Robert Bauval's research and writings on the pyramids of Giza, particularly his Orion Correlation Theory, have attracted enormous popular attention – and support – all around the world but have also stirred up a hornet's nest of animosity amongst Egyptologists and orthodox thinkers about the past. Bauval's new book, The Egypt Code, takes his ground-breaking work even further and provides us with stunning new insights into the mysteries of ancient Egyptian religion and civilisation. He joins us during February 2008 as our author of the month and will be available to respond to comments and queries from posters on our Author Of The Month Message Board.
"What are the pyramids for?!!.." Emma Freud BBC2 Everyman documentary The Great Pyramid: Gateway to the stars December 1993.
"This king is Osiris, this pyramid of this king is Osiris, this construction of his is Osiris…" Pyramid Texts 1657
"Behold, he has come as Orion, Osiris has come as Orion…" Pyramid Texts 820
What are Egypt's Old Kingdom pyramids for? What possible purpose could they have had? Why do they have low protracted tunnels, and long narrow shafts that seem to lead nowhere, and corridors, galleries and chambers that are often stark and empty? Why were the pyramids astronomically aligned to the stars? Why are they scattered in clusters along a 40 kilometres strip of desert? And, more intriguingly, why are some devoid of texts while others have their walls fully covered with inscriptions that speak of the sun and stars, and of a strange religious cosmology in a celestial landscape that is reminiscent of Egypt itself?
Until very recently the standard theory offered by Egyptologists was that the pyramids were tombs, large sepulchres principally to house the body of dead kings. As for their elaborate internal systems of tunnels, shafts, corridors and chambers, these were intended mainly to confuse and outsmart tomb-robbers, while their astronomical alignments were either meaningless or just a fluke. Amazingly, such views went mostly unchallenged for nearly two centuries, this in spite of the maddening detail that no bodies of kings (not a skeleton or skull or even a bone splinter) was ever found inside a pyramid or, for that matter, outside it. And more maddening still, no-one had an explanation why, if they were 'tombs', these pyramids were not placed into a single well-defined cemetery but instead were scattered in small clusters in a vast desert plain west of the River Nile like strange volcanic islands in a sea of sand. Yet, oddly enough, the clues that suggested a much higher purpose than just 'tombs' were plentiful and always there for all to see and evaluate. And these clues screamed of a connection with the stars. For example:
(1) The base of each pyramid was aligned to the astronomical directions using star alignments.
(2) The largest of the pyramids contained 'air-shafts' oriented towards important star systems such as Orion, Sirius and the circumpolar constellations (viz. the pyramid of Khufu at Giza).
(3) Pyramids were given 'star' names or names implicit of stars ('The Pyramid of Djedefre is a sehedu star'; 'Nebka is a star'; 'Horus is the Star at the Head of the Sky' and so forth).
(4) Pyramids had ceilings of chambers decorated with five-pointed stars (viz, the Step Pyramid and 5th and 6th dynasty pyramids at Saqqara).
(5) Pyramids contained writings carved on the inside walls that spoke of a star-religion and the destiny of king in a starry world called Duat which contained Orion and other constellations (viz. the 5th and 6th dynasty pyramids at Saqqara).
It is therefore somewhat odd, not to say perverse, that with so many 'stellar' connections there has not been a single Egyptologist who was compelled enough to consider a stellar 'function' for the pyramids. And because this important matter was left unbridled for so long, it was not surprising that untrained researchers, dilatants, cranks and charlatans dished out theories that ranged from the derisory to the completely insane. Pyramids were built by the lost civilisation of Atlantis; they were built by a lost technology using levitation; they were power plants; they were electromagnetic receivers for inter-stellar communications; they were built by aliens; they were built by the Jews while in captivity in Egypt; the Great Pyramid was designed to contain detailed information of world history and future in every inch of its plan; it was a Bible in stone. So when I burst on the scene in 1994 with my first book, The Orion Mystery, showing that the pattern of the three Giza pyramids and their position relative to the Nile mirrored the pattern of the three stars of Orion's belt and their position relative to the Milky Way, the subject was so much soiled and degraded that any new theory that mentioned the 'stars' or 'astronomy' was immediately met with a barrage of academic indifference (at best) or vociferous opposition. The reaction was even more violent because my theory had received the -albeit cautious– backing of one of the world's most eminent and most respected Egyptologists, Sir I.E.S. Edwards, who had gallantly and boldly stuck his neck out on my behalf by appearing on a BBC documentary in support of some of my ideas. This brought him the wrath of his peers but it nonetheless twisted their arms and forced some to grudgingly review my theory. But in the years that followed, and especially after Edwards's death in 1996, I was derided and pilloried by a cabal of Egyptologists and other 'experts' seemingly determined to 'debunk' the Orion Correlation Theory, as my hypothesis was now being called. All this academic onslaught was most daunting and distressing, but I held firm my ground for I knew that I had not only generated massive interest and support in the general public and the international media, but that the theory I had proposed neatly dovetailed into the context of Egypt's Pyramid Age and provided the 'missing link' to an otherwise baffling mystery. Even the most entrenched sceptic could not easily dismiss the Orion-Giza Correlation as 'coincidence'.
Fourteen long years have now passed since the publication of The Orion Mystery. Meanwhile the book has been published in more than twenty languages and there have been dozens of television documentaries fully or partially-based on the Orion Correlation Theory (viz. Britain's BBC 2 and Channel 4; America's ABC, NBC and FOX TV, Europe and America's Discovery Channel and History Channel; Italy's RAI 3; Germany's ZDF and ARD; France's ARTE and TF3; South Africa's SABC and M-net TV; Holland's AVRO TV; Australia's Channel 7; Egypt's NILE-TV and many more other channels in the Far East and Middle East). Forthcoming are two more documentaries, one with National Geographic Television titled "Unsolved Mysteries of the Pyramids" (where my theory will be critically reviewed), and another made for Italy's RAI 2 and Holland's AVRO fully based on The Egypt Code. Slowly but surely the Orion Correlation Theory has crept, like a thief in the night, into mainstream Egyptology and the new discipline of Archaeoastronomy. And even though it is given much lip and criticism, it is very obvious that it has touched the proverbial nerve of academia.
To be fair, not all academics were prone to dismiss The Orion Mystery. Some very eminent Egyptologists such as Dr. Jaromir Malek of the Griffith Institute and the American Egyptologist Dr. Ed Meltzer, kept an open mind in the same fashion as the late Sir I.E.S. Edwards had done. More refreshingly, the theory received cautious support from the astronomical community, particularly from Professor Archie Roy of Glasgow University, Professor Mary Brück of Edinburgh University, Professor Giulo Magli of Milan Politecnico, Professor Percy Seymour of Plymouth University and Professor Chandra Wikramasingh of Cardiff University. And even though these high ranking astronomers maintained a healthy scepticism, they nonetheless found the theory intriguing and deserving of careful consideration and further research.
Also in the course of the years a crack began to appear in the Egyptological academic armour when Dr. Joromir Malek (who had reviewed my theory in 1994 in the Oxford journal Discussions in Egyptology) declared himself favourable to the possibility that the apparent illogical scattering of pyramids in the Memphite necropolis (a 40 kilometres long desert strip west of the Nile near Cairo) may, after all, have had more to do with "religious, astronomical or similar" considerations than with purely practical considerations such as the topography and geology of the land. Similar views began to be heard in Egyptology, especially from the American Egyptologist Mark Lehner, the Czech Egyptologist Miroslav Verner and the British Egyptologist David Jeffreys. It was, however, the archaeoastronomer Anthony Aveni, a professor of astronomy and anthropology at Colgate University, who, in my view, would come the closest in providing an overall picture of what may have been in the minds of the ancient architects who designed and planned such mysterious monuments (not only in Egypt but in other parts of the ancient world) when he wrote that,
"In order to understand what ancient people thought about the world around them, we must begin by witnessing phenomena through their eyes. A knowledge of each particular culture is necessary, but learning what the sky contains and how each entity moves is also indispensable… strange but true: whole cities, kingdom and empires were founded based on observations and interpretations of natural events that pass undetected under our noses and above our heads."
Dr. Aveni was referring to the Mayan and Inca civilisations when he made the above statement. But may as well have been talking about the Egypt's Old Kingdom, for I am now even more convinced that such a statement holds truer for the sacred cities, pyramids and temples built by the ancient Egyptians all along the 1000 kilometres of the Nile Valley during their three-thousand years of civilisation. And this, in a nutshell, is what I set out to prove in The Egypt Code.
By the year 2000 I was ready to put the finding of my investigation into a book form. To this end I presented a synopsis to my editor at Random House in London, who promptly commissioned the project. By early 2004 I had a first draft ready. The final draft, however, was completed in Egypt. In February 2005 I rent a fully furnished apartment with a direct view over the Giza pyramids. Being here gave me the unique opportunity to refine the book with a hands-on approach to the pyramids in Lower Egypt and the great temples of Upper Egypt and to verify and test the various ideas of my thesis. Imbued with the enchantment and magic of these ancient sites I have, I believe, succeeded, in more ways than one, in bringing the sky-ground correlation theory I started two decades ago to its natural conclusion.
In The Egypt Code I have made use of primary sources whenever available, and relied only on scholarly research published in peer-reviewed journals or in textbooks by renowned Egyptologists and other scholars. My readers should expect no less from me. Culling my data from all these sources I have come to this conclusion: the ancient Egyptian theocracy was regulated by a Cosmic Order called Maat which was none other than the order of the sky viz. the observable, precise and predictable cycles of the sun, the moon and the stars. I have also concluded that this Cosmic Order was fervently believed to influence the material world below, especially the all-important annual flooding of the Nile, for nothing more fascinated, awed and frightened the ancient Egyptians than the Nile's flood which began in late June and ended in late September. This was the annual miracle that rejuvenated the crops and all other life in Egypt. But too low a rise in the waters in June would bring famine and pestilence.
This double-edged sword that hung perpetually over Egypt compelled the Nile dwellers to seek magical means to ensure a good flood. Early in their development they came to observe that the stars of Orion and Sirius would disappear underneath the western horizon after sunset in late March and remain for a protracted period (about three months) in the 'underworld' before re-emerging on the eastern horizon at dawn in late June just when the waters of the Nile began to rise. During this crucial period of the stars sojourn in the 'underworld' the astronomer-priests also noted that the sun travelled from a point on the ecliptic just below the bright cluster of the Pleiades (marking the vernal point) to a spot further along the ecliptic just below the chest of the celestial lion, Leo (marking the summer solstice), that bracketed the constellation of Orion and Sirius.
The idea began to enter their minds that when the sun-god journeyed through that special part of the sky –the Duat as it was called– he performed a magical ritual -a sort of 'station of the cross'– that would bring about the 'rebirth' of the stars as well as the 'rebirth' of the Nile when, in late June, the star Sirius would re-appear at dawn in the eastern horizon. This even also happened to fall on the day of the summer solstice, when the sun would reach its maximal northerly declination, and was for good reason taken as New Year's Day and called, among other things, the 'Birth of Ra' the sun-god.
A mythology and sky-religion developed around this cosmic and Nilotic theme and, more intriguingly, an ambitious plan was gradually hatched around 2800 BC to 'bring down', in the literal sense, the Cosmic Order so that the pharaoh, the son of Ra on earth, could undertake the same magical journey in an earthly Duat and thus secure for Egypt a 'good' flood. To cite the Hermetic dictum: as above so below. To this end a massive pan-generational project was put into action that would involve building clusters of 'star'-pyramids at predetermined sites to represent Orion and the Pleiades, as well as the building of great 'sun'-temples set on both sides of the Nile to define the part of the ecliptic along which the sun-god travelled through the Duat from vernal equinox to summer solstice set on both sides of the Milky Way.
But my new theory does not stop here, for I also demonstrate in The Egypt Code that the slow cyclical changes witnessed in the sky landscape caused by precession and the peculiarities of the Egyptian civil calendar over the 3000 years of the pharaonic civilisation are reflected in the changes witnessed on the ground all along the 1000 kilometres of the Nile Valley in the evolution of temples throughout the same 3000 years. In other words The Egypt Code proposes, no less, to prove that there exists a sort of 'cosmic Egypt' ghosted in the geography of the Nile Valley stretching from north to south that was once literally regulated and administered by astronomer-priests headed by a sun-king, that lasted for over three millennia and can still be discerned in the layout of pyramids and temples that remain today.
The Egypt Code is not a new-age book that regurgitates wild speculations and theories that cannot be verified or tested. My thesis is entirely verifiable, testable and ultimately falsifiable if need be. Indeed, I happily welcome Egyptologists and other scholars and researchers in the field of Egyptian archaeology and history to step up and do so. This is why I have accepted the invitation by Graham Hancock to be 'Author of the Month' on his Website. I will endeavour to answer all reasonable questions, time and space allowing, of course.
In closing I would like to add that while I was writing the last version of The Egypt Code in Cairo I would often take short breaks from my long hours at my computer and go up on the roof of our building to look at the pyramids. From that vantage point I could have an unobstructed view over the Giza pyramids hardly a kilometre away. It sometimes felt as if I could reach out and touch them. But my gaze would always wander beyond Giza to a place on the south horizon where I could see the outline of the first pyramid built in Egypt, the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, with its distinctive staggered profile gleaming through the thin veil of haze. The quest for The Egypt Code began there while casually standing one day next to the seated effigy of the pyramid-king who built this strange monument and who, very mysteriously, was made to stare eternally at the circumpolar stars. I could also see, but only when the air was exceptionally clear, the profile of the smaller pyramids of Abusir. So I now would invite you to join me (virtually for now, but on our next tour in Egypt in March 2008 -see www.robertbauval.co.uk) to those very same places and also other relevant locations in Egypt to re-trace my quest for the 'Holy Grail' of the pyramid and temple builders of ancient Egypt.
- Produced by Pioneer Production Ltd. in UK. [back to text]
- Produced by the Durch filmmaker Roel Oostra of Crescom Ltd. [back to text]