Orion and the Giza pyramids

Are the pyramids of the Fourth Dynasty arranged in a narrative to encode a date of 10,450 BC?

Discussions in Egyptology 30, 1994, pp 101-114
Reproduced with permission

Peter Ackroyd’s Nicholas Dyer had his own reasons when he was selecting the sites for seven new parish churches in London at the beginning of the 18th century. The structures contained ‘a narrative which is hidden so that none may see it’ – not surprisingly, considering that Oedipus Aegyptiacus and similar books provided his inspiration. Dyer is, of course, a fictional character although, disturbingly, Hawksmoor’s pyramid outside St Anne’s, Limehouse, is there for everybody to see. An attempt to uncover a narrative concealed in seven pyramids of the Egyptian 4th Dynasty is one of the themes of the recently published The Orion Mystery by Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert.

The book gives the uncomfortable impression of consisting of two ill-fitting parts which cannot always be clearly separated by chapters or pages. The ‘first part’ contains ideas concerning the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza and the relationship between the pyramids in the Memphite area. These I find stimulating, interesting and worth discussing, although often controversial. The ‘second part’ contains more general theories on ancient Egypt which develop the preceding themes. These are very idiosyncratic and often unjustifiably speculative, and they purposefully disregard much of the knowledge and understanding of Egyptian civilization acquired in the past two centuries as they search for superficial sensationalism. Esoteric theories discarded a long time ago have been resurrected (e.g. pp. 233-4, about the Great Pyramid at Giza: ‘it is difficult to believe that it could have been used only once for the burial of Khufu and then sealed up for ever’). Scientific objectivity is abandoned completely when sympathetic hearing is given to the prediction of the American clairvoyant Edgar Cayce that ‘in the last years of the present century, a secret chamber containing records [of Atlantis] would be found in the pyramid [of Khufu]’ (pp. 196 and 225). This is scholarly desperation, and while it is the authors’ privilege to embrace such ideas, this approach does not advance the subject and undermines the book’s credibility. I do not propose to enter into discussion of it. Others may wish to pursue these matters, but this is neither the right place nor time. Instead, I shall concentrate on the topics which I regard as more significant and rewarding.

The main themes of the ‘first part’ of the book can be summed up as follows:

1. The ideas contained in the architecture of the pyramids, in particular those of the 4th Dynasty and specifically of king Khufu at Giza, and in the Pyramid Texts, are stellar rather than solar.

2. The King’s and Queen’s Chambers and the Great Gallery inside the pyramid of Khufu belong to the original design and are not the result of alterations of the plan.

3. The star- (not air-) shafts in both the Queen’s and King’s Chambers of the pyramid of Khufu pointed to specific stars: the southern shaft of the King’s Chamber to Alnitak (z Orionis) of Orion = Osiris, that of the Queen’s Chamber to Sothis/Sirius (a Canis Majoris) = Isis. The northern shaft of the King’s Chamber was oriented towards Thuban (a Draconis), the Pole Star of the mid-3rd millennium BC that of the Queen’s Chamber to Kochab (b Ursae Minoris), the ‘celestial adze of Horus’. Both northern shafts have a pronounced ‘kink’ imitating the shape of the opening-the-mouth adze = Ursa Minor. The opening-the-mouth, fertility and other rites were performed in these ‘rebirth chambers’ of the pyramid to impregnate Isis = Sirius, to enable the soul of the deceased king to depart to Orion, and to help the birth of Horus.

4. The Giza and Orion’s belt correlation. The positions and sizes of the three pyramids at Gus reflect the positions and brightness of the three stars of the Orion belt.

5. The Memphis-Duat and sky-Duat correlation. For the Egyptians, the Memphite area was a terrestrial form of the Duat in the skies. The Nile corresponded to the Milky Way. Seven of the pyramids of the 4th Dynasty (two of Snofru, and one each of Khufu, Radjedef, Khephren, the ‘Unfinished Pyramid’ at Zawiyet el-Aryan, and of Menkaure) – and also the Abusir pyramids and unspecified others – were built according to a ‘master plan’ based on the stars of Orion and the Hyades in the head of Taurus (and unspecified others).

