Of all the celestial observations that ancient peoples may have been capable of performing, that of the north pole of the ecliptic (NPOE) has to be the most problematic and unlikely. The NPOE is not marked by any major stars, and even if it were, locating it precisely would require careful and detailed observations of the north pole of the celestial sphere (NPOCS) over many thousands of years to detect the fact that the celestial pole was slowly moving and circling this singular and enigmatic spot in the heavens. Surely there was no way that they could have accumulated such data, but even if they had, it seems highly unlikely that they could have located the NPOE with any degree of precision. Or had they, and if so what is the evidence for it? The Great Pyramid of Giza provides definitive proof that they were not only well aware of the precise location of the NPOE, but of its relationship to the cosmos and Earth's movements as well.
There are at least two connections between the Great Pyramid and the NPOE; one direct and the other indirect. The first is embodied in the legendary terrestrial globe that can be generated from the internal structures of the Pyramid and the second derives from the Pyramid's location at the 30th parallel of latitude. Both of these connections have ties to the deepest and most sacred symbols and religious beliefs of the ancient Egyptians.
The Terrestrial Globe
Arab and Jewish historians of the Middle Ages wrote that the Great Pyramid was built by an ante-diluvian king, who saw in a dream that the Earth would be destroyed in a tremendous cataclysm in the solar system. When he awoke, he sought the advice of his learned men who told him that it was true. Afterwards, the king used the time remaining before the cataclysm to build a pyramid and to place within it all of the knowledge of his time considered worth preserving. He also placed a terrestrial globe in it.
These stories were considered little more than fanciful legends, because there was no proof of any of them. However, there is compelling evidence that they may be entirely accurate as I have detailed in a book that I have recently published, Lord of Eternity; Divine Order and the Great Pyramid. This evidence includes a remarkably accurate terrestrial globe, which is relevant to our discussion. The globe is not an actual, physical object, but a mathematical model that can be readily generated from the shape and certain internal structures of the Pyramid.
The derivation of the terrestrial globe starts with the djed column, with its distinctive four bars or rings mounted atop a column or pillar. The djed was undoubtedly one of the most sacred symbols of ancient Egypt's religion and the raising of the djed at the annual Osirian rites signified the rebirth of the god Osiris and was part of the dramatic conclusion of these rites. This symbol is incorporated in an internal structure of the Great Pyramid that is located above the king's chamber, where there are four chambers, each covered with a flat roof composed of immense beams of granite blocks, set with remarkable precision. (A fifth chamber lies above these four, but it is structurally different in that it has a pented roof of limestone beams, designed to protect the underlying structures from the immense weight of the Pyramid's mass located above them, thus it is not functionally related to them.) These four chambers are the equivalent of the four lines or rings on the djed column and can properly be called the djed structure of the Pyramid; it is from this structure that the terrestrial globe is derived.
From a view of the eastern side-profile aspect of the Pyramid, with its internal structures marked out, the terrestrial globe begins with a circle drawn around the Pyramid, using its height as the radius of the circle. Next, a vertical line is laid off from the base of the Pyramid and parallel to its centerline, running up through the center of the King's Chamber, thence up and through the djed structure above it, and continuing from there up and through the exterior of the Pyramid. Next, two perpendicular lines are laid off from the previous line. The first begins at the ceiling of the fourth or uppermost chamber of the djed structure, and runs parallel to the baseline until it exits the Pyramid on both sides and continues on to the surrounding circle. The second begins at the spot where the vertical line that was previously laid off exits the exterior of the Pyramid and from there runs in both directions to the surrounding circle.
The angular measure of the two lines from the Pyramid's baseline shows that they are approximately 24° and 66°, respectively, as detailed in the foregoing line drawing. (Actual measurements from Petrie's and Maragiolio and Rinaldi's survey data are approximately 24.2° and 65.8°, uncorrected for any margins of error in the data.) If a mirror image of the Pyramid is drawn, two similar lines can be laid off on the bottom half of the circle. Only a moment's reflection is necessary to realize that these four lines are clearly the two tropics and the two polar circles of the Earth, which are of very great significance for the orientation of the Earth in the solar system and for its movements about the Sun and the heavens above. This is the legendary terrestrial globe.
The appearance of the tropics on this globe is interesting, but not overly surprising. If the ancient peoples had determined that the earth was a sphere, simple observations of the Sun's movements over time would have disclosed to them that the Sun moved regularly and continuously between set boundaries that surrounded the Earth. These two lines would represent the tropos or turning points of the Sun, and the two Tropics could readily be drawn from this information on a depiction of the Earth. What is noteworthy in this regard, however, is the inescapable fact that the ancient Egyptians apparently knew this information many thousands of years before the Greeks, who have long been credited with its discovery. Similarly, based on the evidence presented by the Pyramid's terrestrial globe, the discovery of the two polar circles should also be attributed to the Egyptians and not the Greeks.
The appearance of the polar circles on the Pyramid's terrestrial globe, though, is truly remarkable, as the only way that these lines could have been drawn is for the designers of the globe to have had direct and detailed knowledge of the NPOE, because the polar circle derives from the fact that the NPOE defines its apparent movement about the Earth along this path. (Once this knowledge had been arrived at, the existence of the south pole of the ecliptic could readily be inferred and a similar line drawn in the southern hemisphere of the terrestrial globe.) As previously noted, knowledge of the NPOE could only have been acquired through long and very precise observations and measurements of the movements of the NPOCS, a very painstaking and exacting process, requiring discipline and dedication over many thousands of years. Apparently, though, this is exactly what the ancient Egyptians did, as is evidenced by the appearance of the polar circles on the terrestrial globe in the Pyramid. There don't appear to be other plausible conclusions that can be drawn for this.
