Chapter 46 - The Eleventh Millennium BC

If it were not for the powerful mythology of Osiris, and if this civilizing, scientific, law-making deity was not remembered in particular for having introduced domesticated crops into the Nile Valley in the remote and fabled epoch known as the First Time, it would probably not be a matter of any great interest that at some point between 13,000 BC and 10,000 BC Egypt enjoyed a period of what has been described as ‘precocious agricultural development’—possibly the earliest agricultural revolution anywhere in the world identified with certainty by historians.1

As we saw in recent chapters, sources such as the Palermo Stone, Manetho and the Turin Papyrus contain several different and at times contradictory chronologies. All these chronologies nevertheless agree on a very ancient date for the First Time of Osiris: the golden age when the gods were believed to have ruled in Egypt.


In addition, the sources demonstrate a striking convergence over the importance they accord to the eleventh millennium BC in particular,2 the precessional Age of Leo when the great ice sheets of the northern hemisphere were undergoing their final, ferocious meltdown.

Perhaps coincidentally, evidence unearthed since the 1970s by geologists, archaeologists and prehistorians like Michael Hoffman, Fekri Hassan and Professor Fred Wendorff has confirmed that the eleventh millennium BC was indeed an important period in Egyptian prehistory, during which immense and devastating floods swept repeatedly down the Nile Valley.3


Fekri Hassan has speculated that this prolonged series of natural disasters, which reached a crescendo around or just after 10,500 BC (and continued to recur periodically until about 9000 BC) might have been responsible for snuffing out the early agricultural experiment.4

At any rate, that experiment did come to an end (for whatever reason), and appears not to have been attempted again for at least another 5000 years.5

1 Egypt before the Pharaohs., pp. 29, 88.
2 To give yet another example, here is Diodorus Siculus (first century BC) passing on what he was told by Egyptian priests: ‘The number of years from Osiris and Isis, they say, to the reign of Alexander, who founded the city which bears his name in Egypt [fourth century BC], is over ten thousand ...’ Diodorus Siculus, volume I, p. 73.

3 Egypt before The Pharaohs, p. 85.

4 Ibid., p. 90.

5 A History of Ancient Egypt, p. 21.

There is something mysterious about Egypt’s so-called ‘palaeolithic agricultural revolution’. Here, quoted from the standard texts (Hoffman’s Egypt before The Pharaohs and Wendorff and Schild’s Prehistory of the Nile Valley) are some key facts from the little that is known about this great leap forward that occurred so inexplicably towards the end of the last Ice Age:

1 - ‘Shortly after 13,000 BC, grinding stones and sickle blades with a glossy sheen on their bits (the result of silica from cut stems adhering to a sickle’s cutting edge) appear in late Palaeolithic tool kits ... It is clear that the grinding stones were used in preparing plant food.’6

2 - At many riverside sites, at exactly this time, fish stopped being a significant food source and became a negligible one, as evidenced by the absence of fish remains:

‘The decline in fishing as a source of food is related to the appearance of a new food resource represented by ground grain. The associated pollen strongly suggests that this grain was barley, and significantly, this large grass-pollen, tentatively identified as barley, makes a sudden appearance in the pollen profile just before the time when the first settlements were established in this area ...’7

3 - ‘As apparently spectacular as the rise of protoagriculture in the late Palaeolithic Nile Valley was its precipitous decline. No one knows exactly why, but after about 10,500 BC the early sickle blades and grinding disappear to be replaced throughout Egypt by Epipalaeolithic hunting, fishing and gathering peoples who use stone tools.’8

6 Egypt before The Pharaohs, p. 88.
7 Fred Wendorff and Romuald Schild, Prehistory of the Nile Valley, Academic Press, New York, 1976, p. 291.

8 Egypt before the Pharaohs, pp. 89-90.


Scanty though the evidence may be, it is clear in its general implications: Egypt enjoyed a golden age of agricultural plenty which began around 13,000 BC and was brought to an abrupt halt around the middle of the eleventh millennium BC. A kick-start to the process appears to have been given by the introduction of already domesticated barley into the Nile Valley, immediately followed by the establishment of a number of farming settlements which exploited the new resource.


The settlements were equipped with simple but extremely effective agricultural tools and accessories. After the eleventh millennium BC, however, there was a prolonged relapse to more primitive ways of life.

The imagination is inclined to roam freely over such data in search of an explanation—and all such explanations can only be guesswork. What is certain is that the none of the evidence suggests that palaeolithic Egypt’s ‘agricultural revolution’ could have been a local initiative. On the contrary it feels in every way like a transplant.


A transplant appears suddenly, after all, and can be rejected equally fast if conditions change, just as settled agriculture seems to have been rejected in ancient Egypt after the great Nile floods of the eleventh millennium BC.

Climate Change
What was the weather like then?

We’ve noted in earlier chapters that the Sahara, a relatively young desert, was green savannah until about the tenth millennium BC; this savannah, brightened by lakes, boiling with game, extended across much of upper Egypt. Farther north, the Delta area was marshy but dotted with many large and fertile islands.


Overall the climate was significantly cooler, cloudier and rainier than it is today.9 Indeed, for two or three thousand years before and about a thousand years after 10,500 BC it rained and rained and rained. Then, as though marking an ecological turning-point, the floods came. When they were over, increasingly arid conditions set in.10


This period of desiccation lasted until approximately 7000 BC when the ‘Neolithic Subpluvial’ began with a thousand years of heavy rains, followed by 3000 years of moderate rainfall which once again proved ideal for agriculture:

‘For a time the deserts bloomed and human societies colonized areas that have been unable to support such dense populations since.’11

9 Ibid., p. 86.

10 Ibid., pp. 97-8.

11 Ibid., p. 161.

By the birth of dynastic Egypt around 3000 BC, however, the climate had turned around again and a new period of desiccation had begun—one that has continued until the present day.

This, then, in broad outline, is the environmental stage upon which the mysteries of Egyptian civilization have been played out: rain and floods between 13,000 BC and 9500 BC; a dry period until 7000 BC; rain again (though increasingly less frequent) until about 3000 BC; thereafter a renewed and enduring dry period.

The expanse of years is great, but if one is looking for a First Time within it which might accord with the golden age of the gods, one’s thoughts turn naturally to the mysterious epoch of early agricultural experimentation that shadowed the great rains and floods between 13,000 BC and 10,500 BC.

Unseen connections?
This epoch was crucial not only for the Ancient Egyptians but for many peoples in other areas. Indeed, as we saw in Part IV, it was the epoch of dramatic climate shifts, rapidly rising sea levels, earth movements, floods, volcanic eruptions, bituminous rains and darkened skies that was the most probable source of many of the great worldwide myths of universal cataclysm.

Could it also have been an epoch in which ‘godsreally did walk among men, as the legends said?

