Cultural links

Osiris plays the central role in the Orion theory. Without him around at the beginning of the 4th dynasty the whole idea would fall apart. Therefore Bauval and Gilbert try to argue this point in The Orion Mystery as follows:

(1) "Egyptologists have shown that the underlying concept of Ancient Egyptian theocracy was that while the king was alive he was a reincarnation of Horus, the first man-god king of Egypt, and was hailed as the son of Osiris and Isis. After his death it was believed that the pharaoh would depart to the sky and himself become 'an Osiris'. But why an Osiris? What does the Osirianisation doctrine mean?
In Unas's pyramid the dozens of textual passages which call the dead king Osiris-Unas are emphatic declarations that, in his afterlife form, the mummified Unas was to be an Osiris. We are also told that the Osirianised kings became stars; not any stars but specific stars in the region of the constellation of Orion. Egyptologists thus concluded long ago that the rebirth ritual was essential to convert the dead kings into Osiris and more specifically (as Mercer argues for example) to Osiris in his astral form of Sahu, the constellation of Orion: 'Orion (Sah) was identified with Osiris . . . It is not surprising to find an identification with Orion ... [for] ... one of the central themes in the Pyramid Texts was the complete identity of the dead king with Osiris."1 ]

This quote is very important, and I will refer to it again on the following pages. Also important for our further investigations is for example the question of whether Horus is really the son of Isis and Osiris. That would be a sure sign of a very old cult of Osiris.
Unas is the first king with religious texts in his pyramid. He lived at the end of the 5th dynasty, his pyramid was built about 220 years after Khufu's, which is the first of the Orion pyramids at Giza. Bauval and Gilbert assume that in these earliest pyramid texts residues of the former stellar cult are preserved, which was progressively replaced by a solar cult in later pyramids:

(2) "The astronomical evidence suggests that there was, indeed, an attempt to solarise the cult of Osiris and possibly Osiris himself. ... It seems to have worked until the end of the Sixth or even the Seventh dynasty..."2 ]

Compared with the Unas texts, an analysis of the pyramid texts should show reduced references to stars in later texts, and an increasing number of references to Re.

A direct link from the pyramids to Osiris is also detectable:

(3) "The other version of the death of Osiris was his being killed by Seth and his body cut into (14) pieces and scattered about Egypt. The seven pyramids of the Fifth Dynasty, together with the seven pyramids of the great Fourth Dynasty gives a total of fourteen which comprised the Memphite Necropolis, at the time the Pyramid Texts were written."3 ]

Bauval is therefore of the opinion that Osiris is a very old god. He refers to Samuel Mercer:

(4) "Mercer also believed in the great antiquity of the cult found in the Texts: «The worship of Osiris is, no doubt, prehistoric, by the time of the Pyramid Age it was a well-established cult»"4 ]

Visually there is a similarity between the three Giza-pyramids and the belt of Orion, as we saw in fig. 1 on the previous page. According to Bauval more pyramids are parts of an earthly Orion representation, ie. the pyramids at Abu Roasch and el-Aryan (both were most probably never finished):

(5) "Carefully aligning the Giza group pyramids with the stars of Orion's Belt, I saw that the pyramid of Nebka at Abu Ruwash corresponded with the star Saiph or Orion's 'left foot' and that at Zawyat al-Aryan represented Bellatrix in his 'right shoulder'."5 ]

This part of the so called "wider plan" was withdrawn by Bauval in 1998, because those two stars and pyramids did not match at all (see my calculations in the second section). But he did not retract it with a clear statement, he offered a possible explanation how they could fit in after all. If the reason for the unfinished state was that the Egyptians had discovered that they had chosen the wrong place to put them (and not because the kings building them died early) they could still support the OCT... no comment.9 ]
The pyramids of Abusir of the 5th dynasty should represent more stars of Orion:

(6) "With 'Bellatrix' located south-east of Giza it was not difficult to see how the three or four little stars forming Orion's 'head' could fit the three or four (...) little pyramids at Abusir, a kilometre or so south-east of Zawyat Al Aryan."10 ]

The two large pyramids at Dahshur, built by Khufu's father Snofru, are, according to Bauval, also representations of stars. Not stars from Orion, but the constellation of Taurus, whose most dominant stars are in the open cluster of the Hyades:

(7) "These two stars (Aldebaran and Epsilon Tauri of the Hyades, FD), seen together after rising, had the exact layout relative to each other and the axis of the Milky Way as the two Dashour pyramids relative to each other and the axis of the Nile. Transposing the two stars on the correlation Memphis-Duat map, they fitted the position of the two Dashour pyramids. This gave me the complete stellar pattern of the sky-Duat."11 ]

Why Taurus? Because Egyptologist Jane Sellers saw the stellar representation of Seth, the brother and murderer of Osiris, in the constellation of Taurus. The Dahshur pyramids therefore complete the Osiris-myth:

(8) "As Jane Sellers previously concluded: 'an important court decision gave the office of Osiris to Horus, and Seth was banished to a position bearing the 'southern' constellation ORION' - that is the Hyades stars."12 ]

What has to be examined?

