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.

I. The legends

The Great Pyramid is probably the most analyzed, studied, and measured structure in history. However, despite all of the attention and effort focused on it, it still retains much of its legendary air of mystery as to how, when, and why it was built. There are no contemporary records of its construction and very few historical records of it until thousands of years after the era when it was supposedly built. Aside from a number of quarry and construction markings, it is utterly bereft of artistic embellishments and writing, and with the exception of the pure mathematical meaning of its stark geometric shape and lines, it is entirely mute. We know little more now than when the Pyramid made its first appearance in the historical records, and what we do know is the subject of continuing debate and raging controversy.

Fanciful stories regarding the Pyramid's origin and purpose were supposedly spun by Medieval Arabs and Jews to fill the factual void. There were a number of these stories, but all spoke of the Pyramid as having been built by an antediluvian king who foresaw in a dream that the Earth would be destroyed in a cataclysmic event in the solar system. Upon awakening the following day, the king called all of his wise men to assess the meaning of his dream, and they took measurements of the heavens and told him afterwards that it was true: the Earth would be destroyed. Then, with the time remaining him before the event, the king ordered the construction of the Pyramid and placed within it all of the accumulated knowledge deemed worth preserving against the pending catastrophe, including: a terrestrial globe, celestial spheres, star charts, malleable glass and iron that wouldn't rust. These stories were documented by the early European visitors of the 17th and 18th centuries to Egypt, but they were considered to be little more than amusing tales and baseless legends. In fact, though, they are all too true, and while there is much to substantiate almost all of the particulars of these legends, the focus of this article will be on the celestial spheres and their significance. What they reveal is that the Pyramid is not mute after all, but speaks quite clearly, conveying the message of its builders to the ages. (Readers of Forum will note that I have spoken of these spheres in an earlier posting on this site, and if they are familiar with the logic inherent in the arrangement of the stone's in the King's Chamber that gives rise to them, they can skip over the following section.)

II. The celestial sphere and its measures

The builders of the Great Pyramid were very familiar with the movements of the heavens, as their ancestors had been watching them for countless long eons before the Pyramid was built. Their accumulated knowledge of the heavens was memorialized in its construction in a number of ways, including in its site selection and in its near perfect orientation to the cardinal points. Their ability to measure the movements of the Sun, the Moon, and the stars reached levels not equaled again until modern times. They were the legendary "watchers" or "heaven gazers" and were universally regarded with awe for their knowledge.

One of the most fundamental procedures followed in making celestial observations is measuring and recording a celestial body's location on the celestial sphere. This begins by measuring its altitude, or angular height above the horizon, and its azimuth, or angular measurement along the horizon from true north or south. To complete the observation, the time of the observation is also recorded. This procedure was in use for thousands of years by priests and mariners alike throughout history, and is still employed by mariners today to affix a ship's position at sea, although it is a practice that is rapidly giving way to the ease and reliability of GPS satellite navigation.

Altitude and azimuth
Celestial sphere or dome with measures of altitude and azimuth
Figure 1
(Note: the 9° increments for north and south altitude are not depicted due to space limitations; however, they have been taken into account in this and all subsequent renderings of the spheres and their figures.)

If someone wanted to encode a message, this procedure can readily be reversed to accomplish this goal. In other words, a series of points could be projected onto the heavens to encode a message and then the results could be reduced to the same altitude and azimuth measurements discussed earlier. For example, a square could be plotted on the heavens directly above an observer with four equidistant points located at right angles from one another. While the square could vary considerably in size, depending on the points selected, for our example we will use one defined by the following four points: (1) altitude 45° in a northerly direction and azimuth 45° east of north, (2) altitude 45° in a northerly direction and azimuth 45° west of north, (3) altitude 45° in a southerly direction and azimuth 45° east of south, and (4) altitude 45° in a southerly direction and azimuth 45° west of south. These four points could be described as celestial coordinates and grouped together as follows: (1) 45°N and 45°E, (2) 45°N and 45°W, (3) 45°S and 45°E, and (4) 45°S and 45°W. This is the code for the square in our example, and as long as the logic of the code is understood it can be deciphered at any time and location in the future to discern the intended message embedded in it. When the encoded points from our example are projected onto the heavens or plotted on a flat paper projection, they can then be connected together with one another to re-create the intended square. This is the code used for the celestial spheres of the Great Pyramid, and the messages inscribed on them can be re-created in the exact same manner as described. It is an exceedingly ancient code, though a timeless one, as it readily transcends time, language, and culture. Mathematics makes it so.


