After about 150 years of Egyptology as an academic field, there still appears to be no agreement between scholars on the true function of the Egyptian pyramids. Traditional Egyptology insists the pyramids were used as tombs for the Pharaohs and their queens. Not all accept that idea, though; and thus, many competing hypotheses have been proposed, drawing upon possible spiritual, mathematical, astronomical models, and more. The Great Pyramid of Giza is the main focus of most alternative theories, but, interestingly, the other 130 pyramids still standing in Egypt are seldom considered, and the question arises: should any particular alternative hypothesis fit all pyramids, not just one, regardless of how ‘great’ it is? In all of this, the mythology of ancient Egypt is also often neglected, leaving unconsidered many important clues as to just how the ancient Egyptians interpreted the world. Could such myths shed light on some of those hypotheses and help explain some of history’s greatest gaps?
Khafre’s pyramid, Giza’s second largest, still stands on the plateau. Made of limestone blocks—quarried locally, each weighing around two tons—the Khafre pyramid has two passages, two portcullises, and a large granite coffer in the main chamber. A layer of Tura limestone, quarried across the Nile, once covered its inner limestone blocks. The structure was built with a—now missing—pyramidion (capstone) at its peak. Many other Egyptian pyramids tell a similar story.
I would like to propose a previously unconsidered possible scenario. Let’s assume the pyramid could produce an electric charge in its main chamber. As the Tura limestone has good isolation properties and creates essentially a shell around the pyramid’s inner body, no such charge would escape through the pyramid sides but would, instead, move through the inner moist limestone core toward the capstone. As the charge density increased at the peak, the air around the pyramidion would be ionized, creating a coronal discharge that would show there as a light glow. Also known as St. Elmo’s light, this phenomenon is, and has been, known for ages. Atum, the first god in Egyptian mythology, was closely associated with the pyramidion. It was believed, in fact, that he dwelled there and would bring enlightenment to anyone who could see him. With this, I can only wonder if, by “Enlightenment,” the ancient Egyptians meant, not some spiritual enlightenment, but a physically real light that they could see.
As the ionization process continued, two things would happen. First, the ionic wind (the Egyptian god of wind was Shu) would occur. Ionic wind is a process by which the movement of charged particles picks up and moves air molecules along with it. As air moves upwards from the pyramid, it will pick up the hot air at the ground surface and move it to lower layers of the atmosphere above. There, the hot air would condense, creating rain or hail that would fall on the pyramid. Tefnut is the Egyptian god of moisture, and it is interesting to note that Ancient Egyptians actually had hieroglyphs for snow and hail. These phenomena would have been extremely rare in arid Egypt. Where could ancient Egyptians have seen hail?
The process of creating rain with charged particles released into the atmosphere is not new or something out of science fiction. At least two commercial companies market products for rainmaking, which employs just such technology. One of them is the Swiss company Meteo Systems, based in Zug. Founded in 2004, the company provides rain enhancement services to various arid regions of the world. The technology is not without controversy, but scientists working for the Abu Dhabi government used Meteo services and reported 50 rainstorms in the middle of the hot emirates summer month with the company’s systems products turned on. The company has a patent titled “Apparatus and related methods for weather modification by electrical processes in the atmosphere.” In a very concise summary of the granted patent, the company says that it employs antenna arrays that, with high voltage, generate negative charges releasing them into the atmosphere where they combine with dust and form water droplets. An illustration of the Meteo rainmaking process, posted on the company website, accompanies this story, as well as a photo of antenna arrays which the company used in Abu Dhabi. With Egyptian pyramids releasing similar charged particles, there would be cloud formation over the pyramid, turning into rain.