An interesting suggestion concerns the heliacal rising of non-circumpolar stars (such as Sothis) which may have been quite accurately predicted by the observation of circumpolar stars (p. 280).

The authors, Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert, are not Egyptologists by training – they are a construction engineer and a publishing consultant respectively – but this need not be a drawback. Minds not fettered by ‘history’ (as in computerspeak) can travel far and fast. Their stated intention was to write a book not for specialists but for the general public. This may be what they intend, but one would be forgiven for wondering. My copy, which is a second reprint, contains 28 pages of notes for some 280 pages of the text, and a bibliography of some 170 publications. For a non-specialist this is a piece of scholarly writing which takes issue with the theories (or the lack of them) of Egyptologists.

It is essential that we, standard-issue prosaic-to-the-point-of-boredom Egyptologists, express our views on the flashy and exciting ideas put forward in this book. So far we have singularly failed to do so. Caution is an admirable virtue, sometimes equated with scholarship, but we should from time to time remind ourselves of Arthur Koestler’s remark quoted in a recent issue of the Oxford Magazine – if God gave us a neck, it was for sticking out. The impression conveyed by the television programme, the correspondence in The Independent earlier this year and the lack of firm ‘orthodox’ response in the media was that Egyptologists’ minds were not only closed, but firmly locked and that the key was lost.

The book has easily outsold any other publication on ancient Egypt in the United Kingdom this year, and the excellent BBC2 television feature (which I found even more interesting because it refrained from the book’s extreme theories) attracted an audience of several millions in February 1994. I was not asked about much else for several weeks after the showing of the programme. Messrs. Bauval and Gilbert have very skilfully given ancient Egypt much publicity.

Specialized expertise is bound to provide new and most welcome insights. Even if one does not fully share Julie Burchill’s view concerning the effect of academia on the human brain, those who are not professional Egyptologists often bring freshness and originality of thinking to problems which have reached an apparent impasse. Nevertheless, they are at a considerable disadvantage when committing their thoughts to paper because they tend to lay themselves open to pedestrian criticism. This book is no exception and will, I fear, be given a rough ride by reviewers for this reason. The numbers in the following list, which is selective and factual rather than argumentative, refer to pages of the book:

1 The title of Georges Goyon’s book is slightly misspelt. More importantly, the quotation was taken over without realizing that it contains a misprint – the boats of Khufu were discovered in 1954.

33 To say that ‘none of the Fourth Dynasty kings put his name on the pyramid he supposedly owned’ disregards the fact that the pyramid was only one element of a complex. This also included the valley and pyramid temples, causeway, etc. At Giza, there is ample inscriptional evidence which establishes the ownership of each pyramid beyond any doubt. This can be compared to private tombs of the Old Kingdom where the burial chambers, which by their function correspond to the interior of pyramids, are only rarely inscribed. Mariette (pp. 59-62) was inflexible when he refused to believe that there were inscriptions in late Old Kingdom pyramids, but one can understand his reasoning.

40 It is difficult to see to what kind of a building the subterranean chamber of Khufu’s pyramid could have belonged if it had been ‘in existence before the pyramid was built’.

46 There were rulers separating the reigns of Khufu and Khephren, and of Khephren and Menkaure.

47 None of the chronological schemes which I know ends the 4th Dynasty with king Nebka. The implied position of the Zawiyet el-Aryan pyramid in the 4th-Dynasty series is highly questionable.

48 There are three or four pyramids of the 5th Dynasty at Saqqara (Userkaf, Izezi and Unis, almost certainly also Menkauhor).

66 Tuthmosis III was not the grandfather of Akhenaten.

67 There are also Pyramid Texts in the pyramids of Qakare Ibi (8th Dynasty), and of Iput II, Neit and Wedjebten (all queens of Pepy II).

111, etc. Better: Zába.

123, etc. The name of Radjedef’s pyramid is Fc-dd.f shdw, so Sehedu.

