Orion the Hunter (Image: OpenClipart-Vectors, Pixabay)

Longing for Leo Or: Spin the Tale on the Zodiac (Mark 2)

An important aspect of the so-called “Orion Correlation” is that the Great Sphinx at Giza is supposedly associated with the zodiacal constellation we know as Leo.

Overlooking for the moment that the Sphinx is on the wrong side of the Nile or that the development of the zodiac can be traced in the Mesopotamian archaeological record and is seen to have only reached its current form about the middle of the first millennium BC, some two millennia after the construction of the Giza pyramids, let us look at what Hancock and Bauval propose.

Following the BBC Horizon investigation of their work they complained to the Broadcasting Standards Commission. The details of their complaint regarding the correlation of the Sphinx with Leo, the response from the BBC and the decision of the Commission can all be found in the latter’s adjudication.

The complaint was that:

Mr Hancock said that, in several books written before the programme, he had argued that the Great Sphinx could have been designed as a terrestrial image or symbol of the constellation of Leo as it looked in 10,500 BCE. But the programme had said that there was “no evidence that this constellation was recognised by the ancient Egyptians”. The programme-makers had ignored the case, made out by himself and Mr Bauval, that the ancient pyramid texts, the oldest surviving scriptures, showed that Leo was known to the writers.

The response was that:

The BBC said that extensive research had revealed that there was no reference to the constellation of Leo in ancient Egyptian culture. Mr Hancock’s argument was based on his own and Mr Bauval’s speculations, not on evidence. They said that the pyramid texts were a collection of spells and incantations of highly uncertain meaning. Any interpretation of them was necessarily speculative, hence there had been no reference to them in the programme.

The Commission concluded that:

With regard to that part of the programme dealing with the Great Sphinx, the Commission does not consider that the programme-makers were under any obligation to include Mr Hancock’s speculative interpretation of ancient Egyptian scriptures as demonstrating a knowledge of the Leo constellation.

Since their discovery in the late nineteenth century the Pyramid Texts have undergone a great deal of study. In some areas the BBC’s comments as to their “highly uncertain meaning” are possibly justified, in other areas they are probably not.

Pyramid Texts from Teti’s Pyramid (6th Dynasty) at Saqqara. Photograph by Jon Bodsworth of The Egypt Archive

So have Hancock and Bauval come up with a valid interpretation that supports their contention that “the Great Sphinx could have been designed as a terrestrial image or symbol of the constellation of Leo”?

They addressed the matter in Chapter 10 “The Quest of the Horus-King” of Keeper of Genesis / Message of the Sphinx (US) [1] as follows (references to the specific Pyramid Texts have been added in square brackets after the individual quotes):

It is well known, and not a matter of controversy even amongst Egyptologists, that the whole emphasis of the ancient Egyptian rebirth cult was on the seventy days of ‘invisibility’ which Sirius, the star of Isis, endured each year. These seventy days were seen as a cosmic preparation for astral rebirth and, not surprisingly, they were matched to the period of embalming in the mummification rituals of the dead. The culmination and crescendo of this seventy-day period came with the first dawn reappearance, or rising, of Sirius which, as the reader will recall, occurred at around the time of the summer solstice during the Pyramid Age. This was when the astronomer priests of Heliopolis observed what is technically known as the heliacal rising of Sirius in the east.

Since it was believed that all the potential powers of nature needed to cause the ‘rebirth’ of the cosmic Horus-King were building up in the ‘womb’ of the goddess Isis during these crucial seventy days, we can suppose that the beginning of the period marked the beginning of the ‘journey’ of Horus into the ‘underworld’ – when the Duat was locked, as it were, below the horizon and thus directly ‘underneath’ the Giza necropolis.

From this it follows that we are invited to find out where the Horus-King’s celestial counterpart – i.e. the disc of the sun – stood in the sky some seventy days prior to the heliacal rising of Sirius. The Pyramid Texts again give us the due. They specify that at this time the Horus-solar-King was to be found on the banks of the Milky Way just about to board the solar bark. Remembering that the astronomical observations in the texts were made during the middle of the third millennium BC, let us try to decode this imagery using computer simulations.

We know, of course, that the ‘path’ of the sun (which astronomers call the ecliptic) passes through twelve distinct constellations in the course of a complete year – the constellations of the zodiac. Circa 2500 BC, therefore, let us see where the sun would have been along the ecliptic path some seventy days before the heliacal rising of Sirius. It would, we discover, have been near the head of Taurus (the Hyades) and poised on the right bank of the Milky Way.

