The Red Sea Scrolls - Solving the Great Pyramid

This time, we will continue our examination of the pyramids of Ancient Egypt, especially the Great Pyramid of Khufu. We will investigate the queen's pyramids, take a trip with Khufu's sun boat, and sit down and read the Red Sea scrolls. Ultimately, we will see that this marvel of human engineering was indeed done by a workforce organized by Khufu.

In Digging up Ancient Aliens, our host Fredrik uses his background in archaeology to discover what is genuine, fake, and somewhere in between in popular media, such as Ancient Aliens, Ancient Apocalypse, and many other places.

In this episode:

Layers of dating the pyramids

Khufus sun boats

The Queen Pyramids

Pyramid Texts

The Red Sea Scrolls

Sources, resources and further reading suggestions

Welcome to Digging Up Ancient Aliens. This is the podcast where we examine strange claims about alternative history and ancient aliens in popular media. Do their claims hold water to an archeologist, or are there better explanations out there?

We are now on episode 57, and I am Fredrik. Your humble instructor who will help you dance on the Ockhams Razors' edge. This time, we will continue our examination of the pyramids of Ancient Egypt, especially the Great Pyramid of Khufu. We will investigate the queen's pyramids, take a trip with Khufu's sun boat, and sit down and read the Red Sea scrolls. Ultimately, we will see that this marvel of human engineering was indeed done by a workforce organized by Khufu.

As always, this episode's sources are available at the episode website on You can also find contact info there if you notice any mistakes or have additional information.

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Now that we have finished our preparations, let's dig into the episode.

Layers of dating the pyramids

Even if we did cover some methods to date the pyramid of Khufu in the last episode, I will continue to demonstrate the different sources we can use to date the pyramid's age. Because the age is often something used by the ancient alien and ancient astronaut proponents as a sort of smoking gun. This idea mainly builds on looking at only part of the evidence, cherrypicking data to present a preferred narrative.

"According to most Egyptologists, this miracle of engineering was constructed during a 20-year period by order of the pharaoh Khufu, sometime around 2500 BC. But many experts claim this dating is based on highly questionable data, and ancient astronaut theorists suggest the origins of the three pyramids at Giza are far more profound."

As usual, we are rarely given what this questionable data is. Sure, as a television program, they have some limits on what they can present. But this isn't really something we get to learn when looking at the books written by Von Däniken, David Childress, Giorgio Sukolos, and all the other alternative history writers. I think this is because the objective evidence is too overwhelming for them to disprove. We have already demonstrated how the Great Pyramid fits into the evolution of mortuary architecture. How we see elements from earlier mortuary buildings Is visible in the Great Pyramid. Let's not forget the elements in the Great Pyramids that are visible in later pyramid constructions. Then, we have the carbon 14 samples. Since the ancient Egyptians used Ash and organic materials in the cement, we can use this to date the pyramid.

A common claim we often see about the Great Pyramid is that we can't date stone. This, however, is a little bit of a half-truth. It is correct that we can't use carbon 14 to date the stone. Since stone and minerals tend not to be organic materials, however, it is possible to date organic material within the rocks. To be fair, organic material in granite is as common as a griffin. What we can use to date that type of rock is Surface Luminescence Dating. Something that was done by Liritzis and Vafiadou and published in the paper "Surface Luminescence Dating of Some Egyptian Monuments." The result of this dating method shows that the pyramid of Khufu was built within the time frame mainstream archaeology suggests it was.

So far, we have two separate dating methods that return more or less the same time period. One of these methods by itself isn't maybe as impressive. Upon examining the evidence we have, it becomes overwhelming. We have yet to explore evidence surrounding the pyramid. Let's broaden our perspective and start by reviewing the two barges buried outside the pyramid complex.

