A Point in Time
Photo 1. The Orion constellation looking south from the northern hemisphere
By permission and courtesy of @1998 Jerry Lodriguss *1
‘Tis many a tale they tell of this most adorned heavenly group of visible stars…the Orion constellation. It is a masterpiece set within the great emptiness…in a location where all may witness the wandering gods (planets) pass through the outreached arms of this mythological hero.
Orion was embellished by the ancients throughout all the lands…the myths were many, yet the outcome remained the same…the brave but boastful Orion died by the unexpected sting of a scorpion.
Listening to the sorrows of the people, the gods raised Orion to the “above”, placing him in a position allowing the freedom of travel by day and night. The deadly scorpion was not to be forgotten and it too was raised above but positioned on the opposite side of the heavens. The gods had thus protected the sword wielding Orion for eternity from another sting by Scorpio. Never again were they to be seen together at the same time of day.
Although the Orion constellation was heavily entrenched within Greek mythology, the Egyptians had adored it since the earliest of recorded time. The names and locations for the brighter stars forming the group are shown below, including the nebulas: M42 and M43, two of the most interesting objects for astronomers to observe in the evening skies. Orion’s belt is the most prominent feature within the constellation…easily recognized by three evenly spaced bright stars: Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka (Ill. 1).
Illustration 1. The major stars forming the Orion constellation are listed as follow:
Meissa (Lambda Orion)…the head
Betelgeuse (Alpha Orion)…the east shoulder (armpit)
Bellatrix (Gamma Orion)…the west shoulder
Saiph (Kappa Orion)…the east foot
Rigel (Beta Orion)…the west foot
Alnitak (Zeta Orion)…the east side of the belt
Mintaka (Delta Orion)…the west side of the belt
Alnilam (Epsilon Orion)…the centre of the belt
M42 and M43 represent the long tip of Orion’s sword
It was important for early astronomers, astrologists, and prophets to know the date and time when particular stars first rose then set. Their belief in these gods helped them predict future conditions in nature, including possible catastrophic events. Bountiful crops depended upon perfect timing for harvest and those with understanding were fully aware of the ever-changing evening sky…it was their “clock” within the heavens. They knew the exact location of the brighter stars and their first appearance at sunset and last disappearance at sunrise. The stars were set in place, they were the observer’s markers indicating how far Earth had travelled along its orbital trail.
The Orion constellation may be observed on any cloudless evening during the winter months in the northern hemisphere (summer months in the southern hemisphere) and is clearly visible as it crosses the equatorial region throughout the long evening hours…but this was not always so!
Approximately 150BC, Hipparchus of Nicea (Turkey) realized that the evening stars he was observing were not in the same seasonal order as shown on ancient astronomical maps. From closer examination he was able to measure and calculate a motion of Earth that had not been detected by others before him…the dates of the seasons were actually changing over time! Hipparchus was the first to realize that Earth’s polar axis was drifting through the heavens following a defined circular path.
This motion is well understood by astronomers of today and is termed “precession”, the slow directional motion of Earth’s spinning axis.
Viewing Earth on a horizontal plane, we imagine the planet pointing in a perfect vertical position as it travels its circular orbit around the Sun. However, similar to all other planets, Earth “tilts” away from the horizontal axis. The angular tilt for Earth is 23.4 degrees and the planet is set in this position constantly as it orbits the Sun. It is this tilt or leaning position that causes Earth’s seasonal variations.
During the summer months, Earth’s north polar region leans toward the Sun, therefore it receives more sunlight per unit landmass while the south region leans away, receiving less sunlight. After travelling one half orbit around the Sun (one half year), Earth will remain pointing in the same direction, but the two hemispheres are subjected to the reverse conditions. The northern hemisphere is now pointing away from the Sun, receiving less sunlight in the winter months, while the southern region is encountering its summer season (Ill. 2).
Illustration 2. Spinning on a 23.4 degrees axis as it orbits the Sun, Earth continuously points close to Polaris (North Celestial Pole, N.C.P.). This tilt creates our planet’s four distinct seasons *2.
