Great Pyramid At Giza:
a Cambridge University Egyptologist from England, Dr. Kate Spence,
announced a possible recalculation on the age of the Great Pyramid
of Khufu or Cheops on the Giza Plateau near Cairo. She wanted
to know how the ancient Egyptians lined up the Cheops pyramid
so precisely north to south. She hypothesized that stars were
the guide, so she used a computer to wind back time in the sky
from today to about 4500 years ago. Dr. Spence found that the
star Mizar, in the Big Dipper's handle, and Kochab, in the bowl
of the Little Dipper, would have appeared one over the other at
a point directly above the North Pole. Dr. Spence thinks that
the Egyptians then hung a plumb line against the two stars to
find true north for the construction of the great Cheops Pyramid.
Her revised date for that construction is now 2478 B. C., give
or take five years. If correct, the Great Pyramid could be 75
years older than traditional estimates. Another professor thinks
this application of computer power to refine age estimates of
large ancient monuments by calculating star alignments will have
a big impact on Egyptology. She is Dr.
Betsy Bryan, Professor of Egyptology and Chair of the Department
of Near Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore,
Bryan, Ph.D., Professor of Egyptology and Chair of Near Eastern
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland:
personally think it's going to have a real large
impact on allowing us to better get a precision for Old Kingdom
chronology generally. I suspect we will start to see people attempting
to do similar modeling for monuments built in other periods. I think
we have had such argumentation in Egyptology about using doing astronomical
chronology based on the rising of the star, Sirius, which we know
is technically the beginning of each Egyptian civil year. But we
don't know where they did it. So, what Kate has done is give us
another opportunity to go back and take monuments ignoring the notion
of the rise of Sirius and looking at another sighting or alignment
principal that will allow us to do chronology also. So, I think
you are going to see people looking for places they can apply similar
USING COMPUTERS TO GO BACK IN TIME AND
SEE WHERE THE STARS MATCHED UP TO THE BUILDING OF THE LARGE MONUMENTS.
I mean we don't know for sure how many times the Egyptians through
history attempted to align monuments to true north, but I suspect
that we're going to:
see more people looking into that question.
when they find it, they will perhaps apply her modeling principals
for how they did it.
WOULD TRUE NORTH HAVE BEEN SO IMPORTANT TO THE EGYPTIANS?
actually to me is pretty fascinating. Because the Egyptians recognized
that there were a set of stars in the sky that never set. And those
are the stars that revolve around the north pole, the north celestial
pole in the northern sky. That would be our Big Dipper and our Little
Dipper. And so they recognized that from obviously very early on
and we have references in the pyramid texts to the Egyptian king
traveling up into the sky to become and join with one of the circumpolar
stars. The Egyptians called them the "imperishables" because they
never set. And they were aware that anything that was further south
than those sets of northern stars were going to disappear below
the horizon for a period of time during the year. That would essentially
signal to them that these were stars that could die and then be
brought back again. But the king was to become one of these stars
that never ever set.
THAT'S WHY HE HAD TO HAVE AN EXIT THAT WOULD TAKE HIM TO THE NORTH
AND TO THOSE POLAR STARS.
So, the door to the pyramid or entrance out of the pyramid was located
on the north so that the king was facing what was to be his eternal
DO YOU THINK AS AN EGYPTOLOGIST THAT THE EGYPTIAN CULTURE WAS SO
FOCUSED ON THE STARS AND SEEMED TO HAVE SUCH AN EXTRAORDINARY RELATIONSHIP
WITH BUILDINGS AROUND THE STARS IN THE HEAVENS?
that's a really wonderful question! It's a question that every Egyptologist
would love someone to give us an explanation for. I don't know the
why. I think all of us can demonstrate that it is a fact that from
the earliest time that we have referential materials, there is an
interest in the heavens and there is an identification of the heavens
with various deities that the Egyptians worshiped. Now, whether
that is because they had worked it into their religion, which they
certainly did, or whether there is also a play in it as we know
from later Greek constellations that the Egyptians were just trying
to identify things in the heavens with something else that they
knew? We really don't know the full answer to that. But the truth
of the matter is that if you go all the way back and ask the question:
why are they so interested in the heavens? We can only answer that
we know that within their funerary religion the sky plays a major
role where events will take place for eternity.