Khufus sun boats

In 1954, a fantastic discovery was made. Archaeologists found two untouched boat pits that contained the remains of two complete ships. Or at least what seemed to be complete vessels. One of the boats was left untouched and was just recently excavated. But the other pit was excavated. Beneath a large limestone slab was a wholly dismantled ship, but with the pieces placed at their position in the boat. Each piece was carefully removed from the pit and later assembled. Some 1224 parts were found, and they had U-shaped holes so they could be almost stitched or weaved together, forming this large boat. When assembled, it measured 43 meters or 142 feet. And an interesting little bit here is that the front and the back look like papyrus stalks. So we see here this tradition that started with Djoser, that the ancient Egyptians tried to replicate organic reed structure in a more durable or enduring material. If you remember, back when we talked about Djoser's step pyramid, we spoke about how they within this complex are very keen to imitate reed pillars and other organic building materials they had used previously.

There are more exotic ideas about what these boat pits were used for. For example, Christopher Dunn thought it was a place for tools.

"Dunn also believes that the large depressions in the ground at Giza are not boat pits as is claimed by mainstream archaeologists, but were actually used to hold the 35-foot saws."

"I speculate that they were actually saw pits. The saws were mounted in these pits, and that they ran the blocks through the saw before they put them in the Great Pyramid."

While it is a novel idea, this claim simply does not hold up. Or not without first proving giant electric milter saws were available to the Ancient Egyptians. So, what were these boats used for? And why were they disassembled? This is a more relevant question, and there is some speculation about it. Some suggest that these vessels were for the symbolic transport of the dead pharaoh to the lands of the dead. What speaks against this claim is that the boats were disassembled. If it had been used for this purpose, the boats would most likely have been left in one piece. A more likely explanation is that it is part of the funerary rite. So, these ships were used to transport the dead pharaoh and possibly the Ka statue To their final resting place. By being a part of this funerary procession, the ships became imbued with powerful enchantments. The ships were then disassembled and buried outside the funerary complex to neutralize the powerful magic.

Of course, we have some carbon 14 samples done on these boats. And guess what? The date again corresponds with the reign of Khufu. So, we have yet another piece of evidence pointing towards both the function and the date of the pyramid. After the break, we will turn to the Queen Pyramids and how they can be used to understand the site.

The Queens Pyramids

Welcome back! We can look at even more things on the Giza plateau that will help us understand the Great Pyramid. For example, the Queen Pyramids behind the Khufus Pyramid. So these are smaller pyramids, a little bit to the side. One of them is suspected to belong to Queen Maritetes. It seems that she lived a long life and was present during the reigns of Sneferu, Khufu, and Khafre. The most southern pyramid belonged to Queen Henutsen. However, her name has only been preserved for us through later dynasties. During the 21st or 26th Dynasty, the mortuary temple was converted to a temple dedicated to the goddess Isis. During this remodeling, the name is recorded. Then, we have the third pyramid, dedicated to Sneferus's wife and Khufu's mother, Hetepheres. What's fascinating about this tomb is that we found the chamber, well, let's say, somewhat intact. It is quite the story and a little bit of a mystery. Mark Lehner describes this well in his book "The Complete Pyramids." I can actually see the story work as a great movie.

In 1925, while the lead archaeologist, George Reisner, was away in the United States, his team stumbled upon a groundbreaking discovery. His photographer almost lost his camera when the ground gave way beneath his tripod. This accident revealed a sealed shaft and stairway, hidden from the world for over 4,500 years. The effort to clear this passage revealed it was not just any shaft; it was extraordinarily deep and filled with masonry. Clearing a path was a task that took weeks to accomplish.

At the bottom of this shaft lay a chamber, a final resting place that held a beautifully crafted alabaster sarcophagus. Nearby, a small alabaster box was found in a niche in the western wall, sealing intact. It was a canopic chest meant for the queen's internal organs, preserved as if left just yesterday.