Earth’s annual motion was assumed fixed, as shown above, until Hipparchus discovered otherwise. Over the years the north polar axis had moved and he correctly reasoned that Earth’s north axis was slowly travelling along a specific path. The northern axis was actually inscribing an imaginary circle in the heavens and the center of this circle was Earth’s true north pole…the north ecliptic pole (N.E.P.).
To help understand the motion of precession we can travel forward in time to a location where the direction of Earth’s north axis is pointing opposite of today, or one half of the complete precessional cycle (Ill. 3).
Illustration 3. Earth maintains its 23.43 degrees tilt while the north axis inscribes an imaginary circle around the North Ecliptic Pole (N.E.P.) *2.
Earth remains tilted on its 23.4 degrees angle, however, in approximately 12,000 years (14000AD) the north axis will point toward the bright star Vega and we must realize the seasonal effect caused by this polar motion.
In 12,000 years the northern hemisphere will lean away from the Sun (winter) during the months of June, July, and August…not December, January, and February! Effectively, our present summer months will become our future winter months…Earth’s four seasons will be reversed!
One complete cycle of precession requires an estimated 25,800 years to complete and Vega is one of the few stars visible to the naked eye that rest close to this precessional path. However, if we travel in the opposite direction into our past, it is realized that the last north polar star was Thuban (Alpha Draco) approximately 2700BC. Ironically, this date coincides with the construction of the first pyramid built in Egypt…the Step Pyramid at Dashure!
Is it possible that king Djoser ordered the Step Pyramid built in honour of Thuban aligning with Earth’s north axis, an event not to repeat in the heavens for another 4,800 years?
Is it also possible that the ancients used Thuban as a center reference point to calculate and measure stellar and planetary motion? If true then it implies that our present system of measuring the cosmos is identical to that used by the ancients…and why not…it is the most logical method over all others.
There was no obvious polar star for astronomers to use as a reference between 1700BC and 1300AD, making it most difficult to understand the ever-changing motion of the stars above. However, with the evidence provided, it clearly indicates that the ancient Egyptians certainly had an opportune moment to study and possibly realize Earth’s precessional motion during the years when Earth’s spinning axis aligned with Thuban (Ill. 4)?
Illustration 4. Earth’s precessional circle. Did the ancient Egyptians construct the Step Pyramid to celebrate Earth’s precession passing the north polar star Thuban (est. 2700BC)? Giza pyramids are constructed 200-250 years later (red). The precessional point continues its journey onward to our present near-alignment with Polaris (2100AD).
It is folly to assume that the ancient Egyptians did not understand Earth’s axial tilt and its relationship to the north star Thuban. Equally foolish is our adamant attitude toward the ancients’ inability to understand true stellar motion and the workings of the cosmos.
There are many who remain steadfast in their belief that the ancient Egyptians knew little of astronomical measures, and the lack of written evidence is their logical deciding factor…if it is not written then it cannot be declared absolute truth. Their demand is simple…provide genuine recorded evidence. But what they fail to understand are the various resources available for demonstrating knowledge.
It was certainly possible and most probable for the ancients to have measured and calculated Earth’s realignment period with all visible stars…it would only require a small group of dedicated observers and several years of stellar observation to complete the task. The major challenge was calculating the realignment cycle of their wandering gods…the planets…that would require greater understanding of our cosmos. And to understand planetary motion an observer must know the physical location of true north …and they did …they had Thuban!
Perhaps we have overlooked the true reason for constructing the Step Pyramid. Was it built in honour of Thuban…their guiding star? Did the six tiers/steps represent the six heavenly gods: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon that controlled their daily astrological lives? It certainly is possible since it is unknown why this architectural styled pyramid was chosen.
Whatever the ancients understood or relied upon, we are left with two intertwining and questionable situations:
a) Was Hipparchus the first to understand Earth’s precession? Did he actually discover this feature, or was it previously recorded on one or more of the many papyri he studied that were confiscated from the Egyptians and stored in the library at Alexandria?
b) If the faithful astronomers of ancient Egypt were the first to measure and realize precession then did they inform us of their findings?