REINFORCED BY THEIR ALMOST OBSESSION WITH MUMMIFYING THE DEAD FOR
LIVING BEYOND THE MOMENT OF DEATH.
definitely. I think the one thing anyone learns studying ancient
Egypt is that they had a notion of the cosmos as a cycle. Everything
continues and the mummification process is part of that. Death is
not the end. Death is a transition. The same is true in watching
the sky. The Egyptians were well aware that throughout the year,
the stars that were visible in the heavens were not in the same
exact place from day to day. And yet, they also knew that the same
sets of stars were going to reappear next year at the same time.
And very early on, they developed very intricate sky maps that would
indicate which groups of stars were visible in Egypt at different
times of the year and they used them to make their calendar with.
So, it is the cyclicity of it they could use for marking time -
and I mean time in a true sense, but also a really eternal sense
that the Egyptians were taken with.
ROBERT BAUVAL AND JOHN ANTHONY WEST AND OTHERS HAVE WRITTEN BOOKS
PROPOSING - AND I THINK ROBERT TEMPLE WHO DID THE SIRIUS MYSTERY
ON YET ANOTHER SET OF STARS CONCERNING THE DOGON TRIBE IN AFRICA
- THEY HAVE PROPOSED THERE WAS ALL OF THIS FOCUS FROM THE SUMERIANS
AND EGYPTIANS AND PERHAPS THE GREEKS ON CERTAIN STAR SYSTEMS BECAUSE
OUR ANCESTORS MAY HAVE BEEN FROM SOME OTHER STAR SYSTEM. AS YOU
STUDY ANCIENT EGYPT, DO YOU FIND ANYTHING THAT WOULD SUGGEST PERHAPS
THIS IS A SEEDED CIVILIZATION PLANET?
know, when I get asked a question like that, I'm always surprised
because the ancient Egyptians despite what we might call obsession
with preparations for the afterlife are the most down to earth people
in what we can tell from their text and inscriptions they have left
and their representations of themselves they have left us. These
are people who just loved life and the fact that they were interested
in what was going to happen to them after death is only part of
their world view that meant they wanted to have some control or
to predict some kind of control over what was going to happen to
them later on and that is as human as it can be. There is no over
concern at all, in my opinion, of the Egyptians with the sky. The
skies are practical in the sense that they are brought into their
explanations for understanding the movement of time and the year
and sun from one horizon to the other horizon. It would be difficult
for me to understand why anyone would not want to see the Egyptians
as not being as human as anybody. They have these wonderful texts
where they talk about how they worry if their funerary religion
is valid, whether it really means they are going to live forever
just because they build a tomb and fill it with treasures. They
are just normal human beings."
the great Cheops pyramid is the mysterious Sphinx, a statue with
the body of a lion and the head of a human. Its age and creator
are still unknown. A geologist, Robert Schoch, Ph.D., at Boston
University recently spoke before the Geological Society of America
about his research at the Sphinx which convinced him there is water
erosion that must date back at least 7,000 to 9,000 years ago, or
around 5,000 to 7,000 B. C. That would make the Sphinx nearly twice
the age of the Cheops pyramid. But Dr. Kate Spence's star alignment
work does not bother him because he and others are coming to the
conclusion that the Cheops pyramid was built long after the Sphinx.
Robert Schoch, Ph.D., Assoc. Professor of Science and Mathematics,
College of General Studies, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts:
" It's very clear that the origin of the Sphinx goes back before
Old Kingdom times, before Khufu (Cheops) who is the traditional
builder of the Great Pyramid on the Giza Plateau. And the work we've
been doing is pushing all of the Sphinx back well before that time
in a moister, more temperate, rainier season before the hyper arid
regime of the current Sahara Desert which comes in about 3000 B.