On the Bolivian Altiplano those gods were known as the Viracochas and were linked to the astonishing megalithic city of Tiahuanaco, which may have pre-existed the immense floods in the Andes in the eleventh millennium BC. Thereafter, according to Professor Arthur Posnansky, though the flood-waters subsided,

‘the culture of the Altiplano did not again attain a high point of development but rather fell into a total and definitive decadence.’12

Of course, Posnansky’s conclusions are controversial and must be evaluated on their own merits. Nevertheless, it is interesting that both the Bolivian Altiplano and Egypt should have been scoured by immense floods in the eleventh millennium BC. In both areas too, there are signs that extraordinarily early agricultural experiments—apparently based on introduced techniques—were attempted and then abandoned.13


And in both areas important question-marks have been raised over the dating of monuments: the Puma Punku and the Kalasasaya in Tiahuanaco, for example, which Posnansky argued might have been built as early as 15,000 BC,14 and, in Egypt, megalithic structures like the Osireion, the Great Sphinx and the Valley Temple of Khafre at Giza, which John West and the Boston University geologist Robert Schoch have dated on geological grounds to earlier than 10,000 BC.

Could there be an unseen connection linking all these beautiful, enigmatic monuments, the anomalous agricultural experiments of 13,000-10,000 BC, and the legends of civilizer gods like Osiris and Viracocha?


12 See Chapter Twelve.
13 Ibid.
14 Ibid.


Where is the rest of this civilization?’
As we set out on the road from Abydos to Luxor, where we were to meet John Anthony West, I realized that there was a sense in which all the connections would look after themselves if the central issue of the antiquity of the monuments could be settled. In other words, if West’s geological evidence proved that the Sphinx was more than 12,000 years old, the history of human civilization was going to have to be rewritten.


As part of that exciting process, all the other strange, anachronistic ‘fingerprints of the gods’ that kept appearing around the world, and the sense of an undercurrent of ancient connections linking apparently unrelated civilizations, would begin to make sense ...

When West’s evidence was presented in 1992 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science it had been taken seriously enough to be publicly debated by the Chicago University Egyptologist Mark Lehner, director of the Giza Mapping Project, who—to the astonishment of almost everybody present—had been unable to come up with a convincing refutation.

‘When you say something as complex as the Sphinx dates to 9000 or 10,000 BC,’ Lehner had concluded, it implies, of course, that there was a very high civilization that was capable of producing the Sphinx at that period. The question an archaeologist has to ask, therefore, is this: if the Sphinx was made at that time then where is the rest of this civilization, where is the rest of this culture?15

15 AAAS Annual Meeting, 1992, Debate: How Old is the Sphinx?

Lehner, however, was missing the point.

If the Sphinx did date to 9000 or 10,000 BC, the onus was not on West to produce other evidence for the existence of the civilization which produced it, but on Egyptologists and archaeologists to explain how they had got things so wrong, so consistently, for so long. So could West prove the antiquity of the Sphinx?

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Chapter 47 - Sphinx

‘Egyptologists,’ said John West, ‘are the last people in the world to address any anomaly.’

Of course, there are many anomalies in Egypt. The one West was referring to at that moment, however, was the anomaly of the Fourth Dynasty pyramids: an anomaly because of what had happened during the Third, Fifth and Sixth Dynasties. Zoser’s Step Pyramid at Saqqara (Third Dynasty) was an imposing edifice, but it was built with relatively small, manageable blocks that five or six men working together could carry, and its internal chambers were structurally unsound.


The pyramids of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties (although adorned inside with the beautiful Pyramid Texts) were so poorly built and had collapsed so completely that today most of them amount to little more than mounds of rubble. The Fourth Dynasty pyramids at Giza, however, were wonderfully well made and had endured the passage of thousands of years more or less intact.

It was this sequence of events, or rather its implications, that West felt Egyptologists should have paid more attention to:

‘There’s a discrepancy in the scenario that reads “building kind of rubbishy pyramids that are structurally unsound, suddenly building absolutely unbelievable pyramids that are structurally the most incredible things ever conceived of, and then immediately afterwards going back to structurally unsound pyramids.”


It doesn’t make sense ... The parallel scenario in, say, the auto-industry would be inventing and building the Model-T Ford, then suddenly inventing and building the ’93 Porsche and making a few of those, then forgetting how to do that and going back to building Model-T Fords again ... Civilizations don’t work this way.’

‘So what are you saying?’ I asked. ‘Are you saying that the Fourth Dynasty pyramids weren’t built by the Fourth Dynasty at all?’

‘My gut feeling is that they weren’t. They don’t look like the mastabas in front of them. They don’t look like any other Fourth Dynasty stuff either ... They don’t seem to fit in ...’

‘And nor does the Sphinx?’

‘And nor does the Sphinx. But the big difference is that we don’t have to rely on gut feelings where the Sphinx is concerned. We can prove that it was built long before the Fourth Dynasty ...’


John West
Santha and I had been fans of John Anthony West ever since we had first started travelling in Egypt. His guide-book, The Traveller’s Key had been a brilliant and indispensable introduction to the mysteries of this ancient land, and we still carried it with us.


At the same time his scholarly works, notably Serpent in the Sky, had opened our eyes to the revolutionary possibility that Egyptian civilization—with its manifold glimpses of high science apparently out of place in time—might not have developed entirely within the confines of the Nile Valley but might have been a legacy of some earlier, greater and as yet unidentified civilization ‘antedating dynastic Egypt, and all other known civilizations, by millennia’.1

Tall and strongly built, West was in his early sixties. He had cultivated a neatly trimmed white beard, was dressed in a khaki safari-suit and wore an eccentric nineteenth-century pith helmet. His manner was youthful and energetic and there was a roguish sparkle in his eyes.

The three of us were sitting on the open upper deck of a Nile cruiser, moored off the corniche in Luxor just a few yards downstream from the Winter Palace Hotel. To our west, across the river, a big red sun, distorted by atmospheric refraction, was setting behind the cliffs of the Valley of the Kings. To our east lay the battered but noble ruins of the Luxor and Karnak temples. Beneath us, transmitted through the hull of the boat, we could feel the lap and flow of the water as it rolled by on its meridional course towards the far-off Delta.

West had first presented his thesis for an older Sphinx in Serpent in the Sky, a comprehensive exposition of the work of the French mathematician R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz. Schwaller’s research at the Luxor Temple between 1937 and 1952 had unearthed mathematical evidence which suggested that Egyptian science and culture had been far more advanced and sophisticated than modern scholars had appreciated.


However, as West put it, this evidence had been set out in ‘abstruse, complex and uncompromising language ... Few readers seem comfortable with raw Schwaller. It’s a bit like trying to wade directly into high energy physics without extensive prior training.’

Schwaller’s principal publications, both originally in French, were the massive three-volume Temple de l’Homme, which focused on Luxor, and the more general Roi de la théocratie Pharaonique. In this latter work, subsequently translated into English as Sacred Science, Schwaller made a passing reference to the tremendous floods and rains which devastated Egypt in the eleventh millennium BC.


Almost as an afterthought, he added:

A great civilization must have preceded the vast movements of water that passed over Egypt, which leads us to assume that the Sphinx already existed, sculptured in the rock of the west cliff at Giza—that Sphinx whose leonine body, except for the head, shows indisputable signs of water erosion.’2

1 Traveller’s Key to Ancient Egypt; Serpent in the Sky, p. 20.

2 Sacred Science, p. 96.

While working on Serpent, West was struck by the possible significance of this remark and decided to follow it up:

‘I realized that if I could prove Schwaller’s offhand observation empirically, this would be ironclad evidence for the existence of a previously unidentified high civilization of distant antiquity.’


