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The Origin and Significance of the Great Pyramid, by C. Staniland Wake, [1882], at

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THE GREEKS of the time of Alexander the Great were so impressed with the magnitude or splendour of certain edifices, that they spoke of them as the seven wonders of the world. Among these, the first place was given to the Pyramids of Egypt, and pre-eminently to those of Ghizeh, which are situate a few miles from Cairo, and in the neighbourhood of ancient Memphis. The Pyramids of Ghizeh form a group of nine, consisting of three large ones, known as the Pyramid of Cheops, or the Great Pyramid; that of Cephren; and that of Mycerinus, which is inferior in size to either of the others. The six other pyramids of the Ghizeh group are much smaller,

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and arc supposed to be the tombs of female relatives of the kings who constructed the larger ones. From the term "Great" applied to the largest pyramid, it might be thought that it far exceeds in size any of the others. As a fact, however, the Pyramid of Cephren is not very much smaller than that of Cheops, which was about 756 feet square at the base and 480 feet high, as against 707 feet 9 inches the extreme length of the sides, and 454 the height, of the Second Pyramid. Moreover, the construction of the two pyramids was, according to Col. Vyse, carried on upon the same principles. This is true more especially of the general design and external characters of the buildings, which in their internal features, however, differ considerably. The position of the chambers, and the inclination of the passages of the Great Pyramid are exceptional, and, judging from these peculiarities and from certain scientific facts supposed to be embodied in it, several modern writers have affirmed that the design for the Great Pyramid must have been derived from an inspired source. The originator of this theory was John Taylor who in 1859, published a book on the subject *

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and as in recent years it has attracted considerable attention, chiefly through its adoption by the author of "Life and Work at the Great Pyramid," Prof. C. Piazzi Smyth, the Astronomer Royal of Scotland, and as the scientific facts on which it is based are admittedly true, it is necessary to consider the theory.

In the first place, the Great Pyramid is said to embody in its form and proportions certain facts as to the size and shape of the earth. Thus, John Taylor says that the builders of the Great Pyramid "imagined the earth to be a sphere, and as they knew that the radius of a circle must bear a certain proportion to its circumference, they built a four-sided pyramid of such a height in proportion to its base that its perpendicular would be the radius of a sphere equal to the perimeter of the base." This shape is supposed to have reference to an important astronomical fact, seeing that "the vertical height of the Great Pyramid multiplied by 10 to the 9th power (109) tells the mean distance of the sun from the earth—that is, one thousand million times the pyramid's height, or 91,840,000 miles." * Moreover,

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the Great Pyramid is thought to supply a standard of linear measure, based on the length of the polar axis of the earth. Assuming this length to be 500,500,000 of our inches, the 500 millionth of that axis (omitting fractions) will be one inch. Of these inches, 25 or 25.025 of our inches would form a cubit or longer standard, the ten millionth part of the semi-axis of the globe in length, which is the measure of the sacred cubit of the ancient Hebrews. This cubit of 25 earth inches is contained in each side of the Great Pyramid as many times as there are days in the year, and the inch itself "is contained separately and independently in the entire perimeter of the Great Pyramid's base just one hundred times for each day of the year." The inch is also said to be the "representative of a year in the reckoning of the passage floor lines as charts of history, also in the diagonals of the pyramid's base taken as a measure of the precessional cycle."

The Great Pyramid is found, moreover, to furnish an important weight and capacity measure

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having relation to the mean density or specific gravity of the earth. These earth-measures are said to be reproduced in the Coffer preserved in the large or so-called King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid, the internal capacity of which vessel is just four times the measure of an English quarter of wheat. The Great Pyramid was thus, according to the holders of the inspiration theory, originally designed as a perfect and complete metrological monument. This conclusion is thought to be supported by the great astronomical knowledge possessed by the builders, who were aware, not only of the shape and rotatory motion of the earth, but also of its distance from the sun. They were able, further, to do what was found so difficult up to a comparatively recent date—to fix with precision the position of the four cardinal points, as is shewn by the fact that the pyramid stands due North, South, East, and West.