C. or slightly later. My best estimate now is about 7,000 to 9,000
years ago, or 5,000 to 7,000 B. C. But let me say, I'm open that
it could have its origins even earlier than that. To push its origins
any later than about 7,000 years ago, or 5,000 B. C., becomes problematic
given the nature of the geology, given the nature and degree of
the weathering that we see on the original body of the Sphinx.
WHAT IS THE STRONGEST PHYSICAL EVIDENCE YOU HAVE TO SUPPORT THAT
would say two things:
is the nature of the surface weathering and erosion or we could
call it degradation. Not just the degree but the nature which we
can correlate with the ancient earlier climates.
the second is the seismic studies we have done of sub-surface weathering
under the Sphinx, under the base of the Sphinx which allows us to
calibrate how long that weathering has taken place. Again, we're
dealing in our calibrations, depending upon what assumptions you
make, I'm taking a conservative approach more or less looking at
it has to be so old - not what is absolutely the oldest it could
THIS WORK OF KATE SPENCE AT CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY ABOUT THE DATING
OF THE PYRAMID OF GIZA AT ABOUT 2,478 B. C. IS REALLY NOT IN CONTRADICTION
WITH YOUR WORK ON THE SPHINX BECAUSE THERE MIGHT NOT EVEN BE ANY
CONNECTION BETWEEN THE SPHINX AND CHEOPS?
I don't think it is in contradiction at all. I think you just said
very nicely there may not be any connection between the Great Sphinx
and the Great Pyramid. I think if there is a connection between
the Sphinx and any pyramid, I think the second pyramid is actually
a secondary structure built on something else at that same site
and that something else I suspect is related to the Great Sphinx
in time and conceptually.
THE PYRAMIDS WERE BUILT ON TOP OF PRIOR PYRAMIDS WHERE THE GREAT
PYRAMID OF GIZA IS CURRENTLY AND THOSE UNDERNEATH MAY BE CONNECTED
TO THE SPHINX. AND THAT LEAVES THE HUGE MYSTERY: WHO WAS AROUND
7,000 TO 10,000 YEARS AGO...
what was going on? And you said the pyramids built on prior pyramids.
I don't know for certain that they were pyramids or platforms of
other structures. If I can mention one other thing, webeing
John West and Iwhen we were in Egypt this past summer, we
spent some time at Dashur where there are also pyramids, and particularly
the so-called Red Pyramid or North Pyramid. And that illustrates
exactly the same point. You go into the Red Pyramid at Dashur which
is traditionally is considered to be slightly older than the Great
Pyramid at Giza. You go into it and go through the corridors and
go into one chamber and then into another chamber, all classic Old
Kingdom chambers, Old Kingdom pyramid, Old Kingdom masonry. No problems
there. Then you go into another chamber, and you are just struck.
It is totally different style made of very different style blocks
of larger blocks. They have the aspect of being more roughly hewn.
They seemed to be weathered and I think weathered in such a way
they would not be weathered once enclosed inside a pyramid. And
you're in this chamber. It's incredibly dramatic once you realize
what you're looking at and then you look up and see this beautiful
corbeled roof over the chamber which is clearly in a different style.
Beautifully dressed, smooth rocks that are not weathered, seems
to be classical Old Kingdom style.
line: I think this is another case where we have credible evidence
that the pyramids at Dashur in Old Kingdom times was built over
and around and enclosing a much older structure and they were reusing
something that in my opinion was very sacred or important to them
in Old Kingdom times. And that something would have gone back to
a much older period that you can generally call a Sphinx Age.
AND WHO WERE THE BUILDERS THEN OF THE SPHINX AND THESE OTHER MUCH
I can't tell you at the moment. I think that the fact we are establishing
that the Sphinx is older and there are other structures that are
older, too. We're making headway, we're making progress in our studies.
But I really at this point can't tell you who these people were
or what their culture was.
WHERE THEY CAME FROM.
where they came from. I'm hoping someday we can. Right now, I just
think of them as named after the Sphinx as the Sphinx Culture or
Sphinx Age. But that's just a handle, it's not really telling us
© 2001 Linda Moulton Howe All Rights Reserved. Republication and
redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited
without prior Earthfiles.com written consent.