However, this burial site revealed signs of disturbance: pottery shattered, linen disintegrated, and remnants of boxes that once held precious items. The scene suggested a reburial, perhaps in haste or under circumstances of duress. Among the debris, items of personal and ceremonial significance were discovered: poles of a canopy bearing the elegance of early papyrus bud columns, pieces of furniture adorned with gold foil, and personal adornments such as silver bracelets. These relics spoke of a queen's private life, stature, and the sophisticated craftsmanship of the era.

The unfolding mystery deepened with the discovery of names tied to the royal lineage of Egypt. Initial findings bore the name of Sneferu, but soon, other inscriptions revealed the identity of Hetepheres, celebrated as "Mother of the King" and "Daughter of the God." These discoveries painted a picture of Hetepheres' prominence, her role as the wife of Sneferu, and the mother of a king. Seal impressions and the Horus name of Khufu among the artifacts added layers to the narrative, suggesting familial ties and royal succession.

Despite the grandeur of the find, the sarcophagus stood empty, a silent testament to a mystery that puzzled Reisner and later scholars. The arrangement of the chamber's contents, contrary to traditional burial practices, fueled speculation. Was Hetepheres originally laid to rest at Dahshur, only for her tomb to be violated and her remains lost? Did Khufu orchestrate a reburial at Giza, in a concealed shaft, to protect his mother's legacy? Or does the evidence point to other explanations related to royal succession disputes or the reorganization of burial rites? We should focus on these enigmas, not the invented alien conspiracies.

So, we have covered some physical evidence left out of these pseudo-archaeological narratives. There's also material based on text that we have not looked at yet. Making this claim entirely irrelevant.

"Archaeologists and Egyptologists claim that they were tombs for the pharaohs, and yet no Egyptian pharaoh was ever found in a pyramid in Egypt. We have found the mummies of many Egyptian pharaohs, but they're found in vaults deep underground at the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, hundreds of miles away from the pyramids. The pyramids have no real explanation of what their purpose was."

As I have mentioned before, there have been human remains found in the pyramids. Not necessarily the Great Pyramid, but others have. We don't require human remains to be there to see that this was a burial. For example, human remains tend to decompose quickly in acidic soil. So, in some locations, it's rare to find skeletal remains. But this doesn't mean we still can't identify burial sites. It can be done through grave goods or mortuary architecture, such as building cairns or other grave markers like pyramids.

Pyramid Texts

The ancient Egyptians left written records detailing the purpose of the pyramids, so we don't have to speculate. Unfortunately, there are no pyramid texts within the burials on the Giza Plateau. It wasn't until a few hundred years later that these texts appeared carved inside the pyramids. I just want to point out that Khufus's name has been found carved inside the pyramid by the work gangs building it. The first pharaoh to incorporate the pyramid text into their tomb on the walls was King Unas, who reigned only around 250 years after Khufu. But in this text, we see quotes as.

"Any gods who shall cause this pyramid and this construction of the King to be good and sturdy, it is they who will be vital, it is they who will be respected, it is they who will be impressive, it is they who will be in control... it is they who will take possession of the crown."

In the pyramid text from Pepe the First, we see similar quotes. He writes:

"As for anyone who shall lay a finger on this pyramid and this temple which belong to me and to my double..., he will be judged by the Ennead and he will be nowhere and his house will be nowhere; he will be one proscribed, one who eats himself."

These are just two quotes from the pyramid text. However, we can see five categories within the more extensive text corpus of the pyramid texts. We have the dramatic texts, which include spells for various categories such as lament and offerings. In the second category, we find hymns and name formulae. We have litanies in category three; in category four, it's all about glorifying the pharaoh. Then, we have magical text protections against snakes, scorpions, or other dangerous beings. It is most likely that the magical texts are the oldest, but previous versions of them have not been preserved.

Suppose you are interested in learning more about pyramid texts and what's referred to as the Book of the Dead. In that case, I go through all of this in an earlier episode. That was in episode 47, titled "Mummies, vampires, draugr, and aliens." So, based on all of this, we should be able to safely assume that this was constructed as an intended burial. As luck would have it, however, recent excavations have shed even more light on the construction of the pyramids. More on that after these short messages.