‘Once you’ve established that water was the agent that eroded the Sphinx the answer is almost childishly simple. It can be explained to anybody who reads the National Enquirer or the News of the World. It’s almost moronically simple ... The Sphinx is supposed to have been built by Khafre around 2500 BC, but since the beginning of dynastic times—say 3000 BC onwards—there just hasn’t been enough rain on the Giza plateau to have caused the very extensive erosion that we see all over the Sphinx’s body.


You really have to go back to before 10,000 BC to find a wet enough climate in Egypt to account for weathering of this type and on this scale. It therefore follows that the Sphinx must have been built before 10,000 BC and since it’s a massive, sophisticated work of art it also follows that it must have been built by a high civilization.’

‘But John,’ Santha asked, ‘how can you be so sure that the weathering was caused by rain water? Couldn’t the desert winds have done the job just as well? After all even orthodox Egyptologists admit that the Sphinx has existed for nearly 5000 years. Isn’t that long enough for these effects to have been caused by wind erosion?’

‘Naturally that was one of the first possibilities that I had to exclude. Only if I could show that wind-borne abrasive sand couldn’t possibly have brought the Sphinx to its present condition would there be any point in looking further into the implications of water erosion.’

Robert Schoch’s geology: Unriddling the Sphinx
A key issue turned out to be the deep trench that the monument was surrounded by on all sides:

‘Because the Sphinx is set in a hollow,’ West explained, ‘sand piles up to its neck within a few decades if it’s left untended ... It has been left untended often during historical times. In fact through a combination of textual references and historical extrapolations it’s possible to prove that during the 4500 years that have elapsed since it was ostensibly built by Khafre it’s been buried to its neck for as much as 3300 years.3

3 West’s detailed evidence is set out in Serpent in the Sky, pp. 184-20. Concerning the covering of the Sphinx by sand he arrives at the following table:


That means that in all this time there has only been a cumulative total of just over 1000 years in which its body has been susceptible to wind-erosion; all the rest of the time it’s been protected from the desert winds by an enormous blanket of sand.


The point is that if the Sphinx was really built by Khafre in the Old Kingdom, and if wind erosion was capable of inflicting such damage on it in so short a time-span, then other Old Kingdom structures in the area, built out of the same limestone, ought to show similar weathering. But none do—you know, absolutely unmistakable Old Kingdom tombs, full of hieroglyphs and inscriptions—none of them show the same type of weathering as the Sphinx.’

Indeed, none did.


Professor Robert Schoch, a Boston University geologist and specialist in rock erosion who had played a key role in validating West’s evidence, was satisfied as to the reason for this. The weathering of the Sphinx—and of the walls of its surrounding rock-hewn enclosure—had not been caused by wind-scouring at all but by thousands of years of heavy rainfall long ages before the Old Kingdom came into being.

Having won over his professional peers at the 1992 Convention of the Geological Society of America,4 Schoch went on to explain his findings to a much wider and more eclectic audience (including Egyptologists) at the 1992 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).


He began by pointing out to delegates that,

‘the body of the Sphinx and the walls of the Sphinx ditch are deeply weathered and eroded ... This erosion is a couple of meters thick in places, at least on the walls. It’s very deep, it’s very old in my opinion, and it gives a rolling and undulating profile ...’5


‘An abstract of our team’s work was submitted to the Geological Society of America, and we were invited to present our findings at a poster session of at the GSA convention in San Diego—the geological Superbowl. Geologists from all over the world thronged to our booth, much intrigued. Dozens of experts in fields relevant to our research offered help and advice. Shown the evidence, some geologists just laughed, astounded [as Schoch had been initially] that in two centuries of research, no one, geologist or Egyptologist, had noticed that the Sphinx had been weathered by water.’ Serpent in the Sky, p. 229; Mystery of the Sphinx. NBC-TV, 1993. 275 geologists endorsed Schoch’s findings.

5 AAAS, Annual Meeting 1992, Debate: How Old is the Sphinx?

Such undulations are easily recognizable to stratigraphers and palaeontologists as having been caused by ‘precipitation-induced weathering’.


As Santha Faiia’s photographs of the Sphinx and the Sphinx enclosure indicate, this weathering takes the distinctive form of a combination of deep vertical fissures and undulating, horizontal coves— ‘a classic textbook example,’ in Schoch’s words,

‘of what happens to a limestone structure when you have rain beating down on it for thousands of years ... It’s clearly rain precipitation that produced these erosional features.’6

6 Mystery of the Sphinx.

Wind/sand erosion presents a very different profile of sharp-edged horizontal channels selectively scoured out from the softer layers of the affected rock. Under no circumstances can it cause the vertical fissures particularly visible in the wall of the Sphinx enclosure.


These could only have been ‘formed by water running down the wall’,7 the result of rain falling in enormous quantities, cascading over the slope of the Giza plateau and down into the Sphinx enclosure below.

‘It picked out the weak spots in the rock,’ Schoch elaborated, ‘and opened them up into these fissures—clear evidence to me as a geologist that this erosional feature was caused by rainfall.’8

Although in some places obscured by repair blocks put in place by numerous restorers over the passing millennia, the same observation holds true for the scooped-out, undulating, scalloped coves that run the entire length of the Sphinx’s body. Again, these are characteristic of precipitation-induced weathering because only long periods of heavy rainfall beating down on the upper parts of the immense structure (and cascading over its sides) could have produced such effects.


Confirmation of this comes from the fact that the limestone out of which the Sphinx was carved is not uniform in its composition, but consists of a series of hard and soft layers in which some of the more durable rocks recede farther than some of the less durable rocks.9


Such a profile simply could not have been produced by wind erosion (which would have selectively chiselled out the softer layers of rock) but,

‘is entirely consistent with precipitation-induced weathering where you have water, rain water beating down from above. The rocks higher up are the more durable ones but they recede back farther than some of the less durable rocks lower in the section which are more protected.’10

In his summing up at the AAAS meeting, Schoch concluded:

It’s well known that the Sphinx enclosure fills with sand very quickly, in just a matter of decades, under the desert conditions of the Sahara. And it has to be dug out periodically. And this has been the case since ancient times. Yet you still get this dramatic rolling, erosional profile in the Sphinx enclosure ...


Simply put, therefore, what I’m suggesting is that this rolling profile, these features seen on the body and in the Sphinx ditch, hark back to a much earlier period when there was more precipitation in the area, and more moisture, more rain on the Giza plateau.’11

7 Ibid.
8 Ibid.
9 Ibid.
10 Ibid.
11 AAAS Annual Meeting 1992.

As Schoch admitted, he was not the first geologist to have noticed the ‘anomalous precipitation-induced weathering features on the core body of the Sphinx’.12 He was, however, the first to have become involved in public debates over the immense historical implications of this weathering. His attitude was that he preferred to stick to his geology:

I’ve been told over and over again that the peoples of Egypt, as far as we know, did not have either the technology or the social organization to cut out the core body of the Sphinx in pre-dynastic times ... However, I don’t see it as being my problem as a geologist. I’m not seeking to shift the burden, but its really up to the Egyptologists and archaeologists to figure out who carved it.


