Archaeology has revealed that the development and practice of operative freemasonry mirrors the evolution of the human race. The remains of ancient stone structures in the fertile crescent of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Mesopotamia and in the Nile valley of Egypt, which are usually referred to as the "twin cradles of civilization," are ample evidence of the intimate relationship that exists between freemasonry and the rise of civilization. Of these remains, among the earliest known is a house built at Ein Guev, on the Jordan River east of Mount Carmel, which is about 14,000 years old. Organized religion seems to have begun with the "fertility cults" that adopted the "mother goddess" as a symbol of fertility. The first known evidence, from about 10000 BCE, includes sculptures, figurines and other religious relics found throughout the region. Some of the earliest known buildings erected specifically for religious purposes were found in the Turkish village of Çatal Hüyük in Asia Minor. Constructed in mud brick and about 8,000 years old, they were decorated with paintings and stored many voluptuous figurines that emphasize the feminine principle associated with the "mother goddess." William Ryan and Walter Pitman include an interesting commentary on several of the important Neolithic structures of Anatolia, the Levant and Mesopotamia in their book entitled Noah's Flood, which is subtitled The New Scientific Discoveries About the Event that Changed History.
The temple-tower or ziggurat known as Tower of Babylon is the first sacred building mentioned in the Bible, which is believed to have been constructed prior to 4000 BCE, during the period when the King of Babylon was Nimrod who was renowned as a prodigious builder. Carbon test dates indicate that the earliest cities in Mesopotamia were constructed during the fifth millennium BCE. Egypt is famous for its outstanding religious complexes. The earliest are the pyramids of the Old Kingdom, from about 2685 BCE until about 2180 BCE, including the dynasties from Zoser to Pepy II. The largest of the three pyramids at Giza, the pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) constructed in about 2450 BCE and known as the Great Pyramid, was celebrated as the Seventh Wonder of the Ancient World. The largest and greatest temples of Egypt, including those of Thebes and Karnak, were constructed in the period of the New Kingdom when the pharaohs from Amosis I to Ramesses III ruled, from about 1565 BCE to about 1085 BCE.
The Phoenicians had become the greatest developers and builders around the Mediterranean by about 1200 BCE and probably even earlier. They constructed many temples in the traditions of a religious system that been practiced for at least 2,000 years. The temples constructed by the Phoenicians were the pattern for King Solomon's temple, which was completed at Jerusalem in about 950 BCE. The intimate association of freemasonry with religion and the essential contribution it made in the construction of religious buildings that began during the ancient dynasties of Babylon and Egypt, continued unbroken through the Phoenician period into the classical eras of Greece and Rome. This association only abated at the end of the remarkable period of cathedral building in medieval Europe and Britain. Similar associations existed in India, South East Asia and Central America, which also produced many world-famous temple structures. Also of great significance are the ancient stone circles found in the Britain, Ireland and Brittany, the remnants of almost 1,000 of which still exist. Although the stone circles are not constructed with closely fitted hewn stones like the temple complexes, they are older and emphasize the part played by freemasonry in the development of religion by the Neolithic and Bronze Age peoples.
The enduring relationship between ancient astronomy, religion and freemasonry is reflected in many well-known structures of archaeological significance around the world, of which the stone circle of Stonehenge and the great pyramids of Egypt are superb examples. These structures illustrate the remarkable wisdom of the ancient astronomers and the incredible capabilities of the freemasons who converted abstract religious concepts into practical monuments to reflect those concepts. There are many books on these topics, including the following that are of particular interest: In Search of Ancient Astronomies edited by E. C. Krupp; Stonehenge Complete by Christopher Chippendale; Fingerprints of the Gods by Graham Hancock; and The Orion Mystery by Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert, subtitled Unlocking the Secrets of the Pyramids. A book that investigates the importance of stone circles as astronomical indicators and their connection with biblical stories is Uriel's Machine, subtitled The Ancient Origins of Science, by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas.
Few people are aware of the knowledge and capabilities of ancient astronomers with respect to the movement of the heavenly bodies through the skies and the relationship of those movements to direction, time and seasonal changes. People in all ages have taken sufficient interest in those events to record their knowledge by whatever means they had at their disposal. Even among the most primitive tribes, before the invention of any form of writing, people used painting and engraved pottery to pass on their thoughts concerning celestial events. We know, from the earliest written records, that all of the brighter celestial bodies and the constellations they form had been given names, also that the apparent motions of the celestial bodies had been noted. At present we do not know how the ancient astronomers made their observations, nor do we know how they retained and passed on their knowledge, but the earliest available records reveal a remarkable understanding of the movements of the celestial bodies. The ancients used the celestial bodies to measure time; to orient buildings; to determine the directions of their required courses in open seas to avoid treacherous coastlines; to find their way across the trackless wastelands and deserts they traversed on their inland trade routes in Asia and Africa; and also to establish a calendar.
The earliest known astronomical records were made by the Sumerians who migrated to lower Mesopotamia, probably from the Far East either by sea or overland along the old Silk Road through Mongolia, Persia and the Caucasus, some time before 4000 BCE. In Mesopotamia they developed animal herding, grain cultivation and fruit growing using primitive methods of irrigation. By about 4000 BCE the Sumerians had observed that most stars crossed the sky in an apparently fixed formation, but that each day they rose and set a little earlier in relation to the sun's time, a phenomenon that is called precession. The heliacal setting of any of these stars is when it can last be seen setting in the western sky after sunset. For a long time thereafter it is obscured by the brightness of the sun until its heliacal rising, which is the next time that it can be seen in the eastern sky before sunrise. The heliacal risings of some of the more distinctive celestial bodies were seen to be important phenomena in relation to seasonal events. In about 3500 BCE the Egyptians devised a calendar of twelve months. Their year began with Sothis, the heliacal rising of Sirius the brightest star in the heavens, which usually coincided with the arrival of the annual flood of the Nile River, a very important event in Egyptian life.