The Red Sea Scrolls

The evidence, however, was not found in or around Giza. We actually have to travel a bit to the south. and to the coast of the Red Sea. Only 23 kilometers south of Zafarna is an archaeological site called Wadi el-Jarf. This seaport started to be excavated in 2011 by a team led by Mark Lehner and Pierre Tallet. Initially, nobody would maybe guess that this site would become as vital as it would. I also want to mention that this section is mainly based on the book "Red Sea Scrolls: How ancient papyri reveal the secret of the pyramids." For those interested in Egyptology, Tallet and Lehner's book offers a deeper understanding of the background and significance of the site and the find. I highly recommend reading this book at some point.

Wadi el-Jarf wasn't a permanent settlement and was used only for a relatively brief period of Egyptian history. So, the first time this site was used was during the reign of Sneferu. And in total, it would only be used for about 70 years. It was used during the reign of Khufu and later Khafre. But why? Why did they establish this seaport? As discussed briefly in the last episode, copper was necessary for the pyramid's construction. Lehner and Teller explain the reason for the location as follows.

"The pharaonic state was therefore regularly obliged to organize major expeditions into the desert areas that surrounded Egypt in order to obtain sufficient quantities of this raw material. There are copper mines in the Egyptian Eastern Desert, and some deposits in particular were exploited in ancient times in the Wadi Araba, a natural route leading directly to Wadi el-Jarf."

So, the seaport was constructed to be a part of these expeditions. As things turn out, it seems this part is one of the older ports built during the Old Kingdom. Lehner and Teller Also claim there are several reasons why this location was chosen. They write the following:

"The site of Wadi el-Jarf has several advantages that make it suitable as the location for an 'intermittent port' on the Red Sea coast, at a time when the Egyptians were clearly conducting their first experiments with this kind of installation. For the port to operate most efficiently, it was essential that there was access to a supply of good drinking water, which was probably provided by a spring at what is now St Paul's Monastery, 10 km from the site."

So, this port itself is part of all the evidence we have of the construction of the pyramids. But what sets this location aside from other places is the team's discovery. While they found a lot of materials and equipment belonging to workers. One discovery was maybe a little bit more critical. The remains of papyri belong to the bureaucratic administration of ancient Egypt. You are likely already familiar with some of these documents, often called Merer's diary.

The archive Consists of at least five papyri. These are log books and are pretty detailed. So, from the logs, we can tell that they most likely cover one calendar year that stretches from the 13th census of the reign of Khufu. The 13th census corresponds more or less with the years 26 to 27 of Khufu's reign, and it also seems to cover the beginning of the year corresponding with the 14th census. The logbook covers the work gang "The Escort Team of "The Uraeus of Khufu is its Prow."" This group of workers consisted of about 160 men divided into smaller groups of phyles or, in Egyptian, "za." The most known of these documents are papyri A, B, and C regarding the phyle called Great or, in Egyptian, "weret." Led by the middle manager Merer.

This type of arrangement of workers is known to us from, for example, the construction of Pharaoh Menkaure's pyramid. From our sources, it seems that Menkaure's workforce consisted of some 2,000 people, then split up into two gangs comprised of 1,000 people each, and we even have the names of these two gangs. The first is Friends of Menkaure, and the second is Drunkards of Menkaure. These packs were then split up into smaller groups and phyles.

Something interesting about the Red Sea scrolls is that none covered December and March. So Lehner and Teller speculate that the workforce likely got time off to be with their families during this time. Of course, this indicates that the workers probably were well cared for. Most of Merer's log books seem to cover his work prior to arriving at Wadi el-Jarf. So initially, it appeared that the team was delivering stone from the Tura Quarry to the Great Pyramid. If you don't recall, the Tura Limestone's exceptional quality was utilized for the casing of the pyramids. These log books are mostly pretty dry, important, but a little bit dry. Most of the entries go as follows.