If my findings are in conflict with their theory about the rise of civilization then maybe its time for them to re-evaluate that theory. I’m not saying that the Sphinx was built by Atlanteans, or people from Mars, or extra-terrestrials. I’m just following the science where it leads me, and it leads me to conclude that the Sphinx was built much earlier than previously thought ...’13

12 Ibid. The relevant geologists include Farouk El Baz, and Roth and Raffai.

13 Extracts from Mystery of the Sphinx and AAAS meeting.


Legendary civilizations
How much earlier?

John West told us that he and Schoch had ‘a friendly debate going’ about the age of the Sphinx:

‘Schoch puts the date somewhere between 5000 BC and 7000 BC minimum [the epoch of the Neolithic Subpluvial] mainly by taking the most cautious view allowed by the data to hand. As a professor of Geology at a big university, he’s almost constrained to take a conservative view—and it’s true that there were rains between 7000 BC and 5000 BC.


However, for a variety of both intuitive and scholarly reasons, I think that the date is much, much older and that most of the weathering of the Sphinx took place in the earlier rainy period before 10,000 BC ... Frankly, if it was as relatively recent as 5000 to 7000 BC, I think we’d probably have found other evidence of the civilization that carved it. A lot of evidence from that period has been found in Egypt. There are some strange anomalies within it, I’ll admit,14 but most of it— the vast bulk—is really quite rudimentary.’

‘So who built the Sphinx if it wasn’t the pre-dynastic Egyptians?’


‘My conjecture is that the whole riddle is linked in some way to those legendary civilizations spoken of in all the mythologies of the world. You know—that there were great catastrophes, that a few people survived and went wandering around the earth and that a bit of knowledge was preserved here, a bit there ...


My hunch is that the Sphinx is linked to all that. If I were asked to place a bet I’d say that it predates the break-up of the last Ice Age and is probably older than 10000 BC, perhaps even older than 15,000 BC. My conviction—actually it’s more than a conviction—is that it’s vastly old?

14 Under the category of anomalies, West made specific reference to the bowls carved out of diorite and other hard stones described in Part VI.

This was a conviction I increasingly shared—and, I reminded myself, that most nineteenth-century Egyptologists had shared it too. Nevertheless the Sphinx’s appearance argued against such intuitions since there was no doubt that its head looked conventionally pharaonic.

‘If it’s as old as you think it is,’ I now asked John, ‘then how do you explain that the sculptors depicted it wearing the characteristic nemes head-dress and uraeus of dynastic times?’

‘I’m not bothered about that. In fact, as you know, Egyptologists contend that the face of the Sphinx resembles the face of Khafre—its one of the reasons why they claim it must have been built by him. Schoch and I have looked into this very carefully. We think, from the proportions of the head relative to the rest of the body, that it’s been recarved during dynastic times—and that’s why it looks very dynastic.


But we don’t think it was ever meant to represent Khafre. As part of our ongoing research into these issues we had Lieutenant Frank Domingo, a forensic artist with the New York Police Department, come over and do point by point comparisons between the face of the Sphinx and the face of Cephren’s statue in the Cairo Museum. His conclusion was that in no way was the Sphinx ever intended to represent Khafre.


It’s not just a matter of it being a different face—it’s probably a different race.15 So this is a very ancient monument that was recarved at a much later date. Originally it may not even have had a human face. Maybe it started out with a lion’s face as well as a lion’s body.’

15 'After reviewing my various drawings, schematics and measurements, my final conclusion concurs with my initial reaction: the two works represent two separate individuals. The proportions in the frontal view and especially the angles and facial protrusion in the lateral views, convinced me that the Sphinx is not Khafre. If the ancient Egyptians were skilled technicians and capable of duplicating images, then these two works cannot represent the same individual.' Frank Domingo, cited in Serpent in the Sky, p. 232. See also AAAS 1992, for Schoch's views on the recarving of the Sphinx's head.

Magellan and the first dinosaur bone
After my own explorations at Giza I was interested to know whether West’s research had cast doubt on the orthodox dating of any of the other monuments on the plateau—particularly the so-called Valley Temple of Khafre.

‘We think there’s quite a lot of stuff that may be older,’ he told me. ‘Not just the Valley Temple but also the Mortuary Temple up the hill, probably something to do with the Menkaure complex, maybe even the Pyramid of Khafre ...’

‘What in the Menkaure complex?’

‘Well, the Mortuary Temple. And actually I’m only using the conventional attribution of the Pyramids for convenience here ...’

‘OK. So do you think it’s possible that the pyramids are as old as the Sphinx too?’

‘It’s hard to say. I think something was there where those pyramids now are—because of the geometry. The Sphinx was part of a master-plan. And the Khafre Pyramid is maybe the most interesting in that respect because it was definitely built in two stages. If you look at it—maybe you’ve noticed—you’ll see that its base consists of several courses of gigantic blocks similar in style to the blocks of the core masonry of the Valley Temple.


Superimposed above the base, the rest of the pyramid is composed of smaller, less precisely engineered stuff. But when you look at it, knowing what you’re looking for, you see instantly that it’s built in two separate bits. I mean I can’t help but feel that the vast blocks on the bottom date from the earlier period—from the time the Sphinx was built—and that the second part was added later—but even then not necessarily by Khafre. As you go into this you begin to realize that the more you learn the more complex everything becomes.


For example, there may even have been an intermediate civilization, which actually would correspond to the Egyptian texts. They talk themselves about two long prior periods. In the first of these Egypt was supposedly ruled by the godsthe Neteru—and in the second it was ruled by the Shemsu Hor, the “Companions of Horus”. So, as I say, the problems just get more and more complicated. Fortunately, however, the bottom line stays simple. The bottom line is the Sphinx wasn’t built by Khafre. The geology proves that it’s a hell of a lot older ...’

‘Nevertheless the Egyptologists won’t accept that it is. One of the arguments they’ve used against you—Mark Lehner did so—goes something like this:

“If the Sphinx was made before 10,000 BC then why can’t you show us the rest of the civilization that built it?”

In other words, why don’t you have any other evidence to put forward for the presence of your legendary lost civilization apart from a few structures on the Giza plateau? What do you say to that?’

‘First off, there are structures outside Giza—for example the Osireion in Abydos, where you’ve just come from. We think that amazing edifice may relate to our work on the Sphinx. Even if the Osireion didn’t exist, however, the absence of other evidence wouldn’t worry me.


I mean, to make a big deal out of the fact that further confirmatory evidence hasn’t been found yet and to use this to try to scuttle the arguments for an older Sphinx is completely illogical. Analogously it’s like saying to Magellan ...

“Where are the other guys who’ve sailed round the world? Of course it’s still flat.”

Or in 1838 when the first dinosaur bone was found they would have said,

“Of course there’s no such thing as a giant extinct animal. Where’s the rest of the skeletons? They’ve only found one bone.”

But once a few people began to realize that this bone could only be from an extinct animal, within twenty years the museums of the world were filled up with complete dinosaur skeletons. So it’s sort of like that. Nobody’s thought to look in the right places.


