles and placed in tunnels with just enough room around then to barley fit a person?
    These boxes were made with technology we don’t yet possess. Aliens? Advanced civilization previously evolved and destroyed? Both are equally possible as there is direct evidence for neither.
    One thing for sure is that the boxes were not carved out using stone pounders which are no harder than the stone being carved…

  17. Will says:

    Even using modern diamond tipped circular saws, creating a three sided inside corner like where the corner of the box meets the bottom would be exceeding difficult. Circular saws cannot cut to the corner, the material in the corner would have to be perfectly chiseled, surfaced and polished. Is there anyone who could do this? As a general contractor I’ve met a lot of stone fabricators, but none who could.

  18. Will says:

    There is no evidence of aliens. There is also no evidence that Bronze Age humans made the boxes. The idea that humans using ‘hammer stones’ or perhaps bronze chisels or maybe copper saws with sand abrasive is at least as absurd as aliens (no one has ever found any of these supposed tools). I challenge anyone to produce a mirror finish on a raw piece of granite using only the materials available to ancient Egypt. I’ve cut and polished granite countertops using diamond tipped circular saws and power polishers. Producing a mirror finish requires using diamond polishing discs with grits’s progressing from 50, 100,200,400,800,1500,3000 and that’s on the edge of a sawn slab which has been polished with gigantic industrial polishers. Even with circular saws I’m not sure how the interior blind corners of the boxes would be cut, circular saws cannot cut to the corner without over cutting. They probably just got in there and pounded it with stone pounderswhich are no harder than the material they were “carving”? Pre iron people could not have made these boxes, or prove me wrong and make one. Don’t forget after you make it to carry it into a tunnel only a few feet wider than the box. When you’re done I’ll believe ancient Egyptians did it.

  19. Camillus O'Byrne says:

    As pointed out by a number of commenters, this is not “skepticism” in any meaningful scientific sense of applying rationality and logical rigour to an hypothesis. It demonstrates a number of logical fallacies, a straw man argument and begging the question being the most obvious. The author is already convinced he knows why this was done and makes no genuine attempt to explain the factually most challenging aspect – how was this done? How to explain tolerances that are not only impossible with hand tools but unnecessary for the purpose? It is the same misleading and disingenuous approach to 911. You can’t talk about who or why before you know what and how. A detective doesn’t come up with elaborate speculations about who committed a murder and why before determining how the murder was committed. You’ll arrive at different hypotheses if someone was strangled than if they were shot or stabbed.

    How to explain precision shaping of materials such as granite with copper or even bronze edges? How to explain the movement of absolutely massive pieces especially in small spaces? Yes, it may be possible to move certain large and heavy objects using knowledge of mechanical advantage, but something like the 1200 ton piece at Baalbek or these 70 ton boxes? And why would you if you can shape stone like this? You would do what any engineer would do today and assemble smaller pieces that are much more easily placed. I’d like to see a bunch of Egyptologists replicate the construction of a temple complex or other massive work using the methods they say were used. You can draw anything on paper showing thousands of slaves using ropes and logs but actually doing it may be a bit different. And what of the economics of it all? As recent ground penetrating satellite radar images show Egypt is littered with sites under the sands. When did they have time to do anything else like build ordinary houses or pottery or weapons or tend animals and grow crops? has anyone ever done an economic analysis to see how much of the resources and capital of the society it would take? I’ve never seen one.

    All things considered, an advanced technology that is unknown to us as having existed is the most likely hypothesis and has the most supporting evidence. Really important discoveries in science are made at the edges of knowledge, not by the purveyors of orthodoxy that are more worried about tenure or the risks to income and reputation in standing out from the crowd to think imaginatively.

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