By 3200 BCE the Chaldeans had also devised a calendar and the Sumerians had developed the first pictographic script, which they had modified to the idiomatic cuneiform script by about 2800 BCE. Their earliest records reveal that four constellations had already been named and that the year had been divided into four seasons, beginning with the heliacal rising of The Bull of Heaven in the Hyades, which marked the onset of spring. The onsets of summer, autumn and winter were marked by the heliacal risings of The Great Lion, The Scorpion and The Ibex respectively, formed by our Capricornus with Aquarius. The Sumerians also observed that the more northerly stars traced arcs in the sky that never dipped below the horizon - called the circumpolar stars. They also distinguished between the fixed stars and the seven wanderers, which the Babylonians called bibbu or wild sheep and the Greeks later called planetoi or wanderers, which are our planets. Semitic peoples from the north, known as Akkadians, progressively established "overlordships" to rule over the Sumerians from about 2500 BCE. They adopted the Sumerian culture and adapted cuneiform to their own language, which became the lingua franca of the Near East and Egypt that continued in use for more than 1,000 years. Sargon of Agade unified the cities of Sumer under Akkadian rule in about 2300 BCE, which established Babylonia as the first great empire known in history.
Those interested in delving deeper into the remarkable achievements of the ancients, in their search for knowledge of the universe and a way to keep track of time, will find many books on the subject. Among them the following would be of considerable interest to the general reader. In Search of Ancient Astronomy, edited by Dr E C Krupp and another entitled Astronomy of the Ancients, edited by Kenneth Brecher and Michael Feirtag, provide a useful introduction. Emeritus Professor W M O Neil enhances the story, describing the work and instruments used by some individuals, in Early Astronomy from Babylonia to Copernicus. In The Calendar, David E Duncan relates the history of five thousand years in a struggle to align the clock and the calendar with the heavens. In the context of time and its place in astronomy, Kitty Ferguson=s book Measuring the Universe, subtitled The Historical Quest to Quantify Space, should not be overlooked.
STONEHENGE IN ANTIQUITY
The first experiments in the cultivation of cereals and the domestication of animals in the Near East began in the northern areas of Mesopotamia about 10,000 years ago. This led to a new way of life that was well established about 8,000 years ago, when agricultural villages in Europe began to spring up around the Mediterranean Sea. Farming then spread across the more fertile areas of Europe and reached the British Isles before 4000 BCE. Three ancient pits in the vicinity of Stonehenge contain traces of pine wood, which radiocarbon analysis shows to be at least 10,000 years old, indicating that the area was then inhabited and that it may have been forested. There is substantial archaeological evidence that the rolling chalk downlands of Wiltshire, where Stonehenge is located, were occupied by farming communities by about 4000 BCE. The name Stonehenge is derived from the Old English stan meaning a stone, in conjunction with either the Old English hencg which is equivalent to the modern word hinge, because the lintels hinge on the uprights, or the Old English hencgen meaning a gallows, from the shape of the uprights and lintels which looks like a medieval gallows.
The mysterious stone circles, like that at Stonehenge, are traditionally linked with the Druidic religion of the Celts, although in fact they must have been built by an earlier civilization, because the Celts only emerged in the Rhinelands of central Europe as a distinctive group of warrior tribes about 1000 BCE. Their language, religion and social organization had many affinities with the Indo-European warriors who overran the Indus Valley civilization around 1700 BCE. The spirituality of the Celts and their religious practices, embodying many ceremonial rituals, are often obscured by the romantic emphasis placed on fairies and the spirit-world. Water was recognised as the first principle and source of life and the moon was the centre of Celtic symbolism. An ancient oral tradition perpetuated their laws, legends and tribal teachings. The Celts were in continental Europe until Roman times, where their art was characterized by curving lines and milling in relief, using gold, bronze and iron. The La Tène centre of Celtic culture in Switzerland was renowned for its imaginative ornamental metalwork, which later was also found in Britain and Ireland. The Celts only arrived in Britain in about 500 BCE, which was at least 2,500 years after work began on Stonehenge and about 600 years after the last work had been carried out there.
Although the religion of the prehistoric people of Britain is not known with any certainty, it is reasonable to assume that it embodied a continuation of the traditions of their ancestors from the Near East and therefore was similar to that of the Canaanites. The Canaanite pastoralists, who grazed their flocks in the cool of the night during the hot summer months, were devotees of the moon. As the Canaanites progressively introduced agriculture and developed mixed farming, they learnt that the sun's warmth was essential to germinate seeds and ripen crops, on account of which their sun god El became of supreme importance to them. El could only be approached through his son Baal, signifying lord, who was the master of rain, thunder and tempest. The Canaanite pantheon included a god of springs and floral growth, a goddess of love and fertility and a god of summer and drought who also signified death. The religion of the Canaanites was based on a theme of birth, life, death and resurrection that reflected the cycle of nature. The religion of the earliest settlers in Britain seems to have embodied the Canaanite beliefs, which had many similarities with the Druidic religion of the Celts who arrived later. This is confirmed by archaeological investigations of the ancient burial sites that are usually set on high ground and abound in the vicinity of Stonehenge and other megalithic structures. The use of stone circles to indicate the directions of the rising and setting sun and moon in the different seasons, confirms the high regard in which the prehistoric farmers held these celestial bodies in relation to their daily activities and their religion.
A megalith is a great stone, from the Greek mega meaning great and lithos meaning stone. There are several kinds of prehistoric megalithic structures. They include grave mounds, or stone mausoleums built with upright stones for walls and flat stones forming slab roofs, which are customarily covered by a mound of earth and are called barrows, from the Old English beorg. In addition there are monuments of heaped stones, called cairns from the Gaelic carn; individual standing stones, called menhirs from the Breton men meaning a stone and hir meaning long; and also a variety of stone rings. The megalithic rings may be true circles; or flattened circles, formed by four circular arcs of different radii, symmetrical about one axis; or egg shaped, formed by connecting the arcs of a larger and a smaller circle with tangential straight lines; or ellipses.
Some megalithic rings, including the Stonehenge complex, incorporate several of these shapes and often have associated menhirs on which details of the rings are carved. These carvings are called petroglyphs, from the Greek petra meaning a stone and glyphos meaning writing. Petroglyphs usually represent the structures to scale, most commonly delineated in megalithic inches (MI), which are one fortieth of a megalithic yard (MY), or one hundredth of a megalithic rod (MR). These scales are very convenient and have been used in architectural plans for many centuries. The megalithic yard is not identical everywhere, but an analysis of several hundred sites indicates a fairly standard length of 0.815 meters and hence a megalithic rod of 2.0375 meters. The megalithic circles usually had diameters in whole units of MY or circumferences in whole units of MR and were set out and constructed with remarkable precision, so that it is not unusual for them to have an accuracy of 1 in 5,000.