I’m absolutely certain that other evidence will be found once a few people start looking in the right places—along the banks of the ancient Nile, for example, which is miles from the present Nile, or even at the bottom of the Mediterranean, which was dry during the last Ice Age.’

The problem of transmission
I asked John West why he thought that Egyptologists and archaeologists were so unwilling to consider that the Sphinx might be a clue to the existence of a forgotten episode in human history.

‘The reason, I think, is that they’re quite fixed in their ideas about the linear evolution of civilization. They find it hard to come to terms with the notion that there might have been people, more than 12,000 years ago, who were more sophisticated than we are today ...


The Sphinx, and the geology which proves its antiquity, and the fact that the technology that was involved in making it is in many ways almost beyond our own capacities, contradicts the belief that civilization and technology have evolved in a straightforward, linear way ... Because even with the best modern technology we almost couldn’t carry out the various tasks that were involved in the project.


The Sphinx itself, that’s not such a staggering feat. I mean if you get enough sculptors to cut the stone away they could carve a statue a mile long. The technology was involved in taking the stones, quarrying the stones, to free the Sphinx from its bedrock and then in moving those stones and using them to build the Valley Temple a couple of hundred feet away ...’

This was news to me:

‘You mean that the 200-ton blocks in the Valley Temple walls were quarried right out of the Sphinx enclosure?’

‘Yes, no doubt about it. Geologically they’re from the identical member of rock. They were quarried out, moved over to the site of the Temple— God knows how—and erected into forty-foot-high walls—again God knows how. I’m talking about the huge limestone core blocks, not the granite facing. I think that the granite was added much later, quite possibly by Khafre.


But if you look at the limestone core blocks you’ll see that they bear the marks of exactly the same kind of precipitation-induced weathering that are found on the Sphinx. So the Sphinx and the core structure of the Valley Temple were made at the same time by the same people—whoever they may have been.’

‘And do you think that those people and the later dynastic Egyptians were connected to each other in some way? In Serpent in the Sky you suggested that a legacy must have been passed on.’

‘It’s still just a suggestion. All that I know for sure on the basis of our work on the Sphinx is that a very, very high, sophisticated civilization capable of undertaking construction projects on a grand scale was present in Egypt in the very distant past. Then there was a lot of rain.

Then, thousands of years later, in the same place, pharaonic civilization popped up already fully formed, apparently out of nowhere, with all its knowledge complete. That much we can be certain of. But whether or not the knowledge that Ancient Egypt possessed was the same as the knowledge that produced the Sphinx I really can’t say.’

‘How about this,’ I speculated: ‘The civilization that produced the Sphinx wasn’t based here, at least not originally ... It wasn’t in Egypt. It put the Sphinx here as some sort of a marker or outpost ...’

‘Perfectly possible. Could be that the Sphinx for that civilization was like, let’s say, what Abu Simbel [in Nubia] was for dynastic Egypt.’

‘Then that civilization came to an end, was extinguished by some sort of massive catastrophe, and that’s when the legacy of high knowledge was handed on ... Because they had the Sphinx here they knew about Egypt, they knew this place, they knew this country, they had a connection here. Maybe people survived the ending of that civilization. Maybe they came here. ... Does that work for you?’

‘Well, it’s a possibility. Again, going back into the mythologies and legends of the world, many of them tell of such a catastrophe and of the few people—the Noah story that’s prevalent through endless civilizations—who somehow or other retained and passed on knowledge.


The big problem with all this, from my point of view, is the transmission process: how exactly the knowledge does get handed on during the thousands and thousands of years between the construction of the Sphinx and the flowering of dynastic Egypt. Theoretically you’re sort of stuck—aren’t you?—with this vast period in which the knowledge has to be transmitted. This is not easy to slough off. On the other hand we do know that those legends we’re referring to were passed on word for word over countless generations.


And in fact oral transmission is a much surer means of transmission than written transmission, because the language may change but as long as whoever’s telling the story tells it true in whatever the language of the time is ... it surfaces some 5000 years later in its original form. So maybe there are ways—in secret societies and religious cults, or through mythology, for example—that the knowledge could have been preserved and passed on before flowering again.


The point, I think, with problems as complex and important as these, is simply not to dismiss any possibilities, no matter how outrageous they may at first seem, without investigating them very, very thoroughly ...’

Second opinion
John West was in Luxor, leading a study group on Egypt’s sacred sites. Early the next day he and his students went south to Aswan and Abu Simbel. Santha and I journeyed north again, back towards Giza and the mysteries of the Sphinx and the pyramids. We were to meet there with the archaeo-astronomer Robert Bauval.


As we shall see, his stellar correlations provided startling independent corroboration for the geological evidence of Giza’s vast antiquity.

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Chapter 48 - Earth Measurers

Follow these instructions carefully:

Draw two parallel straight lines vertically down a sheet of paper, about seven inches long and a bit under three inches apart. Draw a third line, also vertical, also parallel and of equal length, exactly mid-way between the first two. Write the letter ‘S’—for ‘South’—at the top end of your diagram (the end farthest away from you), and the letter ‘N’ for ‘North’ at the bottom end. Add the letters ‘E’ for ‘East’ and ‘W for ‘West’ in their appropriate positions at either side of the diagram, to your left for East and to your right for West.

What you are looking at are the outlines of a geometrical map of Egypt incorporating a perspective very different from our own (where ‘North’ is always equated with ‘Up’). This map where ‘Up’ is ‘South’ seems to have been worked out an enormously long time ago by cartographers with a scientific understanding of the shape and size of our planet.

To complete the map you should now mark a dot on the central of the three parallel lines about an inch to the south of (‘up’ from) the northern end of the diagram. Then draw two more lines diagonally down from this point, respectively to the north-east and north-west, until they reach the northern ends of the two outermost parallel lines. Finally link those parallel lines directly with horizontal lines running east to west at the northern and southern ends of the diagram.

The shape produced is a meridional rectangle (oriented north-south). This rectangle is seven inches long by just under three inches wide and has a triangle demarcated at its northern (lower) end. The triangle represents the Nile Delta and the dot at the apex of the triangle represents the apex of the Delta—a point on the ground at 30° 06’ north and 31° 14’ east, very close to the location of the Great Pyramid.

Map showing the geometric conception of Egypt, with the Great Pyramid at the apex of the Nile delta.

The Egyptians traditionally thought of south as ‘up’.

Geodetic marker
Whatever else it may be, it has long been understood by mathematicians and geographers that the Great Pyramid serves the function of a geodetic marker (geodetics being the branch of science concerned with determining the exact position of geographical points and the shape and size of the earth1).


This realization first dawned in the late eighteenth century when the armies of revolutionary France, led by Napoleon Bonaparte, invaded Egypt.


Bonaparte, who had cultivated a deep interest in the enigmas of the pyramids, brought with him a large number of scholars, 175 in all, including several ‘greybeards’ gathered from various universities who were reputed to have acquired ‘a profound knowledge of Egyptian antiquities’, and, more usefully, a group of mathematicians, cartographers and surveyors.2

One of the tasks the savants were set, after the conquest was completed, was to draw up detailed maps of Egypt. In the process of doing this they discovered that the Great Pyramid was perfectly aligned to true north—and of course to the south, east and west as well, as we saw in Part VI. This meant that the mysterious structure made an excellent reference and triangulation point, and a decision was therefore taken to use the meridian passing through its apex as the base-line for all other measurements and orientations.