The Great Pyramid is thus seen to be an important astronomical monument, and it is no less remarkable in relation to certain chronological facts. It is supposed to perpetuate the great cycle founded on the precession of the equinoxes. This siderial year is equal to 25,868

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of our years, and the two diagonals of the pyramid's base taken together are said to measure just the same number of inches. It is thought, moreover, that by means of this cycle the date of the erection of the pyramid can be ascertained. Assuming that the long narrow downward passage leading from the entrance was directed towards the pole star of the pyramid builders, astronomers have shown that in the year 2,170 B.C. the passage pointed to Alpha Draconis, the then pole star, at its lower culmination, at the same time that the Pleiades, particularly Alcyone, the centre of the group, were on the same meridian above. This relative position of Alpha Draconis and Alcyone being an extraordinary one, as it could not occur again for a whole siderial year, it is thought to mark the date of the building of the Great Pyramid. * It should be mentioned, however, that the date named is not the only possible one. Mr. Richard A. Proctor the astronomer, after stating that the Pole-star was in the required position about 3,350 B.C., as well as in 2,170 B.C., says "either of

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these would correspond with the position of the descending passage in the Great Pyramid; but Egyptologists tell us there can absolutely be no doubt that the later epoch is far too late." He adds: If then we regard the slant passage as intended to bear on the Pole-star at its sub-polar passage, we get the date of the pyramid assigned as about 3,350 years B.C., with a probable limit of error of not more than 200 years either way, and perhaps of only fifty years." *

The testimony of Mr. Proctor is important as he has recently performed very valuable work in pointing out the true astronomical meaning of the passages and galleries which distinguish the internal structure of the Great Pyramid from that of other pyramids. We may now accept the view that the former has been erected with an astronomical purpose, although its measurements may not have all the significance sometimes assigned to them.

Mr. Proctor, while admitting the existence of many of the curious coincidences on which the theory of the inspired origin of the Great

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[paragraph continues] Pyramid is based, gives an entirely different explanation of them. He declares, indeed, "that they are mere coincidences, and that they would still remain if the pyramid had no existence." The fact that they exist, and are in themselves so singular, shows simply how little value there is in the argument from mere coincidence. * In support of this opinion, Mr. Proctor refers to "the multitude of relations, independent of the pyramid, which have turned up while Pyramidalists have been endeavouring to connect the pyramid with the solar system." "These coincidences," he says, "are altogether more curious than any coincidence between the Pyramid and astronomical numbers: the former are as close and remarkable as they are real; the latter, which are only imaginary, have only been established by the process which schoolboys call 'fudging,' and now new measures have left the work to be done all over again."  The new measures here referred to show that the base of the pyramid is

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several feet shorter than had been supposed, and this will necessitate a change in the pyramid inch and in the length of the cubit on which the astronomical relations of the Great Pyramid were based.

Mr. Proctor's own explanation of the peculiar features which distinguish the internal construction of the Great Pyramid from that of the other pyramids is very ingenious, and probably conclusive: He says, we see "in all the Egyptian pyramids the evidence of an astronomical plan; and in the Great Pyramid we find evidence that such a plan was carried out with great skill, and with an attention to points of detail which shows that, for some reason or other, the edifice was required to be most carefully built in a special astronomical position." Moreover, to obtain such accuracy, it was made to serve, while being built, "the purpose of an astronomical observatory." To this end, "the builders of the Great Pyramid used the passages which they made within it to determine the proper position of each part of it, up to the so-called King's Chamber, at least, and probably higher." The slant descending passage was directed to the position of the Pole-star when it was due north and at

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its lowest, for the purpose of obtaining true orientation. As layer after layer of the building was placed, this passage was carried towards the north until it reached the northern face of the Pyramid. Here it was compelled to terminate and another mode of observing the Pole-star had to be used. This was effected by making a fresh passage "in such a direction as to contain the rays from the Pole-star after reflection at a. horizontal surface, such as that of still water." The reflecting surface required was obtained by plugging the descending passage and pouring in water so as to partially fill the angle thus formed, from which the rays would be reflected up the ascending passage. Mr. Proctor remarks that thus far the pyramid builders had "been working with manifest reference to the meridional plane, just as an astronomer of our own time would; and it looks very much, even from what we have already seen, as though they had considered this plane for the same reason that the modern astronomer considers it—viz., because this is the plane in which all the heavenly bodies culminate, or attain the middle and highest point of their passage from the eastern to the western horizon." Mr. Proctor adds that at the point where the