In the ritual or drama performed by the king, is it not possible that this celestial event was the source of the imagery of the cosmic Horus about to ‘board’ a cosmic ‘bark’ with the sun-god in order to cross a waterway (the ‘Winding Waterway’, i.e. the Milky Way):

The king embarks with Re on this great bark of his, he navigates in it to the horizon with him … [line 2172]

The king shall go aboard the bark like Re on the banks of the Winding Waterway…[line 2045]

The Winding Waterway is flooded … you cross thereon to the horizon, to the place where the gods were born … your sister [companion] is Sothis … [lines 1704-7]

May you cross the Winding Waterway … may you fall in the eastern side of the sky, may you sit in the … horizon … [line 1541]

He [Horus] goes aboard the bark like Re at the banks of the Winding Waterway … [line 1345]

As we wind the ancient skies a little forward in time on our computer we discover that twenty-five days after being stationed near the Hyades-Taurus on the right bank of the cosmic river the sun has indeed ‘crossed’ the Milky Way and is now ‘sailing’ eastwards along the ecliptic path in the direction of the great zodiacal constellation of Leo – seen as a huge ‘crouching lion’ in the sky. We are now just a little over six weeks away from the summer solstice:

The reed-floats of the sky are set down for me that I may cross on them to the horizon, to Horakhti … to yonder eastern side of the sky … Summons is made to me by Re … as Horus, as the Horizon Dweller … [lines 343-6]

The doors of the sky are thrown open for Horakhti … the doors of the sky are thrown open at dawn for Horus of the East… [lines 525-7]

go to … Horakhti at the horizon … on the eastern side of the sky where the gods are born. [lines 928-9]

Following this extremely clear and specific instruction to ‘go to Horakhti’ at the horizon (there to meet the sunrise) we continue our eastward journey along the ecliptic path with a sense that we are rapidly converging upon a vital ‘station’ in the quest of the Horus King.

The weeks pass in seconds on our computer screen and when we at last ‘reach the eastern side of the sky’ – at the horizon, at the highly significant moment when ‘the gods are born’, i.e. at the exact time of rising of the star Sirius – we see that a very powerful celestial conjunction has occurred: the sun (which is now at the summer solstice point) stands exactly between the ‘paws’ of Leo. The solar disc is positioned near the breast of the cosmic lion where it seems to merge with the bright star Regulus – the ‘star of Kings’.

The great celestial ‘journey’ performed by the cosmic Horus-King along the ecliptic path therefore turns out to lead quite unambiguously to one very specific place in the heavenly landscape: between the ‘paws’ of Leo and right in front of its ‘breast’.

The implications are obvious.

The enigmatic figure of Horakhti, whose identity we have been attempting to establish, can be none other than the constellation of Leo – the giant cosmic lion, or sphinx, who stands at the gates of the sky Duat and who assumes the name of ‘Horus-of-the-Horizon’.

Let us now transpose the Horus-King to the land and follow his journey to the earthly ‘Horus-in-the-Horizon’ – by whom, of course, we mean Hor-em-Akhet, the Great Sphinx in the ‘horizon’ of Giza.

So, according to this, the Great Sphinx at Giza is to be equated with the constellation of Leo.

But it’s not as simple as that. From the presentation of the Pyramid Texts it’s clear that we are being provided with extracts. But do those extracts accurately summarise the meaning of the appropriate texts? Hancock and Bauval provide (from the notes for each chapter) the lines of the Pyramid Texts in question and the references are to Faulkner’s The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts [2] which is accepted as the most up to date English language translation available.

On checking Hancock and Bauval’s extracts from Faulkner’s work against the original a problem is immediately found. The “lines” quoted are all part of much larger “Utterances”; which can probably best be equated to modern “hymns” or “prayers”.

The results of the comparison are detailed below (Hancock and Bauval’s extract is boldfaced within the complete text from Faulkner):

Utterance 697 – A ‘resurrection’ text

There’s a scribal error here as the extract clearly comes from Lines 2045-6 of Utterance 682 (immediately below). Even so, there’s a lot of text omitted. How important is the “mouth of the earth”?

Utterance 682 – An ‘ascension’ text

There’s a scribal error here as the extract clearly comes from Line 2172 of Utterance 697 (above). There’s also a lot of text omitted. What is the relevance of the King being like a falcon, heron or goose? Does this omission matter?

