Kinnamon's Fraudulent Egyptian "Masonry"

I'd walk a million miles for one of your smiles, my mummy!

Jerry Marsengill

One of the main problems of the Masonic Fraternity seems to be the brethren who cannot accept the simple fact that our order originated with a group of operative builders sometime in the middle ages. To escape the supposed stigma of being spiritual descendants of a building guild, they invent many wonderful and ingenious explanations of the origin of the Masonic institution. Not only do they endeavor to supply a supposed esoteric meaning to all of the Masonic symbols, they will believe any tale, however implausible, which tends to establish a more mystic or occult beginning for the science of Freemasonry.

Ancient Egypt, being one of the repositories of the so-called ancient mysteries, has been a fertile field for the imaginative theories of these "searchers". Naturally, men, whose chief objective is to separate the gullible from their money, have found that they can play on these false values and thereby enrich themselves.

One of the most ingenious of these frauds was the Late (Dr.) O. J. Kinnamon. It was supposed, for a long while, that the expose of Dr. Kinnamon as a fraud had settled the question of alleged Egyptian "Masonry" for all times. Recently, a new spate of articles has appeared in the Masonic press, stating the same old theories, even though disguised in new forms. The original Kinnamon articles have also been resurrected and are again being presented as factual studies. Not only is this a disservice to the entire Masonic Institution, it is practically a crime against our newly made Masons, many of whom have no other criteria by which to establish a theory of Masonry except that which they read.

The following article has recently appeared in no less than seven varied Masonic publications.

"Did the Egyptians Really Have Masonry"

"Dr. O. J. Kinnamon, one of the two survivors of the 22 who opened the Tomb of King Tutankhamen and examined its contents and who spent 20 years in work on the tombs and temples of ancient Egypt said:

Masonry did not have its beginning in Europe in the Seventeenth century. I do not know where or when the principles of Masonry had their beginning but years of archeological study in Egypt show that it came there in the days of Pharaohs, maybe from India. There are signs that it came into India from the lost continent of Mu.

"He described the unwrapping of the King's mummy and said that after many layers of fabric had been unwound from its midsection a Masonic apron was found in its proper place.

"Whether rituals of the Egyptian Mysteries were anything like what we now know as Masonry cannot be determined but it is nonetheless true that many of the symbols now employed by the Craft were used then and probably had much the same significance.

"It is recorded that when the two monoliths knows as "Cleopatra's Needles" were sent by the Khedive from Alexandria, one to the United States, and the other England, the workmen found in their original bases two ashlars, an apron, a trowel, and other evidence that something closely akin to speculative Masonry was practiced in Egypt at least fifteen centuries before the birth of Christ."

— "The Freeman." Toronto

It would seem that no intelligent Freemason could possibly be convinced by the preceding article that there could possibly be any connection between our Freemasonry and what the supposed "Doctor" alleges.

This, unfortunately, is not the case. In the "Freemasons Guide and Compendium" by Bernard E. Jones, Macoy, New York, 1950, it is stated in Chapter Thirty on page 449 that:

"From ancient days the apron has been an emblem. a symbol. as well as part of a craftsman's working-dress. It was worn by candidates in many ancient mysteries-Egyptian, Persian, Jewish, Indian, etc. — and there is an echo of such usage in the wearing of an apron at all times in lodge. Dr. O. J. Kinnamon (one of the two survivors of the group of twenty-two men who, on January 3, 1924, opened the sarcophagus of King Tutankhamen) relates that the unwrapping of the mummy of the King revealed an apron, but of course we have no ground for presuming that it was a Masonic apron. "

Now, since the falsehoods of the alleged Doctor have pervaded even what should be an absolutely authoritative treatise, one which could be relied upon at all times, the claims of the alleged Doctor should be examined in the hope of finding whether or not there is the least grain of truth in his statements.

Approximately ten years ago the Masonic Service Association issued thc following:

"Warning to Masonic Editors, Confidential"

"The recent re-appearance in Masonic periodicals of stories quoting the late Dr. O.J. Kinnamon as 'a famous Egyptologist' who 'spent twenty years in work on the tombs and temples of ancient Egypt' suggests the need for another warning about his doubtful reputation.

"The late 'Doctor' Kinnamon fraudulently asserted that he had been present at the opening of King Tutankhamen's tomb and charged lecture fees to tell the story of his experience. A similar imposter was Dr. James C. Hollenbeck. Their statements about Masonic evidence in the tombs of Pharaohs are a mixture of fact and fantasy.