The team then proceeded to produce the first accurate maps of Egypt drawn up in the modern age. When they had finished, they were intrigued to note that the Great Pyramid’s meridian sliced the Nile Delta region into two equal halves. They also found that if the diagonals running from the pyramid’s apex to its north-eastern and north-western corners were extended (forming lines on the map running north-east and northwest until they reached the Mediterranean), the triangle thus formed would neatly encapsulate the entire Delta area.3

Let us now return to our map, which also incorporates a triangle representing the Delta. Its other main components are the three parallel meridians. The eastern meridian is at longitude 32° 38’ east—the official eastern border of Ancient Egypt from the beginning of dynastic times. The western meridian is at longitude 29° 50’ east, the official western border of ancient Egypt. The central meridian is at longitude 31° 14’ east, exactly midway between the other two (1° 24’ away from each).4

What we now have is a representation of a strip on the surface of planet earth that is exactly 2° 48’ wide. How long is this strip? Ancient Egypt’s ‘official’ northern and southern borders (which bore no more relationship to settlement patterns than the official eastern and western boundaries) are marked by the horizontal lines at the top and bottom of the map and are located respectively at 31° 06’ north and 24° 06’ north.5 The northern border, 31° 06’ north, joins the two outer ends of the estuary of the Nile.

1 Collins English Dictionary, p. 608.
2 Secrets of the Great Pyramid, p. 38. Much of the material in this chapter is based directly on the work of Peter Tompkins and of Professor Livio Catullo Stecchini.

3 Ibid., p. 46.

4 Ibid., p. 181.

5 Ibid., p. 299.
6 Ibid., pp. 179-81.

The southern border, 24° 06’ N, marks the precise latitude of the island of Elephantine at Aswan (Seyne) where an important astronomical and solar observatory was located throughout known Egyptian history.6 It seems, that this archaic land, sacred since time began—the creation and habitation of the gods—was originally conceived of as a geometric construct exactly seven terrestrial degrees in length.

Within this construct, the Great Pyramid appears to have been carefully sited as a geodetic marker for the apex of the Delta. The latter, which we have indicated on our map, is located at 30° 06’ N 31° 14’ E—a point in the middle of the Nile at the northern edge of modern Cairo. Meanwhile the pyramid stands at latitude of 30°N (corrected for atmospheric refraction) and at longitude 31° 09’ E, an error of just a few minutes of terrestrial arc to the south and west. This ‘error’, however, does not appear to have resulted from sloppiness or inaccuracy on the part of the pyramid builders.


On the contrary, a close look at the topography of the area suggests that the explanation should be sought in the need to find a site suitable for all the astronomical observations that had to be taken for accurate setting-out, and with a sufficiently stable geological structure on which to park, for ever, a six-million-ton monument almost 500 feet high with a footprint of over thirteen acres.

The Giza plateau fits the bill on all counts: close to the apex of the Delta, elevated above the Valley of the Nile, and equipped with an excellent foundation of solid limestone bedrock.

Doing things by degrees
We were driving north from Luxor to Giza in the back of Mohamed Walilli’s Peugeot 504—a journey of just over 4 degrees of longitude, i.e., from 25° 42’ N, to the 30th parallel. Between Asiut and El Minya, a corridor of conflict in recent months between Islamic extremists and Egyptian government forces, we were provided with an armed escort of soldiers, one of whom wore plain clothes and sat in the passenger seat beside Mohamed fondling an automatic pistol.


The others, about a dozen men armed with AK47 assault rifles, were distributed equally between two pick-up trucks which sandwiched us front and rear.

‘Dangerous people live here,’ Mohamed had confided out of the corner of his mouth when we had been stopped at a road-block in Asiut and ordered to wait for our escort. Now, although obviously rattled at being obliged to match the high speed of the escorting vehicles, he seemed to relish the kudos of being part of an impressive convoy, lights flashing and sirens wailing, weaving in and out of the slower traffic on the main highway from upper to lower Egypt.

I looked out of the car window for a while at the unchanging spectacle of the Nile, at its fertile green banks and the red haze of the deserts a few miles away to east and west. This was Egypt, the real organic Egypt of today and yesterday, which overlapped (but spread out far beyond) the strange ‘official’ Egypt of the map described, a rectangular fiction exactly seven terrestrial degrees in length.

In the nineteenth century the renowned Egyptologist Ludwig Borchardt expressed what is still the conventional wisdom of his colleagues when he remarked, ‘One must absolutely exclude the possibility that the ancients may have measured by degrees.’7


This was a judgment that seemed increasingly unlikely to be tenable. Whoever they may have been, it was obvious that the original planners and architects of the Giza necropolis had belonged to a civilization which knew the earth to be a sphere, knew its dimensions almost as well as we do ourselves, and had divided it into 360 degrees, just as we do today.

The proof of this lay in the creation of a symbolic official ‘country’ exactly seven terrestrial degrees in length, and in the admirably geodetic location and orientation to the cardinal points of the Great Pyramid. Equally persuasive was the fact, already touched on in Chapter Twenty-three, that the perimeter of the pyramid’s base stood in the relationship 2pi to its height and that the entire monument seemed to have been designed to serve as a map-projection—on a scale of 1:43,200—of the northern hemisphere of our planet:

The Great Pyramid was a projection on four triangular surfaces. The apex represented the pole and the perimeter represented the equator. This is the reason why the perimeter is in relation 2pi to the height.8

7 Cited in Ibid., p. 333.
8 See Chapter Twenty-three, and Stecchini in Secrets of the Great Pyramid, p. 378.


The Pyramid/Earth ratio
We have demonstrated the use of pi in the Pyramid9 and need not go into this matter again; besides, the existence of the pi relationship, though interpreted as accidental by orthodox scholars, is not contested by them.10 But are we seriously supposed to accept that the monument could also be a representation of the northern hemisphere of the earth projected on flat surfaces at a scale of 1:43,200?


Let us remind ourselves of the figures.

According to the best modern estimates, based on satellite observations, the equatorial circumference of the earth is 24,902.45 miles and its polar radius is 3949.921 miles.11 The perimeter of the Great Pyramid’s base is 3023.16 feet and its height is 481.3949 feet.12

9 See Chapter Twenty-three.
10 Accepted, for example, by Edwards, Petrie, Baines and Malek, and so on.
11 Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1991, 27:530.

12 The Pyramids of Egypt, p. 87.

The scaling-down, as it turns out, is not absolutely exact, but it is very near. Moreover, when we remember the bulge at the earth’s equator (our planet being an oblate spheroid rather than a perfect sphere), the results achieved by the pyramid builders seem even closer to 1:43,200.

How close?

If we take the earth’s equatorial circumference, 24,902.45 miles, and scale it down (divide it) by 43,200 we get a result of 0.5764 of a mile. There are 5280 feet in a mile. The next step, therefore, is to multiply 0.5764 by 5280, which produces a figure of 3043.39 feet. The earth’s equatorial circumference scaled down 43,200 times is therefore 3,043.39 feet. By comparison, as we have seen, the perimeter of the Great Pyramid’s base is 3,023.16 feet. This represents an ‘error’ of only 20 feet—or about three-quarters of 1 per cent.


