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182 of 184 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2006
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 just that much more intriguing. Before the Pharaohs is an example of the latter. Almost fatally hindered by an extremely slow and boring first sixty pages, the book picks up steam and becomes a fascinating look at the secrets of the pyramids, the Sphinx, and Egypt in the time before recorded history begins. 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 worked to reel me in.

Malkowski begins the book by looking at the Sphinx. "Aha!" I thought. "Starting at the top and then working his way down." No, actually, he didn't. 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, both via wind and water, could have happened in the period of time estimated. This is fine in itself, but half-way through the chapter I just wanted to grab him by the throat and say "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 that 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 that 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, as he tells us that the Sahara 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, however, everything turned 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, and he says 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 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 on 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's presenting.

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.

David Roy
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2007
I had just come back from a trip to Egypt when I ordered this book. This book is for those genuinely interested in delving into the roots of an ancient civilisation. Its not a novel - so please don't insult the author by judging it as "slow" as has been stated in another review. Its an oustandingly well-researched, fascinating and thought-provoking study for those who have so often wondered about the origins and amazing feats of engineering of the ancient Egyptians. Malkowski is a meticulous writer who takes enormous trouble to try to clarify the origins our human history and the links between ancient civilisations and gives us the chance to make up our own minds. He forces nothing upon the reader - but dangles fascinating and seductive pieces of information which will leave you wishing for more.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2007
this book has an incredible amount of fascinating information, but it is not organized well. The writing does not grab your attention, but rather, you have to force yourself to find the interesting material. It can get a bit "Von Daniken" at times-- especially the chapter about the pyramid being a power plant, but overall it is a good, solid, informative book that challenges the typical archeological canon we are all handed. If you are willing to wade through it, you will find info that is worth while.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2007
This book is about the origins of the ancient Egyptian culture. It includes such issues as the erosion derived age of the Sphinx, the possible use of Khufu's Pyramid as a power plant, the Mediterranean valley culture theory, a Mayan origin speculation, a general stone age Mother Goddess society, the "Osiris" legend told via numerology (i.e. not really via general mysticism) and some other issues referenced. Over all, the inclusion and lack of topics appears to be quite arbitrary, resulting from the specific books the author had read rather coincidentally. As such, he focuses on these some half a dozen books, some of which are not that incredibly recent. Rarely does it become clear, wether the author/compiler actually agrees with the books he is recounting. Occasionally, he is even contradicting "himself" this way, apparently at least some times involuntarily. The very detailed start on the age of the Sphinx starts promising, actually updating that debate, not only re-narrating the respective other book, referring to the counter arguments and counter counter findings. At other times, the author failed to update his sources.

For example the 19th (!) century book on the supposed Mayan origin of Egyptian culture. He didn't even include the 1970s classic "update" They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America, which is actually reversing the connection and that much more convincing. A natural reversing, as Egyptian culture gets dated ever more ancient, while Mayan culture stays as young as it is by comparison. It would have to be the preceding Olmecs to start with, but even they are too young. He puts that theory in question at the end of that chapter, yet, he is not really doing that issue a service either. Even by just referencing other books, this doesn't get clear in every instance and most certainly it doesn't excuse not correcting wrong assumptions or putting them forward himself. In this example, a Mayan queen's name, "icin", meaning "Little Sister", would have morphed into "Isis" of Egypt. The meaning doesn't make any sense in the Egyptian context to begin with, but the major flaw is that the Egyptians never called Auset/Aset/Ast etc. "Isis". That was the much later Greek rendering of her name... Referenced Thor Heyerdahl proved the crossing of the ocean(s) all right. TO America, not FROM, which is a difference in chosen re-built ancient vessels and currents. The letter "m" is supposed to derive from a Mayan version. However, in reality, it is clearly derived from the hieroglyphic Egyptian word for "sea". In other European languages the sea is still called "mare", "Meer" etc. The "m" represented the wavy seawater surface.

Yet Malkowski is doing a better and more sound job than the in some respects quite similar Technology of the Gods: The Incredible Sciences of the Ancients by David Hatcher Childress. The latter is more concerned with sensationalism. Which becomes obvious, when both books extensively directly or indirectly quote the same book, The Giza Power Plant : Technologies of Ancient Egypt. Hatcher headlines (and nothing else in this matter) that an H-bomb destroyed the supposed machinery inside the pyramid, while Malkowski elaborates that by that the gas hydrogen is referred to, which supposedly was pyramid-inherently used for chemical-physical processes, potentially igniting during an earthquake. Though I have to say, as intriguing as this theory sounds in general, as quoted in both books it lacks convincing evidence, but most certainly no amount of speculation. Which is always necessary to propel us forward in eventual knowledge - knowing that some speculation on the way will turn out to have been just that. I still haven't read, what exactly was supposed to get powered by in ancient Egypt and why any other pyramid canNOT be used for this theory...