An outline of the logistics involved in the supply of materials for Stonehenge will help to form an appreciation of the construction effort involved. The huge blocks of sarsen, a kind of sandstone used as uprights in the sarsen circle and the trilithons, were brought from Marlborough Downs some 32 kilometers to the north. The smallest of these blocks weighed about 4 tons, but most weighed about 25 tons. At least one third of this distance was over hilly land, much of which was covered with loose rocks. It is thought that on the overland section the blocks would have been skidded on greased timber bearers and that for the remainder of the distance they would have been floated down the Avon River on rafts. The bluestone blocks, which were used as lintels in the sarsen circle and the trilithons and as uprights in the double bluestone circle and the horseshoe ring, weighed in excess of 6 tons each and came from the Preseli Mountains in south-western Wales. The most direct route from there was a distance of some 350 kilometers, about half of which could have been by sea to the vicinity of Bristol. An alternative route, by sea around Lands End, would have been about three times as long, although it would have saved some overland haulage.
The sarsen circle had 30 sarsen uprights that stood 2 MR (4.075 meters) above ground level. The uprights were each 1 MR (2.038 meters) wide measured along the circumference of the circle and 0.5 MR (1.019 meters) thick, with spaces of 0.5 MR (1.019 meters), thus forming a circle 40 MY (33 meters) in diameter. The sarsen uprights were surmounted by a continuous ring of 30 bluestone lintels, each of which was 1.5 MR (3.054 meters) long and 0.5 MR (1.019 meters) wide, with a thickness of 1 MY (0.815 meter). The ends of the lintels were centered over the uprights and each lintel was positively located by a hemispherical mortice hole cut into its lower surface at each end. Each mortice hole fitted onto one of the two hemispherical tenons formed on the top of each upright. The lintels also had a rounded tongue and a rounded groove cut vertically in their opposite ends, which interlocked to provide additional stability. The lintels were curved in the horizontal plane, so that when erected they formed a smooth circle. Reports indicate that the diameter of the circle and the level of the lintels are still accurate to within about 25 millimeters. The five trilithons each comprised two sarsen uprights that supported a bluestone lintel and their overall heights ranged from 3 MR (6.104 meters) to 3.5 MR (7.133 meters). The trilithons were arranged in the shape of a horseshoe, with the tallest trilithon at the central point of the arc in the southwest. The horseshoe was part of an ellipse that had a major axis of 32 MY (26.08 meters) and a minor axis of 20 MY (16.3 meters). The geometric centre of the sarsen circle was offset from the geometric centre of the ellipse by 1.5 MY (1.223 meters) along its major axis, so that there was no interference when sighting lines through the uprights of the sarsen circle.
The sarsen circle and the trilithons are the huge megalithic components for which Stonehenge is most famous. Archaeological investigations indicate that the existing development at Stonehenge was constructed on the site of a much earlier development. Except that the earlier structures were made of wood, very little is known of the details, purpose and age of their development. However, it seems reasonable to assume that it was a prototype for the existing complex and that it probably was used over a very long period to carry out the observations required to design the circle of markers used as a calendar and the stone structures used for sighting. It would have been necessary to make and record astronomical observations over many centuries to determine the number of points required on the circle and the sequence of their use, to enable eclipses to be predicted with the accuracy that was achieved. The multiplicity of astronomical sightlines that the other structures provide also would have required comparable observations over an equally long period. From these facts it is evident that the ancient astronomers who designed the complex at Stonehenge were highly skilled and possessed a much greater knowledge than is usually recognized. The astronomers of Stonehenge must have been contemporaneous with the ancient astronomers who developed calendars in Sumeria and Egypt, if not their actual contemporaries. Rodney Castleden comprehensively summarizes Britain, during the period when Stonehenge was constructed, in The Stonehenge People, subtitled An Exploration of Life in Neolithic Britain 4700-2000 BC. Also relevant in this context is a book by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas entitled Uriel's Machine and subtitled The Ancient Origins of Science. It examines in some detail the story of the archangel Uriel and events relevant to megalithic structures that are related in the Book of Enoch.
STONEHENGE IN PERSPECTIVE
The complex at Stonehenge was constructed in a series of relatively short phases over a period of some 2,000 years, commencing about 3100 BCE. This date was determined by radiocarbon tests of deer-antler picks that were used to construct the surrounding ditch about 110 meters in diameter and its accompanying inner embankment about 6 meters wide and 2 meters high. An entrance way was left in the northeast, where two bluestone uprights were erected straddling the major axis of the complex, marking the sun at the summer solstice. A wooden structure on four posts was erected further out, bisected at right angles by the main axis. Inside the embankment on a circle 105 MY (85.575 meters) in diameter, there are 56 holes accurately spaced 6 MY (4.890 meters) from centre to centre, although the widths and depths of the holes vary. They are called the Aubrey holes, after John Aubrey who first reported them to King Charles II in 1663. A book entitled Stonehenge Complete, by Christopher Chippendale, provides an interesting and definitive history of this remarkable structure and its place in antiquity.
Several important alignments of the sun and moon could be observed from the centre of the circle. Gerald S Hawkins carried out extensive computer analyses and showed that, by progressively moving sun and moon markers around the circle, the Aubrey holes could be used to determine when eclipses of the sun and moon would occur. His analyses are described in his book Stonehenge Decoded. Sir Fred Hoyle, a renowned professor of astronomy of the Cambridge University, also concluded that the holes could be used to predict eclipses, although he proposed a somewhat different progression of the markers. The Aubrey holes were filled with chalk rubble, dug out again and refilled as many as three times. They are often referred to as ritual pits and at least 25 of the 34 holes that have been excavated were found to contain the remains of human cremations, some of which have been radiocarbon dated to about 2300 BCE. A network of ceremonial burial sites also radiates away from the site across the surrounding fields.
