by Stephen Mehler

This article was originally published in

World Explorer Magazine

Spanish version



I first heard his name in early 1979.


Soon thereafter, I acquired a tape of a lecture he gave on the Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt in the 1950s. In this lecture he claimed to have discovered one of the greatest finds, not only of this century, but perhaps in the history of archaeology.


Yet, he is virtually unknown today in the fields of Egyptology and Archaeology and after 16 years of researching his life and attempting to verify his claims, he remains almost as much a mystery and fascination to me today as he was in 1979.

His name was John Ora Kinnaman and his life was so full of exploration and dedication to scientific discovery that his name deserves to rank with the other great individuals in the annals of archaeology such as Ivan T. Sanderson and Colonel Percy Fawcett. My research team and myself have been able to uncover many documents and much material on the life and work of J.O. Kinnaman, in order to present an intriguing account of a very interesting man.

J.O. Kinnaman was born February 23, 1877, on a farm 11 miles north and one mile east of Bryan, Ohio. He was the only child of wealthy parents, his father having been a physician and a Harvard graduate. As a small boy he acquired an early interest in antiquities as he gathered arrowheads and other native artifacts all around his parent's farmlands.


He graduated from high school at age 15 and was licensed as a teacher in the state of Ohio at the age of 16. He was the second youngest student ever admitted to Tri-State College in Angola, Indiana in 1894.


His major was a Classical Course, in which he specialized in Greek and Latin literature, ancient history, philology and classical archaeology. In 1900, Kinnaman entered the University of Chicago in order to pursue graduate work in Greek and Classical Archaeology. While at the University of Chicago he also studied medicine for three years but never completed the MD degree.

There were three men who played a profound effect on the life and work of J.O. Kinnaman and it was at the University of Chicago that he met two of them. His interest in archaeology led him to Professor Frederic Starr, the head of the Department of American Archaeology, who influenced Kinnaman to also pursue his interests in American as well as the classical field of archaeology. He also met Dr. Stephen D. Peet, the dean of American Archaeologists at the turn of the century.


Peet was the editor and founder of the American Antiquarian and Oriental journal, the most prestigious scientific forum for archaeology at that time. This meeting would lead to Kinnaman writing for the journal for several years and eventually assuming the position of editor-in-chief upon Peet's retirement in 1911.

Kinnaman accepted a teaching position in Latin Literature at Benton Harbor College, Michigan in 1903 and later was made a dean of the college. At the same time he pursued graduate work in Classical Archaeology from the University of Rome, Italy.


He was a witness to the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 1906, the first since the devastation of A.D. 79 Kinnaman received a Ph.D. in Archaeology from the University of Rome in 1907, having associated himself with such famous Italian archaeologists as Dr. Cesare Gionetti and Dr. Rodolfo Lanciani. In 1909, Dr. Kinnaman spent a year with the Chippewa Indians in the U.S. and was later to write the first recorded history of the tribe and their legends.

The third man who was to play a major role in Dr. Kinnaman's life was Sir William Flinders Petrie, the great British archaeologist and father of modern archaeology and Egyptology. While still an undergraduate in 1894, Kinnaman accompanied his father on a trip to England and Egypt. Kinnaman met Sir Flinders Petrie at the Great Pyramid of Giza, where Petrie was conducting a thorough survey of the monument. It was this association with Petrie that has led to much of the mystery of Dr. Kinnaman that my research team and myself have been attempting to verify and uncover for several years. Dr. Kinnaman claimed to have known Sir Flinders Petrie for over 45 years and to have worked with him on the Great Pyramid for 11 years.


Yet, in Petrie's autobiography, Seventy Years In Archaeology, 1932, there is no mention of Kinnaman. In a biography of Petrie, written in 1985 by Margaret Drower, there is also no mention of Kinnaman. I wrote to Ms. Drower in 1992 and she affirmed to me she had never heard of Kinnaman and had never seen any letter from nor mention of him in Petrie's diaries nor in the Petrie archives in London. I have also not yet found any concrete evidence of a Kinnaman-Petrie connection in the archives of the Kinnaman Foundation in the last six years of searching. However, there is still a lot of material to go through.

