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Whilst browsing on the notoriously pseudo historical subreddit called r/CulturalLayer I came across this post, that leads to another post on a popular Russian blogging website called livejournal.

Scrolling through the post, it seems that the author thinks that famous ancient Egyptian monuments were only built back in the 19th century by a group of malicious forgers (the theory probably goes in the tradition of the Tartaria conspiracy theory).

Here are some machine-translated excerpts from the blog post:

Below [the inscription "ADUXKULL 1823"] is the name of the German writer, landscape architect (!) (and also, let's add, a representative of the history creators workshop) MUSKAU, who was in Nubia in 1837-38

Image showing "ABDUXKULL" and "MUSKAU" inscriptions

There are other inscriptions. The Spaniard or American ALFRED ARAGO was noted on the "base of the rock", but frozen, in 1807.

Image showing "ALFRED ARAGO" inscription

On the shin of Amon (far left in the trinity of gods and equated with the gods of Ramses), CC BLACK is clearly read - there is no need to guess the nation, the surname of the Italian ending in MOZI is higher, and the year is 1820.

Image showing "CC BLACK" inscription

The author then proceeds to explain why he has a problem with the existence of these graffiti-apparently Abu Simbel was only starting to be dug up in the 1850s yet most of these inscriptions are from before that time period and they were also on spots that would be deep under sand.

Why couldn't scientists, travelers, tourists who didn't exist at that time do it? Everything is simple. The colossi were almost completely under the sand. In the 50s they were dug up, starting from the left one - Amon. The right side of the Ramses was filled up until the last moment of clearing.

As proof he includes some pictures of the temple being almost completely under the sand, for example:

Photo of monument with sand covering half of one figure and all except the face of another

The author rejects the possibility of a sandstorm (albeit not conclusively at all)

Could sandstorms have brought the colossi after the 1830s. Of course not. There is almost no sand in the upper reaches of the Nile; it must be purposefully brought in for these colossi and for bedding for today's tourists.

What are the rational explanations for these graffiti?

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    They look like graffiti. Commented Oct 18, 2022 at 9:52
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    Please give the actual text from the website (which you machine translated, see 'frozen 1807' expression…), and include the original images (which should be easy, as they seem already to be hosted on imgur!) What's needed is the actual claim/argument 'put forward'! Please quote that claim. Commented Oct 18, 2022 at 11:46
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    As Abu Simbel was covered in sand, what is the relevance of "there is no sand" in the discussion? Commented Oct 18, 2022 at 15:45
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    @WeatherVane Having just retrieved the actual text from the machine translation, I can answer the first (and have done so in editorial brackets): the "below" is referring to a previous sentence, omitted from the quote. It's "below one name, is another name".
    – IMSoP
    Commented Oct 18, 2022 at 18:13
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    @JeromeViveiros the temple was discovered in 1813 and according to the author, only fully dug up in the 1850s. Many graffiti by the travelers contain dates that are dated before 1850s, therefore the author is confused by how they managed to write under the sand. Thus, his theory is that the buildings are a 19th century fake (an idea which he tries to prove in other articles that I found that are not under discussion) and that the graffiti were put by the supposed builders of the temple, later the temple was allegedly covered by sand again to make it feel ancient and then staged to be dug up.
    – BAngOs
    Commented Oct 18, 2022 at 20:42

1 Answer 1

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What are the rational explanations for these graffiti?

The explanation is simple: Some people like to mark things with their name graffiti. I don't have a reference for this (and references are important at this site), but it's rather obvious. Graffiti has been used since time immemorial to mark everything from trees to bridges to monuments. Daniel Boone carved his name onto many trees after killing a bear. Sir William Rowan Hamilton famously carved i2=j2=k2=ijk=-1 onto the Broom Bridge. People have defaced Mesa Verde National Park with their names. The list of sometimes famous (and other times infamous) graffiti goes on and on.

The author then proceeds to explain why he has a problem with the existence of these graffiti-apparently Abu Simbel was only starting to be dug up in the 1850s yet most of these inscriptions are from before that time period and they were also on spots that would be deep under sand.

The Abu Simbel complex was rediscovered in 1813, and sufficiently uncovered in 1817 to allow entry into the complex. The 1850s claim is false.

There are other inscriptions. The Spaniard or American ALFRED ARAGO was noted on the "base of the rock", but frozen, in 1807.

The Reddit article linked to in the question claims that that graffiti is dated 1867, not 1807. Page 21 of issue 17 of the Bulletin of the Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East (ASTENE) also lists the date as 1867 and also attributes the graffiti to Alfred Arago. Alfred Arago was a French painter who was born in 1816. The 1807 claim is false.

What are the rational explanations for these graffiti?

Getting back to this key question, and getting back to my main response, the easy answer is that some people like to deface important things. The people who defaced the Abu Simbel temple in the 19th century were not the first to do so. There are Phoenician graffiti and ancient Greek graffiti on the temple that date back thousands of years. The author of the false claim that the Abu Simbel temple was built in the 19th century conveniently omitted reporting these much older graffiti.

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  • While I agree with the gist of this answer, I don't think the conspiracy theorist is claiming that graffiti per se is unlikely to date from that period. Rather, they are disputing the dates of this graffiti relative to the uncovering of the monument. So the details of when it was uncovered, and the incorrect reading of the dates, are the important points. For that, saying "somebody on Reddit says it's 1867" is very weak; a much stronger refutation was made in comments, if a good reference can be found: the graffiti is likely that of French painter Alfred Arago, who was born in 1815.
    – IMSoP
    Commented Oct 19, 2022 at 11:41
  • This also doesn't address the supporting claim that a photo was allegedly taken in 1856 (by a photographer born in 1839 and apparently not active in the Middle East until the 1860s-1870s). Commented Oct 19, 2022 at 12:17
  • @IMSoP I found a much better reference for the Alfred Arago graffiti and added it to the answer. Commented Oct 19, 2022 at 12:27
  • @WeatherVane I didn't address that photo, but I did find it at alamy.com, alamy.com/…, which owns the photo, attributes it to Francis Frith, and as being taken in the 1850s. It was you who attributed it to Frank Mason Good. Frith as a photographer traveled to Egypt and Sudan in the mid to late 1850s. Commented Oct 19, 2022 at 12:43
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    (continued) by 1850s the entire temple was completely cleaned up. To note, the figure closer to the left on the right side of the temple is usually shown on pre 1850s paintings with the upper body being mostly cleaned while the legs were still hidden, with this I note that no graffiti were found by the author on the legs of the figures on the right. In conclusion, I sort of answered my own question, but there is nothing unexplainable for any of the graffiti, the author just didn't research the excavations. Thanks everyone for participating in the discussion @WeatherVane
    – BAngOs
    Commented Oct 19, 2022 at 21:06

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