Antiquities minister says presidential hopeful’s claim doesn’t deserve response, while another official points out that ‘this man is not an archaeologist’.
Egyptian antiquities officials have scoffed at claims by the Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson that Egypt’s ancient pyramids were not built as pharaonic tombs but used to store grain.
“Does he even deserve a response? He doesn’t,” said the antiquities minister, Mamdouh el-Damaty, on the sidelines of a news conference about recent thermal scans of the pyramids that could reveal hidden tombs.
Carson’s comments have received little attention in Egypt – where people are accustomed to accepted expert views about the 4,500-year-old structures – but have drawn interest in the United States where the retired neurosurgeon has jumped to the top of the crowded Republican presidential field.
Last week Carson stood by his belief that Egypt’s great pyramids were built by the Biblical figure Joseph to store grain, an assertion dismissed by experts who say it’s accepted science that they were tombs for pharaohs.
Mahmoud Afifi, Egypt’s head of ancient antiquities, said Carson’s comments were similar to other inaccurate theories about the pyramids, including that they were built by Atlanteans from a mythical lost continent.
“A lot of people are trying to prove that the pyramids weren’t built for burials,” said Afifi. “Maybe they’re comments used for publicity like that man who’s not an archaeologist and says they stored grain, and I don’t know what that was based on.”
Carson has expounded his “personal theory” that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain. He referred to the Old Testament story of Joseph predicting famine and advising the pharaoh to store surplus food.
“Some people believe in the Bible like I do and don’t find that to be silly at all, and believe that God created the Earth and don’t find that to be silly at all,” Carson said. “The secular progressives try to ridicule it every time it comes up and they’re welcome to do that.”