The original arrangement was modified at least four times. In about 2150 BCE the major axis of the complex was rotated slightly further to the east, marking the rising sun at the summer solstice more accurately, which indicates that careful observations were still being made then. At the same time the centre of the pair of bluestone markers at the north eastern entrance was realigned along the new axis and another immense sarsen stone, the Heel Stone, was erected further out on the same axis. About eighty bluestones were also erected around the centre, to form a double circle 19 MY (23.313 meters) in diameter, but they had been removed by about 2000 BCE and their holes filled in. Four small sarsens, now called the Station Stones, were erected on the circumference of the ring of Aubrey stones at about that time, or possibly earlier. They form a rectangular figure and are used in a wide range of sun and moon alignments. Two were located on the mounds of the north and south barrows surrounded by ditches.
Radiocarbon dating and stratigraphic evidence indicate that the sarsen circle and five trilithons, which were described in relation to the megalithic construction, are about 4,000 years old and were erected during the period 2100-2000 BCE. They completed the structures of astronomical significance. A little later about twenty bluestones were dressed into shape and erected in an oval formation within the trilithon horseshoe, including at least two trilithons. In about 1550 BCE two concentric rings of holes were dug outside the sarsen circle, apparently to hold other bluestones, but they were never completed. By about 1100 BCE the oval formation of bluestones had been rearranged into two groups, one as a horseshoe within the trilithon horseshoe and the other as a circle within the sarsen circle. At the same time the Altar Stone was stood on end within the apex of the horseshoe. All of these later developments appear to have been of religious significance, rather than for use as astronomical markers. Stonehenge appears to have been abandoned a century or so later, several hundred years before the Celts arrived in Britain.
ANCIENT EGYPTIAN BELIEFS
From the earliest times the Egyptians were exhorted to practice modesty, discretion, honesty and respect for their elders. They believed in a system of cosmic order that had been transferred to Egypt and established there by the gods in the Zep Tepi or the First Time. The pharaoh had always been regarded as divine with celestial attributes linking him with the First Time, although a mortal and a little below the gods. The pharaoh was believed to have eternal life and his royal relatives, who served him faithfully as loyal officials, hoped to share his eternity. The ultimate expression of royal favor was permission to be buried in the shadow of the pharaoh's pyramid. This huge chasm between the pharaoh and his people dwindled with time. By the Fifth Dynasty, which followed the Dynasty of Sneferu, Khafra and Menkaura, the priesthood of the cult of the sun god had become all-powerful in the ancient city of Annu or On, which is mentioned in Genesis 41:45 and probably means "pillar city." It was renamed Heliopolis by the Greeks in about 400 BCE. The cult symbol was a squat obelisk surmounted by a gold pyramidion to reflect the sun's rays, described in the next paragraph. The pharaohs adopted the cult of the sun god for a time, but it was too remote and intellectual for the masses and had very limited appeal. However it enhanced the power of the priesthood, progressively undermining the previously accepted divinity of the pharaoh, so that over time the pharaoh came to be regarded only as the "Son of Ra." The sense of direction, purity of purpose and capacity to achieve that characterized the earlier Dynasties of the Old Kingdom gradually dwindled away and were never fully regained by subsequent generations.
From the earliest times Atum was revered as the One God and considered to be the creative power behind the sun, the heavens and everything on earth. For centuries the religious heart of Egypt was at Annu, where a crude sacred pillar had been erected on the sacred hill and a temple had been dedicated to Atum, who was known as the Complete One, the father of the gods. It was said that the First Sunrise of the Zep Tepi had been observed at the sacred hill at Annu and at some very early date a sacred relic, called the Benben Stone, had been placed on a pillar there. The pillar and Benben Stone at Annu seem to have been kept in an open air Temple of the Phoenix. This sacred relic was pyramidal and credited with cosmic origins. It seems to have been regarded as the divine "seed" of the phoenix, or benne, the Egyptians' prodigal cosmic bird of regeneration, rebirth and calendrical cycles. The Benben Stone was a key element in the royal cult of Egypt by the time the pyramids were being built at Giza, but it seems to have disappeared soon after the end of the New Kingdom, in about 1000 BCE. The name has been perpetuated by the pyramidions or apex stones, which are called Benben Stones, placed on the pyramids at Giza and other pyramids, as well as on many of the obelisks found at temples.
Texts that have been remarkably well preserved have been found in the pyramid of Unas, the last of the Fifth Dynasty pharaohs in about 2300 BCE, as well as in four other pyramids at Saqqara dating from the same era. They are known as the Pyramid Texts and reveal a great deal about the beliefs and aspirations of the pyramid builders. These texts are original chronicles recorded on stone and are the oldest known writings in the world. They are especially reliable because they have not been corrupted by generations of scribes and editors. Modern research suggests that the traditions recorded in the Pyramid Texts date from at least 3200 BCE, but possibly from as early as the Zep Tepi or First Time. The stories told in the Pyramid Texts confirm the following brief outline of the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians given in more detail the following paragraphs. Isis and Osiris were revered as the first divine couple, the rulers of Egypt in the Zep Tepi or First Time. It was believed that Osiris taught men religion and the arts of civilization and that when his task had been completed he transformed himself into an astral being, Orion, to rule the Heavenly Kingdom of the Dead that was called the heavenly Duat.
Horus was known as the "Living One", the son of Isis and Osiris and the first man-god to rule Egypt as a pharaoh. Every pharaoh believed himself to be a reincarnation of Horus until his earthly death, when he too would enter into the heavenly Duat and become an Osiris or star soul in the astral form of Sahu, the constellation of Orion. The rebirth rites focused on the dead Osiris being brought back to life through the magical rituals of mummification, performed on him by his sister-wife Isis with the help of Horus and the jackal gods Anubis and Upuaut. Horus performed the ceremony of "opening the mouth" and Anubis supervised the "weighing of the heart", the dreaded final reckoning of the dead that decided whether or not the soul could enter into the court of Osiris. If the soul was found acceptable, Anubis ministered to the Osiris or star soul and guided him through the underworld. When successfully through the underworld Upuaut, which literally meant opener of the ways, then guided the star soul to the astral plane of the heavenly Duat. The heavenly Duat had a counterpart on earth, which is described in the Pyramid Texts and comprised the lands from Dashour to Giza, which are called the Pyramid Fields.