"Serious scholars of ancient history can only regard Freemasonry as careless and gullible if the Fraternity uses such 'authorities' to establish Masonic 'history'. especially as it concerns ancient Egypt."

One would think that his warning would be the final word and that. after reading this, no Masonic editor, nor any Masonic speaker would give any credence to the Kinnamon allegations. Yet, in spite of this warning. about every ten years, the Kinnamon stories are again unearthed.

The supposed Masonic emblems on the obelisks can be fairly easily disposed of. From the drawings and the photographs of those alleged 'Masonic" emblems, we must draw the conclusion that a good deal of active imagination is needed to even suppose that these have any connection with the Masonic institution. In the "Builder", in the early years of the century. a number of articles by various brethren, including Thomas Ross. P.G.M. of New Zealand, and Geo. W. Baird, of the District of Columbia. tried to show that there was some Egyptian influence on Freemasonry. but most of these articles were merely hypotheses by the authors. No connection can be shown between any Egyptian symbols and any symbols which are used by the Masonic institution. Merely because a square is invested with morality by some people and again by another. this is no proof that there is a connection between the two incidents. This is also true of the supposed Chinese use of the square to teach morality. Whether or not this is true, and it would appear that most of the brethren who make this extravagant claim are not Chinese scholars, the use of the square in this context may have been borrowed from the Chinese sages, but this simple act does not make a connection with the Masonic institution, any more than our use of Shakespeare's "That undiscovered country, from whose bourne no traveler returns", makes Shakespeare a Freemason.

One might as well state that, because the example of the camel and the eye of the needle are mentioned in the New Testament, that this proves that the Shrine sewing circle existed in ancient Judea.

First the allegation that the mummy of King Tutankhamen wore a Masonic apron must be examined. The tomb of King Tutankhamen was located, discovered, opened, and explored by the Carter-Carnarvon expedition, under the direction of Howard Carter. Since Lord Carnarvon, who financed the expedition, and who was the real head of the expedition, did not mention any Masonic symbols in or near the tomb, it would be a piece of evidence that none such existed, since Carnarvon was the son of the 4th Earl of Carnarvon, who had served as pro-Grand Master of the United Gand Lodge of England. Such a man would have certainly noticed any symbols which resembled those with which he was familiar.

King Tutankhamen was an unimportant monarch, who ruled for approximately 7 years and died at the age of 18. The only significance which he has to history is the fact that his was the only royal tomb which had not previously been despoiled by grave robbers and therefore. for the first time, Carter was enabled to study the actual burial customs of the Egyptians and the manner in which they cared for their royal corpses. It would appear that if Masonic aprons were to be found in ancient Egypt, that they would have been found on one of the more important Egyptian sovereigns. and not on such an obscure monarch as Tutankhamen was. Yet, the manner of the finding of the tomb of King Tutankhamen, and the treasures contained within it, whetted the appetite of the public for knowledge of the tomb and, to a lesser extent, knowledge of archeology. Consequently, men of the type of Kinnamon were enabled to find a ready made audience for their fantasies.

Carter and A. C. Mace, who assisted him in the final examinations, wrote the first volume of a three volume set entitled "The Tomb of Tutankhamen". Carter later completed the second and third volumes. According to Carter, whose word we have no reason to doubt, the first incisions into the wrappings of the mummy of the king were made by Dr. Derry at 9:45 a.m., November 11, 1926. In the second of the volumes, i.e. "The Tomb of Tutankhamen", Vol. II, 1927, Carter describes the actual work on the body of the king thus:

"Judging from the external appearances of Tutankhamen's outer coffin, from the preservation of the royal mummies formerly discovered, and now in the Cairo museum, after all the depredations they had suffered. one was led to expect that this untouched king would be in almost perfect condition. Unfortunately, that was not the case. We found him in a terrible state. There was every proof that care had been taken in his mummification. He was swathed in masses of the finest cambric-like wrappings, he was literally smothered with every kind of ornament and amulet, he was enclosed in a solid gold coffin, but the very custom of those burial rites proved his destruction.

"The mummy, as well as the gold coffin had been subjected to consecration unguents that had been poured over them in great quantities. The unguents were of a nature of fatty matter, resin, and possibly wood pitch, originally in a liquid or semi-liquid condition. In the course of time. the composition of these unguents acted destructively upon the contents. The consolidated residue of the unguents also formed a hard black pitch like mass, which firmly stuck both the mummy and its mask to the bottom of the coffin, and no amount of legitimate force could move them.