Given the razor-sharp accuracy of the pyramid builders, however (who normally worked to even finer tolerances), the error is less likely to have resulted from mistakes in the construction of the giant monument than in an underestimation of our planet’s true circumference by just 163 miles, probably caused in part by failure to take account of the equatorial bulge.

Let us now consider the earth’s polar radius of 3949.921 miles. If we scale it down 43,200 times we get 0.0914 of a mile: 482.59 feet. The earth’s polar radius scaled down 43,200 times is therefore 482.59 feet. By comparison the Great Pyramid’s height is 481.3949 feet—just a foot less than the ideal figure, an error of barely one-fifth of one per cent.

As near as makes no difference, therefore, the perimeter of the Great Pyramid’s base is indeed 1:43,200 of the equatorial circumference of the earth. And as near as makes no difference, the height of the Great Pyramid above that base is indeed 1:43,200 of the polar radius of the earth.


In other words, during all the centuries of darkness experienced by Western civilization when knowledge of our planet’s dimensions was lost to us, all we ever needed to do to rediscover that knowledge was to measure the height and base perimeter of the Great Pyramid and multiply by 43,200!

How likely is this to be an ‘accident’?

The commonsense answer is ‘not very likely at all,’ since it should be obvious to any reasonable person that what we are looking at could only be the result of a deliberate and carefully calculated planning decision. Commonsense, however, has never been a faculty held in high esteem by Egyptologists, and it is therefore necessary to ask whether there is anything else in the data which might confirm that the ratio of 143,200 is a purposeful expression of intelligence and knowledge, rather than some numerical fluke.

The ratio itself seems to provide that confirmation, for the simple reason that 43,200 is not a random number (like, say, 45,000 or 47,000, or 50,500, or 38,800). On the contrary it is one of a series of numbers, and multiples of those numbers, which relate to the phenomenon of precession of the equinoxes, and which have become embedded in archaic myths all around the world.


As the reader can confirm by glancing back at Part V the basic numerals of the Pyramid/Earth ratio crop up again and again in those myths, sometimes directly as 43,200 sometimes as 432, as 4320, as 432,000, as 4,320,000, and so on.

What we appear to be confronted by are two remarkable propositions, back-to-back, as though designed to reinforce one another. It is surely remarkable enough that the Great Pyramid should be able to function as an accurate scale-model of the northern hemisphere of planet earth. But it is even more remarkable that the scale involved should incorporate numbers relating precisely to one of the key planetary mechanisms of the earth.


This is the fixed and apparently eternal precession of its axis of rotation around the pole of the ecliptic, a phenomenon which causes the vernal point to migrate around the band of the zodiac at the rate of one degree every 72 years, and 30 degrees (one complete zodiacal constellation) every 2160 years. Precession through two zodiacal constellations, or 60 degrees along the ecliptic, takes 4320 years.13

13 See Part V.

The constant repetition of these precessional numbers in ancient myths could, perhaps, be a coincidence. Viewed in isolation, the appearance of the precessional number 43,200 in the pyramid/earth ratio might also be a coincidence (although the odds against this must be astronomical). But when we find precessional numbers in both these very different media— the ancient myths and the ancient monument—it really does strain credulity to suppose that coincidence is all that is involved here.


Moreover, just as the Teutonic myth of Valhalla’s walls leads us to the precessional number 432,000 by inviting us to calculate the warriors who ‘go to war with the Wolf (500 plus 40 multiplied by 800, as saw in Chapter Thirty-three), so the Great Pyramid leads us to the precessional number 43,200 by demonstrating through the pi relationship that it might be a scale-model part of the earth and then by inviting us to calculate that scale.

Matching fingerprints?
At El Minya our escort vehicles left us, though the plain-clothes soldier in the front seat stayed with us until Cairo. We paused for a late lunch of bread and felafel in a boisterous, noisy village, then motored north again.

Throughout all this, my thoughts remained focused on the Great Pyramid. Obviously it was not an accident that so immense and conspicuous a structure should occupy a key geographic and geodetic location in a part of the world that appeared, bizarrely, to have been conceived of and ‘geometrized’ as a rectangular, symbolic construct exactly seven terrestrial degrees in length. But it was the pyramid’s other function as a three-dimensional map projection of the northern hemisphere that particularly interested me because it suggested a ‘match’ with the ancient but advanced maps of the world described in Part I.


Those maps, which made use of spherical trigonometry and a range of sophisticated projections, had been claimed by Professor Charles Hapgood to provide tangible, documentary evidence that an advanced civilization with a comprehensive knowledge of the globe must have flourished during the last Ice Age. Now here was the Great Pyramid proving to have a cartographic function vis-à-vis the northern hemisphere and also incorporating a sophisticated projection. As one expert explained:

Each flat face of the Pyramid was designed to represent one curved quarter of the northern hemisphere, or spherical quadrant of 90 degrees. To project a spherical quadrant on to a flat triangle correctly, the arc, or base, of the quadrant must be the same length as the base of the triangle, and both must have the same height. This happens to be the case only with a cross-section or meridian bisection of the Great Pyramid, whose slope angle gives the pi relation between height and base 14 ...

Was it possible that surviving copies and compilations of ancient maps— like the Piri Reis Map, for example—might in some cases go back to source documents produced by the same culture that skillfully incorporated its knowledge of the globe into the dimensions of the Great Pyramid (and indeed into the carefully geometrized dimensions of Ancient Egypt itself)?

I could hardly forget that Charles Hapgood and his team had spent months trying to work out where the original projection of the Piri Reis Map had been centered. The answer they finally obtained was Egypt and specifically Seyne (Aswan) in upper Egypt15—where, as we have seen, an important astronomical observatory was situated at latitude 24° 06’ N, the official southern border.

14 Secrets of the Great Pyramid, p. 189.

15 Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, p. 17ff.

16 See, for example, The Shape of the World, p. 23.

Needless to say, precise astronomical observations would have been essential for calculations of the circumference of the earth and of latitude positions.16 But for how long before the historical period had the Ancient Egyptians and their ancestors been making such observations? And had they indeed learned this skill, as they stated forthrightly in their traditions, from the gods who had once walked among them?

