Researching Resurrection: the Great Pyramid by Flashlight

(A version of this article was originally published in the Kindle Daily Post, January 24, 2012 Author Spotlight Arwen Elys Dayton on Resurrection)

Here’s the problem. The best explanations of how the Great Pyramid was built just don’t hold up — unlike the Great Pyramid which HAS held up, for over four thousand years, despite being stripped for parts, so to speak, by successive civilizations of Egyptians.

View of Great Pyramid from our hotel across the street.

The most accepted of the official explanations boil down to some version of: a giant ramp was used, blocks of stone (some weighing as much as 200 tons) were floated down the Nile, then rolled on logs, up the ramp and set neatly in place.

The problem with the ramp theory is that it turns out the volume of the ramp would have been as great as the volume of the pyramid itself. And as for the logs, well, trees can be very strong, but if you look at how far away the quarries were, how many trees would have been needed (and how few existed in Egypt), how heavy each individual block was, it’s hard to arrive at the pyramid being built in a single lifetime.

I’m not saying the pyramids were built by alien intervention or advanced technologies, but the facts leave a novelist a lot of wiggle room.

In researching Resurrection, I toured the Great Pyramid with maverick archeologist John Anthony West, known around the world for poking large holes in archaeological doctrine. (His best-known book, Serpent in the Sky, is a great introduction to his work.

When we arrived in Egypt, the pyramid was actually closed to visitors due to some renovations of the interior walkways. Luckily, John understood baksheesh and was also able to pull some strings with the higher-ups to get us private entrance into the pyramid. We explored it by flashlight — a flashlight with batteries that were already low when we started and which had nearly run out by the time we emerged back into the sunlight and heat of the Giza Plateau.

Walking up the Grand Gallery. It was almost completely dark, except for the camera flash going off in my eyes.

John walking away from one of the air passages in an interior wall of the pyramid.

John was a big proponent of the importance of the pyramid’s sound enhancement qualities (which ended up playing a part in the Resurrection plot), and I was instructed to lie in the sarcophagus in the King’s Chamber and chant an Om. Why an Om? I don’t know, but it sounded amazing. The chamber didn’t echo exactly, it just took the sound and magnified it, letting it reverberate through the solid walls for a LONG time. In that dark space, with the flashlight’s beam starting to flicker as the batteries gave out, it was eerie and also breathtaking. From my standpoint, my visit to the Great Pyramid may have been more exciting than the one paid by Pruit and Eddie in the story — but I’ll let you be the judge.

Me inside the sarcophagus in the King’s Chamber saying Om…

Me inside the sarcophagus in the King’s Chamber saying Om…

Of course, Resurrection is not actually about how the pyramids were built. That’s just a piece of the story. It’s about a clash of cultures and personalities that gave shape to ancient Egypt and threatens to change the course of our modern world. And above all it’s about Pruit, who hopefully, like other female heroes (Ripley from Alien always comes to mind) makes you think, “I want to be her, but please — I don’t want her problems!” For better or for worse, I think there’s a little bit of Pruit in all of us.

I hope you enjoy Resurrection. I certainly enjoyed writing it.

erin johnston