"The mummy had to be examined as it lay 'in situ' in the coffin. Thus any systematic unwrapping for which we had hoped was rendered impossible."

Carter goes on to describe how the wrappings of the body of the King had carbonized and how there was no possible way of unwrapping them systematically. He continued to write of the mummy of the King for some thirty-three pages, over half of them devoted to describing the ornaments found with the body of the King.

Dr. Derry later contributed a monograph detailing the inspection of the body from an anatomical point of view in which he expressed the theory that Tutankhamen was the son of the heretic King Ikhnaton. He also surmised, from the degree ot ossification of the internal condyle of the humerus and the condition of the bony union of trochanter and femur and the end of the tibia, that Tutankhamen was somewhere between seventeen and eighteen years of age at death, eighteen being the nearest estimate.

Again we return to the work of Carter to describe the unwrapping of the mummy:

"The outer wrappings consisted of one large linen sheet, held in position by three longitudinal (one down the centre and one at each side) and four transverse bands of the same material, corresponding in position to the flexible gold inlaid trappings already mentioned. These linen bands had evidently been fastened to the linen covering by some such adhesive as Herodotus has described. They were doubled, and varied from 2-3/4 to 3-1/2 inches in width. The central longitudinal band beginning in the middle of the abdomen (in reality thorax) was passed under the lower layer of each of the three transverse bands, over the feet, the linen wrappings had been rubbed, the result probably of friction against the sides of the metal coffin during transport to the tomb. The mummy lay at a slight angle, suggesting that it had been subjected to some shock when lowered into the sarcophagus. There was also similar evidence to imply that the unguents had been poured over the mummy and coffin before they were lowered into the sarcophagus — the liquid being at different levels on the two sides, suggesting the tilting of the coffin.

"In consequence of the fragile and carbonized condition of the linen swathing, the whole of the exposed surface was painted over with melted paraffin wax such a temperature that, when congealed it formed a thin coating on the surface, with minimum penetration of the decayed wrappings beneath. When the wax had cooled Dr. Derry made a longitudinal incision down the centre of the outer binding to the depth penetrated by the wax, thus enabling the consolidated layer to be removed in large pieces. Nor did our troubles end here. The very voluminous under-wrappings were found to be in even worse condition or carbonization and decay. We had hope, by removing a thin outer layer of bandage from the mummy, to free it at the points of adhesion to the coffin so that it might be removed. but in this we were again disappointed. It was found that the line beneath the mummy and the body itself had been so saturated by the unguents whlch formed a pitch-like mass at the bottom of the coffin and held it embedded so firmly that it was impossible to raise it except at risk of great damage.

"Even after the greater part of the bandages had been carefully removed, the consolidated material had to be chiseled away from beneath the limbs and trunk before it was possible to raise the King's remains."

From this we can plainly see that there was no possibility of there being any type of "Masonic" apron on the body of King Tutankhamen. There is one slight reference to an apron in the work of Howard Carter, which, by the use of liberal imagination, and by a person who wished to intentionally deceive others, might be made to appear that such a garment was on the body. Carter speaks of the garment in this form:

"Encircling the waist, the two front ends as low as the hips. was a narrow chased gold girdle, to which, in all probability, belong a ceremonial apron." Now, if this type of garment was indeed originally upon the body, and we must note that Carter merely admits the probability of the same, rather than being an emblem of any society, these were merely the dress of the Egyptian monarch and had no special esoteric significance. Whether, or not, the apron (if such we can actually call it) appears, it appears merely as a garment and not especially as any type of symbol.

The Oriental Institute of Chicago, whose director, James Henry Breasted, was present at the opening of the tomb, gives us the information that we sought as to the presence of Dr. Kinnamon and as to the possibility of there being such an apron:

"Due to a discontinuity of curators over the years, we do not have Dr. Boyce's files here in the Museum Office. I have, however, referred to a recent book on the tomb of Tutankhamen by Christine Desroches-Nobelcourt, and also to Carter's own accounts of the excavation. They include Carter, Lord Carnarvon, his daughter Lay Herbert, Callender, Davis, Ibraham Effendi of the Antiquities Dept.; as the official opening Lady Allendy, Abd el Aziz Bey Yehia, Mohamed Bey Fahmy, Mr. Tottenham, and Pierre Lacau were also present. Mr. Kinnamon's name seems to be nowhere included in these accounts as being present at the opening of the tomb or involved in subsequent work. The mummy itself was encased in several coffins, wrapped in a linen shroud and wrapped in bandages. There is no reference to a kilt, as Egyptians are sometimes portrayed wearing, which is the only thing that could approximate a Masonic apron . . . Sincerely, Susan J. Allen."