III. The coordinates of the celestial spheres in the King's Chamber

The celestial spheres of the Great Pyramid and their messages are encoded in the orientation, number and arrangement of the stones that form the ceiling and walls of the King's Chamber. All of these stones are of granite, most weighing several tons, cut and set with astonishing precision. The King's Chamber is rectangular in shape, with its longer axis running east-west and the shorter north-south. The ceiling has nine stones that span the east-west axis of the chamber. The walls have exactly 100 stones, set in five even courses or rows from floor to ceiling. The north face of the chamber has 27 stones, the south 36, the east 18, and the west 19. A closer examination of these numbers reveals that each wall, with the exception of the west wall, is a multiple of the number 9, indicating that it was intended to be a factor in the Chamber's design. However, even the number of blocks in the west wall could be considered to be a multiple of the number 9, if a unique stone set in the lowest course is omitted from the sum. This stone, located adjacent to the south wall, is fitted with a noticeably less-exacting standard than that of any of the others in the chamber, a feature that can only have been intended by the builders in order to draw attention to it for the purpose of omitting or including the stone in the count.

Stones in kings chamber
Arrangement of stones in the King's Chamber
Figure 2

The following table depicts the number of blocks in each course on each wall, according to the cardinal direction of the wall.

 

North

East

South

West

1st Row

2

1

3

1

2nd Row

7

5

8

4

3rd Row

6

4

6

4

4th Row

5

3

9

5

5th Row

7

5

10

5

Total

27

18

36

19

Number of blocks in each wall by row

Table 1


The following table depicts the products of these numbers when multiplied by the factor of 9.

 

North Altitude

East Azimuth

South

Altitude

West

Azimuth

1st Row

18

9

27

9

2nd Row

63

45

72

36

3rd Row

54

36

54

36

4th Row

45

27

81

45

5th Row

63

45

90

45

Angular or celestial coordinates in degrees

Table 2

The numbers from Table 2, ranging from 9-90, with their associated cardinal direction, are polar or celestial coordinates. Each number from the north or south wall defines an angular measure of altitude and when paired with either a number from the east or west wall, each of which defines an angular measure of azimuth, yields a coordinate pair (e.g. 45º N, 36º W; 27 º S, 18 º E, etc.) that defines a specific location on the underside of a dome or half of a celestial sphere. If we were to stand under the night sky and look up at the heavens, we would perceive that the stars all appeared to be located equally distant from us in their positions in the firmament, which would have the appearance of the underside of a great dome surrounding us on all sides, from horizon to horizon. This dome is the visible half of the celestial sphere that surrounds the Earth. The zenith, or highest point of the dome from our perspective, is the point on the dome that is directly above us. It is from this vantage point, directly below the zenith, that we should properly consider the Chamber's coordinate pairs with our imagination's eye. Each pair from each of the Chamber's five courses can be plotted on the underside of the celestial dome.

The numbers derived from each course each provides four coordinate pairs. When each of the coordinate pairs are located on the celestial sphere and their locations are then projected downwards onto a flat surface, as a priest or navigator would do to create a plot, and then connected together with one another, they depict figures-circles, parallelograms, and triangles. The 1st, 3rd, and 5th courses depict symmetrical figures; the 2nd and 4th courses depict asymmetrical ones. This paper will focus on the symmetrical figures, but the asymmetrical ones are not without their significance as well.