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[paragraph continues] Grand Gallery commences all doubt ceases. "The astronomical nature of the builder's purpose becomes here as clear and certain as already the astronomical nature of their methods had been. For from here upwards the small ascending passage is changed to one of great height, so as to command a long vertical space of the heavens, precisely as a modern astronomer sets his transit circle to sweep the vertical meridian." This Grand Gallery shows that it was intended for astronomical observations by its double character, Its walls, taken as wholes, are aslant, but every part of the them is absolutely vertical, as would be required by an astronomer if his observations were to be of value. To facilitate these observations, long slant stone ramps or banks are placed at each side of the gallery the whole of its length, with holes in them at equal distances for the purpose of receiving movable seats. Regarded as a kind of architectural transit instrument, the Great Gallery would, says Mr. Proctor, "have to be carried to a certain height, and there open out on the level to which the pyramid had then attained, the sides and top being carried up until the southernmost end of the gallery was completed." At that end commences the so-called

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[paragraph continues] Antechamber, and the floor of this chamber and of the King's Chamber, then not walled in, would serve to station a time indicator and the watchers "appointed to mark the passage of time in some way, and to note also the instants when the observer or observers in the Great Gallery signalled the beginning or end of transit across the gallery's field of view." Mr. Proctor concludes an interesting chapter on this subject by saying, "if a telescopist of our time will try to plan out a method of determining the declinations and right ascensions of stars (say for the purpose of forming a trustworthy star chart or catalogue), without using a telescope, by using such an observing place as the Great Gallery, he will see how much might be done, so far as equatorial and zodiacal stars were concerned; and they are altogether the most important, even now, and were still more so in the days when the stars in their courses were supposed to rule the fates of men and nations." In a further article, Mr. Proctor gives a view of the Pyramid observatory, showing the object end of the great observing tube. In that article he says, "the astronomers who observed from the Great Pyramid doubtless made many more observations off the meridian

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than on it. . . . They no doubt often used astrolabes and similar instruments to determine the position of stars, planets, comets, etc., when off the meridian, with reference to stars whose places were already determined by the use of their great meridional instrument. But all those observations were regulated by, and derived their value from, the work done in the Great Ascending Gallery. The modern astronomer sees that this was the only way in which exact observations of the heavenly bodies all over the star-sphere could possibly have been made; and seeing the extreme care, the most marvellous pains, which the astronomers of the Great Pyramid took to secure good meridional work, the astronomer recognizes in them fellow workers."

Mr. Proctor very properly assumes, however, that the builder of the Great Pyramid had something more than a scientific purpose in its erection, something beyond even its use as a tomb. That purpose is to be gathered from the fact that "the astronomy of the time of Cheops was essentially astrology, and astrology a most important part of religion." The Great Pyramid was erected as a place from which the heavenly

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bodies could be observed, and their movements were observed and studied that Cheops might know what was to happen, and learn the times and seasons which were likely to be fortunate or unfortunate for him or his race. "As an astrological edifice," says Mr. Proctor, "a gigantic horoscope for him and for him only, we can understand its purport, much though we may marvel at the vast expenditure of care, labour, and treasure at which it was erected. Granted full faith in astrology (and we know there was such faith), it was worth while to build even such a structure as the Great Pyramid; just as, granted the ideas of Egyptians about burial, we can understand the erection of so mighty a mass, and all save its special astronomical character. Of no other theory, I venture to say, than that which combines these two strange but most marked characteristics of the Egyptian mind, can this be said."

Mr. Proctor gives a figure, taken from Raphael's "Astrology," representing the ordinary horoscope and its relations to "a horizontal, carefully-oriented square plane surface, such as the top of the pyramid was, with just such direction lines as would naturally be used on such a platform";

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and, apart from the reasons assigned by him for the differences in size * between the Pyramids of Cheops, and those of Cephren, his brother, and Mycerinus and Asychis, his son and grandson, Mr. Proctor has conclusively established the astrological purpose of the Great Pyramid. Elsewhere, he says, "remembering the mysterious influence which astrologers ascribed to special numbers, figures, positions, and so forth, the care with which the Great Pyramid was so proportioned as to indicate particular astronomical and mathematical relations is at once explained. The four sides of the square base were carefully placed with reference to the cardinal points, precisely like the four sides of the ordinary square scheme of nativity. The eastern side faced the Ascendant, the southern faced the Mid-heaven, the western faced the Descendant, and the northern faced the Imum Cœli. Again, we can understand that the architects would have made a circuit of the base correspond in length with the number of days in the year—a relation which, according to Prof. P. Smyth, is fulfilled in this manner, that the four sides contain one hundred times as many