"Day 25] [Inspector Merer spends the day with his phyle [h]au[ling] st[ones in Tura South]; spends the night at Tura South. [Day 26]: Inspector Merer casts off with his file from Tura [South], loaded with stone, for Akhet Khufu; spends the night at She Khufu; Day 27: Sets sail from She Khufu, sails towards Akhet Khufu, loaded with stone, spends the night at Akhet Khufu."

These parts are not the most thrilling read, but they still give a great insight into how the stones were delivered to the Great Pyramid and how long things took. Some entries are a bit more detailed; Lehner describes the entries as "Merer only seems to expand the scope of his reports when, for one reason or another, the team departs from the standard 'routine' of work. This happens, for example, in Papyrus B, when Merer does not return at the expected time to deliver a load of stones from Tura, the reason being that in the meantime he had obviously been requisitioned to undertake a task elsewhere (at Ro-She Khufu) that had not previously been planned. Consequently, he finds it necessary to report the delay." So, these papyri demonstrate how organized the ancient Egyptian bureaucracy and society was.

These documents also confirm that the ancient Egyptians built canals from the Nile to the Giza plateau. So, from Merer's description, it seems as if they unloaded the Toura limestone at the valley temple. Indicating that the causeway that went from the temple to the pyramid functioned as a ramp for the Toura Limestone deliveries. Merer also described how they dug channels and other work needed to make these transports flow as planned. So, these documents are a treasure trove and one of the key pieces within the puzzle of the Great Pyramid. From these papyri, we also learn that the pyramid was built by and for Khufu as his final resting place.

With all of this information we have covered, it's tough to argue that the pyramids of ancient Egypt were not burials. Yet I want to bring up a last claim by the ancient astronaut theorists because this is one you will often see when they talk about pyramids.

"When you look at the Great Pyramid as a schematic, for me, it looks like a machine. Well, if that's the case, what did this machine do? I propose that the Egyptians built the Great Pyramid to be a power plant and that the pyramids were actually geomechanical devices. In other words, they were attached to the Earth. They were tuned to vibrate with the frequencies of the Earth, and they converted the energies of the Earth into electromagnetic energy."

Something interesting about the Great Pyramid is that it has three separate Chambers. We have one chamber that goes down into the bedrock, a second chamber between these three chambers, and the burial chamber high up in the pyramid. It's only the Great Pyramid that really has this layout of chambers. Only Khufu has his chambers this high up in the pyramids. The ensuing pyramid constructions usually have the chambers grouped at the bottom.

And while these three chambers might look strange in how they are set up, they aren't that strange if you're familiar with ancient Egyptian Mortuary architecture. If you look at the previous and following burial chambers, we see a similar concept. We have three chambers. Even if they are not split up as Khufu did, we still have three chambers. One seems to be the burial chamber where we have the sarcophagus and all of that, and then we have a chamber for the Ka-statue, and then the third chamber. Mark Lehner writes about the third chamber in the Great Pyramid, "There is evidence, however, that all three chambers were planned from the beginning, based on a long tradition, before and after Khufu, of royal tombs having three chambers. If so, what, then, was the purpose of the Subterranean Chamber? Some Egyptologists suggest that its rough, unfinished state may indicate a link to the chaotic aspect of the Afterlife, making it an earthly symbolic representation of the Underworld cavern."

So again, looking back at all our evidence, Dunn's theory simply does not hold up. The ancient alien theorists also haven't demonstrated that this type of engine built in stone is even theoretically possible. While speculations can be fun, there needs to be evidence at one point. Egyptologists have collected evidence for centuries, and all this data points toward these structures being burials for the kings. Even if we look at only the Great Pyramid, things do not align with what the ancient astronauts' supporters say. Nor do they make a good case for discrediting the evidence other than claiming it does not exist.