124 It is the pyramid of Radjedef which is at Abu Rawash, as the authors correctly state elsewhere.

151-2 The date of the ‘Inventory Stela’ may not be easy to establish but it is not a mystery. [2] To date it to 1500 BC is hardly possible because the temple of Isis did not exist in the early 18th Dynasty. The standard English translation of hnwt as ‘mistress’ (perhaps better: ‘lady’) in ‘Isis mistress of the pyramids’ has no sexual connotations which could connect it with the idea that the southern shaft of the King’s Chamber of the pyramid of Khufu = an artificial phallus of Osiris ensuring stellar copulation (!).

156 Userkaf’s pyramid is at Saqqara.

157 Six pyramids of the 5th Dynasty? 1. Userkaf (Saq.). 2. Sahure (Abu.). 3. Neferirkare (Abu.). 4. Shepseskare (probably Abu.). 5. Raneferef (Abu.). 6. Neuserre (Abu.). 7. Menkauhor (probably Saq.). 8. Izezi (Saq.). 9. Unis (Saq.).

180 Zep tepy rather than Tep Zepi.

202 Journal of Egyptian Archaeology rather than the title given.

204-5 sch, ‘mummy’, ‘likeness’, etc., and S3h, ‘Orion’, are two different unconnected roots, so the argument connecting Osiris = Orion with a mummy based on this cannot stand (notwithstanding a curious misprint in Gardiner’s Egyptian Grammar, p. 588).

225 The ‘small shrine topped by a Benben’, often seen in representations of the opening-the-mouth ceremony, is the facade of the chapel of a New-Kingdom(!) tomb, with a small pyramid at the back.

233 Better: Joseph Bonomi.

281 n. 2 There are no pyramids of the 2nd Dynasty.

287 n. 54 A youthful Richard Parkinson rather than the late Richard Parker?

288 n. 1 Is there something indelicate I don’t know about Tewfik Pasha? Or should Anophile read Anglophile?

295 n. 30 Better: Wildung.

These are mere pinpricks which distract but need not detract from the main issues. Nevertheless, I feel I have to mention one other point. Egyptology is now a wide-ranging subject which includes anybody engaged in a serious study of ancient Egypt, from philologists, archaeologists, historians of art and religion to physical anthropologists, archaeo-botanists and, yes, astronomers and mathematicians, On p. 144, the authors invoke their sky-religion mentor, Jane B. Sellers. [3] Her contention that Egyptian mythology reflects changes in the sky has provided much inspiration for The Orion Mystery. These ideas can be traced through her writings to Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, the authors of the famous, or notorious, Hamlet’s Mill: An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time. The authors’ suggestions that every Egyptologist must became an astronomer and mathematician and that there is an Egyptological conspiracy against ideas linked to astronomy (pp. 73 and 133) strike me as extreme.

Our minds must be receptive to ideas introduced by other specialists, and we must be able to recognize where such ideas might confirm or contradict the current consensus, or which side of a current argument they strengthen. Our general knowledge of these specialities and their methodology must be sufficient to enable us to distinguish between a sound argument and an unfounded flight of fancy. However, to believe that we can be masters of all Egyptological trades is to underestimate the abilities of others and to overestimate our own. Most Egyptologists are aware of precession and other basic astronomical facts of life and their possible contribution to our understanding of Egyptian religion and chronology, but few would claim that this makes them astronomers.

I am much more concerned about the way Egyptian texts (the Shabaka Stone, the Westcar Papyrus, the Ipuwer Admonitions, etc.) are treated in this book. The repeated intention is to allow the texts ‘to speak for themselves’ (there is a distinct echo of A. Piankoff and Jane B. Sellers here, although the latter’s attempts to see references to sun eclipses and the Diamond Ring Effect in every conceivable text make it, if anything, more difficult to accept her interesting ideas). To approach ancient Egyptian texts without preconceived ideas is laudable. To read them quite uncritically, as though they were simple statements, is, in view of their character, impossible and amounts to literary fundamentalism.