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pyramid inches as there are days in the year. The pyramid inch again is itself mystically connected with astronomical relations, for its length is equal to the five hundred millionth part of the earth's diameter, to a degree of exactness corresponding well with what we might expect Chaldean astronomers to attain. . . . It is not [indeed] at all certain that the sacred cubit bore any reference to the earth's dimensions, but this seems tolerably well made out—that the sacred cubit was about 25 inches in length, and that the circuit of the pyramid's base contained a hundred inches for every day of the year. Relations such as these are precisely what we might expect to find in buildings having an astrological significance. Similarly, it would correspond well with the mysticism of astrology that the pyramid should be so proportioned as to make the height be the radius of a circle whose circumference would equal the circuit of the pyramid's base. Again, that long slant tunnel, leading downwards from the pyramid's northern face, would at once find a meaning in this astrological theory. The slant tunnel pointed to the pole-star of Cheops's time, when due north below the true pole of the heavens. This circumstance

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had no observational utility. It could afford no indication of time, because a pole-star moves very slowly, and the pole-star of Cheops's day must have been in view through that tunnel for more than an hour at a time. But, apart from the mystical significance which an astrologer would attribute to such a relation, it may be shown that this slant tunnel is precisely what the astrologer would require in order to get the horoscope correctly." * Mr. Proctor supports his view as to the astrological object of the pyramid by reference to the fact that in the account given by Ebn Abd Al Hôkm of the contents of the Pyramids of Ghizeh, those assigned to the East or Great Pyramid "relate entirely to astrology and associated mysteries."  The Arab writer, or rather the earlier historian, Masoudi, whose account he repeats, says, "in the eastern pyramid were inscribed the heavenly spheres, and figures representing the stars and planets in the forms in which they were worshipped. The king also deposited the instruments and the thuribula with which his forefathers had sacrificed to the stars,

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and their circles; together with the history and chronicles of time past, of that which is to come, and of every future event which would take place in Egypt." *

The connection of astrology with the Great Pyramid is thus confirmed by ancient testimony, but this does not support the notion that the chief object of its erection was astrological. An early Arab writer, Jafer Ben Mohammed Balkhi, who was himself an astrologer, says that the pyramids were built for refuge against an approaching destruction of every created being, by submersion or by fire, which was foreseen by wise men previous to the flood.  The founder of the Great Pyramid had undoubtedly a more permanent object in its erection than its use as a horoscope for the benefit of himself and his family. Mr. Proctor speaks of the religious observances associated with astrological observations. These, being made by priests, were religious in character, and in all probability the priests who made them "professed a religion differing little from pure Sabaism, or the worship

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of the heavenly host," of which astrology vas the natural offspring. Religion has here a secondary character, however, and it is quite subsidiary to the astrological purpose with which the pyramid is supposed to have been erected. The reverse of this would be nearer the truth, and it will be hereafter shown that whatever may have been its temporary purpose, its primary object was religious.


2:* "The Great Pyramid: Why was it built? and who built it?"

3:* Mr. Proctor regards this fact as a mere coincidence, although he deems it probable that the smaller unit of measurement used p. 4 by the Great Pyramid builders was intended to have a relation to the earth's diameter, as stated in the text.—"Myths and Marvels of Astronomy" (Ed. 188o), pp. 66, 73.

6:* I have taken the opinions of the Pyramidalists from the 9th edition of an ingenious work by Dr. Seiss, of Philadelphia, entitled "A Miracle in Stone."

7:* Knowledge Vol. i. pp. 242-400 This agrees very well with one of the dates given by Diodorus, but 2,170 B.C. is a preferable date on grounds which will be referred to infra.

8:* They must, however, have been more than mere coincidences if the builders of the pyramid had the astronomical knowledge displayed in its perfect orientation and in its other admitted astronomical features. See infra.

8:† See Mr. Petrie's letter to The Academy, Dec. 17, 1881. Mr. Proctor's views are taken from Knowledge, Vol. i. unless otherwise stated.

15:* The size of each Pyramid is usually supposed to denote the length of the reign of the Monarch by whom it was constructed.

17:* "Myths and Marvels of Astronomy" (Ed. 1880), p. 101.

17:† Ditto, p. 103.

18:* See Appendix II.

18:† Vyse, "Operations at the Pyramids of Gizeh," Vol. p. 319.

Next: Chapter II. Early Egyptian Civilization