In 1994 Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert’s ground-breaking book The Orion Mystery theorized that the Pyramids of Giza reflected the astronomical positions of the three “belt” stars of Orion, a constellation linked with the destination of the king’s spirit in his role as Osiris, the ancient Egyptian god of death and resurrection. It was this unique concept that opened the way to visualizing Giza’s famous pyramid field as constructed as part of some grand cosmological scheme.
The OCT (Orion correlation), as it became known, was widely accepted. However, British chartered engineer Rodney Hale was not convinced. He found that when the Orion belt stars were overlaid on their respective pyramids, there was a noticeable mismatch. If the stars Alnitak and Alnitam were lined up with the peaks of the Great Pyramid and Second Pyramid, then the third star, Mintaka, fell beyond the limits of the Third Pyramid. He concluded that when attempting to match the geographical positions of their monuments against the astronomical relationship of key stars, the pyramid builders might have been more accurate, especially since they aligned the pyramids so precisely to the cardinal directions.
Then, in January 2005, having been alerted to the work of the current author regarding the apparent significance of the Cygnus constellation in mythologies and creation myths worldwide, Hale began looking at whether the stars of Cygnus could be matched against the geographical positions of the Giza Pyramids—would they line up better than those of Orion’s belt?
Hale synched the apexes of the Giza Pyramids with the three principal “wing” stars of the Cygnus constellation, which, along with the bright star Deneb, were known in Arabic star lore as “the Triangles,” and found that the match was almost perfect. The star Delta Cygni matched with the Great Pyramid, built c. 2600-2575 BC, while Sadr (Gamma Cygni) lined up with the Second Pyramid, built c. 2575-2550 BC, and Gienah (Epsilon Cygni) synched with the Third Pyramid, built c. 2550-2525 BC. Were the plots of all three pyramids chosen to reflect the astronomical positions of key stars in the constellation of Cygnus, the celestial bird of universal star lore, which, as the Northern Cross, has been venerated by Christians as a symbol of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for over 1500 years?
Cygnus in Context
On paper a Cygnus-Giza overlay looked impressive, but it would only be valid if the Cygnus stars were shown to have been important to the pyramid builders of around 2600 BC, when the Giza pyramid field was first conceived. Well, these stars were important to the ancient Egyptians. American astronomer Dr. Ronald Wells has proposed that even before the dawn of the Pyramid Age, the ancient Egyptian sky-goddess Nuit was personified in the heavens as the Milky Way with her thighs and legs formed by the twin streams created by the Cygnus Rift. This is a dark region of stellar debris that runs down the center of the Milky Way from Cygnus to the region of Sagittarius, where the sun’s path, the ecliptic, crosses the Milky Way in one of two places (the other being in the vicinity of Gemini and the Orion constellation).
If all this was right, then Nuit’s womb and birth canal corresponded with the part of the Milky Way marked by not only the commencement of the Cygnus Rift but also the Cygnus stars themselves. It was within this conceptualized cosmic womb that the deceased king, in his role as Osiris, Nuit’s own son, was considered to achieve rebirth via the placement of his mummy inside the pyramid tomb.
During Egypt’s Old Kingdom, various pyramids were given names that reflected either their astral connections or the idea that they were places of transformation or ascension. From around 2350 BC onwards, the burial chambers of pyramids started to be adorned with hieroglyphic inscriptions that affirmed the relationship between the rebirth of the deceased king as an Osiris and Nuit’s womb. For instance, the opening lines of these so-called Pyramid Texts read as follows:
Recitation by Nuit, the great beneficent:The (returned) king is my eldest son (i.e. Osiris) who split open my womb;He is my beloved, with whom I am well pleased. (PT 1)
This is to be taken as Nuit being pleased not only with the king’s achievements in life, but also that he has now returned to her womb, a surmise confirmed later on in the text when the deceased is addressed as follows:
As you are given (i.e. returned) to your mother Nuit in her name of sarcophagi;
She has drawn you together in her name of “burial chambers,”
As you are made to rise up to her (body or womb) in her name of “tomb.” (PT 364)
The Body of Nuit
Nuit’s body was additionally equated with the Duat, a tunnel-like underworld and waterway, through which the sun and stars were considered to journey during the hours of darkness. Each night the dying sun, after setting on the western horizon, was thought to be swallowed by Nuit who then passed the solar orb through her body in its role as the Duat.