The Great Seat
The available literature of the ancient Egyptians reveals that they were fascinated by the existence of a pole in the heavens about which the cosmos appeared to turn in endless fashion, and they referred to it as the Great Seat or the Throne of God and identified it with the god, Ptah. Many students of this literature have assumed that the great seat was the NPOCS, without giving any serious consideration or thought to the possibility that the ancient Egyptians may have been referring to the NPOE, instead. As discussed earlier, the technical knowledge and extensive records of celestial observations necessary for the detection of the NPOE was considered far beyond the capabilities of the ancient Egyptians. However, as the following will show, their references to the Great Seat were to the NPOE and not the NPOCS.
The evidence for this begins with the sacred mer triangle, the right triangle with angles of, 54°-36°-90°; a triangle believed by Livio Catullo Stecchini to have given its name to the land itself, To-Mer (Appended Monograph in Peter Tompkins; Secrets of the Great Pyramid; Harper and Row; p. 291). Plato spoke of this triangle in Timaeus, and stated that it had been used by God to delineate the cosmos. It would later fascinate Euclid, as well as the Pythagoreans whose symbol for their secret society was the five-pointed star, which is produced from a combination of such triangles. It is also intimately connected with the transcendental number φ, a number of almost mystical significance that is commonly referred to as the golden mean. The discovery of this triangle and its features has long been credited to the Greeks, but credit likely belongs to the Egyptians, as will be borne out in the following.
From the Great Pyramid's location, which for all intents and purposes lies on the 30th parallel of latitude, the NPOCS can be observed at a constant angular altitude of 30° above the horizon, a position from which it never varies. This is explained by the fact that the location of the NPOCS is determined by the location of Earth's North Pole, which remains constant, while the actual location of NPOCS in the heavens shifts along the circle surrounding the NPOE due to the earth's precessional movement. It takes the NPOCS approximately 25, 920 years to make a complete circle around the NPOE.
From the pyramid's location, the NPOE appears to move in a continuous circular motion about the NPOCS, but this perception is caused by the rotation of the Earth. In fact, it is the NPOCS that moves about the NPOE and not the other way around. However, it is the apparent motion of the NPOE that is important to our purposes for the moment. During its daily apparent motion about the NPOCS, the NPOE swings in a broad circle that has a radius of some 24° from the NPOCS, across the celestial sphere. At its lowest location along this circle, the NPOE is located at an angular altitude of 6° above the horizon, while it reaches its highest location at an angle of 54° above the horizon. Its lowest point is referred to as its inferior culmination or lower culmination, while its highest rise is referred to as its superior or upper culmination. In the northern hemisphere, superior culmination is also referred to as "southing", as its location in the heavens is literally south of the NPOCS and along the same meridian or line of longitude of the location from where it is being observed.
The NPOE's superior culmination at an angle of 54° at the Pyramid's location obviously is directly related to the mer triangle, as can be seen from the following drawing. The ramification of this are both apparent and far reaching, and among other things suggest that this triangle ties heaven to earth, a fact that must have fascinated the ancient Egyptians. Perhaps it also holds the possibility of a much broader meaning of the term ankh-tawy, a name frequently associated with the nearby ancient city of Memphis. By common understanding this term has long been interpreted to mean the knot that ties or binds the two lands, Upper to Lower Egypt. However, in light of the foregoing, could it also mean the knot that ties heaven to earth through the location of the Great Pyramid? And could it be that the mer triangle provides this tie, defining not only Egypt as the Land of Mer, but also providing the key as to how it was surveyed and laid out? I believe it did all of this and more.
It is also relevant that the term "southing" may hold the key to an understanding of a very perplexing variation on the name of the god Ptah: "Ptah, South-of-His-Wall." Many people have assumed that this name was applied to Ptah, because his temple may have been located south of the walls surrounding Memphis, but this argument is very tenuous at best. A far better argument could be made that it refers to the upper culmination of the NPOE at the Pyramid's location, from where the apparent circle that the NPOE traces about the NPOCS can readily be perceived as a "wall" that the NPOE literally travels around eternally, never varying in its course. If the ancient Egyptians perceived it similarly, then "Ptah, South-of-His-Wall", literally refers to the "southing" of the NPOE along the "wall" of its apparent circle of movement. If this is indeed so, then the ancient Egyptians appear to have quite clearly identified Ptah with the NPOE.
The ramifications of the ancient Egyptians knowledge of and familiarity with the NPOE are enormous. Obviously they were fully capable of long term and accurate measurements of minute and almost imperceptible celestial movements. This required discipline, organization, well-established and reliable procedures, instruments for celestial observation and measurement of the very highest technical order, and accurate record keeping. How had the ancient Egyptians managed all of this? And why had they gone to such extraordinary lengths over such a seemingly arcane issue in the first place? The questions reverberate like thunder, while the mind reels and our understanding of history shudders at the prospect!
About the author: Richard E. Ford is an independent scholar who has done extensive research on the Great Pyramid. He has recently published a book on his findings, Lord of Eternity; Divine Order and the Great Pyramid, which can be ordered from iUniverse.com.