As an example, the idea that the date of the ‘Unification of the Two Lands’ can be fixed at some time after 2400 BC (pp. 153-4) by a combination of literally accepted mythological events related on the Shabaka Stone and astronomical evidence, disregards all the known historical facts and is unlikely to find many takers. I find the authors’ precise reasoning quite difficult to follow but, presumably, as in the case of the beginning of the 5th Dynasty and the Westcar Papyrus (p. 156), they believe that they are dealing with ‘a historical event explained in cosmic terms’. The linking of mythology and astronomy is always interesting but if, as I suspect, the temptation is to regard changes in the sky as the inspiration and direct or indirect cause of historical events, then I have to disagree. What about all the references to sm3-t3wy before the end of the 4th / the beginning of the 5th Dynasties? Such an approach to texts inspires little confidence and does not help those ideas which draw their inspiration from the Pyramid Texts. Fortunately, there are other things in the book which deserve to be taken more seriously (see the summary at the beginning of this review):

1. The authors describe the controversy surrounding the ‘stellar rather than solar’ pyramid theory in dramatic terms (their ‘stellar’, or astral, or star religion, are, in fact, stellar + Osirian beliefs, but it would take a brave person to try to separate the two, if it is at all possible). While one may wish to argue with their methodological approach, there are considerable areas of agreement in practical terms and fewer problems than they think.

As I have already pointed out, Bauval and Gilbert’s concern is exclusively the pyramid, not the whole pyramid complex. This is highly questionable and, indeed, almost certainly incorrect methodology, but it simplifies their argument enormously. The dramatic innovations introduced in the pyramid complexes of Snofru, particularly the east-west (and thus almost certainly solar) orientation and the placing of the temple structures on this axis, are then disregarded. No attention is paid to the important differences in the architecture of the unfinished complexes of Radjedef and at Zawiyet el-Aryan which make them stand out of the 4th Dynasty pyramid series (together with the sarcophagus-shaped tomb of Shepseskaf).

The main axis of the interior of the pyramid of Khufu (and others) is, beyond any doubt, north-south, and most would, I am sure, agree that it reflects star-oriented ideas, though with the stipulation ‘not necessarily exclusively’. If the new sun-oriented ideas influenced the other parts of the complex, they may also have been present in the pyramid. It is more difficult to accept that the Pyramid Texts, which appeared in the pyramids’ interior some 250 years after solar ideas had come to play a part in the architecture of the pyramid-complex, can represent stellar concepts in their pristine condition. Nevertheless, I find few problems in connecting the interior of the Khufu pyramid with stellar ideas contained in the Pyramid Texts.

2. Rudolf Gantenbrink’s and UPUAUT 2’s discovery that the southern shaft in the Queen’s Chamber penetrates the pyramid to the depth of some 65 m, i.e. well above the floor level of the King’s Chamber, provides, indeed, strong support for the idea that the two rooms are part of one design (or, at least, that the Queen’s Chamber was incorporated into the design, and not abandoned). A ‘niche’ in the southern shaft leading from the King’s Chamber observed by Gantenbrink (pp. 224, 265) may be an emplacement for a portcullis slab similar to that found in the southern shaft of the Queen’s Chamber. If this proves to be the case, it will provide a further link between the two systems but may dispel hopes of ‘treasures’ behind the latter. We must hope that the results of this investigation will be published soon. [4]

3. Some doubts about the degree of accuracy of the data concerning the orientation of the shafts of Khufu’s pyramid linger, and I shall await eagerly full publication of Gantenbrink’s work. Should these or calculations based on them prove unreliable, one must consider seriously the possibility that the shafts were meant to approach the surface of the pyramid using the shortest possible route. [5] Or are the two views just two sides of the same coin? If, however, the data and calculations are confirmed, the chronological implications may prove to be very interesting. I find the explanation of the detour of the northern shafts unconvincingly speculative.

