Was the Saqqara Bird an Ancient Egyptian Plane?
Discovery of the Saqqara Bird
The Saqqara Bird is a historical object often referred to as an out-of-place artifact, or Oopart, for short. An Oorpart is an artifact that has been dated and known to belong to a historical, archaeological, or paleontological period, but its presence challenges conventional historical chronology because it displays too advanced a technology that was not known to have existed at the time. Possibly suggesting human presence at a time before humans were known to have existed.
Ooparts can also suggest contact between different civilizations that are hard to account for with conventional historical understanding.
The Saqqara Bird has caused a lot of controversies in the Archaeological world since it was first discovered in 1898 during the excavation of the Pa-di-Imen tomb in Saqqara, Egypt.
The Saqqara Bird posits an uncertainty. It is and it is not an out-of-place artifact depending on which leading historian or school of thought you want to listen to. Perhaps the most intriguing speculation is that the “Bird” might instead be a monoplane, and therefore show that an understanding of the principles of aviation existed many centuries before such are generally believed to have first been discovered.
Characteristics of the Saqqara Bird
The Saqqara Bird is a man-made artifact made out of sycamore wood. It is an object in the shape of a bird, although many people claim it closely resembles a model of a monoplane.
It has a wingspan of 180 mm (7.1 in) and weighs 39.120 grams. It dates to approximately 200 BCE and is housed Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo.
There have been many controversies surrounding the Saqqara Bird. The theories currently established in Academia are as follows:
The Saqqara Bird is likely to be a ceremonial object because it is modelled after a falcon, which is the most important and common bird represented in Egyptian Mythology; such as the myths of Ra and Horus.
Another claim of the Saqqara Bird is that it was likely a toy for an elite child. It is speculated that it might have functioned as a sort of boomerang, given that at the time such technology was common and well understood in Ancient Egypt.
A Weather Vane
Other speculations are that the Saqqara Bird could have functioned as a weather vane. However, according to renowned architect Dawoud Khalil Messiha, son of Dr Messiha, who continued his studies, this theory falls flat on its face due to the lack of holes or markings in the model that would have served as means of hanging it. He noted that the only hole that exists on the bottom of the Saqqara Bird is a recent one and was made by the officials at the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo to fix the model on a stick.
Lastly, another established theory is that people sometimes see the Saqqara bird as an aeroplane due to pareidolia. Which is the tendency to see random objects as recognizable shapes or patterns, giving them a more meaningful interpretation where there is none. For instance, seeing a face in a cloud formation, or hearing secret messages in recorded music when is played backwards or at different speeds.
In 1983, Egyptologist Dr Khalil Messiha speculated that the Saqqara Bird “represents a diminutive of an original monoplane still present in Saqqara.” He went on to say that the Saqqara Bird most likely could function as a glider if it had a horizontal tailplane, which he “suppose[d] was lost.”
The model has no legs and its wings are set at an angle that Messiha sees as comparable to that of a modern plane, which he considered an attempt to create aerodynamic lift.
He also noted how the Egyptians often placed miniaturized representations of their technology in their tombs. Messiha also pointed out that other models of birds housed in the Museum of Cairo differ significantly from the Saqqara Bird.
This is not altogether far-fetched, given how the Ancient Egyptians had the knowledge to some extent of sail constructions, mathematics, Astronomy, Medicine and many other sciences.
However, none of these claims are accepted by mainstream Egyptologists.
Is It a Bird? Is It a Plane?
The mystery of whether the Saqqara Bird is just a bird or an aeroplane depends significantly on who you ask and which school of thought you are more partial to. There are theories both pro and against it, and both sides have their own evidence to back up such claims.
On the one hand, we have the claims of Dr Messiha (and many others like him), stating that he built a model of the Saqqara Bird that was six times larger than the original and was given a horizontal tailplane to act as a stabilizer, which Messiha believed is a missing part of the original model, to test for aerodynamic efficiency
On the other hand, we have other experiments, such as those of Martin Gregorie, who ‘has designed, built and flown Free Flight gliders for more than 30 years’. After testing this replica, Gregorie concluded: “the Saqqara Bird never flew. It is totally unstable without a tailplane…Even after a tailplane was fitted the glide performance was disappointing.” He added: “the Saqqara Bird was probably made as a child’s toy or a weather vane.”
Simon Sanderson, an aerodynamics expert, along with engineers and cutting-edge technology from the University of Liverpool, England, had this to say on the matter:
Some people have suggested that the human past might have somehow been altered or hidden and that indeed other advanced civilizations rose and fell previous to our known history. And that in fact, there were ancient flying machines as evidenced not just by the Saqqara Bird, but also by the hieroglyphs carved in the Temple of Abidos, and the flying Quimbaya ‘Jets’ of Colombia.
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