Also the Mediterranean valley culture theory is more convincingly presented in "Before the Pharaos". However, not fully. There are significant differences between the Strait of Gibraltar and the Bosporus the author is carelessly equating. The former wasn't existing the last time more than 5.3 million years ago (that's more than 26 times the mount of time humans dwell on Earth). It's respective (dis)connections are a result of plate tectonics. The gap is 13 km (8 miles) at it's narrowest point and the ground level is plate edge ocean floor, between 300 and 900 meters (some 1,000 - 3,000 feet) deep. The Bosporus on the other hand didn't exist before the end of the last more severe ice age: Melting ice made a river bed deeper and wider, then the rising sea level pushed through that river from the other way. It is 30 km (some 19 miles) long, but at places only 700 m (some 2,300 feet) wide and only 36 - 124 m (118 - 407 feet) deep. It is NOT representing the boundaries of plates, as the CURRENT European-Asian borders are nothing, but political constructs. True is that the sea level was much lower and as culture(s) usually settle at ports, there are a lot of ruins under water now. (Which will be the same case scenario with our culture soon.) The scenario illustrated in this book is highly exaggerated. In reality, the already existing Mediterranean cultures stretched a bit further into what today is under water. There wasn't this much land space during human times for an entirely different culture in some sort of huge valley. Under water ruins are true for other places on Earth, such as in western India. Flood stories are true not only for the selectively depicted "Old Known World" societies in this book, but also e.g. for ancient Australia. It may have been a tsunami of any possible source (earth quake, vulcano, meteor or: melted continental ice water as in a huge sea like lake breaking into the ocean at once, such as happened via Canada). In other words: We should stay with the existing land masses for theories of ancient cultures or if not, then at least address the geological evidence such as in this paragraph to make such theories at least potentially viable.

By the way, there are ancient(-derived) maps in existance which must have been (originally) made during the very ancient times this book is talking about. So yes, those very ancients were much more sophisticated than their descendents. Those maps indeed depict a lower sea level - one that is consistent with what would have to be expected, i.e. no wild exaggerations. Read and see Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings: Evidence of Advanced Civilization in the Ice Age.

There are books by specialists on special issues. They know, what they are talking about and the progressive ones undertake career killer science projects themselves with an open mind to gain ever more knowledge. And yes, once in a while, it is necessary for someone to put all those books in a holistic picture. This book is neither by such a specialist, nor a researcher other than researching books and neither really succeeding in synthesizing the latter. Which becomes clear at several points when the author of 2006 uses outdated sources with NO updates. For example, he is writing about the Venus of Dolní Vìstonice. Supposedly in Czechoslovakia. But that is only true from the time his source book was written. That country doesn't exist anymore. Today, it's Czechia and the town's new name is Okres Bøeclav. Yet, when the Venus was found, the country was Moravia. This may not really matter, however, the following does: The author entangles himself helplessly with the Homo sapiens issue. According to his respective source books he is correct in some chapters, but not in others. There must have been an old source, apparently still addressing a supposed "Homo sapiens neanderthalensis". Today, we know that the Neanderthals are a bit further related to us. But the confusion in this book arises, when the author avers e.g. that Homo sapiens first appeared in Europa, later in Africa. The Neanderthals (by the way stretching into geological Africa, i.e. today's "Middle East") really appeared in Europe, however, they were a variation only of Homo erectus, first appearing in Africa. Today's humans (Homo sapiens sapiens, sometimes abbreviated by dropping one "sapiens") appeared first in Africa and moved into Europe much later as well. The reader has to know all this and more in order not to jump to terribly wrong conclusions by reading this book. Sometimes the author may have phrased his sentences sloppy enough only to involuntarily insinuate a quite Eurocentrist (and wrong) picture, as in other chapters he is less confusing about this.

Speaking of which, occasionally, Malkowski enters the racist path. Describing some facial features as delicate, some skeletal structures as graceful. As in opposition to "robust and archaic" (we all know that this is still a certain euphemism), or the "more primitive human type". Guess, who is meant respectively! He is talking about races, uses the N-word and indeed combines that into the "N****** race". (In reality, there aren't any races and skull measurements should be handled with care.) That gives food for thought for a potential, maybe involuntary bias influencing his theories.

The bottom line is: Theories, even speculations are important, yet they should be worked through better than in this book, amount to more than a few circumstantial evidence scenarios and be void of folk etymology. Neither is the book well structured nor consistently up to date for 2006. The most important map provided does show hardly any locality described, which would have been especially helpfull as these are sites not easily found elsewhere. Yet, some parts were interesting to read and incite further research.