The idea that funerary rites were performed on the royal mummy in the Queen’s and King’s Chambers which resulted in the symbolic ‘seeding’ of Isis is pure speculation. Such a laboured explanation is, however, quite unnecessary. Once the royal burial had been deposited in the King’s chamber, the arrangement itself would have ensured the expected result without further human interference inside the pyramid. This may, indeed, be the explanation of the shafts, and it is in order to acknowledge the fundamental contribution to this problem made by Virginia Trimble some thirty years ago. [6]

So far, the ideas in The Orion Mystery have been interesting and innovative, even though not always convincing in details. It is rather different when we come to the remaining theses on which I wish to comment.

4. The similarity between the stars of the Orion belt and the layout of the Giza pyramids is a clever observation. I have little doubt that there was a definable positional relationship between the Giza pyramids, and I am also convinced that a working hypothesis about a similar arrangement at other sites is worth investigating. The difficulty lies in establishing the reasons for such relationships. In my view, there are two main lines of approach.

4.1. A relationship due to ideological (religious) considerations; the pyramids were ideological statements just as much as they were royal tombs. Several hypotheses immediately offer themselves, and I shall mention only three which strike me as the most plausible:

4.1.1. A relationship to the local cult centres (e.g. a need for an unobscured line of vision or orientation, or an imitation of the plan of the cult centre).

4.1.2. A relationship to the monuments already on the site (attempts to create ideologically significant groups).

4.1.3. A relationship based on astronomical alignments or such considerations (reflections of an astronomical features or occurrences).

None of these requires an advance ground ‘master plan’; the relationship might have been built up gradually.

4.2. A relationship created as the result of the planning and surveying methods and of the modular approach used by the pyramids’ architects. Astronomical as well purely mathematical factors could have played a part or been introduced, possibly even unintentionally. Even here, the relationship could have been formed step by step and does not prove the existence of a plan determined at the outset. [7]

As always, it is impossible to prove the presence of symbolism without recourse to other sources, and theories seeking to discern it in the ground plan of Giza [8] must remain highly speculative.

The case for a definable relationship of the three pyramids at Giza is overwhelming, but how should we view the suggestion that the layout and orientation of the Giza pyramids are directly comparable to those of the stars of the Orion belt, including the offset of Mintaka (d Orionis) and the pyramid of Menkaure, and that the sizes of the pyramids correspond to the intensity of the stars? The answer depends on what constitutes the proof which would make us accept the proposition. There is no ancient textual or representational evidence to confirm the visual comparison unequivocally. Only three structures and three stars are involved, and the odds on the two patterns being approximately similar must be quite considerable. The additional evidence offered is circumstantial. Is there enough of it to provide the ‘critical mass’ which convinces us? Let us review it.

(a) The relationship between the Giza pyramids and the Nile is comparable to that of the Orion belt and the Milky Way.

The Nile valley in the middle of the 3rd millennium BC was nor quite the same as it is today, but, at first (p. 117), one is led to believe that the authors are only concerned with its approximate orientation, so this would not matter all that much. Such a comparison is so general that it hardly represents an argument Later on (pp. 132-3), however, we are told that, due to precession, the relationship of the Giza pyramids and the Nile reflects that of Orion’s belt and the Milky Way in 10450 BC. This was imitated by the pyramids’ architects on purpose in order to set up a chronological marker recording ‘the First Time of Osiris and the authors remind us of the lost civilization of Atlantis. This, I am afraid, rests on such tenuous evidence that it can never be more than unconvincing speculation.

(b) In Egyptian mythology Orion was equated with Osiris and the king aspired to become a star of Orion after death. The southern ‘star-shafts’ in the King’s and Queen’s Chambers of Khufu’s pyramid at Giza point to Orion and Sothis/Sirius (in mythology equated with Isis, the wife of Osiris).

Yes, but this does not necessarily affect the layout of the Giza pyramids.

(c) 1. In the Pyramid Texts (PT 1 657), the deceased kings and their pyramids are identified with Osiris. 2. Since Orion was the celestial form of Osiris, the pyramids were the terrestrial images of the stars of Orion.