One of the gods of the Zep Tepi or First Time who was of special importance to the ancient Egyptians was Thoth, usually depicted wearing an Ibis mask. Thoth was regarded as a benefactor and civilizer and in that respect was a worthy successor of Osiris. It was believed that Thoth had been empowered to grant an afterlife of millions of years to deceased pharaohs and he was also revered as the inventor of mathematics, astronomy, engineering, medicine and botany, which he had taught to the Egyptians' ancestors. Herodotus (485-425 BCE), who was the earliest of the classical scholars to visit Egypt, wrote in his Histories that the teachings of Thoth were reputed to have been recorded in fifty-two volumes or "books of instruction" and handed down from generation to generation. Plato, who visited Egypt in the fourth century BCE, wrote in his Timaeus that the Egyptians "had observed the stars for ten thousand years." In the first century BCE the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus, when writing his forty volumes of the Bibliotheke Historike, gave a detailed account of how the Egyptians had observed the positions and motions of the stars and he also said that they had kept records of them over "an innumerable number of years." There is every reason to believe that the stories about Thoth were based on the activities of a real person, who probably was one of the ancient seafaring invaders of Egypt.
THE FIRST TIME OF OSIRIS
In the Orion Mystery Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert put forward convincing evidence that the locations and alignments of the pyramids of the Old Kingdom were established in accordance with an overall plan that had been prepared by the ancient priests and astronomers, possibly as early as the Zep Tepi or First Time, to ensure that the earthly Duat accurately reflected the heavenly Duat. In this context it is important to take into account the slow and progressive changes in the appearance of the night sky that have resulted from the precession of the equinoxes, a phenomenon that was known to the ancient Egyptian astronomers. Precession is the result of the effects that the gravitational forces of the sun, moon and planets have on the earth, which is not a true sphere and has its axis inclined at an angle of about 23.5 to the ecliptic, which is the plane of its orbit. The gravitational effects of the sun and moon cause the angle of the earth's axis to vary cyclically between 22.1 and 24.5 in relation to the plane of its orbit. This takes place over a period of 41,000 years and is called lunisolar precession. The planets also change the plane of the earth's orbit a little in relation to the stars, called planetary precession. These phenomena combine to produce an apparent "wobble" of the earth in its orbit, which is cyclical over a period of about 25,776 years. During each half of the period of this cycle the altitude of a star as it crosses the celestial meridian changes progressively, alternately from a maximum to a minimum then from a minimum to a maximum.
It is interesting and important to note that, during the processional cycle, the minimum altitude at which Al Nitak in the constellation of Orion transits the celestial meridian, when observed from Giza, is 11 08' and that this last occurred in 10450 BCE. Processional calculations show that this is the era when the positions of the pyramids in the Pyramid Fields accurately reflected the stars in the heavenly Duat. At that time the heliacal rising of Sirius, which is the star of Isis, also coincided with the Belt of Orion in the east, thus reflecting the ancient Egyptian beliefs concerning the relationship between Isis and Osiris. The simultaneous occurrence of these celestial events confirms that the layout of the Pyramid Fields is not accidental, but a conscious attempt to ensure that the earthly Duat was a replica of the heavenly Duat in 10450 BCE, which therefore must be regarded as the Zep Tepi or First Time of Osiris in the eternal cycle of precession. The ancient Egyptians associated the Nile River with the Milky Way, which they called the "Celestial River". In the Pyramid Texts it was described as the "Winding Waterway," with its own great flood and fields of reeds or rushes like the Nile River itself. The visible shape of the Milky Way, when seen in Egypt in 10450 BCE, was similar to the wavy course of the Nile River passing through the Pyramid Fields from Dashour in the south to Giza in the north.
In many of the funerary texts, as well as in the Pyramid Texts, the heavenly Duat is described as being located in the portion of the visible sky that stretches from Canis Major to the Hyades along the "western banks" of the Milky Way, where Sirius and Orion also are located. The heavenly Duat is reflected in the earthly Duat that is located on the western banks of the Nile River. In particular, Zoser's pyramids at Dashour represent the important stars in the Hyades, even to the extent that the meridian line of the Red Pyramid is appropriately offset to the west of the meridian line of the Bent Pyramid. Likewise the three pyramids at Giza reflect the important stars of Orion's Belt, including the offsetting of Menkaura's pyramid from the main axis, as well as its significantly smaller size. Altogether five of the seven bright stars of Orion have been correlated with important pyramids. It also is of importance that the individual pyramids were oriented to the celestial compass points, irrespective of the orientation of the group of pyramids, so that each pyramid accurately aligned with the stars as they crossed the celestial meridian.
Pyramids were constructed in Egypt at least from the Third Dynasty until almost the end of the New Kingdom, when Egypt fell under Libyan rule in about 1100 BCE. The great pyramid age of Egypt actually belongs to the Old Kingdom, whose magnificent achievements in art, architecture, medicine and literature are the standard by which all of Egypt's later achievements are measured. The royal architect, Imhotep, designed what is reputed to be the first great stone edifice ever constructed by man, which is the Step Pyramid built at Saqqara for Zoser in about 2650 BCE. Imhotep is usually credited with the invention of authentic stone masonry, which replaced the mud bricks previously used for construction in Egypt. He is also credited with establishing the science of medicine, but his official title as "Chief of the Observers" suggests that he must have been an astronomer who studied the motions of the stars. Zoser's pyramid began as a mastaba tomb, from the Arabic mastabah meaning a bench. It was developed in six unequal stages that were completely encased in fine dressed limestone and rose to a height of 62 meters. A complex of courtyards, temples, tombs and other buildings surrounded the pyramid and all were enclosed within a panelled and buttressed wall about 9 meters high and almost 2 kilometers in perimeter. The famous Bent Pyramid at Dashour, 8 kilometres south of Saqqara, was built by Sneferu in about 2550 BCE with the lower half much steeper than the upper half. The northern or Red Pyramid at Dashour is also attributed to Sneferu and it is the earliest known tomb designed as a true pyramid, but with its sides sloping at an angle of 43 36' instead of 52 as adopted in the later pyramids. In all some 80 pyramids were built.