These figures would probably occasion little more than a passing curiosity if they lead to nothing more than just themselves, but as is readily apparent to anyone with a smattering of understanding of the ancient Egyptian religion and hieroglyphs, they have meaning beyond their mere geometric shapes. They are also symbols and hieroglyphs, many of which were of the most profound religious and cosmic significance to the ancient Egyptians. The symbols and hieroglyphs that derive from the figures on the three symmetrical celestial spheres are analyzed in the following sections.[1]

IV. The first celestial sphere and its figures

In considering the coordinates from the Chamber's 1st course, their locations on the celestial sphere when projected downwards onto a flat surface, create the following plot:

picture
The figures created by the celestial coordinates in the 1st course of stones
Figure 3

The figures consist of two concentric circles, a long, narrow rectangle, and a series of triangles formed by the lines drawn from the center point to the coordinates. The circle within a circle figure picture from the first sphere forms the symbol for Atum-Re, the ancient Egyptian god of creation. A variation of this circle within a circle picture is the ancient Egyptian symbol for the Sun and time, and in very old Egyptian texts is also a symbol for the eye. The eye hieroglyph picture, ir, is the ancient Egyptian verb meaning, to do or to make (create?).

The Figure0026a figure from this sphere appears to be a variation of the hieroglyph picture which is the ancient Egyptian letter picture. When the picture figure is combined with the picture figure from this sphere, a variation of the ancient Egyptian word, picture, npicture picture, is formed, which means eternity.


V. The third celestial sphere and its figures

In considering the coordinates from the Chamber's 3rd course, their locations on the celestial sphere when projected downwards onto a flat surface, create the following plot:

3rd row symbols
The figures created by the celestial coordinates in the 3rd course of stones
Figure 4

Each of the eight triangles created by the plot is a right triangle, with angles of: 54°─36°─90°. This triangle was considered sacred to the ancient Egyptians and was called mr or mer. They believe that God used this triangle when he laid out the universe and when he created Egypt, which they called Tomer, or land of mr. Pythagoras and Euclid would later attach great significance to this triangle, believing it to be imbued with almost magical properties.

If two of the triangles from the plot are combined to create one of 72°─54°─54°, as is depicted in the figure above, and then the surrounding circle is then marked off into similar 72° segments, the familiar five-pointed star is created when the triangles' intersecting points with the surrounding circle are connected to one another. (See the two figures below.) The five-pointed star was a mnemonic or memory device, which in this case was used by the ancient Egyptians to perform trigonometric calculations. The star also embodies two crossed arrowheads, which is the symbol of the most ancient goddess Neith, the Mother of the Gods. Each of the lines of the five-pointed star intersects with another, producing the exact proportion of the golden mean at the point of intersection.

3rd row circle divided into 72 degree segments
The circle from the 3rd course of stones marked off into 72° segments
Figure 5
The five-pointed star, symbol of Neith, Mother of the Gods
The five-pointed star, symbol of Neith, Mother of the Gods
Figure 6

The figures from the 3rd course plot and the five-pointed star derived from them provide a wealth of additional symbols and hieroglyphs.

The 54°─36°─90° triangle that is found in the figures of this sphere is the hieroglyph picture,mr, or mer, which is the root for the verb, to love or to want in ancient Egyptian. The ancient Greeks considered this triangle to be the basic building block of the cosmos, a belief likely passed along to them by the ancient Egyptians.

The five-pointed star picture, dwpictureor dua, that can be derived from these figures is the ancient Egyptian symbol for a star, and is the root for the ancient Egyptian verb, dua, meaning to adore or to praise.

The five-pointed star within a circle picture, dwpicturet, or duat, is the ancient Egyptian symbol for the underworld or place of the soul's transformation. However, there are considerable differences of opinion amongst modern scholars as to the meaning assigned to the duat by the ancient Egyptians and the issue is by no means a settled one.

The rectangle found in these figures is the ancient Egyptian hieroglyph picture for letter p which also symbolizes heaven.[2] A variation on this rectangle arises from the triangles formed from any given side of the pentagon and the star tip opposite it, each of which defines an isosceles triangle of 72°─36°─72° (If the base of this triangle is equal to 1.0 then each of its sides is equal to 1.618―the golden mean―which is the reason this triangle is referred to as the golden triangle. If the sides of this triangle are opened out so that each side creates a right angle with the base and the opening opposite is closed off by a line equal to the length of the base, a rectangle is formed with longer sides each equal to the golden mean. This figure is the golden rectangle of geometry.