For an essential overstanding in the ancient ancients being more sophisticated than the later ancients, one doesn't have to search for cultures as of yet unknown and entirely buried beneath sea level, but look into the issue of cyclical/spiralling history (instead of linear in terms of progress, with a catastrophe). For that read Lost Star of Myth And Time.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2007
The previous reviewer had a very reasonable complaint that the book was difficult to wade through because of the sheer volume of material devoted to seemingly irrelevant evidence. I would counter that many of the other books which delve into the prehistory of Egypt are sorely lacking in evidence. Saying something like "Aliens from Atlantis founded Egypt" would need a LOT of evidence to back it up, but a book which claims that would likely never go there. All of Malkowski's evidence may be difficult to wade through, but IMHO it's necessary if you're looking for a solid argument rather than a flight of fancy.

Malkowski's book is also one of the few that begins to make sense of the mysterious prehistory of ancient Egypt and its environs (like Nabta Playa). His conclusion that a Cro-Magnon civilization preceded that of Egypt by thousands of years would be a flight of fancy, were it not for the volume of evidence he presents.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2007
The book is well written and very thought provoking. Seems well balanced considering the non-orthodox conclusions made by the author. If you have an interest, like I do, in speculative prehistory, a la Graham Handcock, then you will enjoy this book. I like that the author, unlike some, does not sweepingly dismiss conventional science and orthodox views and therefore does not come off as a fringe lunatic.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2008
How old is the Sphinx? What was the Great Pyramid designed to be? I have never heard of Nabta Playa, but why would an astrophysicist claim that its megaliths were designed as a star map depicting the movements of the constellation Orion? And, over a 10,000 year period! These questions and more are addressed in this book, not in a dogmatic, close-minded way but honest and to the point.

The Sphinx, for example, according to what I learned in school was made at the beginning of ancient Egypt's civilization, 5,000 years ago. However, according to geology, the erosion indicates that it is much older. Not being gullible, I thought this was a little `out there.' However, the author surveys various erosion rates from scientific sources and shows that if the Sphinx is only 5,000 years old the force of water would have to match that of Niagara Falls in order erode the Sphinx and the surrounding rock.

Another example, the Great Pyramid, is said to have been a tomb. But a tomb explanation falls way short of explaining the unique design of its internal chambers. As he does earlier in the work of John West and Robert Schoch in the case of the Sphinx, here, the author supports the work of Christopher Dunn and believes the Great Pyramid was a machine designed to produce energy. (If you want to read more on this subject get `The Giza Power Plant' and `Seed of Knowledge-Stone of Plenty.')

This book is a big picture approach bringing together points of view from various researchers to paint a picture of prehistory. Books are my business so I read a lot of books. This is one of the best, and to the best of my knowledge the only digest of West and Schoch's theory of a prehistoric Sphinx. John West himself called this book "thoroughly enjoyable" and that the author makes "daunting and technical information accessible and readable." I agree.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 2, 2014
As others have pointed out, EMs books tend to be compilations of others research and often the sources being used are either inaccurate, or hysterial assumptions performed by others in the earlier days of archeology.

Case in point, this book leans heavily upon the conclusions of Le Plongeon and the supposed contacts between them (via Queen Moo) and the Egyptians. Le Plongeon even goes as far to assert that the knowledge of Atlantis came to the Mayans and THEN to Egypt. Ignoring complete historical inconsistencies and impossibilities Le Plongeon continued unabated. (Nevermind that the direction of writing between the Mayans and the Egyptians is completely reversed as one kindergarten clue.) EM takes Le Plongeons thoroughly discredited conclusions and entrenches them deeply, and repeatedly, into this book.

Like I said, this is not an original work, no original synthesis. EM just quotes and cites from Le Plongeon, Chris Dunn, Schoch, and so on. You can get all the information first hand from there books. There is increasingly less value today from books that just condense a few hours of Internet time and present nothing new. This is one of those books.

This book also reminds me more of stories of ancient civilizations going around at Le Plongeons time. Back then, before any discipline was injected into archeology, any wild story was as good or better than an accurate one. Be prepared to do some heavy filtering if you are going to read through this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2014
The author has basically gathered and commented on other people's research and writings. I do not put much stock in people selling a book based on their opinions of someone else's work, especially when I can make up my own mind what I believe after reading the original researchers documents. If you just want to get your feet wet in alternative historical theory, this is an okay place to begin.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2008
A well written, easy to read manuscript. This book takes an expanded view of the many pervasive cultures and peoples which eventually led to the formation of Egypt. I would recommend this book to anyone desiring a better understanding of Egypt's pre-history.
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