It was the taped lecture of Dr. Kinnaman that I first heard in 1979 that continues to fuel my interest and search for evidence of this connection between these two great archaeologists. The lecture given by Kinnaman was not for the general public, but to a select group of Masons (both he and Petrie were Masons) in a private home in Northern California around 1955. In this talk, Dr. Kinnaman begins with a normal discussion of his work with Sir Flinders and a general factual lecture of the dimensions of the Great Pyramid.


After a while, he casually mentions that he and Petrie discovered a secret entrance into the Pyramid, on the South face, quite by accident. The traditionally accepted entrance is the one on the north face. Dr. Kinnaman then describes several interior chambers in which were found ancient records from Atlantis and anti-gravitational machines, that were used by the Atlanteans to construct the Great Pyramid.


Furthermore, Dr. Kinnaman declared that manuscripts they found stated the Great Pyramid was built over 35,000 years ago and was never intended to be a tomb for a king. This is a fact I have maintained as true for the last 20 years!

Readers must be asking why have there been no records of this find, which would have been one of the most spectacular in the history of archaeology? Dr. Kinnaman stated in response to this question that he and Sir Flinders Petrie agreed that the world was not ready for this information at that time.


The pair then swore an oath to the highest government officials in Egypt and Great Britain never to divulge this knowledge during their lifetimes. There certainly has not been found any record of Petrie ever mentioning this discovery to anyone during his lifetime, but Dr. Kinnaman told a select few before he died on September 7, 1961. According to my research the only time they could have made this discovery was between March and April, 1922.

Perhaps it was his oath, not only to government officials but to other groups as well, that caused Dr. Kinnaman and Sir Flinders to keep their friendship and collaboration a secret, even from family members. We have found some clues which link Kinnaman and Petrie together, if only indirectly. For instance, both considered Dr. Rudolfo Lanciani a close friend.


Colleagues of Sir Flinders Petrie regularly contributed articles to the American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal while Kinnaman was editor and both Dr. Kinnaman and Sir Flinders were members of the same organizations at the same times; yet, there is no smoking gun such as letters or photographs.


Those who knew Dr. Kinnaman and were privy to the information of the find in the Great Pyramid believed it to be a true story. Willi Semple, who knew Dr. Kinnaman closely for the last six years of his life and who wrote an article about him in a 1962 issue of the Rosicrucian Digest, stated: How do I know it was a true story?


For many reasons, but chiefly because it was impossible to know Dr. Kinnaman very long without also knowing, beyond doubt, that he would never lie or rationalize or imagine or even theorize about what might be or might not be so, especially if it involved archaeology...he was a digger for facts, not a theorist. Unfortunately, Ms. Semple passed away around 1977 and is not available for personal confirmation.

It was because of his work with Sir Flinders Petrie that Dr. Kinnaman abandoned his interests in Classical Archaeology and devoted the last half of his life to the field of Biblical Archaeology. His great proficiency in Greek, Latin and Hebrew enabled Dr. Kinnaman to research and translate the earliest texts of both the Old and New Testaments and other documents which allowed him to regard later versions of the Bible to be historical corruptions.

Dr. Kinnaman always maintained that archaeology would establish the Bible as a historical as well as a literary document, but only in the pure original forms. Spending over 50 years in the field, Dr. Kinnaman circled the globe seven times in the pursuit of knowledge. As a true world explorer, he lived with a remote tribe of Eskimos in the Arctic for six months, was captured by Jivaro head hunters in South America and spent some time with African cannibal tribes. He was also one of the first archaeologists to explore the Catacombs of Rome following their rediscovery and was part of the archaeological team that discovered the tomb of the Queen of Sheba in Ethiopia.

The other items of biography have been also of great interest to me and should be for Atlantis Rising readers. Dr. Kinnaman also claimed to be the next to last person of the first group of people to enter the tomb of Tutankhamen in November, 1922. Yet his name isn't mentioned by Howard Carter, nor in any other texts concerning the Tut find.

Dr. Kinnaman also stated that there was nothing supernatural to the story of a curse of King Tut's tomb. Many Egyptologists, such as myself believe Carter invented that famous inscription. What actually happened was that Egyptian priests sprinkled poison dust in the tomb which eventually felled all the members of the original team, including Dr. Kinnaman himself.


Also Dr. Kinnaman claimed he was a personal friend of Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia and also knew Haile Selassie when he was a boy. It was Menelik II who invited Dr. Kinnaman to document that the Ark of the Covenant was in Ethiopia. Those who are familiar with Graham Hancock's excellent book, The Sign and the Seal, are aware that Hancock believes the Ark to be in the Ethiopian city of Axum! Before he passed away, Dr. Kinnaman founded the Kinnaman Foundation for Biblical and Archaeological Research in 1960.