To provide evidence indicating the ancients understanding precession is a very difficult undertaking but most critical indeed. This task can only be accomplished by travelling back in time to the scene in question…to a time when pyramid construction was at its peak…a time where our kaleidoscopic heavens reveal their secrets and the stones of Giza speak once again.
Photo 2. Ursa Major the “Big Dipper” viewed looking north from the northern hemisphere.
By permission and courtesy of @1998 Jerry Lodriguss *1.
Illustration 5. The names and locations for the major stars forming the constellation of Ursa Major (Big Dipper).
The previous section illustrated a select group of bright stars forming the Orion constellation, one of many that navigate the equatorial region.
All stars are basically stationary but for a small deviation termed “proper motion”, a miniscule angular motion measured over many centuries of time. However, these stars appear to rise from the left (east) and set on the right (west). Unknown to many…it is Earth doing the moving…not the stars. The star’s motion is an illusion; it is we who are standing on a planet that rotates…the stars are stationary!
Unlike the world of yesterday, we have neither time or interest in viewing this majestic parade of stars filling the heavens above. Adding to this, the majority of our population live in areas where the skies are severely polluted, obscuring their view completely. Yet humankind were dependent upon these pinnacles in the heavens less than one hundred years past…how soon we forget!
Hipparchus had discovered precession…what stars he monitored are unknown. But what we do know is the most visible and impressive change due to precession is observed in the polar regions.
To demonstrate the daily motion of northern stars when a polar star is present we simply place the polar star at the center location and position other visible stars in their respective place.
Today we can observe the northern stars constantly rotating around Polaris throughout the evening hours. The example below shows the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) including the previous polar star Thuban travelling around Polaris in six hour increments during a twenty-four hour period (Ill. 6).
Illustration 6. Looking north toward Polaris. The Big Dipper and Thuban are shown at six hour intervals during Earth’s daily rotation *2.
We are most fortunate to witness Earth’s north axis pointing directly toward a polar star, an event that will not repeat for many thousand years to follow. To observe these stars we must physically turn in the opposite direction from our equatorial view, now we notice them moving from right to left…the north polar region appears to rotate counter clockwise!
The Big Dipper is depicted at six hour intervals and the graphic results show a kaleidoscopic array of stars, but only appreciated when set upon paper.
Although the pattern is impressive we must investigate further and compare our view of these bright stars to that witnessed by the pyramid builders. Did they observe a similar display and which of the two views is most spectacular?
Venturing back along the precessional circle to the year 2700BC, when Thuban was the ancient’s guiding north star, a remarkable geometrically square design is formed (Ill. 7).
Illustration 7. Thuban is much closer to the Big Dipper than Polaris, reducing the rotational distance traveled. *2.
By comparison, the ancient Egyptians had a definite advantage in stellar observation and Ursa Major’s daily rotation around Thuban must have assisted them greatly in understanding true cosmic motion. On the day of the winter solstice, at the stroke of midnight, Alioth would be located on Earth’s true north-south axis. Another oddity of measure is the 26.37 degrees angular distance from Thuban to Polaris, the two polar stars. This measure is the exact angular measure of the descending passage located within the Great Pyramid at Giza…perhaps a coincidence in the design…perhaps an intentional reference to precessional measure for future generations to understand.
Without question, the polar stars would be their evening source for time keeping…setting their hour, day, season, and year to an accuracy measured within a heartbeat.
Since their time to the present we have overlooked the basic astronomical tools used by the pyramid builders, giving them the ability to fully understand the workings of our cosmos and the four seasonal directions of Earth. It is without question that the ancients studied extensively the eternal and repetitive motion of Ursa Major…the Big Dipper…the Bear!
Several years following my initial introduction to the Giza complex, I began searching for more challenging information locked within the pyramid site. Planet orbital ratios and their distances from the Sun had been uncovered, formulations and measures were abundant, but there are six basic questions one must answer to complete a story: Where…when…how…why…what…who? It was a long road I had set out to travel…how far was the journey…I did not know.
When was Giza constructed? Were Egyptologists and archaeologists correct in stating approximately 2500BC? Some believe the monuments were built 5,000 years prior. The theories are many and most diverse, but none have substantial evidence to support their claim.