According to the currently adopted chronology, pyramid construction was at its peak when the three great pyramids at Giza, about 22 kilometers north of Dashour, were built for Khufu (Cheops) who was the eldest son of Sneferu, for Khafra (Chephren) and for Menkaura (Mycerinus), during the period from about 2500 BCE to about 2400 BCE. These three pyramids do not stand in isolation, but are the central features of a huge complex, much of which is in a state of ruin. Each pyramid at Giza has a single entrance on the northern face, exactly on the north-south axis. Each also has a large funerary temple adjacent to the eastern face, connected by a roofed causeway to another temple further east, called the Valley Temple. Khufu's pyramid has three subsidiary pyramids near its southeast corner, accurately oriented and aligned with the north-south axis. Menkaura's pyramid has three subsidiary pyramids near its southwest corner, accurately oriented and aligned with the east-west axis. The Giza complex also includes many mastaba tombs and also the Great Sphinx with its associated temple adjacent to Khafra's Valley Temple. Unlike the pyramids of later dynasties, none of the pyramids constructed at Dashour and Giza were found to contain mummies, nor any of the vast collection of funerary objects interred with the later pharaohs. Moreover, the pyramids at Giza did not have any hieroglyphic inscriptions, nor did they have any other decorations. The ages of these pyramids and their assignment to specific pharaohs is based solely on circumstantial evidence that is often called into question. For example, at least one of the Inventory Stelae discovered in the Giza complex indicates a very much greater age than is currently assigned to the pyramids at Giza, to the Great Sphinx and to the adjacent Valley Temple, which implies that they could date from as early as the Zep Tepi or First Time. The possibility that these pyramids are much older than assumed is discussed in more detail later in this chapter.
The sheer size of the pyramids and the perfection of their geometry sets them apart from other ancient structures. Our main interest is in the pyramids at Giza, especially that of Khufu, the Great Pyramid, which is the largest freestanding stone structure in the world. The methods used in construction are not known, although many assumptions have been made. Egyptologists have put forward several suggestions for building the pyramids using earth ramps, but none has withstood critical examination from a practical viewpoint. Whatever methods of construction were used to erect the pyramids, the tasks were prodigious. Salient details of five important pyramids are set out in the following tabulation:
Pyramid Height Mass
meters million tons
Dashour South - Bent Pyramid 102 3.59
Dashour North - Red Pyramid 101 4.00
Giza - Khufu 147 6.18
Giza - Khafra 140 5.28
Giza - Menkaura 65 0.57
The 19.62 million tons of stone in these five pyramids account for almost two thirds of the 30 million tons estimated to have been used in all of the pyramids. Moreover, another 3 million tons probably would have been used in ancillary works such as the causeways, courtyards, temples, surrounding walls and other structures included in the pyramid complexes.
The centers of the pyramids at Giza were aligned to reflect three important stars in the constellation Orion, with the distances between them spaced in the same proportions. As mentioned earlier, the sides and axes of the individual pyramids were accurately aligned with the celestial cardinal points. For example, the directions of the four sides of Khufu's pyramid only deviate on the average by about 3 minutes of arc from true north, east, south and west, or only 0.05. The difference in length between the longest and shortest of the four sides of Khufu's pyramid is 19 centimeters, an error of only 0.08% of the 230.4 meters average length of the sides, even after the ravages of time and man have taken their toll over some 4,000 years. This attests to the remarkable knowledge and skill of the ancient astronomers and the freemasons who carried out the work. The pyramids of Khafra and Menkaura are constructed with similar accuracy. Khufu's pyramid has several passages, galleries and chambers, but their volume is negligible in relation to the main mass, which is estimated to incorporate about 2.5 million limestone blocks laid in 203 courses. The blocks weigh up to 12 tons and have an average weight of about 2.5 tons. The 68,000 square meters of polished limestone facing blocks are larger and weigh about 15 tons each, fitted so closely without mortar that a knife cannot be inserted into the joints. Even these blocks are small compared with many used to construct the internal chambers.
Within Khufu's pyramid there are four chambers and the Grand Gallery, all aligned on the north-south axis of the pyramid and interconnected by a series of passages. For years it was assumed that the chambers at the lower levels had been abandoned for some reason, but the accuracy of their placement and construction belies this hypothesis. It is now believed that all of the chambers were of significance in the burial rites of the pharaohs. The interconnecting passages are of various sizes and have a total length of about 350 meters, about half being on a very steep gradient of about 26.5. There also is a near vertical well shaft that starts from near the entrance to the Grand Gallery and descends about 50 meters to the subterranean passage that provides access to the lowest chamber, which is excavated some 25 meters deep in the bedrock. The second chamber, which is not often referred to and is seldom shown on drawings, also was excavated into the bedrock at the base of the pyramid, vertically below the King's Chamber. The third, or Queen's Chamber, is the smallest. It is on the vertical axis of the pyramid, at a level midway between the base of the pyramid and the King's Chamber. The fourth and largest chamber is the highest and is known as the King's Chamber, which is offset some 10 metres to the south of the centroid of the pyramid.
The red granite King's Chamber incorporates the largest stones. It is a double square in plan, 10.46 meters from east to west and 5.23 meters from north to south, with a height of 5.8 meters. The walls are constructed of 100 blocks laid in five courses, each block weighing 70 tons or more. The ceiling is flat, spanned by nine stone slabs each weighing about 50 tons. The floor is constructed with fifteen massive paving stones that probably weigh about 20 tons each. The approach to the King's Chamber is called the Grand Gallery, which climbs on a slope of 26.5 and is some 47 meters long. It is constructed using perfectly jointed blocks of black granite that had been transported down the Nile River from Aswan, 750 kilometers to the south. Each block weighs about 30 tons. The floor of the Grand Gallery is a little over 2 meters wide and has a channel, half that width and 600 millimeters deep, which runs down the centre for the full length. The walls rise vertically for 3.5 meters and are then steeply corbelled inwards with seven courses of masonry, finishing with a flat ceiling 8.5 meters above floor level. The ceiling in the Grand Gallery is narrow, only about 1 meter wide, similar to the width of the channel in the floor. The Queen's Chamber is in stark contrast, because it is constructed of white limestone blocks. It is aligned exactly on the east-west axis of the pyramid and the floor is almost square, with an area about 5.7 meters by 5.2 meters. In contrast to the King's Chamber, the Queen's Chamber has a gabled ceiling at a height of 6.2 meters. The complex layout of Khufu's pyramid is not repeated in the other two pyramids at Giza. Khafra's pyramid only has a single chamber, which is cut into the bedrock vertically below the apex of the pyramid. Menkaura's pyramid also has a main chamber located on its vertical axis and excavated 15 meters into the bedrock, with another two interconnected chambers excavated below it.
