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Internet Bunk

Pharaoh's Pump Foundation

Steven Myers has created this Internet site in honor of his hero Edward J. Kunkel and his book Pharaoh's Pump. Kunkel argued that the great pyramid in the desert at Giza was a water pump.

Myers has created The Pharaoh's Pump Foundation, which, he claims, is going to build a pump using ancient Egyptian technology. He is accepting donations. Even if it were true that Giza was a water pump in the desert, why bother to build a copy of a pump that's been broken for thousands of years? Because the "ancient pumping technology is nonpolluting and does not require fossil fuels or electricity to operate." Just like windmills! Not quite. According to Myers, the pyramid pump was fueled by fire. I am just guessing here, but I think if it was fueled by fire, something had to burn. I guess they burned all those forests that used to be in the desert, or maybe they burned some magic non-polluting fuel brought in by aliens.

Apparently, Myers envisions a countryside dotted with pyramids, pumping our polluted rivers and streams into our polluted cities and out to our poisoned and mineral-depleted farmlands.

Myers' visions seem to have been stimulated by his reading of 5/5/2000: Ice: The Ultimate Disaster by Richard W. Noone, a cult classic which, among other things, predicted doomsday on May 5, 2000, when Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn were aligned with Earth. This alignment, he said, would cause the polar ice caps to melt. Since Noah won't be around to build an ark for us, we'll need pyramids to pump all that water away from our cities. Otherwise, we drown. It seems of little interest to Myers that astronomers were well aware of the upcoming alignment and did not see any need for concern. Of course, the astronomers were right. It's happened before and it will happen again.

The notion that Giza was a water pump is bunk, according to the most recent issue of Skeptic magazine (Vol. 7 No. 2, 1999). In the "Skeptic's Forum" there is a letter from Norman Cohan, Director of the Karpeles Manuscript Museum (Santa Barbara branch), in which he exhorts readers of Skeptic to "reexamine the latest evidence with respect to the bewildering construction techniques utilized in the Great Pyramid of Giza, as presented in Christopher Dunn's new book The Giza Power Plant. Giza was not a water pump but a power plant! Dunn claims that the Giza power plant worked "by responding harmonically with the seismic energy contained within the Earth." He claims that "the Great Pyramid became a coupled oscillator and drew energy through it and converted it to electromagnetic energy through the sophisticated use of acoustics and quartz-bearing rock." What did the ancient Egyptians use this great power plant for? Among other things, they used it for levitation, according to Mr. Cohan. 

Dunn is said to be "an engineer with intimate knowledge of machine tools." He went to Egypt and became convinced that many of the artifacts created by the ancient Egyptians had to be done using precisely machined tools. Once he believed this, it was not difficult for him to see evidence everywhere (confirmation bias) and see everything from the smallest artifact to wall carvings and papyrus paintings to the pyramids themselves as requiring advanced technology. Margaret Morris (The Egyptian Pyramid Mystery is Solved) thinks Dunn is all wet because he didn't realize that the stones the Egyptians used to build the pyramids weren't natural and didn't need to be cut from quarries. The stones are synthetic and were made by adding water to "earthen materials" and shaped while soft.

Myers and those who see Giza as a water pump have also deluded themselves. How easy it is to find supportive evidence for our hypotheses! And how powerfully strong our arguments seem when we selectively present our facts and make no effort to find contrary evidence. It is especially easy when our audience isn't knowledgeable enough to know what's been left out or how plausible one's claims are. 

What next? That mummies were repositories of vibratory chi? That all those centuries of hieroglyphics that give no indication of a high-tech society, were done that way so that future generations wouldn't know how advanced the Egyptians were? That those ancient historians, such as Herodotus, who are brought in to support the view that the pyramid was a water pump because he says he saw water around it, omitted mentioning that the Egyptians had created a huge water pump in the desert? Maybe Herodotus, not being from Atlantis, couldn't tell the difference between a water pump and a power plant. Fortunately, our modern day alternative "scientists" can. They just don't realize how easy it is to deceive ourselves into believing something simply because we can find confirmation for our belief in the form of data that is consistent with the belief, or is easily molded to be consistent with the belief.

See related entry on pyramidiocy.

further reading

Pyramid Schemes: A Brief History of the Mysterious Monuments by D. Trull

De Camp, L. Sprague. The Ancient Engineers (New York: Ballantine Books, 1977).

Hodges, Peter. How the pyramids were built, edited by Julian Keable (Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1993).

MacAulay, David. Pyramid (Houghton Mifflin, 1982).


reader comments

05 Jan 2001
I have just been reading your debunking of the pharaohs pump. Firstly - I am a skeptic. I found this stuff on the internet and thought it was very strange. In addition the site does not help itself by linking within one click to perpetual motion 'vortex' machines.

Despite the theory being strange and I myself would need a lot more evidence to be convinced there was a working pump in the pyramid, it is not a truly outlandish idea. About 100 years ago pumps were built along the Murray (Australia's largest river) which consisted of large cylinders bored into the ground alongside the river. Fuel (oil) and air entered the chamber, were ignited and the pressure forced the water out for irrigation. The volume of the pump was about the size of a large room. Nothing weird here - simply a large internal combustion engine with water acting as the piston. The engine ran for about 50 years.

One of the problems that would have faced the ancients is they lacked metals - specifically steel. It is very difficult to build engines that can handle any sort of pressure without metals. One solution of course is to dig out a hole in the ground. Large pressures can then be accommodated.

The pharaohs pump page describes a simple ram pump. Again nothing strange about ram pumps. One does of course need a high supply of water, and this small point is glossed over. If there were a high source of water there would be no need to have the pump...

The idea of using a fire to pump a column of water is not strange. Looking at the pharaohs pump page I think they have quite a bit of the physics wrong. If one has a chamber with a fire in it, the simplest solution is to use pressure to force water up higher. One would not need negative pressure sucking water then running the water through a ram pump - seems a bit complex. Also one can't suck water up more than 10 metres before one reaches the vapour pressure of water. The positive pressures from a fire could be quite large - at least 5 atmospheres positive if the fire were burning greater than 400C.

The one fatal flaw I can see in the whole pharaohs pump concept is how one sucks water up from the level of the Nile. One would need another pump on the banks of the Nile which is situated lower than the level of the Nile (as the pumps along the Murray are). Perhaps the source was groundwater - I don't know what the water table level is in that area, but even if it was there probably wouldn't be a great deal of flow.

The pharaohs pump foundation is probably off course (clue - they keep asking for money), but the concept of an ancient underground pump is interesting. I am going to get a hydraulics engineer to critically appraise the concept.

Dr James Moxham (medical Dr, not engineer)
Adelaide Australia

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