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THE EGYPT CODE
By Robert Bauval
The Disinformation Company Ltd.Copyright © 2008 Robert Bauval
All rights reserved.
The Star at the Head of the Sky
God who rules alone, the Fabricator of the universe, bestowed on the earth for a little time your great father Osiris and the great goddess Isis ... It was they that established upon earth rites of worship which correspond exactly to the holy powers of heaven. It was they that consecrated the temples ...
Walter Scott (ed.) Hermetica
And God arranged the Zodiac in accord with the cycles of nature ... (and) ... devised a secret engine (viz. the system of the stars) linked to unerring and inevitable fate, to which all things in men's lives, from their birth to their final destruction shall of necessity be brought into subjection; and all other things on earth likewise shall be controlled by the working of this engine ...
Walter Scott (ed.) Hermetica
All discoveries begin with the question why. Indeed, the urge to know why is what distinguishes us from other creatures on this planet and, more importantly, it is the root of all knowledge. To ask why triggers the intellectual process and launches an investigation which, if all goes well, will lead to a breakthrough. A bathtub overflows, the sun rises and sets, an apple falls, two imaginary bicycles collide; some gifted people asked why and the next thing you know man has walked on the moon. Asking why will, in fact, take us beyond the moon, beyond our solar system, beyond our galaxy, beyond our wildest dreams and, who knows, perhaps one day to God. My own 'why' and the investigation that I launched because of it began 25 years ago. And my falling apple was, quite literally, in the sky, with its counterpart in the desert west of the city of Cairo in Egypt. In 1994 I presented the discovery (known as the Orion Correlation Theory or OCT) that was reaped from this investigation in a book that became an international bestseller. It was not, however, to be the end of this strange intellectual adventure. Another apple still hung precariously in my mind waiting patiently for the right moment to fall. It did so eight years later, when I visited the world's oldest pyramid complex at Saqqara for the umpteenth time. There, and also for the umpteenth time, I examined the seated statue of the pyramid's owner gazing upwards at the northern sky. Yet for reasons that only the gods know, this was the first time that I was prompted to ask why. Why was the king made to look at the northern sky? Finding no explanation that quite satisfied me in the many Egyptological textbooks I owned, I decided to seek the answer for myself. My story, then, starts here, at Saqqara, with the question why.
The site of Saqqara lies some 20 kilometres south of modern Cairo. Five kilometres long and two kilometres wide, it stretches like a surreal abandoned moon station in the western desert where the Sahara meets the green Nile Valley. It is by a long shot ancient Egypt's largest royal cemetery. Here, 5,000 years ago, on this dusty and often windswept promontory, a powerful idea fired a people, launching them into a building frenzy the likes of which the world would never experience again, in a breakneck momentum that was to last for nearly 500 years. The result of this seemingly irrational enterprise can still be seen today: giant pyramids strewn like stony atolls along a 40-kilometre archipelago of sand. Egyptologists call this mysterious region the Memphite Necropolis on account of its proximity to the now-lost city of Memphis. An estimated 50 million tons of stone was quarried, transported, hauled, cut, shaped and lifted by armies of workers toiling like ants across several generations. And all this high-tech engineering without the help of iron tools, without wheeled vehicles or lifting machines, without even the assistance of a single pulley. This was, to quote a phrase from the late Sir I.E.S. Edwards, the Pyramid Age par excellence.
The first pyramid to be raised in the Memphite Necropolis was not a smooth-faced structure as one sees with the famous triad at Giza, but a six-tiered edifice known to Egyptologists as the Step Pyramid of Saqqara. According to accepted chronology, the Step Pyramid was built in 2650 BC and belonged to a Third Dynasty king called Djoser. But it is believed to have been the brainchild of a genius called Imhotep, an architect-cum-astronomer who was high priest at the sun-temple at Heliopolis, the principal religious and intellectual centre at that time. Imhotep, who was vizier to King Djoser, named his pyramidal architectural masterpiece 'Horus is the Star at the Head of the Sky'. Why this cryptic name? What strange cosmic function could the Step Pyramid have had? What function at all?
The orthodox view goes something like this: the Step Pyramid is just a tomb, admittedly a very large and elaborate tomb, but a tomb nonetheless. And as for the reason why it was built at Saqqara, this was simply because the king wanted it within sight of his palace at Memphis. But this tomb-only theory (and it is only a theory) did not quite stick with me. It never did. For one, it did not explain why no mummified body - not a single bone or even mummy linen, nothing was found, either here at Saqqara or at any of the other pyramid sites in the Memphite Necropolis. But for me it also did not explain why the Step Pyramid bore the name 'Horus is the Star at the Head of the Sky'. It didn't sound like your typical epitaph to me. So as far as I was concerned, there had to be some other explanation for all this that fitted the scale and context of what I saw there.