This is a literal interpretation of the text (‘this KING is Osiris, this construction is Osiris, this pyramid is Osiris’). Logic, however, does not demand that the layout of the pyramids should imitate the relationship of the stars.

(d) The Giza pyramids are a part of a larger plan which incorporates seven pyramids of the Fourth Dynasty and some others in the Memphite region.

Rather unlikely (see below).

(e) The small size of the pyramid of Menkaure reflects the lesser intensity of Mintaka (d Orionis).

Nobody has yet been able to suggest an explanation of the variations in the sizes of pyramids before the appearance of the standardized structures of the 6th Dynasty. This contention would have to be shown to be valid for all the pyramids, not just in the Giza context, in order to represent an argument.

Although the Giza and Orion’s belt correlation theory cannot be dismissed out of hand, the conclusion must be ‘not proven’. As a postscript, I should like to point out that even if the similarity in the plan and intensity/size are not accidental, the idea did not have to exist before the reign of Menkaure when the third pyramid at Giza was built.

5. The authors are quite right when they say (p. 36 and elsewhere) that Egyptologists are unable to give satisfactory reasons for the siting of the pyramids in the Memphite area (see the diagram [9] on the next page). The often quoted idea that, for various reasons, it would have been natural and desirable to build a new pyramid close to that of the king’s predecessor (including Bauval & Gilbert, pp. 141-2) is not borne out by the facts. Only at Abusir do the pyramids of Sahure, Neferirkare, Shepseskare (probably), Raneferef and Neuserre form a group. Even there, however, a tendency to distance the new building site from the pyramid of the predecessor is apparent, and the pyramids of Shepseskare and Raneferef were, it seems, barely started. One can, in fact, find only one case where the pyramids of two successive kings were built in relative proximity, those of Sahure and Neferirkare. The inescapable conclusion is that a new pyramid was built at some distance from that of the preceding king, often at a different ‘site’ (the division of the Memphite necropolis into ‘sites’ is modern).

The following were the most probable reasons:

1) In the case of the predecessor’s unexpected death, the site was so encumbered with the remnants of the building activities, in particular massive building ramps, that the planning, site survey and building work on the new pyramid could not have started until this situation was resolved.

2) If the predecessor’s pyramid was complete at the time of his death, the surrounding area would have already been at least partly occupied by the tombs of priests and officials.

The proximity of quarries, easy transport and access to the prospective building site would have been of great importance but, in view of the enormous ideological significance of the pyramids, it is impossible to reduce the decision-making to these considerations. Other explanations offered in the past, such as feuding within the royal family or the location of the royal palaces, are even less convincing. The idea that the distribution of the pyramids is governed by definable ideological (religious, astronomical, or similar) considerations is attractive. After all, if there were such reasons for the design of the pyramid and for the relationship of monuments at one site, why should we shut our eyes to the possibility that similar thinking was behind the apparently almost perverse scatter of the pyramids over the Memphite area? The argument that the Egyptians would not have been able to achieve this had they set their mind to it cannot be seriously entertained.

Unfortunately, it seems that there are serious weaknesses in the claim that the pyramids in the Memphite area were built according to a ‘master plan’ based on Orion and the Hyades. This is an extension of the theory that the Giza pyramids are terrestrial images of the stars of the Orion belt, and the evidence cited in its support is basically the same. It is appropriate to point out that, once again, the authors are indebted to Jane B. Sellers for the idea that ‘the conceptualization of the land’ corresponds to ‘that of the sky’. [10] Additional problems, however, arise. Only selected pyramids are quoted, and nowhere in the book is there a map which would clearly demonstrate the correlation! This is a fatal flaw – without such a map, the theory is reduced to a statement which is expected to be accepted on trust.

Let us consider the scenario for the Fourth Dynasty, the only group of kings and pyramids discussed in detail.