One of the most distinguished, and frequently used, symbols in ancient Egypt was the ‘Eye of Horus.’ The origin of this symbol, however, has continued to elude researchers, but here is a possible explanation. The charged particles from the pyramidion move to upper layers of atmosphere. There, they would collide with air molecules, exciting those, which are normally de-excited with the release of photons, or light. Depending on which molecules the charged particles collide with, the created light color would vary from red to blue. So an observer at Giza would, most likely, see a light in the sky above the pyramid, similar to an aurora. In my opinion, Egyptians called that light the ‘Eye of Horus.’ With more light, the earth and sky horizon (or the separation between the two) would be more visible, which I interpret as “Geb separated from Nut,” as the Egyptian Creation Myth tells us.
The Egyptian Creation Myth is the story of the nine major deities, who appeared in the event known as Zep Tepi, or “First time.” No one really knows what that ‘first time’ event really was or when it happened, but the creation myth tells us about Atum, the first god to be born, who had two children: Tefnut and Shu, the goddesses of rain and wind. They had two children: Geb and Nut, who were the goddesses of Earth and the night sky. Then we have four more gods born to them. The story tells us about the mound where all nine gods were born. I cannot help but wonder if those gods were simply observed phenomena and that ‘the mound’ was the pyramid over which those phenomena would have emanated.
Most Egyptian pyramids have a similar profile with complexes that include enclosure walls, temples, and a causeway leading away from the pyramid toward the Nile. Egyptologist Mark Lehner of the Oriental institute in Chicago and his team reconstructed the Khafre’s pyramid to provide the illustration shown with this story. In my opinion, the purpose of the enclosure walls could be to collect rainwater running down from the pyramid sides and to remove it from the site toward the Nile. This is equivalent to the drainage system around the foundation of any modern house to prevent soil erosion. Limestone erosions have been noticed in Khafre’s temples, the causeway, and the sphinx enclosure, which would have occurred as the water passed through. Dr. Robert M. Schoch contributed extensively in the analysis of the water erosions present on the Sphinx and the Sphinx enclosure. As his research shows, the limestone erosions present on the sphinx were caused by rainfall that, in his opinion, helped to date the Sphinx to the fifth millennium BC. I wonder if that rainfall could have occurred closer to the Old Kingdom dates (2520 BC–2465 BC) as traditional Egyptology maintains? If the pyramid helped with rain, the idea seems plausible to me.
As for the necessary charge originating in the main chamber where a stone coffer is found, consider this. When Giovanni Belzoni broke into Khafre’s pyramid in the early nineteenth century and looked into the coffer, he did not find gold nuggets, as he had hoped, but, instead, bull bones. Why do many ancient Egyptian sites have bull bones in their coffers? If these were offerings to a dead king, how did they end up in coffers and, in most cases, with the lid closed? Let’s assume in the ancient past someone placed an ox, bread, beer, and barley in a granite coffer and closed the lid. Throughout ancient Egyptian history those four ingredients were brought as offerings to the pyramids and temples. Fermentation inside in the coffer would produce yeast that would convert starch in the barley to carbon dioxide gas. The growing gas pressure would place mechanical stress on the quartz crystals of the granite coffer, producing an electric charge. The more pressure, the more electric charge would be generated.
The exact composition of the granite material of the coffer in Khafre’s pyramid is not known, but it is safe to assume that it is around 40% quartz crystal. Based on the size of the box, quartz content, coffer wall thickness, and pressure at 250 MPA (Meter/Pascal), I estimate the coffer will generate around 100 kilovolts at no current. Let’s assume a pressure at 250 MPA (roughly 1000 times higher than that of car tires), generally considered the limit for granite material strength. This is also close to the pressure limit at which yeast can survive. The ox, or bull, is a source of oleic acid. As has been reported in a few scientific studies, oleic acid is essential for yeast to maintain its growth rate and to overcome the toxic effect of ethanol that yeast releases during fermentation. If someone were to open the coffer lid millennia later, most likely that person would see inside only what the yeast could not consume before drying out. That would be bull bones, exactly as Belzoni found.
I do not intend to suggest that ancient Egyptians understood the process of ionization, charge generation, and particle physics but instead, perhaps, that a phenomenon discovered in the ancient past could, with trial and error over the years, be refined, reaching its climax and utilization with the construction of the pyramids. Ancient Egyptians, after all, had millennia to sharpen and refine their practice.