Utterance 609 – The king is heaven-born and crosses to the horizon

The references to the lines are correct this time but the word “[companion]” has been added to the extract. Is this justified?

Utterance 579 – As last (A ‘resurrection’ text)

Once again a lot of text has been omitted. Is this justified? The Utterance talks about going to several places – not just across the Winding Waterway to the eastern side of the sky and the horizon?

Utterance 548 – A ‘resurrection’ text

Is the addition of “[Horus]” justified here? Once again, a lot of text has been omitted. Is the reference to “the mouth of the earth” important?

Utterance 264 – A variant of Utterance 263 (The king ferries over the sky to Re)

Another scribal error here in that the reference should be to Lines 342-6 not 343-6 and, once again, a lot of text is omitted. What is the significance of the King being a magistrate? Is this omission important?

Utterance 325 – A ‘lustration’ text

Once again there’s a scribal error in that the referenced lines could more properly be 526-7 and a substantial amount of text is again omitted. Is the omission of references to the “Field of Rushes” important?

Utterance 473 – The king crosses the celestial river

There’s another scribal error in that the line references should have been to 927-8 not 928-9 and a lot of text is omitted. Are the “Field of Rushes” or the “Field of Turquoise” important?

Reviews of other parts of Hancock and Bauval’s work have shown similar practices in the utilisation of source materials; in Fingerprints of the Gods Hancock myth managed the work of Harold Osborne and in Secret Chamber Bauval misrepresented Professor Tony Fairall.

However, let’s assume – although almost certainly incorrectly – that the extracts preserve the full meaning of the Utterances in question.

Is there an:

…extremely clear and specific instruction…

in the texts as Hancock and Bauval claim?

Whilst parts of the texts may have a “highly uncertain meaning” to those interpreting them more than four thousand years after they were written it is certainly reasonable to assume that the ancient Egyptians knew exactly why the particular texts were being inscribed and what their purpose was.

If there was such an:

…extremely clear and specific instruction…

in the texts shouldn’t we, as a minimum, expect to find these particular texts grouped together? Surely the pyramid builders wouldn’t have spread such important texts randomly around the interior of their King’s eternal resting place? This is, not surprisingly, precisely the approach to studying the Pyramid Texts taken by modern scholars as it:

….recognizes the role that physical location plays in the choice and meaning of each text in the pyramid. [3]

It has also been recognised that:

..in all OK pyramids, many spells tend to occur in the same general location, and often in the same sequence of spells. [4]

The following table shows the distribution of the eight quoted texts within the pyramids of Unas (5th dynasty) to Ibi (8th dynasty):

Distribution of Utterances within Pyramids [5]

Texts from the other two inscribed pyramids of Pepi II’s queens; Apouit and Oudjebten, have not been included …. because they survive only in fragments. [4]

It should also be noted that the inclusion in the analysis of the queen’s texts (and those from Ibi’s pyramid) is questionable as:

Culturally, the queens’ texts represent a first extension of the Old Kingdom “royal prerogative” to persons other than the king…. The substructures of these tombs also represent a break with earlier royal traditions. In place of the dual chambers and gabled ceilings of the kings’ tombs, each has a single room with a flat ceiling. In this they are again transitional, first to the single chamber of King Q3-k3-rc Jbj (“Aba”) of the 8th Dynasty, later to MK tombs such as that of Sesostris-anhk….In conflating architecturally, the queens’ chambers also conflate in one room the texts that occupied the more extensive substructures of the pharaonic tombs. [4]

It must be concluded that the results are somewhat less than encouraging for an:

…extremely clear and specific instruction…

So what are the options? Modern Egyptologists are studying the Pyramid Texts in terms of their spatial organisation and interrelationships whilst Hancock and Bauval are selectively quoting and ignoring context. The former is likely to reveal insights into the beliefs of the Old Kingdom Ancient Egyptians, the latter is only useful to support a predetermined conclusion.


[1] Keeper of Genesis, Bauval, R. and Hancock, G., Arrow, 1997 (1996)

[2] The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, Faulkner, R.O., Oxford University Press, 1969

[3] “Reading A Pyramid”, Allen, J.P., Hommages à Jean Leclant, BdE 106/1, 1993, p. 5-28

[4] “The Pyramid Texts of Queens Jpwt and Wdbt-n.(j)“, Allen, J.P., JARCE XXIII, 1986, p. 1-25

[5] Occurrences of Pyramid Texts with Cross Indexes of these and other Egyptian Mortuary Texts, Allen, T.G., SAOC 27, University of Chicago Press, 1950