Here the midnight sun, identified as the sun-god Re (or Amun-Re), received rebirth prior to its reemergence at dawn on the eastern horizon. The transformation of the deceased king into an akh, or “glorious spirit,” was imagined as reflected in this process of the rebirth of the sun within the Duat, or body of Nuit, during the hours of darkness.
Duat of Memphis
Ancient Egyptian funerary texts, such as the “Book of That Which is in the Duat,” which dates to the New Kingdom, c. 1550-1087 BC, make it clear that a section of the Duat, known as the Duat of Memphis, was thought to exist as a cave-like tunnel beneath the vast necropolis that served the Old Kingdom capital of Memphis in Lower Egypt. This necropolis included the cemeteries of Saqqara, Dahshur, Abusir, Zawiyet el-Aryan, and, crucially, Giza. Indeed, the section of the Duat of Memphis where the sun-god Re was thought to achieve rebirth is preceded by “the road to the secret things of Rostau,” with Rostau being the ancient name of Giza. Located on the west side of the Nile, on the edge of the Libyan hills beyond which stretched an unending savannah plain (now the Libyan desert), Giza’s famous plateau was probably seen as a kind of dead zone, or no-man’s land. The entire area, in its role as Rostau, acted like a place of transition between the world of the living, which thrived on the east bank of the Nile, and Amenti, the land of the dead, associated with the direction of the setting sun.
Literally translated “Rostau” means the “mouth of the passages,” an allusion most likely to a perceived entrance to the cave-like Duat of Memphis. So the perceived rebirth and transformation of the deceased king, as both an Osiris and the sun-god Re, within both the pyramid tomb and Nuit’s celestial womb, marked out by the stars of Cygnus, made sense of why the Giza Pyramids might have been positioned to reflect the influence of this all important constellation.
Cygnus-Giza Correlation on both a Vertical and Horizontal Plane
Yet, there is more, much more, for in addition to the vertical correlation demonstrating the importance of Cygnus to the positioning of the Giza Pyramids, we find that the correlation works also in the Horizontal plane. The apexes of the three pyramids form a perfect arc of a circle; and when its center is plotted, we find that it falls approximately 2800 m (1.73 miles) southeast of the Second Pyramid. Geographically this center point, situated in the vicinity of a disused factory about 1 km (2/3rd of a mile) south of the village of Kafr el-Gebel, the former Upper Rostau of various inscriptions, corresponds with a natural rise, the highest in the area, which I argue elsewhere could once have been a symbolic Mound of Creation associated with a primordial Tomb of Osiris (see “The Search for Egypt’s Mound of Creation” at andrewcollins.com).
The importance of this realization is that if someone were to have stood on this natural mound during the Pyramid Age, they could have seen the three Cygnus wing stars setting, one by one, into the peaks of their corresponding pyramids in the Cygnus-Giza correlation, which works in both the horizontal and vertical plane.
The Setting Stars of Cygnus
Of even more interest is that falling on the sighting line between the center of the arc circle beyond Kafr el-Gebel and the apex of the Second Pyramid is Gebel Gibli, a prominent rocky eminence located several hundred meters due south of the Sphinx monument. It seems likely that this elevated site, which provides a perfect view of the plateau’s key features, served as an original datum point for the evolution of the pyramid field. The Dream Stela of Thutmose IV, erected between the paws of the Sphinx around 1450 BC, alludes to a location beneath the noon-day sun, i.e. due south, called “the Splendid Place of the First Time (zep tepi).” A good argument can be made to demonstrate that this is a reference to Gebel Gibli, which also bears the name Tarfiye, meaning the “first place,” or the “place of beginning.”
Although the Cygnus wing stars would have been seen during the Pyramid Age to set into the peaks of the three pyramids from the center of the arc circle at Kafr el-Gebel, if you were to move along this sighting line towards the plateau, the widening field of vision as you moved ever closer to the pyramids would have meant that by the time you climbed the heights of Gebel Gibli and looked out over the pyramid field, all the Cygnus stars would now have set into just one pyramid—the one in the middle—the Second Pyramid—the Pyramid of Khafre. Indeed, during the Pyramid Age the observer standing on Gebel Gibli would have seen Deneb, Cygnus’s brightest star, setting down into the pyramid’s apex as the Milky Way stretched upwards from this same position. This must have been a spectacular sight that could not have failed to impress the pyramid builders.
