Since then Neil has worked on some 20 sites in the United States, as well others in Canada, Peru and Bolivia. He is a prominent member of the Early Sites Research Society, whose aims are the study of foreign influences on Pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas and evidence of early man on the continent. Recently, he appeared in the NBC documentary entitled 'The Mysterious Origins of Man'.
From Tiahuanaco to the Giza Plateau
I introduced Neil as a real life Indiana Jones, a maverick American archaeologist who is prepared to go to any length to find the truth of the past. In an amusing style that had the audience in stitches, this pony-tailed man in his fifties bulldozed through a series of theories regarding his work at Tiahuanaco in Bolivia, Giza in Egypt and La Venta on Mexico's Gulf coast.
At Tiahuanaco, Neil was invited by a television company to check out the findings of German archaeologist Arthur Posnansky who in the 1940s concluded that its famous Kalasasaya Court marked the rising of the sun at the solstices as they would have been observed around 15,000 BC (later dropped to 10,000 BC). In order to assess this claim, Neil had first to be convinced that the rectangular enclosure, marked out by roughly-hewn megaliths interspersed by dry-stone walling, was a solsticial marker. Certainly, it was orientated east towards the rising sun at the equinoxes, and the positioning of four megaliths in the eastern wall, two each side of the gateway, implied that they served a special function. Having determined that the megaliths in the north-east and south-east corners were, respectively, 23.5 degrees north and south of east, this suggested they were solsticial markers, since this was within the parameter of solsticial risings in previous ages. The exact angle of the solsticial risings, north and south of east, varies in accordance with a 41,000-year wobble of the earth known as the Obliquity of the Ecliptic. Currently the summer and winter sunrises are 28 degrees north and south of east respectively, and if we take into account the line of visibility from the western end of the Kalasasaya Court (defined carefully by Neil Steede) then it would mean that when the solsticial sun reached 24 degrees either north or south of east it would be visible above the enclosure. However, not only were the modern solsticial sunrises out of kilter with the megaliths markers at the corners of the enclosure, but Neil showed that an inner rectangular wall had been constructed at a much later date in order to allow the observer to once again see the solsticial sunrises over the eastern corners of the enclosure.
If the original corner megaliths were solsticial markers, as seems likely from the orientation of the Kalasasaya Court and the insertion of two further stones in the east wall to mark the cross-quarter days, then what does this tell us about the age of the earliest enclosure? Well, it implies that it was built at a time when the solsticial sunrises would have appeared over the corner markers. The difference between 24 and 23.5 degrees north and south of east might not seem of any special consequence. However, when we take into consideration the slow shift of the sun across the 41,000-year cycle, it implies a time period in the region of 9,000 years. Since conventional thinking places the construction of the final phase of Tiahuanaco in the region of 2,000 years ago, this suggests an original date of construction around 9000 BC. This time-scale is within 1,000 years of Arthur Posnansky's own calculations made some 60 years ago. Yet Neil feels, for his own reasons, that the true foundation date of the Kalasasaya Court is nearer 7000-5000 BC.
As Neil himself has pointed out to me in conversation, this does not necessarily mean that the city of Tiahuanaco was constructed any earlier than conventional archaeology suggests, only that the site had various building phases. Indeed, the earliest of these have still to be investigated fully.
From Tiahuanaco Neil turned his attentions to the Giza plateau. He proposed that the Grand Gallery of the Great Pyramid was designed to incorporate some kind of hydraulic system involving water being used to float stones up to higher levels during the construction of the monument. The King's Chamber would also have been filled with water via the so-called air shafts which link to the outside. Neil also spoke of the predominance of regular geometry involving the angle of 26.5 degrees in connection with the Giza pyramids and their satellites, something which is not found in connection with the Sphinx. Only if sightings are made from the head of the Sphinx can the monument be linked into the pre-existing geometry of the pyramids. He further added that the mastaba fields bore no mathematical correlation whatsoever to either the pyramids or the Sphinx, a conundrum which he felt implied that they were even later still.
I listened carefully to everything he had to say about his proposed landscape geometry for Giza, and its implications for the dating of the monuments. The greatest argument against his theories is the geographical placement of the three pyramids in accordance with terrain and access to quarried materials. However, the work of Colin Reader has shown that there is every reason to conclude that the causeway which stretches between the Second Pyramid and the Valley Temple of Khafre was present before the quarrying began for materials to be used in the construction of the Great Pyramid. If this is so, we must also take into consideration the possibility that the three main pyramids were constructed in accordance with a pre-existing groundplan involving the causeway, and possibly other structures such as the Mortuary Temple of Khafre and the Sphinx Temple. Beyond this I can make no real comment on the subject.
Neil went on to talk about the positioning of the pyramids and other structures in relationship to the celestial sky, before finishing his lecture with a review of the recent work he has conducted in connection with the famous Olmec Heads from La Venta on the Gulf coast of Mexico. He has found that carved on to their surfaces is an unvowelled form of Ogham, or Ogam, a writing system which although originating in the British Isles, has been found at various cave sites in the southern United States. A translation of the script on the Olmec Heads has yet to be determined. However, the implication is that there was either contact with the indigenous peoples of the southern United States who used this same writing system, or that there was some kind of contact with a culture, or cultures, who used Ogham in the ancient world.
As Neil admitted himself, he doesn't have all the answers yet, although his enthusiastic approach to the many areas of study to which he is involved at the present time promise major breakthroughs in the coming years. From the rapturous applause he received at the end of his lecture, it is clear that Neil was a hit with the audience. We wish him well with his future research wherever it takes him.
In my closing address I pointed out that all of the lecturers at the Questing Conference were chosen because it was felt that they had something important to contribute to our understanding of the past. Hopefully, their inspiration would encourage the audience to pursue their own lines of inquiry in order that one day they might be the authors of the next generation of books and articles that challenge the orthodox views of human evolution and history.