The 2500BC fits within historical records, and radiocarbon dating supports this era in time, but how does one prove it true? Not one word or symbol left anywhere on site for us to discover and decipher the true intent of the pyramid designs…frustration is the only word that describes it best!
A deep and compelling feeling stirred within, urging me to include the Orion Belt stars in my calculations, but I had discarded the pyramid/star concept several years previous…the three large pyramids did not align according to the “belt” star’s precise measures…without doubt…they were to be excluded!
I began tracing backward, analyzing my accumulated notes searching for evidence leading to some historical event in the past…but what was I actually looking for?
The biggest stumbling block was the burial of the kings…they were never entombed within the pyramid chambers! These chambers were discovered void of human remains, therefore the kings were not part of the formula! And that brought me back to the same irritating question…why did the builders wait several hundred years after the Step Pyramid was constructed? Why would the designer(s) wait so long after Thuban was their north guiding star? What were they celebrating?
Believe it or not…these basic questions provided the answer (Ill. 8).
Illustration 8. Measuring the angular distance of precession travelled from the alignment with Thuban to Giza and Polaris.
No special historical “landmarks” are recorded close to this era in our past and to construct monuments of this magnitude for any “human created” event or political cause would be categorized as whimsical nonsense. Therefore the only logical possibility for constructing the pyramids was an astronomical event and it had to be something that occurred once or most infrequent. The Giza pyramid complex must have been designed and built in an attempt to demonstrate whatever transpired and a specific date attached…they had to give us the answer to the question…When?
We are now left with an event that occurred once or infrequently at a specific time and location and the best tool used to demonstrate time is…the precessional circle!
Unknowingly, the answer has been in plain view since the site was first constructed; it is we who overlooked it because of pure ignorance…we were taught and we believed all. Unfortunately, Hipparchus did not discover precession because the ancient pyramid builders implemented it within the Giza site more than two thousand years before the man was born! To prove it, we simple superimpose the Big Dipper and the north star Thuban upon the Giza site (Ill. 8).
Illustration 8. The two outer stars of the Big Dipper set the angular location for the constellation within the Giza site, included is the north star Thuban *2
It has been proposed by others that various “odd” physical characteristics of the Giza site may have been constructed to assist in our understanding of the design. From first glance we could consider the geometrical lines drawn from the stars Dubhe to Merak and Megrez to Phekda as a remarkable coincidence, they align with the diagonal of P1 and the causeway leading to P2 respectively. But there is one feature of the Giza Plateau that Egyptologists have never resolved. Why did they build two causeways for the two large pyramids on two distinct angles?
Introducing the precessional circle and Thuban to the site, we realize the answer, revealing another hidden direction within the pyramid complex (Ill. 9).
Illustration 9. The extended lines of the two causeways point to the exact alignment location of Thuban on the precessional circle *2.
With the framework in place, the pieces to the puzzle were beginning to fit. The three pyramids were definitely positioned to accommodate several features of our cosmos: planet orbital ratios, distances from the Sun, etc (see previous topics) and now the addition of the two causeways possibly designed to direct us toward the precessional circle. If the designers incorporated the complete constellation of the Big Dipper within the pyramid complex, then it is only logical for us to compare the site to the second most adorned group of stars…the “complete” constellation of Orion (Ill. 10).
Illustration 10. The Orion constellation fits within the Giza site. Similar to the Big Dipper, the belt stars align with the diagonal of a pyramid *2
Although this view of the Orion constellation appears to fit within the design, it is reverse from what we would normally see in the evening skies. This became an important issue to resolve until finally realizing that a view of both constellations at the same time is impossible to accomplish from the northern hemisphere. We must look north to observe the Big Dipper then turn southward to view Orion. However, we can observe both groups of stars at the same time, but only if we are situated south of the Orion constellation. It implies that the site is designed from a single direction as viewed south of the equator!
This should not surprise the knowledgeable Egyptologist since records indicate the ancients journeyed south, across the equator to the most southern point of the African continent. The constellations are demonstrated correctly, informing us of the designer’s full knowledge of Earth’s two hemispheres (Ill.11).