Immediately beyond and in line with the Second Pyramid and this spectacular sight, as viewed from Gebel Gibli, would have been the entrance to Giza’s newly rediscovered cave underworld, accessed via a mysterious tomb in the plateau’s north cliff. It might almost have seemed as if the Milky Way, and the stars of Cygnus, were disappearing into this subterranean world. Was all this pure coincidence, or had there been some kind of precision behind the placement of key monuments at Giza in order to reflect the cyclic mechanisms of the night sky?
Confirming the significance of the Cygnus correlation with respect to the Giza complex is its conformity to some basic landscape geometry. For example, a precise equilateral triangle can be drawn embracing the peaks of Gebel Gibli, the Great Pyramid, and the Third Pyramid. A line bisecting this triangle from its corner on Gebel Gibli targets the apex of the Second Pyramid, which lies just beyond the midway point on its northwest side. What is more, this same bisecting line corresponds with the sighting line between the Second Pyramid and the center of the pyramid peak arc circle beyond Kafr el-Gebel. This synchronizes the equilateral triangle perfectly with the Cygnus-Giza correlation.
The line that bisects the equilateral triangle lies along the hypotenuse, or longest side, of a right-angled or 3:4:5 triangle (a so-called Pythagorean triangle), whose other two sides align with the cardinal directions, i.e. north-south and east-west. This great triangle embraces the apexes of the First and Second Pyramids and the head of the Sphinx monument, which lays half way along its north-south side. It is likely that this line, projecting due north from the summit of Gebel Gibli, constitutes a datum line used originally in the construction and layout of the pyramid field. At the northwest corner of this 3:4:5 triangle is the enigmatic Tomb of the Birds (NC2), the entrance to the aforementioned cave system, rediscovered in 2008 by the author and Egyptological researcher Nigel Skinner-Simpson after nearly 200 years of obscurity.
The Cygnus-Giza correlation, with its accompanying geometry, seems visually more effective than any other similar theory concerning a unified plan at Giza. The evidence presented here acts as the foundation for a new understanding of the mindset behind pyramid construction during the Pyramid Age—one that features Cygnus as the starry womb of the sky-goddess Nuit—the place of transformation of the pharaoh into an akh, or “glorious spirit” at one with the stars.
It seems likely that the Cygnus-Giza sighting line that stems from the natural mound at the center of the pyramid peak arc center and targets both the apex of the Second Pyramid and the entrance (to within 50 m) to Giza’s cave underworld, once had a significance in its own right. Very likely this imaginary line was thought to mark the course of the Duat of Memphis, signified by the manner in which the Milky Way (as the body of Nuit), the Cygnus stars, and the Cygnus Rift, seemed to “enter” Giza’s cave underworld as viewed from Gebel Gibli. Perhaps the Duat of Memphis was thought to pass beneath the ground coincident to the sighting line, carrying within its underground pathways the midnight sun in its role as both Osiris and the sun-god Re. It is arguably for these reasons that the Giza pyramids were laid out to mimic the Cygnus wing stars as they sank beneath the northwest horizon each night.
If correct, then it must be considered possible that this sighting line from the center of the arc circle to the entrance of Giza’s cave underworld was seen as a symbolic representation of the “road to the secret things of Rostau,” the “mouth” or “entrance” to the subterranean world being the cave system itself.
Although these ideas favor Cygnus and not Orion in Giza’s cosmic blueprint, it cannot be denied that the Orion stars played a major role in the funerary beliefs of the pyramid builders. Orion unquestionably featured as part of a much greater cosmological scheme that embraced the use of various key stars and constellations, including Cygnus, Draco, Ursa Major, Leo, and the bright star Sirius.
To explore the topic of this article more fully, please consult the author’s books The Cygnus Mystery (2006) and Beneath the Pyramids (2009), and the DVDs “The Cygnus Mystery” and “The Lost Caves of Giza.”
Note: All pictures are the copyright of those indicated in the captions. Thanks go out to Rodney Hale, Greg Little, Janet Morris, and Nigel Skinner-Simpson.
All references related to this article are to be found in the author’s book Beneath the Pyramids.