If a square is marked off in a golden rectangle, the remaining portion forms another golden rectangle, which can be similarly divided ad infinitum. Similarly, if a square is drawn alongside the longer side of a golden rectangle, a larger golden rectangle is formed, a process that can be continued ad infinitum as well. This unique quality makes the golden rectangle a geometric progression. It is possible that the hieroglyph, picture for the letter, h, may have derived from the golden rectangle's progression.


VI. The fifth celestial sphere and its figures

In considering the coordinates from the Chamber's 5th course, their locations on the celestial sphere when projected downwards onto a flat surface, create the following:

5th row symbols
The figures created by the celestial coordinates in the 5th course of stones
Figure 7

The symbols created by this plot are pregnant with meaning, depicting as they do images that are almost universally understood to represent the earth and creation. In ancient Egypt, the half circle picture is the hieroglyphic letter t which symbolizes the earth[3], and it may be of further significance in this context that the letter t was used as a suffix to denote the feminine in hieroglyphic writing.

VII. Further words derived from the hieroglyphic letters and symbols of the King's Chamber

The rectangle picture and half circle picture from the third and fifth sphere figures, respectively, are the hieroglyphic letters p and t, which when combined is picture, pt, the ancient Egyptian word for sky. (The sky determinative picture is added for purposes of conformity with convention.)

If the circle within a circle from picture the first sphere figures, which is a glyph symbolizing the eye of re orpicture,ir, is combined with the letters p and t the word picture, ptr, an ancient Egyptian word meaning to observe or view is formed.

If the twist picture or letter picture from the first sphere figures is added to the letters p and t from the third and fifth spheres, respectively, the ancient Egyptian word picture, ptpicture is formed, which is the name of Ptah, the ancient Egyptian god who was believed to be the divine architect of the universe. It is interesting that the name, Ptah, incorporates the symbols for heaven and earth, and arguably the symbol for eternity as well, in its orthography. If this was done by design, and it appears that it was, then the name of Ptah has far broader ramifications than have previously been recognized. Furthermore, finding his name in the Great Pyramid has stunning ramifications that are far beyond the scope of this paper to address.

VIII. Other symbols and hieroglyphs present in the structure of the Great Pyramid

From the following figure, which represents the terrestrial globe―another aspect of the medieval Arab legends―several additional hieroglyphs can be derived from the Great Pyramid.

Figure0004a
The terrestrial globe
Figure 8

These include picture ,pictured, the djed column that is the symbol for, Osiris, the Egyptian god of resurrection, although the use of the name of the god in this context may be an anachronism. This symbol is widely understood to mean resurrection. And the hieroglyph

picture the ancient Egyptian letter picture, which is derived from the two lines shown in the figure's depiction of the northern hemisphere and their two implied counterparts from the southern hemisphere If the letter picture is combined with the letters p and t from the third and fifth spheres, the word picturept is produced, which in ancient Egyptian was the word for death.


IX. Narratives in the symbols and hieroglyphs

There appear to be several narratives that can be formed from the various symbols and words identified. Two examples follow:

  1. Atum-Re loves the earth. (Sentence formed from the symbol of Atum-Re from the 1st the word, mr (love), from the 3rd sphere, and the symbol for the earth from the 5th sphere.)
  2. The earth praises Atum-Re. (Sentence formed from the symbol for the earth from the 5th sphere, the word, mr (praise) from the 3rd sphere, and the symbol for Atum-Re from the 5th sphere.)

There may be many more such narratives, but we will limit ourselves to these two examples for the time being for the sake of brevity.

X. Concluding thoughts on the symbols and hieroglyphs

Several questions naturally arise from all of this. Are these symbols and hieroglyphs credible? Writing in the stars, connecting the dots, so to speak, is it believable? I think they are, because they derive from the regular practice of ancient astronomers in observing the stars, and also from their practice of drawing figures on the various constellations of the heavens using the stars as an outline. However, it could still all be a coincidence, but it seems that it would have to be one with very, very long odds. Many if not most of the important symbols and concepts from the Egyptian religion and geometry are either quite clearly present in the figures or can readily be derived from them, which would seem to argue that this was all done by design and is not the result of mere coincidence.