King Snofru, the first builder of a ‘true’ pyramid decides, for an unknown reason, to build his pyramid (southern or ‘Bent’) at Dahshur, well to the south of Egypt’s capital Ineb-hedj (at that time in the area of modern Abusir). When another pyramid of the same king is planned, its site is chosen in such a way that the relationship of the two pyramids corresponds to that of two stars of the Hyades (Aldebaran = a Tauri and Î Tauri). Why not one of the main stars of Orion? The pyramid of the next king, Khufu, was built at Giza and its position is defined by that of z Orionis (Alnitak) in Orion’s belt. Radjedef’ pyramid then continued to fill in the pattern by imitating Saiph, Khephren added Î Orionis (Alnilam) of the belt, an unknown king at Zawiyet el Aryan added Bellatrix (g Orionis) and finally Menkaure added Mintaka (d Orionis). This still leaves us without two conspicuous stars which complete the characteristic shape of Orion. The first of the pyramids required would have to be in the Western Desert, somewhere to the north-west of Giza (a Orionis or Betelgeuse = Osiris’s true right / front shoulder), and the other in the Nile valley to the south-east of Giza (b Orionis or Rigel = Osiris’s true left / back leg, the brightest star of Orion!), see figs. on pp. 222-3 and p1. 16 of the book. It is unthinkable that any king would have contemplated building a pyramid in the periodically flooded Nile valley, but admitting that the original plan was incomplete vitiates the whole theory. Had it been desired, the Egyptians could have begun the whole scheme in such a way that these difficulties would not have arisen. While I appreciate the originality of thinking, I must say that this particular ‘master plan’ has not convinced me.

This is a lively and stimulating book which is attractively designed and is enjoyable, even exciting, to read. It contains splendid line-drawings by Robin Cook and interesting photographs. It has captured many people’s imagination, but it remains to be seen how many of its ideas survive the test of time. I shall require more persuasive arguments in order to accept the relationship between the stars of the Orion belt and the Giza pyramids, and the authors will have to submit considerably more evidence for the existence of a star-based ‘master plan’ for the pyramids in the Memphite area.


[1] This is a review article based on the book by Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert, The Orion Mystery. Unlocking the Secrets of the Pyramids, London: William Heinemann Ltd.. 1994, 23.5 cm., pp. 325, ills., ISBN 0 434 00074 4. £16.99. A forthcoming reprint will contain a postscript (on Dixon’s relics, now happily located at the British Museum) and two additional Appendices (on ‘Planning considerations for the Fourth Dynasty pyramid project’ and ‘The geological considerations for the setting out of the three Giza pyramids’). I am grateful to Mr. R.G. Bauval and Heinemann’s for allowing me to see them before publication. I have also benefited from reading Mr Bauval’s article on ‘The star-shafts of Cheops’s pyramid’ (now DE 29, 1994, 23-81) while it was still in manuscript. [back]

[2] Most recently C. Zivie-Coche, Giza au premier millénaire. Autour du temple d’lsis dame des pyramides. Boston, 1991, 218-46 [back]

[3] The Death of Gods in Ancient Egypt, London: Penguin Books, 1992. [back]

[4] So far we have only reports by others than Gantenbrink himself, including J. Kerisel, RdE 44 (1993), 33-54. [back]

[5] As convincingly argued by J.A.R. Legon, “The air-shafts in the Great Pyramid”, DE 27 (1993), 35-44, and “Air-shaft alignment in the Great Pyramid”, DE 28 (1994), 29-34. [back]

[6] In MIO 10 (1964), 183-7. [back]

[7] Pace J.A.R. Legon, “A ground plan at Giza”, DE 10 (1988), 33-9 [back]

[8] R.J. Cook, The Giza pyramids: A design study. London: Open Mind, 1988: id. The Sacred Geometry of the Giza Plateau, Glastonbury: Seven Islands, 1991; id. The Pyramids of Giza, Glastonbury: Seven Islands, 1992. Cook has now accepted the correlation theory’ and used it to interpret the overall layout and design of the Great Pyramid, DE 29 (1994), 29-36. [back]

[9] I am grateful to Mrs M.E. Cox for the drawing. [back]

[10] Op. cit., 91 [back]



Dr Jaromir Malek

Copyright © by Jaromir Malek

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