The utilization of this phenomenon on a mega scale began, I believe, circa 2680 BC with third dynasty pharaoh Djoser and his very wise vizier Imhotep. Here is an example of Imhotep’s wisdom: In 1889 Charles E. Wilbour discovered a stela on the Island of Sehel, not far from Elephantine, carved on a huge boulder telling a story of Djoser, who was in grief for seven years, as the Nile had ceased to inundate. Grain was scant, kernels were dried up, and the people were distressed. Imhotep was dispatched to investigate. At Heliopolis he examined ancient records related to the Nile flood. The weather god, upstream in the Elephantine region, who was dismayed over his ruined temples, controlled the flood, it was said. Imhotep responded by rebuilding all ruins on the island and making sacred sacrifices and offerings to the weather god. Shortly after, it was raining in Egypt. The Nile flooded and the people’s suffering and famine came to end. There was plenty of grain to plant, grow, and consume. Was it just coincidence that the whole ordeal was ended by Imhotep’s pyramid projects and sacrifices to the weather god?
The prevailing wind patterns point from Giza toward Mesopotamia and then along the Fertile Crescent. It follows that, if the Egyptians created rain clouds, Mesopotamia would probably be the main beneficiary of the precipitation. Clouds created along the Nile River where the pyramids are, would be scattered by the winds blowing toward Mesopotamia, bringing moisture and life—fertility—to the region.
Around 2250 BC, the Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations were hit with a devastating drought, so harsh that it is known in history under its own unique name, the ‘4.2 kilo event.’ A very prosperous Akkadian civilization that dominated a large part of Mesopotamia around that time collapsed, largely due to this event. According to some studies, 75% of the population of ancient Mesopotamian settlements was displaced as a result. Other nearby civilizations further east were affected as well.
An interesting aspect of the event is that no one really knows what caused it. Basically, when something like that happens, researchers consult the Greenland reconstructed ice core temperature data, seeking any correlations with weather indicated by that data. Looking at the 2250 BC mark, however, there is none. It looks almost like “business as usual;” nevertheless, evidence of drought at that time across all of Mesopotamia and Egypt is undeniable. So, what could possibly have happened? One might wonder if someone had, intentionally, or unintentionally, pulled the pyramid’s plug. So, instead of the rainy cloudy weather, which the area was accustomed to, there was relentless scorching sun heat.
This mega drought event correlates well with the beginning of the First Intermediate Period (2181–2055 BC) when Egypt was in chaos. The papyrus of Ipuwer gives us a glimpse of the time: drought, starvation, anarchy, and political disarray were everywhere. The temples were pillaged, and ceremonials to the gods almost ceased. Sacred animals were consumed for food. Hordes of starving people roamed the streets. It is believed that during this period, many alterations occurred in the sacred practice and traditions established in Old Kingdom times. The period lasted for about 150 years until the beginning of the Middle Kingdom era. The end of this mega drought event also coincides with the end of the First Intermediate Period and the beginning of the Middle Kingdom when the traditions, ceremonials, and religious practices of the Old Kingdom were reestablished.
The famous Akkadian poem The Curse of Akkad, tells of king Naram-Sin, plundering the temple of a weather god and offers a quote from one of the sources, “For the first time since cities were built and founded, the great agricultural tracts produced no grain.” If the poem refers to Tefnut, Shu and other weather gods (or their Akkadian equivalents), it would not be a stretch to say that whoever plundered the monuments intended to make good weather, but altered forever the weather pattern in the region.
Egyptian authorities are now reported to be investing time and effort in renovating one of its other remaining pyramids. Could the possibility of selling weather to their petroleum rich cousins further east, be under consideration? Selling rainy weather, after all, might bring Egypt more revenue than petroleum (of which it has little) ever could.
Konstantin Borisov received his Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from Mississippi State University. In the past 11 years, he worked as Senior Staff Engineer and Senior Project Manager at Johnson Controls, involved in design and development of high-energy systems for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC).