Cheops' Pyramid*

The Great Pyramid and Sphinx

The Great Pyramid of Giza. This single structure has spawned more controversy and speculation than any other in the world. The reason is clear - until this century, it remained the largest man-made construction in the history of human civilization, and even now, we would be hard-pressed to equal its simplicity, its engineering, its elegance, or its sheer magnitude.

Before I get into my pet-peeves about the interpretation of the Great Pyramid and my highly opinionated views on established theories, let me relate Pam's and my personal experience with the Great Pyramid.

Long before the actual trip we found out, much to our chagrin, that the Great Pyramid would be closed for cleaning while we were the there. It was a devastating realization, but not enough of one to preclude the trip completely. It just means that we must go back.

I can't stress enough what an awesome experience it is to stand below these stuctures. There are sizes that people can not appreciate in their imaginations even in memory. I can remember the awe I felt in front of the pyramids, but I still can't accurately conceive of the size now that it's no longer right in front of me. I could quote the dimensions, but they are meaningless in this respect. The picture below shows the first couple of courses of masonry with people, as a slight indication of scale.

The Great Pyramid & People

One thing I noticed that I didn't expect, was that the more you get closer to the base of the pyramid, the less and less triangular it appears. At the base, looking directly upwards, the pyramid smooths out into an even curve. I can't characterize it consciously, but intuitively, there seems to be something profound about that observation. Especially considering the well attested fact that the Great Pyramid is in fact built at precisely a 1:43,200 scale to a hemisphere of the Earth, 1 implying that at least part of the function of the pyramid was as a model of the planet.

The Great Pyramid - Looking Up

It quickly becomes apparent visiting Egypt that some phenomena of human society have existed since the origins of civilization. One of the most common is grafitti. I mentioned the grafitti Belzoni left inside Chefren's Pyramid as it is an extreme example, but the fact is the pyramids are covered with grafitti that date back thousands of years, becoming of historical interest in and of themselves. Below is an example of grafitti left by the ancient Greeks.

The Great Pyramid - Grafitti

The original entrance to the pyramid has never been opened - the gabled roof is barely uncovered. Al Mamun, one of the Califs of Cairo, forced a passage into the softer limestone below and this is the entrance that is still used today.

The Original Entrance
The Original Entrance (upper left) & the Al Mamun Entrance (lower left)
The Al Mamun Entrance

As you can see, the current entrance is literally a "hole in the wall" and hardly looks like the entrance to such a grand structure. Consequently, it's easy to mistake, which I did, leading to Pam's and my greatest regret of our trip. From my journal:

"As we walk by the main entrance (not realizing it was the main entrance), the door is open and a little man is motioning for us to enter. Sean says, 'well, why don't we go up the rest of these stairs, check it out, and come back down and see what this guy's trying to get us to see.'

"So, we checked out the original gabled entrance and came back down realizing it WAS the real entrance. The door was locked and the little man was gone. We lost our one chance to get in."

Pam was a little more acrimonious in her journal...

"Of course [the Great Pyramid] was closed. But, we climbed up anyway, and found the entrance open. A man asked if we wanted to go in. Sean dragged me away, and we continued to the false entrance. When we returned, the had gone and the door was locked. I was furious!"

Oops. See? Directions; trust Pam.

Our experience at the Great Pyramid wasn't a total loss, however. We chose the entrance to stop for a rest and to eat lunch - partly in hopes that the man would return, partly because it was cool, peaceful, and inside the Great Pyramid afterall, if only just. We were joined by a tiny mouse that emerged from behind the locked door - we fantasized about the experiences of that mouse.

The controversies; where to begin? My introduction to non-traditional egyptology was The Orion Mystery by Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert. The basic revelation of this book is that the three pyramids of Giza correspond perfectly in alignment to the three stars in the constellation Orion's belt. This insight led Bauval and Gilbert to seriously reexamine aspects of Egyptian religion with the assumption that the Ancient Egyptians possesed a sophisticated knowledge of astronomy. In addition, they searched for further correspondences and in fact found multitudes - not only do all the Old Kingdom pyramids correspond perfectly to stars, so to do the shafts of the Great Pyramid - supposedly "air vents" - point to religiously significant stars at the highest points in their journey across the sky. There are far, far too many details to elaborate on here, however, the correspondences that are based on physical, objective, goemetric facts, are so many in number and are so scientifically rigorous, they are compelling to say the least.

Despite this, Bauval et al's work has been all but dismissed by established Egyptology. The Orion Mystery also serves to show how closed-minded and self-absorbed Egyptology as a discipline is. Traditional Egyptologists develop elaborate theories, sometimes incorporating disciplines (such as engineering) they have no background in, and then dismiss the experts in other fields when they look at the theories and say, "no, I'm sorry, that can't be possible."

A dramatic example of this fact are the pyramids themselves. Traditional Egyptologists maintain to this day that the pyramids were tombs, despite the fact that they do not conform to the style of any other tombs found in Egypt either before, during, or after the period in which the pyramids were supposedly built. They maintain this despite the fact that no mummies, funerary relics, or sarcophagi (except for the large stone outer sarcophagi) have ever been found - even though we *know* that they had never been breached until modern times when they were found completely empty. An A&E special 2 that claimed the pyramids served as giant "beacons" for tomb-robbers, showed two theives dressed only in turbans and loin-clothes streaking away from the pyramids carrying cloth bundles of loot. ??!? It took weeks of the concerted effort of crews of people in a politically sanctioned project to break into the Great Pyramid - utilizing dynamite! We're naively expected to buy...what? That a tiny band of thieves managed to find a secret entrance to the pyramid from which they spirited away literally piles of treasure in small bundles in the dead of night without leaving a trace of their passage? It's just not feasible! It doesn't even make sense!

Now shall we discuss the construction of the pyramids? The Great Pyramid was supposedly constructed in about 20-30 years using manual labour and ramps. Someone did the simple calculations and pointed out that it was physically impossible to place that phenomenal number of stones in that span of time. Either the method or the time frame must be incorrect for completely objective, concrete reasons. Do the Egyptologists care? No. Egyptologists maintain that the pyramids were built with ramps. The engineers came in and pointed out that for the ramp to provide the mechanical advantage necessary it would need to be about 4 miles long and several times the mass of the pyramid itself. In addition, to be able to support the weight of the stones being moved across them, the ramp would need to be made of nothing less strong than the limestone that the stones themselves are made of! These are engineering facts that can not be disputed and are independently provable. Yet Egyptologists ignore the arguments blindly, since engineers are not trained Egyptologists, and continue to claim the ramps were made of mud-brick.

The Orion Mystery also makes it clear that Egyptologists have a very condescending and low view of the Ancient Egyptians in general. One of the most sophisticated civilizations to ever appear on the planet - responsible for constructions that have spanned eons, for some of the most captivating art that has ever been created by human hands - a civilization that had a complicated and sophisticated knowledge of engineering, astronomy, mathematics, and spirituality - a civilization (despite its biblical image) that was largely peaceful and prosperous - they claim, was comprised of superstitious savages whose motivations were largely "the bigger the better" and "show your power". Again, this simply doesn't make sense, and as Bauval and Gilbert point out, can be traced back to misunderstandings as simple as translations made by Christian priests that were biased by the calculated date of God's creation of the universe. Yet, the biases persist and persist among people that should know better.

One of the things that compels me so much about Bauval and other authors is that they are not afraid to hold up the things that defy explaination and say "we have no idea how these came about". Most Egyptologist present theories as fact, and brush the embarassing inconsistencies under the carpet - seemingly afraid of admitting that there are things that do not fit nicely into their synthetic world.

From The Orion Mystery I moved on to Graham Hancock's Fingerprints of the Gods another extremely compelling book that synthesizes an almost unimaginable amount of cross cultural information. I couldn't even begin to describe what is presented - but in my opinion, it should be required reading for anyone interested in the origins of civilization on Earth. Even if his speculations prove to be false, the questions he raises are ones that still remain to be answered.

Bauval and Hancock have since coauthored another book, The Message of the Sphinx (also published as Keeper of Genesis) that reanalyzes a number of religious texts with the assumption that they were metaphors for astronomical information. What emerged was further correspondence to physical reality that is far, far beyond coincidence. They presented very clear proposals for research that would either prove or disprove their theories, but they have yet to be given permission to pursue it.

It is almost inescapable to develop a conspiracy paranoia about Egyptology. One of the revelations of The Orion Mystery was that a German scientist, Rudolf Gatenbrink, sent a tiny robot up the southern shaft of the Queen's Chamber of the Great Pyramid, and discover the presence of another chamber. ?!? Amazingly, this little bit of information is not widely known and shortly after the discovery, Gatenbrink was banned from the Giza plateau. Despite several proposals, he was denied permission to send another robot capable of peering into the room via a fibre-optic camera.

Apparently, according to unofficial reports, the project was completed be an Arabic team. I found this report on Graham Hancock's page.

    News flash from Giza as of December 1, 1996
    What lies beyond the "door" at the upper end of the narrow passage leading up from the "Queen's Chamber" in the Great Pyramid may have recently been explored, in secrecy.
    It has been reported to us that on October 20, 1996, the Gantenbrink experiment has now been realized. As previously reported in the Egyptian Gazette newspaper, Zahi Hawass' choice of Dr. Farouk El Baz to complete this project to explore the passage, apparently has come to fruition.
    This story was obtained from two separate security guards at Giza, and independently confirmed via a media person working with the Sphinx expedition of Dr. Joseph Schor, currently in the excavation phase.This is the report:
    At the end of the ascending passage, 8 inches square, leading from inside the Great Pyramid's "Queen's Chamber" is a small "door" with two metal "handles." On October 20, 1996, Dr. El Bas and two assistants sent a fiber optic camera lens through a flaw in this door. What was allegedly found was a 2 meter by 1.5 meter chamber inside of which was a statue. The statue seemed to be in the image of a black male, holding an Ankh in one hand. On the opposing wall of this chamber was a round shaped passage leading out.
    Whether this report is legitimate has yet to be determined. The completion of this probe behind the door has not been made public. Compare this report with any official reports, if and when they materialize.

I half tongue-in-cheek, half seriously, comment on how suspicious it was that the Great Pyramid - the largest tourist draw to Giza, and probably the biggest money maker - was closed for 8 months, for "cleaning".

There are so many things that bother me about Egyptology as an established discipline. I think it's best if one reads some of the books that I've described here. I haven't even scratched the surface. I guess the whole point of this diatribe is that we still really know and understand next to nothing about Ancient Egypt. This is true of the entirety of Egypt, not just the Great Pyramid which tends to be the focus.

* There are two sets of names commonly used for the pharaohs to whom the pyramids are attributed: Cheops / Khufu - the Great Pyramid; Chefren / Khafre - the second largest of the three; and Mycerinus / Menkaure - the smallest. They are the Greek / Egyptian names respectively - throughout these pages I will use Cheops, Chefren, and Menkaure. I don't care about consistency - they're the names that I like, so there.

1 Stecchini, Livio in Tompkins, Peter. Secrets of the Great Pyramid. New York: Harper & Row, 1971.

2 "Mummies and the Wonders of Ancient Egypt: Great Pyramids". A&E Television Networks, 1996. AAE-15901.

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