THE PYRAMIDS IN PERSPECTIVE
The importance of the orientation of the pyramids is revealed in an examination of the sloping shafts in the Great Pyramid of Khufu. The two shafts from the King's Chamber and the two shafts from the Queen's Chamber were explained away for many years as ventilation shafts, even though ventilation was not provided in any other tombs in Egypt. If they were ventilation shafts a more practical solution would have been to construct them vertically, or horizontally between successive courses of masonry, which was a common practice in Egypt. In 1924 J Capart, a Belgian Egyptologist, suggested in Etudes et Histoires that the inclined shafts were not for ventilation, but had a religious purpose, possibly intended as a symbolic passage for the soul of the pharaoh to the stars. Several other eminent Egyptologists later expressed similar ideas, but the theory was not validated until 1964 after Dr Alexander Badawy, an Egyptologist who had carried out a detailed study of ancient Egyptian architecture, sought the assistance of an astronomer, Dr Virginia Trimble, who carried out the necessary processional calculations. Dr Badawy says in his paper The Stellar Destiny of the Pharaoh and the so-called Air-shafts in Cheop's Pyramid, presented to the Academy of Science in Berlin, that the shafts from the King's Chamber were intended to be channels to the stars, "the northern passage . . . for the voyage of the soul to the important circumpolar stars, the southern one to Orion."
A detailed analysis of the angles of elevation of the inclined shafts from the King's and Queen's Chambers indicates that, when they were constructed in about 2450 BCE, they pointed directly to several important stars when they transited across the celestial meridian. At that time the southern shaft from the King's Chamber pointed to Al Nitak, the left hand star in Orion's Belt, which is the star that the pyramid represents, while the northern shaft pointed to Thuban in the constellation of Draco, the mysterious abode of Tuart the hippopotamus goddess of fecundity and childbearing. In a similar way the southern shaft from the Queen's Chamber pointed to Sirius, the star of Isis, while the northern shaft pointed to the centre of the "head" of Ursa Minor, the four stars that are shaped like the adze used by Horus in the ceremony of the "opening of the mouth" in the rebirth rites. The relevance of the stars pointed to by these shafts is obvious in relation to the ancient Egyptian beliefs that the pharaoh would cross over from the earthly Duat and be reborn as an Osiris or star soul in the heavenly Duat.
PASSAGES AND CHAMBERS IN THE GREAT PYRAMID
The Book of Coming Forth by Day, commonly called the Book of the Dead, was buried with deceased persons in ancient Egypt. It was depicted with hieroglyphs in the burial chamber and passages as a guide for the deceased to reach the kingdom of Osiris, who was the embodiment of goodness and believed to be the ruler of the underworld in the afterlife. This book describes important funerary rites that probably are the purpose of the several passages and chambers in the Great Pyramid. Two modern books of particular interest on the subject are The Great Pyramid Decoded by Peter Lemesurier and Keeper of Genesis by Robert Bauval and Graham Hancock. As there are no available records relating to the construction and intended use of the Great Pyramid of Khufu, it is a matter of conjecture whether the passages and chambers were intended to be used in ceremonial rites similar to those of the Eleusinian Mysteries, or in preparations for the burial of a pharaoh. They could have been used for either or both of those purposes, as revealed in the following explanation of their probable significance.
The Chamber of Ordeal is a subterranean chamber excavated some 25 meters deep in the bedrock and accessed by a descending passage on a decline of 26.5, sometimes called the descent into hell. This chamber has several compartments that are not decorated in any way and their somber finish reminds us of the preacher in Ecclesiastes 12:7, who says "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it". Just below the base of the pyramid is a Grotto excavated into the bedrock. A shaft that commences at the descending passage, near its entrance to the Chamber of Ordeal, provides access to the Grotto. It ascends at a slope of about 45 through the bedrock for a vertical distance of some 25 meters. A vertical well shaft, about 25 meters deep and about one meter in diameter, also provides access to the Grotto, passing downwards through the pyramid from the junction of the two passages providing access to the Queen's Chamber and the Grand Gallery. The shafts and grotto are not decorated in any way and represent the Well of Life that is to be traversed by the soul after its sojourn in the Chamber of Ordeal. The Queen's Chamber, which is the Chamber of Regeneration and Rebirth, is constructed with flawless glistening white limestone. White symbolizes purity and innocence and is the color of absolute truth. It also symbolizes the element of earth and in ancient Egypt was consecrated to the dead as a symbol of the regeneration of the soul, signifying the triumph of the soul over the empire of death. The two shafts that point from the Queen's Chamber towards the heavens are directly relevant to regeneration and rebirth.
The beginning of the horizontal passage that enters the Queen's Chamber is just below the entrance to the Grand Gallery, both of which are accessed from the main passage that ascends at an angle of 26.5 from near the entrance to the pyramid. The Grand Gallery is constructed in polished black granite and also ascends at an angle of 26.5 . It is the Hall of Truth in Darkness, which the soul must pass through after its regeneration in the Queen's Chamber. Black is a symbol of humility, silence and secrecy, as well as being the characteristic emblem of grief and mourning. The Grand Gallery giving access to the King's Chamber is a final reminder to the regenerated soul of the realities of life and death. The King's Chamber is the Chamber of Resurrection, whence the soul shall return unto God. It is constructed in polished red granite. Red symbolizes fire, signifying the purification of the soul and the regeneration of life. It also is an emblem of martyrdom and signifies fervency and zeal in the pursuit of truth. The two shafts that point to the heavens from the King's Chamber allude to the regeneration of life and the voyage of the soul to the heavenly Duat, which the ancient Egyptians believed to be their dwelling place in the afterlife. In his book Ancient Mysteries, subtitled A History through Evolution and Magic, Michael Baigent discusses the belief in a Divine Shepherd held in ancient Egypt. In the Books of Hermes the Divine Shepherd is known by the Greek name Poimandres, derived from an ancient Egyptian title that signified the Understanding or Intelligence of Ra.