Let's begin at the beginning. Scientific research started at Saqqara in the early 1920s with the arrival on site of two British archaeologists, Cecil M. Firth and James E. Quibell. They were later joined by a Frenchman, Jean-Philippe Lauer. Lauer had the rare quality of being both an architect and an archaeologist, and so smitten was he by the magic and mystery of this site that he spent the next 60 years of his life lovingly restoring it as best as he could to its former glory. The thing that first strikes you when you reach the Step Pyramid complex is its imposing entrance façade. This façade is an integral part of the huge 10-metre-high boundary wall that once enclosed the whole complex. Running 550 metres in length and 220 metres in breadth, the boundary wall alone is a brilliant masterpiece of intricate architecture that would tax even our contractors today. I shall return to this extraordinary wall later on, for it represents much more than a mere boundary to the whole complex. Meanwhile, as you go past the entrance and through the roofed corridor flanked by columns, you will emerge into a vast open courtyard that will take your breath away. For at its northern end looms the 60-metre-high Step Pyramid like some giant tsunami of stone. At such proximity it boggles the imagination and fires up the senses. The Step Pyramid was, in fact, built in several phases that finally resulted in the six tiers or 'steps' that one sees today. It was originally encased in polished white limestone slabs which, except for a few weather-beaten ones on the first two tiers, were completely stripped off by Arabs in medieval times to built mosques and villas in Cairo.
To enter the Step Pyramid you must descend a sloping shaft cut into the bedrock on its north face. At the bottom of the shaft, some 20 metres below ground level, is an elaborate and very bizarre system of tunnels, corridors, chambers and pits. The ceiling of one of the underground chambers is engraved with an exquisite motif of five-pointed stars, a reminder that this tenebrous place was once considered a cosmic environment interfacing with the starry world of the gods. On the walls of what is prosaically known as the King's Apartments are carved depictions showing the king performing rituals related to his jubilees, which, presumably, were to be celebrated in his afterlife ad infinitum. In here one gets a curious and very unsettling feeling of the presence of the king still lingering unseen, unheard, but most definitely felt. But if you want to see a tangible representation of the king's alter ego then you have to go outside the pyramid to a strange little room that looks very much like the control cabin of a tower crane and that has long baffled Egyptologists and other researchers with its meaning or function.
Imagine a powerful laser beam shooting up from the King's Apartments to emerge on the north face of the Step Pyramid. Then imagine this beam passing through the head and then the eyes of a statue of the king seated in a small stone cubicle. Known as a serdab (meaning 'cellar' in old Arabic), this bizarre cubicle was for me the black box of the Step Pyramid complex.
The serdab was discovered when Firth and Quibell were clearing the debris around the north side of the Step Pyramid in 1925. They were intrigued by its design, which, for some curious reason, was not level but was tilted against the lower step of the pyramid. This quite clearly was not due to settlement or subsidence, since the serdab was built into the stone masonry of the Step Pyramid as one builds a skylight window into a sloping roof. In other words, the tilt was deliberate. Even more intriguing was the presence of two round holes that had been drilled in the north face of the serdab at eye level. And when Firth and Quibell took their first peep through them, they were astounded to find staring back at them the placated eyes of a seated life-size statue of the king (which has now been moved to the main hall of the Cairo museum and replaced with a replica). Now, seeing it again myself, I could not shake off the feeling that the king was not simply gazing at something just outside the serdab, but at something far beyond, in the lower part of the northern sky. From my knowledge of astronomy, I knew that it could not have been the sun or the moon because these can never occupy this region of the sky. There was thus only one other candidate left to consider: a star. This conclusion certainly fits with the Step Pyramid's name 'Horus is the Star at the Head of the Sky'. As for the identity of 'Horus', according to the American Egyptologist Mark Lehner, 'Djoser is the name given to this king by New Kingdom visitors to this site a thousand years later. But the only royal name found on the walls of the complex is the Horus name, Netjerykhet.' The same is confirmed by Egyptologists Ian Shaw and Paul Nicholson of the British Museum, who wrote that 'Only the Horus name Netjerikhet was found in 3rd dynasty inscriptions associated with the pyramid, and it is only through New Kingdom graffiti that an association has been made between this name and Djoser.'