So there we have it, the Egyptian pyramids were built by an organized and well-equipped workforce. They were taken care of and seemed to have had much pride in their work. We don't need aliens or Atlanteans to explain these constructs. All the evidence points in the same direction. While there are some holes in the story, like the exact ramp structure used in the Great Pyramid, there are ample theories that work better than levitation guns. It's not a question of whether a ramp is being used, as we have seen several of them found at the location. Add to this that the larger stones are at the bottom, and as we go up, they become smaller, something you don't need to do if you have levitation devices.

So, there it is. The mystery of the pyramid is an illusion created by those who benefit by having it that way. Isn't that ironic?

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Sandra Marteleur created the intro music, and our outro is by the band called Trallskruv, who sings their song "tin foil hat." Links to both these artists will be found in the show notes.

Until next time, keep shoveling that science!

Sources, resources, and further reading suggestions

Billing, N. (2011). Egyptens Pyramider: Evighetens Arkitektur I Forntid Och Nutid. 2nd ed. Stockholm: Carlssons.

Bonani, G., Haas, H., Hawass, Z., Lehner, M., Nakhla, S., Nolan, J., Wenke, R. and Wölfli, W. (2001). Radiocarbon Dates of Old and Middle Kingdom Monuments in Egypt. Radiocarbon, 43(3), pp.1297–1320. doi:

Brewer, D.J. and Teeter, E. (2010). Egypt and the Egyptians. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Brier, B. and Houdin, J.-P. (2009). Secret of the great pyramid : how one man’s obsession led to the solution of ancient Egypt’s great mystery. Washington D.C: Smithsonian Books.

Edwards, I.E.S. (1993). The pyramids of Egypt. 9th ed. [online] London: Penguin Books. Available at:

Höflmayer, F. (2016). Radiocarbon Dating and Egyptian Chronology—From the ‘Curve of Knowns’ to Bayesian Modeling. Oxford Handbooks Online. Oxford University Press. doi:

Le Grand Virage (2022). BONUS PLGV - MICKAEL RESTOIN - L"EXPERIENCE. [online] YouTube. Available at: L’experience des outils du pollisage.

Lehner, M. (2003). The complete pyramids: Solving the Ancient Mysteries. New York: Thames & Hudson.

Lehner, M. and Tallet, P. (2022). The Red Sea Scrolls: How Ancient Papyri Reveal the Secrets of the Pyramids. Thames & Hudson.

Liritzis, I. and Vafiadou, A. (2015). Surface luminescence dating of some Egyptian monuments. Journal of Cultural Heritage, 16(2), pp.134–150. doi:

Ramsey, C.B., Dee, M.W., Rowland, J.M., Higham, T.F.G., Harris, S.A., Brock, F., Quiles, A., Wild, E.M., Marcus, E.S. and Shortland, A.J. (2010). Radiocarbon-Based Chronology for Dynastic Egypt. Science, 328(5985), pp.1554–1557. doi:

Sheisha, H., Kaniewski, D., Marriner, N., Djamali, M., Younes, G., Chen, Z., El-Qady, G., Saleem, A., Véron, A. and Morhange, C. (2022). Nile Waterscapes Facilitated the Construction of the Giza Pyramids during the 3rd Millennium BCE. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119(37). doi:

Smith, C.B. and Hawass, Z.A. (2018). How the Great Pyramid Was Built. Washington, Dc: Smithsonian Books.

Stocks, D.A. (2023). Experiments in Egyptian Archaeology. 2nd ed. New York: Taylor & Francis.

Tallet, P. and Marouard, G. (2014). THE HARBOR OF KHUFU on the Red Sea Coast at Wadi al-Jarf, Egypt. Near Eastern Archaeology, 77(1), pp.4–14. doi:

Van de Mieroop, M. (2011). A History of Ancient Egypt. Chicester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Wilkinson, R.H. (2000). The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt. New York: Thames & Hudson.


“Folie hatt” by Trallskruv

Lily of the woods by Sandra Marteleur