IMPORTANT ASSOCIATED STRUCTURES
An important aspect of mythology that should never be overlooked is the fact that every myth has some background in historical fact. For this reason it is quite possible that the Egyptian pantheon of gods were real people in the Zep Tepi or First Time of Osiris, whose actions were dramatized and whose beings were deified. An important ancient tradition from the mythologies of Egypt and the Mediterranean countries relates that a highly sophisticated society lived in Egypt at about the First Time, which was about 10450 BCE, who did wonderful things and constructed remarkable buildings. The possibility of that being a fact is confirmed by recent discoveries and new investigations of the Great Sphinx. One discovery in the Giza complex of special interest is the existence of at least five huge pits that house ocean going ships. Two of the boat pits found in 1950 had been covered and sealed for at least 4,500 years. They contained two vessels with high prows. Both are constructed of cedar wood and well preserved. One vessel is 33 meters long and remains sealed in its boathouse. The other, 43 meters long and displacing about 40 tons, is on display in a Boat Museum adjacent to the pyramids. These vessels and others recently discovered in Upper Egypt are the most ancient found anywhere in the world.
The discovery, excavation and reconstruction of the ship in the Boat Museum is described by an archaeological journalist, Nancy Jenkins, in her informative book The Boat Beneath the Pyramid. Experts have agreed that the shipbuilders must have had ocean-going sailing experience for many centuries. The vessels would have been suitable for the mysterious seafaring people, traditionally from Atlantis, who according to mythology invaded Egypt and much of the Mediterranean basin before 10000 BCE. In 1991 a fleet of twelve ships, similar to those at Giza and about 20 meters long, were found about 13 kilometers from the Nile River near Abydos, 600 kilometers inland. They had been buried for at least 5,000 years. It is interesting to know that Egyptian mythology refers to two great Predynastic civilizations, first of all "The Age of the Gods" and later the Zep Tepi. Modern archaeological research supports the hypothesis because it has confirmed that an advanced agricultural society lived in Egypt in about 13000 BCE, but that it suddenly and inexplicably it disappeared soon after 10500 BCE and was replaced during the Predynastic Period by stone age hunter gatherers.
Traditionally, the Great Sphinx is attributed to Khafra, whose head it is supposed to resemble, but thus has been disproved by detailed analyses. The Sphinx is a monolithic carving almost 80 meters long and 20 meters high with a head more than 4 meters wide. The head is smaller than usual for such a work and it is not weathered like the body. For this reason and from other evidence it is now believed that during Khafra's time a new head was carved from the original, which probably had been the head of a lion. The Sphinx looks directly towards the point where the sun would have risen at the vernal equinox in about 10450 BCE, when sunrise appeared to be in the centre of the constellation Leo and Leo was looking due east, lying on and parallel to the horizon. John A West, an Egyptologist regarded as an expert on the early Dynastic Period, recently carried out extensive investigations of the Sphinx working with Dr Robert Schoch, a professor of geology at Boston University and a specialist in erosion. Their geological studies reveal that the body of the Sphinx and the walls of the enclosing pit have suffered extensive water erosion from thousands of years of rain, but that there is very little wind erosion. For more than 4,500 years the Sphinx has been covered in sand intermittently for extended periods, in fact for most of that time. This proves that the Sphinx must have been in existence during the period of heavy precipitation that occurred near the end of the last great Ice Age. The melt down began about 20,000 years ago, but was at its peak between 15000 BCE and 8000 BCE, which included the Zep Tepi or First Time.
These geological investigations also established that the huge limestone blocks excavated out of the bedrock to form the enclosure for the Sphinx, were used to build the Valley Temple of Khafra. There is evidence that Khafra's pyramid was built in two stages, because several of the lower courses of stone were built from massive limestone blocks identical to those excavated from the Sphinx enclosure and used in the Valley Temple, quite unlike the remainder of the rock used. The Valley Temple is about 47.5 meters square and also points directly towards sunrise at the vernal equinox. The western wall is 7 meters high, but because of the slope of the plateau the eastern wall is almost 13 meters high. The core structure of the temple is built of massive limestone blocks, weighing between 100 tons and 250 tons each and ranging in size from 6 meters by 3 meters by 2.5 meters up to 10 meters by 4 meters by 3 meters. Within the building there are two rows each of six monolithic granite columns more than 1 meter square in cross-section and almost 5 meters high, which support granite beams of similar dimensions. The structure was coated with massive granite slabs each weighing from 70 tons to 80 tons, probably added later, possibly during Khafra's time. The largely ruined Mortuary Temple adjacent to the eastern face of Khafra's pyramid also is constructed of blocks similar to those used in the Valley Temple.
The only other ancient Egyptian building of similar massive block construction that has been discovered is at Abydos, near where the fleet of boats was found. It is called the Osireion and is a gigantic underground structure built with its main floor level about 16 meters below the level of the floor of the temple of Seti I, which it is adjacent to and immediately behind. The central floor is a massive plinth about 26 meters by 13 meters, surrounded by a moat about 3 meters wide and at least 4 meters deep. A stairway at each end of the plinth, on its longitudinal axis, descends into the water almost to its full depth. There are two pools on the longitudinal axis, one being about 6 meters long and 3 meters wide and the other about 3 meters square. The plinth supports two colonnades of massive monolithic rose-colored granite columns, one each side and parallel to the longitudinal axis. The columns are about 4 meters high and 2.5 meters square, each weighing about 100 tons and supporting lintels of the same cross-section.
The moat is surrounded by a narrow walkway
enclosed within walls constructed of cyclopean blocks that are
up to 8 meters long. The walls are about 6.5 meters thick to resist
the pressure of the surrounding earth and incorporate 17 open
cells facing the moat, each cell sufficiently large to accommodate
a man standing up. The walls and the lintels of the colonnades
originally supported a series of monolithic sections that were
even larger than the columns. They formed a massive roof over
the moat and walkway, leaving the centre uncovered. The water
was supplied through a tunnel from the Nile River. The Osireion
is unique among the surviving structures of ancient Egypt, previously
thought to be a reservoir, but later that it was erected for the
celebration of the mysteries of Osiris, whence its name. Some
traditional Egyptologists have suggested that it was a cenotaph
for Seti I, based on circumstantial evidence of cartouches and
inscriptions relating to renovations probably carried out by Seti
I. It would be a most unusual cenotaph and the dating is very
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