Theories that change what we know of as history are often interesting, if outlandish. Sometimes, they're just too incredible to believe; other times, they have a pretty good whiff of plausibility, making the book presenting these theories that much more intriguing. Before the Pharaohs by Edward F. Malkowski is an example of the latter. Almost fatally hindered by an extremely slow and boring first sixty pages, the book picks up steam to become a fascinating look at the secrets of the pyramids, the Sphinx, and Egypt in the time before recorded history. Malkowski takes a wide array of theories and ties them all together. He never hides what current theory is, instead presenting his own (or, quite often, others that he agrees with) in a way that makes the reader think about this all in a new light. With a couple of missteps, the book continues on this high level, never quite losing me once it had reeled me in.
Malkowski begins the book by looking at the Sphinx. "Aha!" I thought. "Starting at the top and then working his way down." In fact, no. Instead, we get several pages of in depth analysis of erosion and how the differing levels of such indicate that the Sphinx must be older than is currently claimed. There is no way that the erosion the Sphinx has suffered, via both wind and water, could have happened in the period of time estimated. This is fine in itself, but halfway through the chapter I just wanted to grab the author by the throat and cry "We get it! Get on with it!" Instead we get diagrams showing the different levels of the Sphinx and how far the erosion would go. What's even worse, one of the two experts whom Malkowski spends a lot of time detailing actually claims that rainfall runoff could account for the Sphinx being built from 3000 B.C.E to 2500 B.C.E. This dating, of course, falls within the current projections. So what was the point of this? The other scientist whom Malkowski heavily details claims that erosion and weathering on the Sphinx would mean that it must have been built between 7000 B.C.E and 5000 B.C.E. This could be an important point, but to begin the book with it?
The next chapter is on climate change. Malkowski tells us that the Saharan desert went through three cycles of climate change, getting wetter and then more arid and then back again, between 10,000 B.C.E. and 2800 B.C.E. He gives us much more than we could ever want to know about this, and then goes back to erosion rates, this time with graphs and tables! He uses all of this information to disprove the 3000-2500 dating for the Sphinx, stating that the other theory must be correct. He may very well be right, but by this time, I was ready to close my eyes. This was the most difficult beginning of a book I've had to get through in a while.
Then everything turns around. Malkowski begins talking about astronomy, time, and the various cultures in the Sahara Desert area. He claims that ancient timekeeping was a lot more advanced than currently believed, with information on a circle of stones and various monoliths at a place called Nabta Playa. Malkowski maintains that these could easily be star charts, based on the study of where the stars would have been positioned back then. It's fascinating stuff, but what's even better is the extensive theory (and acoustical testing to "prove" it) that the pyramids were actually an ancient power source using the Earth's vibrations, channeled through mechanisms within the pyramids to produce electrical power. He states (and I have no reason to disbelieve him; everything I know about them is secondhand) that none of the Great Pyramids have ever been found to contain funerary items, despite the fact that they are widely considered to be tombs. All tombs have actually been elsewhere, and thus they must be something else. It's an extremely interesting theory, and one that he supports well. He also, later in the book, connects the Maya and the Egyptians, but not in the normal way. Instead, he uses a theory that some of the Mayans actually came to Egypt and settled down there, a trio of the great royal family actually ending up being represented by the three main Egyptian gods (Osiris, Isis, and Seth).
Some might see one of the problems with Before the Pharaohs being that all of the theories in the book are actually somebody else's. Malkowski spends a great deal of time on each one, which makes the "Notes" pages interesting, with lots of "ibid" notations as he uses the same source. Thus, he doesn't provide a lot of corroborating evidence. For example, the Great Pyramid as electrical generator theory is all put forth by Christopher Dunn, a machinist who has studied Egyptian ruins for a great many years (he even has his own book, which is Malkowski's source for most of this, called The Giza Power Plant). His Mayan theories are based on a somewhat discredited archeologist named Le Plongeon, though he goes to great lengths to show that Le Plongeon's work was wildly misinterpreted and Malkowski tries to rehabilitate him. This does hurt the credibility of the book in my eyes, as it would have been nice to have a few more people actually agreeing with the theories he presents.
Despite all that, the book really kept my attention once I got through the beginning, with Malkowski tying it all together at the end. For a while I thought he was giving us divergent theories and asking us to pick one, as they didn't seem to go together, but he does succeed in making them mesh. He tells an interesting tale, and if you like this sort of thing, Before the Pharaohs will definitely be your cup of tea. Just don't give up on it. I probably would have, but I soldiered through and was rewarded.