In a video uncovered by Buzzfeed on Wednesday, presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson states that despite archaeological evidence to the contrary, the pyramids were built by the biblical Joseph to store grain. Miraculously, Carson alleges, Joseph built the pyramids around one thousand years before his own birth. Joseph, Ben Carson believes, built them to store grain during the biblical “seven years of plenty,” the historical veracity of which remains contested.
“My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain,” Carson says in the video.
Granted, the video was shot in 1998, and it’s very likely Ben Carson’s views on the matter have changed. Particularly given that the theory is, by all accounts, preposterous. The interior area of the pyramids could only store a fraction of the grain that a standard grain silo built around the same time could have stored.
“It’s still my belief, yes,” Ben Carson told CBS News.
Even Donald Trump, known for his sometimes wild and off-the-cuff remarks, found the exchange to be unusual.
“He’s informed me about the pyramids… That was a strange deal,” Trump said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Thursday.
“The pyramids were made in a way that they had hermetically sealed compartments. You wouldn’t need hermetically sealed compartments for a sepulcher. You would need that if you were trying to preserve grain for a long period of time,” Ben Carson told reporters on Wednesday during a stop on his book tour.
Haaretz spoke to some prominent Egyptologists on the matter, who claim Carson doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
“Pyramids were definitely used as tombs: burial equipment such as sarcophagi, jewelry and mummies were found in them,” says Tel Aviv University’s Dr. Deborah Sweeney.
More proof, as if it were needed, comes in the form of funerary text inscriptions made inside the pyramids themselves which describe, in hieroglyphs, who is to be interred in which chambers of the pyramids. Even so, if the pyramids were, as Ben Carson claims, meant to store grain, they’d have been poorly designed to do the job.
“Pyramids are almost solid masonry: the amount of storage they offer, relative to their mass is extremely small, which would make them a fairly poor choice for a large storage project, as would sloping corridors and a series of concealed entrances. The [methods] used to seal the pyramids against potential tomb-robbers make them unsuitable for grain storage,” Sweeney adds, in contrast to Ben Carson’s claims.
Instead, Egyptians used granaries, which have been discovered in abundance near ancient Egyptian municipal buildings.
“These were normally dome-shaped buildings open at the top, which stood near houses and government buildings,” Sweeney said, describing a common structure that was much more suitable to store massive amounts of grain.
Then there’s the problem of timing. Professor Orly Goldwasser, an Egyptologist with the Hebrew University, states that Joseph could not have possibly been involved – even tangentially – in the construction of the pyramids. He was not alive at the time, and Israelites weren’t even in the region for another thousand years. Another strike against Ben Carson’s pet theory.
The Canaanites and Israelites are first mentioned around 1,200 BCE, Goldwasser tells Haaretz, around a thousand years after construction on the final pyramid was completed.
“The pyramids have no connection to the people of Israel or anything of the sort,” Goldwasser says, dismissing Ben Carson’s claims outright.
It’s not the first time Ben Carson has courted controversy with unusual and frankly strange beliefs. He frequently speaks out against topics which are controversial among conservative voters – like evolution, global warming, the big bang – as well as topics which are somewhat off-the-beaten-path. He’s expressed concerns about gravity in the past when he said “Gravity, where does it come from?” during an address at the University of New Hampshire.
Ben Carson is currently leading in the Republican primary race.
[Photos by Getty Images]