Horus was an ancient sky-god who had a very 'close association to the king'. Indeed, so close was this association that the king was given not only a Horus name but also a Golden-Horus title at his coronation. To put it more bluntly, the king was seen as the incarnation of Horus on earth. The god Horus was always depicted either as a falcon or as a man with a falcon's head. According to the British Museum's Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, his 'eyes were interpreted as the sun and the moon, and he was frequently described in the Old Kingdom (2686-2181 BC) as a god of the east, and hence of the sunrise. In this guise he became known as Horemakhet ("Horus in the Horizon") and he was also merged with Ra (the sun-god) to become Ra-Horakhty (Horus of the Horizon).' Egyptologists will tell you that there are numerous forms of Horus, such as 'Horus the Child', 'Horus the Elder', 'Horus of Edfu', 'Horus of Behdet', 'Horus Son of Osiris' and so on. But this is like saying that there were numerous forms of Jesus because we read of 'Jesus the child', 'Jesus the man', 'Jesus the son of God', 'Jesus the son of Joseph', 'Jesus the Lamb of God', 'Jesus the Messiah', 'Jesus of Nazareth', 'Jesus of Bethlehem' and so on. Recently the American Egyptologist Edmund Meltzer has put an end to this modern confusion by cogently arguing that there was only one Horus, with 'different aspects, or facets, of the same divine persona'. I have to agree with Meltzer that this makes a lot more sense. At any rate, all Egyptologists nonetheless agree that the most common aspect of Horus throughout the whole history of ancient Egypt was 'Horus son of Osiris'. And as Meltzer further explains: 'The living king was identified as an earthly Horus and the dead king (his father/predecessor) as Osiris. When the king died, he became Osiris ... Horus is the royal heir/successor par excellence, the epitome of legitimate succession.'
The other problem is that most Egyptologists insist that the god Osiris was not known until the Fifth Dynasty, long after the building of the Step Pyramid. But this stance, too, has been seriously challenged in recent years, with the growing acceptance that Osiris was known in early dynastic times under the title Khentiamentiu: 'Foremost of the Westerners' (i.e. 'the dead'). At any rate, there is another aspect of Horus which we have to contend with when it comes to the Step Pyramid. For as we have already seen, Horus was a sky-god closely associated with the sun-god Ra and even sometimes merged with him. Why, then, would the Step Pyramid be identified with a star and not the sun? Osiris was a stellar god identified with Orion, and his wife was a stellar goddess identified with Canis Major (Orion's dog in Greek mythology). They were the parents of Horus, and it would thus be in total conformity with the astral context that he, too, would have astral attributes. Indeed, according to British Egyptologist Aidan Dodson, 'A pyramid was intended as the burial place of the pharaoh, but the complex also served as a temple to the god Horus, with whom the pharaoh was identified in his life, and to Osiris, with whom he would be identified in the next.' Yet there is a problem: neither Orion nor Canis Major can be seen in the lower northern sky. Not now, not then, not ever. They are southern constellations and can only be seen rising in the eastern horizon then sailing across the southern sky to the west. In ancient Egyptian the word akhet means 'horizon', and more specifically the eastern horizon where the sun and stars rise. The word netjer, on the other hand, means 'divine' or 'god'. The 'khet' in the Horus-name of Djoser, Netjerykhet, apparently stands for a 'corporation' of very ancient gods. So Netjerykhet could mean 'the Divine Corporation', which, at least to me, does not make any sense. Could the 'khet' in Netjerykhet be a phonetic (rather than a cryptogram) to evoke the idea of 'horizon', i.e. akhet? Could the Horus name Netjerykhet mean 'the divine Horus in the Horizon'? Was Horus a star that was seen being born from Osiris-Orion and Isis-Canis Major? But then why was the statue of Netjerykhet in the serdab looking north and not east? Could the statue also be doing something else other than only looking at the lower northern sky? What else? Sitting with such an air of authority and with his eyes transfixed towards the northern sky, this statue of the Horus king Netjerykhet gives the strong impression that it is somehow controlling something in the northern sky from its position on earth. And as odd as this idea may seem to us today, the belief that the king could actually control the cosmic order from a chamber within or attached to his pyramid complex was as valid to the ancient Egyptians as the present-day belief that the president of the United States can control the world from the Oval Office in the White House. But how did the Egyptians imagine that the cosmic order could be controlled? What else was known about this serdab or perhaps others like it that might tell us more about this cosmic function? As far as I could make out, however, there were no serdabs at other pyramid complexes in the Memphite Necropolis or elsewhere. Djoser's serdab, it seems, was unique. There were, however, many serdabs attached to various mastaba tombs, a sort of flat-roofed bunker-like structure that is thought by many Egyptologists to be the precursors of the step pyramids. But I found out that none of these were inclined towards the sky or had rounded peepholes cut on their north face like Djoser's serdab. Still, and in spite of these differences, there were features that were common to all, such as having a statue of their owner inside and their alignment, if not inclined, towards the north.
Excerpted from THE EGYPT CODE by Robert Bauval. Copyright © 2008 Robert Bauval. Excerpted by permission of The Disinformation Company Ltd..
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