The three courses of stone in the four walls of the King's Chamber from which the symmetrical figures are derived seem to be related in both their number and layout to the format of "The Book of What is in the Duat." There are typically three rows of images in each of the twelve hours that make up the chapters or divisions of the book. The third sphere figures from the King's Chamber and their relationship to the hieroglyphs for dua and duat seem to be particularly compelling in this regard. The emphasis on the dua and duat also call to mind the pyramid texts with their similar focus. It has long been recognized that the various volumes of the Book of the Dead, of which the "The Book of What is in the Duat" is one, were derived in part from the much older pyramid texts. However, preceding and underlying both may be the symbols and hieroglyphs of the Great Pyramid. If so, the messages in the Great Pyramid would be the oldest such texts yet and the closest in time to the thoughts and beliefs of the people who originally conceived of them, and could also represent the original text for the Book of the Hidden Chamber, an important work related to The Book of What is in the Duat.

Professor Robert Temple in The Sphinx Mystery, Inner Traditions 2009, discusses the Book of the Hidden Chamber at some length in Chapter 7, and provides the following quote from this work, "Whosoever shall make these representations according to the image which is in writing in the hidden places of the Duat, at the south of the Hidden Palace…"[4] (my emphasis added). This is a most intriguing statement and I believe that it strongly suggests that the "Hidden Chamber" is none other than the King's Chamber itself. The fact that the five-pointed star, the very symbol of the Duat, can be found in the King's Chamber is very significant in this regard in my opinion. And the fact that the geographic location of the Great Pyramid is related to the upper culmination of the North Pole of the Ecliptic through the 54°─36°─90° triangle, a triangle that is the fundamental building block of the five-pointed star, is also very significant. (See my earlier article posted on Forum, "The Great Pyramid and the North Pole of the Ecliptic" for a discussion on this relationship and on the reasons that I believe the North Pole of the Ecliptic is to be identified with the ancient Egyptians' references to the Great Seat, the Throne of God, and the Palace of Ptah. The 'Hidden Palace" would, therefore, seem to be yet one more term of reference to this very singular spot in the heavens.)

There also seems to be a theme or series of related themes underlying the symbols and hieroglyphs of the Great Pyramid: God and creation, the lesser gods, heavenly design, heaven and earth, time, death, resurrection, eternity, and transformation. A further theme appears to be present in the symbols and hieroglyphs of the third sphere: geometry, mr triangle, golden rectangle, five-pointed star, golden mean, trigonometric functions; Fibonacci series and the progression of life. And what are these themes and what is their purpose or underlying meaning? I don't know, but it is tempting to speculate that their central theme is life, its origins and how it sustains itself. In this regard it may be significant that the only major ancient Egyptian religious symbol that is apparently not present in the Pyramid is the ankh, symbol of life, and it may be one that is conspicuous by its absence.

A few final thoughts. Apparently, the Great Pyramid preserves a great deal of knowledge, with far ranging implications and ramifications to a variety of fields of study, including: astronomy, geodesy, metrology, physics, linguistics, etymology, etc. Which begs the question: Is the Pyramid a relic from another age, after all, one far removed in time from the 4th dynasty? The ancient legends all say so, and in light of the foregoing maybe these legends should be treated with more respect than has been accorded them in the past. There may be far more that the Great Pyramid can teach us than anyone could ever have imagined, and Egypt may have a much longer and far richer history than we are aware of, just as the ancient Egyptians all claimed. The question is, though: Is our modern world, with its highly fractured and narrowly focused professional class, prepared to deal with it?

© Copyright 2009 by Richard E. Ford.


Footnotes:

  1. The interpretations of all hieroglyphs are based on, Mark Collier and Bill Manley, How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs (Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, 1998), unless otherwise noted. [back to text]
  1. Interpretation found in John Anthony West, Traveler's Key to Ancient Egypt (Weaton, Illinois: Quest Edition, 1995) page195. [back to text]
  1. Ibid. [back to text]
  1. Professor Temple takes this quote from: E. A. Wallis Budge, The Egyptian Heaven and Hell, vol. 2 (London: Keegan Paul, 1905), pages 13-17. [back to text]