I am honored to have been appointed Director of Research for the Kinnaman Foundation in 1994. Dr. Albert J. McDonald, President and Executive Director of the Foundation, is one of the few people still living who knew Dr. Kinnaman well. Dr. McDonald has been a great source for us of stories, anecdotes and documents of the life of Dr. Kinnaman.


One of these stories will be of particular interest. A few years ago, my research team and I became aware of the books, tapes and lectures of David Hatcher Childress and Adventures Unlimited. In particular, it was brought to my attention of a short piece in David's book, Lost Cities of North and Central America, which concerned the discovery of Egyptian tombs and artifacts in the Grand Canyon in 1909. When I shared this info with Dr. McDonald, he became very excited!


He informed me that Dr. Kinnaman had stated that one of the functions of the Great Pyramid had been as a giant radio system. By virtue of the huge crystal stored in a chamber 1,100 feet below the bedrock of the Giza Plateau, Egyptian priests could send telepathic messages around the world! According to McDonald, one of the places Dr. Kinnaman said these messages were sent was the Grand Canyon! Dr. Kinnaman may have known about the find in the Grand Canyon in 1909 and even known Professor S.A. Jordan, but we have no documentation of this as of yet.

In Childress book, Lost Cities of Africa and Arabia, he mentions that Dr. Kinnaman went to Ethiopia and saw the Ark of the Covenant. In another discussion with Dr. McDonald, we talked about Dr. Kinnaman's being asked to authenticate the Ark in Ethiopia and Graham Hancock's belief that the Ark is stored in the Church of Mary of Zion in Axum.


McDonald said that Kinnaman clearly indicated that the Ark in Ethiopia is a copy of the original, an exact copy, but still a copy! Of course, this is just hearsay; we have not yet found written or recorded statements from Dr. Kinnaman on the subject. There is no indication how Dr. Kinnaman would know it was a copy, not the original Ark. Joseph Jochmans, in his series of books entitled Time Capsule, states that the original Ark of the Covenant is under the Sphinx and the Giza Plateau in the Hall of Records.

So, was J.O. Kinnaman a teller of tall tales, a fabricator of bedtime stories or even a flimflam man, as some would have you believe. For what it's worth, he died penniless and certainly never attempted to profit nor extract any great fees for his lectures. In fact, he mostly lectured for free at churches and universities the last 10 years of his life.


This much we can document: Dr. Kinnaman was Fellow and Vice President of the Victoria Institute of Great Britain, a member of the Palestine Exploration Fund of Great Britain (as was Sir Finders Petrie at the same time), Vice- President of the Society for the Study of the Apocrypha, a member of the International Society of Archaeologists, the editor of five different archaeological magazines including editor-in-chief of the American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal. He was also editor of his own Biblical and Archaeological Digest and author of hundreds of articles and four books.

We are fortunate that we still have most of his written material intact and that Dr. A.J. McDonald was a pioneer in audio recording in the 1940s and 50s. We of the Kinnaman Foundation still have many audio recordings of Dr. Kinnaman's lectures to catalog, analyze and rerecord onto cassette tapes for posterity.


In listening to his lectures over and over again through the years, I am convinced that Dr. Kinnaman did not fabricate the discovery of an entrance on the South face, nor of the rooms with ancient records or the prehistoric antiquity of the Great Pyramid. Dr. Kinnaman said he believed the world would be ready for that information someday and believed it would be soon after his death.


This was why I believe he broke his oaths and revealed that information to select people. David Hatcher Childress, other researchers and myself believe the world is now ready to know the truths about lost civilizations and lost wisdom.


Joseph Jochmans and myself support the predictions of Edgar Cayce that the Hall of Records under the Giza Plateau will be reopened in this decade and the truth about lost wisdom and ancient civilizations will be revealed. On that day, the name of J.O. Kinnaman will be exalted and remembered as a great archaeologist, adventurer and a true digger for facts.





Since the original publication of this article, Mehler informs us, a typewritten note by Dr. Kinnaman, written five months before his death, has been discovered in which he gives the the precise location of the southern entrance to the Great Pyramid.


Mehler will give no details on the location, but tells us that his organization is now raising the funds to follow up.