In searching for any connection with the elusive Doctor Kinnamon and the tomb of King Tutankhamen, over 60 of the public libraries in the major cities of the United States were consulted. None of them have any record of an O. J. Kinnamon, nor of any Dr. Kinnamon. We have also checked the current listings of all periodical literature as well as those of the past. In no place does the name of Dr. O. J. Kinnamon appear, either as a participant, nor as a commentator. Were he such a famous Egyptologist, as our Masonic editors of the various magazines would have us believe. he would have certainly published something, or one of the other explorers would have made mention of him. To further explore this, no books have ever been published bearing the name of Kinnamon as either author or co-author.

In Howard Carter's own listing of those present at the opening of the tomb Dr. Kinnamon's name does not appear. Carter states that those who were present at the time were: Lord Carnarvon; Lady Evelyn Herbert; H. E. Abd el Halim Pasha Suleman, Minister of Public Works; M. Lacau, Director General of the Service of Antiquities; Sir William Garstin; Sir Carles Aust; Mr. Lythgoe, Curator of the Egyptian Department of the Metropolitan Museum, New York; Professor James Henry Breasted, Director of the Oriental Institute, Chicago; Dr. Alan Gardiner; Mr. Winlock; the Honorable Mervyn Herbert; the Honorable Ricahrd Bethell; Mr. Engleback, Chief Inspector of the Department of Antiquities; three Egyptian Inspectors of the Department of Antiquities; the Representative of the Government Press Bureau; and the members of the staff; about 20 persons in all. The staff includes A. C. Mace; Callender; Burton, the photographer; Hall and Hauser, the draftsmen; and Lucas.

Further evidence that Kinnamon was not present is contained in a letter from Lindsley F. Hall, the Carter expeditions draftsman, to Brother Carle H. Kummer, of New York on August 16, 1966:

"I must say that I never heard of Dr. O. J. Kinnamon. He certainly was not one connected with any work at the original opening of the tomb. During the years that followed he was probably in Egypt. but could hardly have had any official status. I wonder whom he considered the other survivor is. Carter does not mention Dr. Kinnamon in his first Tutankhamen volume. You can see the index. I wonder if the 'Scottish Rite News' mentioned all 22 openers — no, of course not! With the possible exception of some native diggers hired by Carter, I know of no one who survives of the original party, — except yours truly."

Endeavors to contact Brother Hall at this time have proved unsuccessful. Apparently, if he is still living, he is no longer in the Portland, Oregon area. The Kummer manuscript obtained from the Masonic Service Association, caused a problem in research since C. W. Ceram in "Gods Graves, and Scholars" Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1958 had written on page 204: "When Lady Elizabeth Carnarvon died in February 1929, Howard Carter remained the only surviving co-worker". Following Carter's death in 1939, this would have appeared to have ended the active list of the tomb openers, were it not that Brother Kummer had known of Brother Hall.

It would appear that no knowledge of any Dr. Kinnamon was had by any of the workers on the tomb of King Tutankhamen, not that Dr. Kinnamon was ever anywhere near the vicinity of the tomb. His statements must, then, be dismissed as intentional falsehoods, whose primary purpose were the enrichment of Dr. Kinnamon, by allowing him to exploit the gullibility of those Freemasons who will grasp at any straw in endeavoring to establish some type of connection between our institution and the ancient mysteries.

As one final thought: we have been unable to ascertain with any certainty just what the ceremonies of the Masonic institution were, so far as concerns ritualistic work, etc., at the time of the founding of the premier Grand Lodge. Why, then, do we have the enormous conceit which is necessary to make us believe that we are able to state what the ceremonies of the so called ancient mysteries were. There may be vestiges of old religions. etc., contained within the ceremonies of the Masonic institution, but if any items of similarity appear they appear when the philosophy of Freemasonry and that of the various ancient religions impinge upon one another, not in the finding of a supposed "Masonic" apron, or finding of a so-called 'lodge room' of the ancient mysteries". Probably, the endeavors of many to determine the truth of these claims are doomed to failure, since most of us believe exactly what we wish to believe, documentary evidence to the contrary. It will, no doubt, be within the next ten or so years that Doctor Kinnamon's "Masonic" mummy will rise again.