Ancient Egyptians lived near Woy Woy: fact or fantasy?

ACADEMICS, archaeologists and other authorities believe Dr Hans-Dieter von Senff crosses the line from fact to fantasy in claiming Egyptians lived in the hills overlooking Woy Woy about 5000 years ago.

Despite precious little scholarly or government support from anywhere between Cairo and Sydney, the self-described ‘‘amateur Egyptologist’’ from Swansea is sticking to his theory.

The 72-year-old issued a media release  nationally this week announcing the discovery of a mysterious stone chamber in a bushland setting at Kariong.

The site is already notorious due to about  100 hieroglyphic-style carvings on two sandstone walls.

About 15 metres long,  the parallel walls feature depictions of owls, chickens, dogs, boats and stick men, among other things.

 ‘‘This chamber is above ground, virtually undetected, hence no photo of it existed until today,’’ Dr von Senff’s release said.

He also informed Environment and Heritage Minister Robyn Parker of the chamber, which he suspects is part of a yet-to-be-discovered ancient burial chamber.

 The NSW government doesn’t subscribe to any walk or talk like Egyptians. 

Taking advice from Professor Nageeb Kanawati of Macquarie University and rock art conservation specialist David Lambert, the National Parks and Wildlife Service ‘‘believes that the hieroglyphs are not genuine and were constructed in the early 1980s’’.

 Dr von Senff, a bus driver, graduated from the University of Newcastle with a PhD in 2006. 

His doctoral thesis dealt with the problems of German reunification from a historical and literary perspective.

He told the Newcastle Herald the 5 by 10 metre stone configuration was further evidence   ancient Egyptians  visited the Brisbane Waters National Park.

‘‘It’s mind-blowing,’’ Dr von Senff said. 

‘‘The reason no one has found it [the chamber] is because no one has been looking for it.’’  

Dr von Senff, who became interested in Egyptology in 1959, is not the first person to have been captivated by the area, which is also home to sacred Aboriginal artwork.

While rumours  of Egyptian-style carvings have existed since the 1920s, they were first formally noted by the National Parks and Wildlife Service in 1983.

The area has since attracted all sorts wanting to debate the history-or-hoax argument. 

Among  them are researcher Paul White, who produced a  documentary video series and a YouTube presentation by spiritual medium Valerie Barrow.

UK-based actor and historian Tony Robinson went out of his way to check out the site during the production of a History Channel  episode on Australia’s pre-European history. 

Robinson’s guide was Central Coast environmentalist Jake Cassar.

‘‘I grew up on the Woy Woy Peninsula and have heard all of the stories,’’ Mr Cassar said.

‘‘I’ve got an open mind to it. I’m not saying they are not the real deal but the more stories that come out trying to debunk the site’s authenticity, the more fascinating it gets.’’

But in Dr von Senff’s mind there can only be one explanation.

He has no time for the widely held belief that the carvings were made at some time between the 1920s and 1970s, possibly by students or returned servicemen.

‘‘Australia was discovered in the Third Dynasty [about 5000 years ago]. The Egyptians landed at Cape York Peninsula and moved south,’’ Dr von Senff said.

Much of his work has been based on the research of Queensland Egyptologist Ray Johnson, who claimed to have done a transcription of the Kariong hieroglyphics.

According to Mr Johnson, who died in 2004, the carvings mark the burial site of Lord Nefer-ti-ru.

Nefer-ti-ru, a member of the Egyptian royal family, is said to have died in the area while leading an expedition with his brother, Nefer-Djeseb, along Australia’s east coast.

Dr von Senff’s research has resulted in his own unpublished book,  Ancient Egyptians in Australia: The Kariong Glyphs, a Proto-Egyptian Script Deciphered.

Though his ideas on pre-European history might be radical, he is not alone.

Byron Bay-based indigenous historian Steven Strong also believes in the Kariong site’s authenticity.

‘‘I share most of Hans’s views, but not all of them,’’ Mr Strong said. 

He  does not hold formal history qualifications but has discussed  Australia’s history extensively with Aboriginal elders. 

‘‘They [the Egyptians] came here 5000 years ago as part of a sacred sabbatical. 

‘‘They wanted to exchange knowledge with the Aborigines, but they learnt a lot more than they brought.’’

The exchange, Mr Strong said, continued up to about 400 years ago when the Egyptian visitors were caught stealing sacred stones from the desert. ‘‘The Aborigines tracked them all the way to Balmoral Beach in Sydney and killed them,’’ he said.

That’s all too much for Associate Professor Boyo Ockinga from Macquarie University’s school of ancient history.   

‘‘I saw them a few years ago; there aren’t any connected texts there that make any sense at all,’’ he said.  

‘‘People just don’t want to believe they are fake; they want this connection with ancient Egypt to be true, but unfortunately it’s not.’’ 

Professional archaeologist and PhD student Denis Gojack shares  Professor  Ockinga’s frustration.

‘‘The reason this interests me is because for the last 200 years there’s been a minority of people who believe the orthodox history of Australia is wrong,’’ he said.

‘‘These people aren’t dumb, but they find bits of evidence and misinterpret them. 

‘‘For me as an archaeologist I see part of my job as explaining history to people. 

‘‘I’m interested in why some people don’t get it or have a very different take on it.

‘‘I’d love as much as anyone to find a real Egyptian pyramid, but sadly what has been put forward doesn’t cut it.’’

Kariong carry on: Theories behind the bush hieroglyphs

*  Ancient Egyptians carved them about 5000 years ago. 

*  World War I Diggers recreated the images from  what they had seen in the Middle East. 

* High school students copied them from textbooks in the late 1970s.

  * A Yugoslavian immigrant with a fascination for Egyptology  made them  in the early 1980s. He was  ‘‘caught’’   and had  tools confiscated.

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