Navigators in the Boat of Millions of Years
The god believed by the Ancient Egyptians to have taught the principles of astronomy to their ancestors was Thoth:

‘He who reckons in heaven, the counter of the stars, the enumerator of the earth and of what is therein, and the measurer of the earth.’17

Normally depicted as a man wearing an ibis mask, Thoth was a leading member of the elite company of First Time deities who dominated religious life in Ancient Egypt from the beginning to the end of its civilization. These were the great gods, the Neteru. Although they were believed in one sense to be self-created, it was also openly acknowledged and understood that they had a special connection of some kind with another land—a fabulous and far-off country referred to in the ancient texts as Ta-Neteru, the ‘land of the gods’.18

Ta-Neteru was thought to have had a definite earthly location a very long way south of Ancient Egypt—seas and oceans away—farther even than the spice country of Punt (which probably lay along East Africa’s Somali coast).19 To confuse matters, however, Punt was also spoken of sometimes as the ‘Divine Land’, or ‘God’s Land’, and was the source of the sweet-smelling frankincense and myrrh especially favoured by the gods.20

Another mythical paradise was also linked to the Neteru—an ‘abode of the blessed’, where the best of humans were sometimes taken—which was believed to be ‘situated away beyond a large expanse of water’. As Wallis Budge observed in his important study, Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection,

‘the Egyptians believed that this land could only be reached by means of a boat, or by the personal help of the gods who were thought to transport their favourites thither ...’21

Those lucky enough to gain entry would find themselves in a magical garden consisting of ‘islands, interconnected by canals filled with running water which caused them to be always green and fertile’.22 On the islands in this garden,

‘the wheat grew to a height of five cubits, the ears being two cubits long and the stalks three, and the barley grew to a height of seven cubits, the ears being three cubits long and the stalks four.’23

17 The Gods of the Egyptians, volume I, p. 400.

18 Ibid., volume I, p. 443; volume II, pp. 7, 287.
19 Ibid., volume II, p. 7, where the deity Amen-Ra is addressed in a hymn: ‘The gods love the smell of thee when thou comest from Punt, thou eldest-born of the dew, who comest from the Divine Land (Ta-Neteru).’ See also volume II, p. 287. Punt is thought by many scholars to have been located on the Somali coast of East Africa where the trees that produce frankincense and myrrh (‘the food of the gods’) are still grown today.

20 Ibid.
21 Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, volume I, p. 98; Pyramid Texts of Pepi I, Mer-en-Rah and Pepi II, translated in Ibid., volume II, p. 316, where the maritime connections of the land of the blessed are made clear.

22 Ibid., volume I, p. 97.

23 Ibid., pp. 97-8.

24 Ibid., volume II, p. 307.

  • Was it from a land such as this,, superbly irrigated and scientifically farmed, that the agriculture bringer Osiris, whose title was ‘President of the Land of the South’,24 had voyaged to Egypt at the dawn of the First Time?

  • And was it from a land such as this, accessible only by boat, that ibis-masked Thoth had also made his way, crossing seas and oceans to deliver the priceless gifts of astronomy and earth-measurement to the primitive inhabitants of the prehistoric Nile Valley?

Whatever the truth behind the tradition, Thoth was remembered and revered by the Ancient Egyptians as the inventor of mathematics, astronomy and engineering.25

‘It was his will and power’, according to Wallis Budge, ‘that were believed to keep the forces of heaven and earth in equilibrium. It was his great skill in celestial mathematics which made proper use of the laws upon which the foundation and maintenance of the universe rested.’26

Thoth was also credited with teaching the ancestral Egyptians the skills of geometry and land-surveying, medicine and botany. He was believed to have been the inventor ‘of figures, of the letters of the alphabet, and of the arts of reading and writing’.27 He was the Great Lord of Magic28 who could move objects with the power of his voice, ‘the author of every work on every branch of knowledge, both human and divine’.29

It was to the teachings of Thoth—which they guarded jealously in their temples and claimed to have been handed down from generation to generation in the form of forty-two books of instruction30—that the Ancient Egyptians ascribed their world-renowned wisdom and knowledge of the skies. This knowledge was spoken of almost in awe, by the classical commentators who visited Egypt from the fifth century BC onwards.

Herodotus, the earliest of these travellers, noted:

The Egyptians were the first to discover the solar year, and to portion out its course into twelve parts ... It was observation of the course of the stars which led them to adopt this division ...31

Plato (fourth century BC) reported that the Egyptians had observed the stars ‘for ten thousand years’.32


And later, in the first century BC, Diodorus Siculus left this more detailed account:

The positions and arrangements of the stars as well as their motions have always been the subject of careful observation among the Egyptians ... From ancient times to this day they have preserved the records concerning each of these stars over an incredible number of years ...33

25 Veronica Ions, Egyptian Mythology, Newnes Books, London, 1986, p. 84.

26 The Gods of the Egyptians, volume I, pp. 407-8.

27 Ibid., volume I, p. 414.
28 Egyptian Mythology, p. 85.

29 The Gods of the Egyptians, volume I, p. 414.

30 Ibid., pp 414-15.
31 The History, 2:4.
32 Reported in E. M. Antoniadi, L’Astronomie egyptienne, Paris, 1934, pp. 3-4; see also Schwaller, p. 279.

33 Diodorus Siculus, volume I, pp. 279-80.

Why should the Ancient Egyptians have cultivated an almost obsessional interest in the long-term observation of the stars, and why in particular should they have kept records of their movements ‘over an incredible number of years’? Such detailed observations would not have been necessary if their only interest, as a number of scholars have seriously suggested, had been agricultural (the need to predict the seasons, which any country-born person can do). There must have been some other purpose.

Moreover, how did the Ancient Egyptians get started on astronomy in the first place? It is not an obvious hobby for a valley-dwelling landlocked people to develop on their own initiative. Perhaps we should take more seriously the explanation they themselves offer: that their ancestors were taught the study of the stars by a god. We might also pay closer attention to the many unmistakably maritime references in the Pyramid Texts.34


And there could be important new inferences to draw from ancient Egyptian religious art in which the gods are shown travelling in beautiful, high-prowed, streamlined boats, built to the same advanced ocean-going specifications as the pyramid boats at Giza and the mysterious fleet moored in the desert sands at Abydos.


34 The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, for example pp. 78, 170, 171, 290.

Landlocked people do not as rule become astronomers; seafaring people do. Is it not possible that the maritime iconography of the Ancient Egyptians, the design of their ships, and also their splendid obsession with observing the stars, could have been part of an inheritance passed on to their ancestors by an unidentified seafaring, navigating race, in remote prehistory? It is really only such an archaic race, such a forgotten maritime civilization, that could have left its fingerprints behind in the form of maps which accurately depict the world as it looked before the end of the last Ice Age.


It is really only such a civilization, steering its course by the stars ‘for ten thousand years’ that could have observed and accurately timed the phenomenon of equinoctial precession with the exactitude attested in the ancient myths. And, although hypothetical, it is only such a civilization that could have measured the earth with sufficient precision to have arrived at the dimensions scaled down in the Great Pyramid.

The signature of a distant date
It was almost midnight by the time that we reached Giza. We checked into the Siag, a hotel with an excellent pyramid view, and sat out on our balcony as the three stars of Orion’s belt tracked slowly across the southern heavens.

It was the disposition of these three stars, as archaeo-astronomer Robert Bauval had recently demonstrated, that served as the celestial template for the site-plan of the three Giza pyramids. This, in itself, was a remarkable discovery, suggesting a far higher level of observational astronomy, and of surveying and setting-out skills, than scholars had attributed to the Ancient Egyptians.


Even more remarkable, however—and the reason that I had arranged to meet him at Giza the next morning— was Bauval’s contention that the pattern traced out on the ground (in almost fifteen million tons of perfectly dressed stone) matched exactly the pattern in the sky during the epoch of 10,450 BC.

If Bauval was correct, the pyramids had been devised, using the changes precession effects in the positions of the stars, as the permanent architectural signature of the eleventh millennium BC.


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