Illustration 11. The two constellations are placed together on the Giza site showing their geometrical attachment to each other. Note the line of the Big Dipper crossing Orion’s “Belt” at the exact location of the center star Alnilam *2
The wonderful feature of stars is their “set” location in the heavens. Although we are aware that stars travel through space, the distances between each varies slightly over extended periods of time. What we see today is most similar to what the ancients viewed many thousand years in our past. However, from the constant surveillance and notation of star positions, their speed and direction of motion has been monitored…termed “proper motion”. Using these measures we can calculate back in time and place the stars in their exact position as witnessed by the ancients. The results place the polar stars and the NEP in the location as shown (Ill. 12).
Illustration 12. Including proper motion, the astronomical measured locations of the NEP, Thuban, Polaris, and Vega are added to the Giza site *2.
We begin to realize what the designer(s) were attempting to demonstrate. The three stars of Orion’s belt are relevant…they align with the diagonal of the center pyramid, and the line from the Big Dipper cuts through Alnilam, the center star of the belt. A red line (1) is drawn from the NEP to the southeast corner of P2 showing the approximate location of Earth’s northern axis on the precessional circle at a time estimated by Egyptologists (2500BC). But we are faced with a problem when drawing the additional red line (2) to the northwest corner of P2. This line points to a date of 2200BC, but the construction of enormous exotic pyramids had ceased more than one hundred years prior. It must be determined if this line is significant and how does it tie into the precessional circle?
Over the past decade, many have discussed the correlation between the three large Giza pyramids and Orion’s belt stars. We are fully aware that other tri-star combinations are most visible in the heavens, yet we continue to overlook the possibility of them being associated with the Giza site. Illustration 7 demonstrates how the Big Dipper rotated around the polar star Thuban in six hour intervals creating a uniform square. Similar to the hour hand on a clock, the angular location of this constellation indicates the progression of the seasons. But the ancients had one advantage. When the Big Dipper was at its lowest position in the evening skies and difficult to observe they could transfer their time measures to another constellation…and so it was done (Ill. 13).
Illustration 13. A line drawn from the northwest corner of P2 intersects the NEP and continues toward Gamma Cygnus, the center star of the constellation…and an additional “tri-star” combination.
What must be considered are the ancient’s full awareness of the NEP and its exact location in the heavens. By aligning the northwest corner of P2 with the NEP and the center star in the Cygnus constellation allowed them to demonstrate the exact location of the NEP. Providing further evidence, we simply place the complete constellation of Cygnus onto the Giza site.
Similar to Orion and the Big Dipper the constellation is positioned as viewed from the south having both Deneb and Albirio, the extreme stars of Cygnus, centred with P1 and P3 with their spacing adjusted accordingly (Ill. 14).
Illustration 14. The major stars from the Cygnus group (red) are aligned with the pyramids. Similar to the Big Dipper a line from this constellation cuts through the center star of Orion’s belt, indicating this location being the possible focal point.
Three constellations are introduced, each containing a tri-star combination, all set in place between the center points of P1 and P3, and displayed as viewed from one direction…from the southern hemisphere toward the polar region. Remarkably they intersect at one specific point…at the exact location of Alnilam…the center star of Orion’s belt. Is this a phenomenal coincidence in measure or was the Giza site intentionally set to accommodate this remarkable feature?
From the center of the precessional circle to this location the year indicated by the red line is 2440BC (position 3) …within several decades as estimated by today’s Egyptologist…a truly ingenious feat (Ill. 15)
Illustration 15. The year possibly implied at Giza is 2440BC !
It is unknown if we will ever discover the actual date when construction commenced at Giza, we may never learn of its completion date. But what is most relevant is our continuing drive toward discovering the truth and better understanding of our ancient’s ability to measure with such precision. How did they learn? Were they taught by others? If there were others then who were they and where did they come from? Truthful answers to these simple questions must be established if we intend tackling the many other ingeniously concealed mysteries within the Giza complex.
If we fail…then the designers of Giza did likewise!
1. Jerry Lodriguss - Astrophotography http://www.astropix.com/
2. “1o6” The Dawn of Man……………Clive Ross
Copyright 1997 CIPO 459689