The case of Isis

During the 19th century, in an ancient temple directly beside Khufu's pyramid, archaeologists discovered a stele with an inscription clearly showing that the pyramid and the sphinx must be older than commonly accepted by Egyptology. The stele states that Khufu built only a small satellite pyramid, about 30 m high, and that the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx were already in place when he came to Giza.
This is very important, because it contradicts all Egyptological opinion about Khufu as the builder of the Great Pyramid. This critical evidence was first published in 1976 in the book Stairway to Heaven, by Zecharia Sitchin. Or, to put it another way … no, it wasn’t! The passages had been translated much earlier; the first version of which I’m aware appears in James Henry Breasteds Ancient Records of Egypt from 1906! So why have generations of Egyptologists ignored that evidence? Here is what Sitchin has to say about the Isis stel[1]:

Live Horus Mezdau;
  To King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Khufu,
  Life is given.
  For his mother Isis, the Divine Mother,
  Mistress of "The Western Mountain of Hathor,"
  he made (this) writing on a stela.
  He gave (her) a new sacred offering.
  He built (her) a House (temple) of stone,
  renewed the Gods that were found in her temple.
According to the inscription on the stele [...] the Great Pyramid was already standing when Khufu arrived on the scene. [...]
Khufu continues to state in his inscription that he built a pyramid for the Princess Henutsen "beside the temple of the Goddess". [...] Everything in the inscription thus matches the known facts; but the only pyramid building claim made by Khufus is that he built the small pyramid for the princess. The Great Pyramid, he states, was already there, as was the Sphinx (and, by inference, the other two pyramids as well).

Sitchin claims that this stele was classified by archaeologists as a "later fake", although Breasted has included it in his work on 4th dynasty ceremonial inscriptions, and therefore apparently believes that it is genuine[2].
It is true that the stela does not date to the time of Khufu. It describes events that happened in the past from the perspective of the individual who commissioned the stele. No archaeologist has ever concluded it to be a fake. What is fraudulent, however, is the claim of Sitchin himself. As can be seen from the original translation, Breasted tells a completely different story from the one that Sitchin gives his readers. Here is the text according to Breasted:[3]

Live the Horus: Mezer, King of Upper and Lower Egypt: Khufu, who is given life. He found the house of Isis, Mistress of the Pyramid, beside the house of the Sphinx of [Harmakhis] on the north-west of the house of Osiris, Lord of Rosta. He built his pyramid beside the temple of this goddess, and he built a pyramid for the king's-daughter Henutsen beside this temple.

Contrary to Sitchin’s claim, two pyramids are clearly mentioned: one for Khufu, and one for his daughter. And I could find not a shred of evidence on the stele for Sitchin’s claim that Khufu wrote that the Great Pyramid was already standing when he (Khufu) came to Giza.
Nor does the stele date to the time of Khufu; Breasted clearly explains the reasons for this. Phrases like "House of Isis" or "Lord of Rosta" were first used after the Twentieth Dynasty, i.e., some 1,500 years after the pyramid era. The earliest mention of Isis as "Mistress of the Pyramids", meanwhile, does not appear before the Egyptian Late Period (700 BCE)!
appear before the Egyptian Late Period (700 BCE)! The descriptive portion of the stele is not dissimilar to the sort of explanatory notes that we find today in the context of restored historic buildings, such as in the following hypothetical example:

"The tower (ca. 1350 AD) stands at the northern wall of the old monastery (ca. 1533 AD) and, at various dates, has undergone extensive rebuilding and restoration. It was built by Count XYZ....."

Descriptions such as these encompass several buildings situated geographically close to one another, even though, chronologically speaking, those individual buildings might be centuries apart. In the same way, the stele is describing locations as viewed from ca. 600 BCE, and not from ca. 2500 BCE.

And a humorous footnote: Sitchin made another mistake in his book. He wrote that Khufu founded the temple of Isis. But in the original translation we can read that he in fact found the temple. Sitchin clearly has misread the passage. But even funnier as that is, that every book I have found which contains the "Isis mystery" repeats this mistake. For more than 20 years no author cared about what is really written there!

Find or found? This led to some confusion in the last years. Some readers think that a temple FOUND by Khufu is a strong case for an older temple, but the contrary is true. The first saitic kings concentrating again on the Giza plateau really found a temple, the mortuary temple of Henutsen. But since Isis was at that time the mistress of the pyramids, and a suspicious name (Henutsen, and Henut means "mistress") was found in the temple, the maker of the stele was sure that it must have been a temple for Isis. And since Isis then was believed to be the oldest of all gods, the temple must be the oldest one on Earth.

Isis temple
Fig. 1 - Isis temple; on teh right the gap in Kafres mastaba

The picture on the left shows the remains of the Isis temple as seen from Henutsen's pyramid which is called "G1C" by Egyptologists. I never found descriptions of the location of the temple or the temple itself in any alternative book - maybe no author ever was there.
On the picture we can see a strange phenomenon: the temple runs straight across a sort of street right into a stone building. The building was even torn down partly to make room for the temple. This building is a so called "Mastaba" (named after the Arabic word for a small bench). Such mastabas were built for family members or high officials. The building definitively belongs to Khufus time, because his name is mentioned in it. But why was a building like this torn down for a temple which according to the Isis stele already was there? Another clear sign that the Isis temple is not connected with Khufus time.

Son of Khufu
Fig. 2 - Inscription "Cha-ef-Khufu"

Even better: this inscription gives the name of the tomb owner: It's the "Son of the King Khufu-Cha-ef" (goose, Khufu-name in the cartouche and the two signs below). And this was the prince name of the second king who built in Giza, Cha-ef-re (Kafre). He got this tomb at a time when he was not "planned" as king.
Successor of Khufu was Djedefre. He built his pyramid at Abu Roasch. But after only 8-11 years he died without a heir. So the unplanned Kafre entered the throne. And only at this time his old mastaba was obsolete.
It is clearly illogic to assume that Khufu tore down the tomb for his son, so it demonstrates that Khufu did not find, restored or built that temple.
Quite contrary, it demonstrates that the stele comes from a much, much later time where the details of the building order were long forgotten.
Before that only the mortuary temple for Henutsen stood there, a small 3 x 4 m cubicle at the eastern wall of the small pyramid, which was seen as the ruin of an Isis temple by the Saites.

[1 ] Sitchin, Zecharia; Stairway to heaven, p. 203
[2 ] ibd., p. 204
[3 ] Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol 1, p. 85 §180
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© for all pictures and texts: Frank Dörnenburg