The Orion theory rests on some points which have to be true or the whole thing falls apart. And there are some where it would be nice if they are true but it would not damage the idea if they aren't. The number of pyramids being identical to the number of pieces Osiris was hacked into is such a "nice to have".
The following points are the most fundamental ones. If they are not true any discussion about "nice to haves" is futile:

  1. Stars must have played an important role right from the beginning of the pyramid era. The Orion-theory says nothing less than the fossilisation of a great star cult.
     
  2. Osiris must have been known since the earliest times and his cult must have been well established at the beginning of the 4th dynasty with Snofru's first true pyramids. To verify this it is necessary to look for the origin of Horus and his cult (which is connected to (1) to Osiris since the earliest times and therefore proves the existence of the Osiris cult since the earliest times), and, of course, for evidence of Osiris himself.
     
  3. Osiris must have had the role as lord of the underworld at the time of Snofru.
    That's not as trivial as it sounds, since the Egyptian pantheon went through some major changes in the first half of the Old Kingdom. And there are no coherent records about Egyptian religion surviving from before the Pyramid texts. But if Osiris already has his full funerary role in the first texts in Unas' pyramids and if there are no objections from Egyptologists about that we can at least assume that he had this role much earlier
     
  4. Orion and Osiris must have been identical at the beginning of the 4th dynasty.
    This has the same problems as the last point, so we can use the same method we used there. If the identity is already clear in the first pyramid texts of Unas we can assume that this identity goes a long way back.
     
  5. Also by the beginning of the 4th dynasty at the latest the king must have identified himself with the god Osiris in his afterlife. Without this identification the whole pyramid/Orion idea makes no sense. Therefore Osiris must have had the role as a King's god at the time of Snofru.
    This, too, is not trivial to prove as a pharaoh identified himself with a lot of gods. Another problem: Osiris had several different roles - or there was more than one Osiris (that's not as funny as it sounds, as we will see with Horus on the next page). Osiris was known as a god of vegetation and of the water of the Nile - and the vegetation symbolism already hints at the resurrection theme of his second role, the Lord of the underworld. But there was another Lord of the underworld: Anubis. Osiris replaced this god who became the master of mummification. To make sure that Osiris had the necessary role we need a tight link between Osiris, the underworld and the pharaoh in the earliest pyramid texts at least.
     
  6. The target of the king in his afterlife must have been the stars which are relevant for Bauval's theory. And this also at the beginning of the 4th dynasty.
    Bauval is very sure here, if you remember point (1) where he states that the target of the dead king was definitively the stellar region of Orion in the southern sky. But that also is not as trivial as it looks because Bauval simply interprets each and every mentioning of "the star becomes a king" as afterlife in Orion. Unfortunately the pharaoh always had a star soul, the Ach (this role was later taken by the Ba) which became a star, but was not connected with the afterlife of the pharaoh!
    To confirm this idea we would expect in the oldest pyramid with texts, at least. a majority of references as location of the afterlife in the stars of the southern sky, and not for example Re's companionship.
     
  7. To justify the explanation that a later sun cult suppressed an earlier star cult we should expect that the percentage of star references is highest in the early pyramids of Unas and Teti, and lowest in the late pyramids like Pepi II and his queens.

I will start the examination with one of Bauval's important sources:

Samuel Mercer

Mercer is one of Bauval's main sources for his stellar thesis. In the first half of the 20th century this Egyptologist came to the conclusion that many of the pyramid texts are not only descriptions of religious cults or fantasies, but references to astronomical events instead.
But Mercer is not highly regarded in Egyptology. His four volume work about the pyramid texts was published in 1952 and was already outdated. His analyses were doubted because they were not using the latest Egyptological knowledge and were therefore often pure speculation. Therefore it's not a miracle that Mercer is the first choice of today's fringe authors like Atlantis Messiahs, World Saviours and other esotericists who want to see fantastic things in the pyramid texts.5 ]
Egyptologists further agree that Mercer didn't make a proper translation of his own because of his limited knowledge of Old Egyptian. He took Sethe's outdated German translation from 1910, changed some passages here and there and wrote his own name on it. Professor Henry Fischer from the University of New York used a word play to describe Mercers method: He "mercerized" Sethe. Mercerisation is a process which changes cheap cotton to a silk-like consistency.6 ]

On February 20, 2003 John Gee of Brigham Young University commented on Yale University's "Egyptologists Electronic Forum" (EEF) email discussion list. He mentioned a critique of Mercer from James P. Allen in JNES 13 [1954]: 119: The defects of Mercer's translation "spring from two main sources: faulty translation of German and violation of Egyptian grammatical principles.". Gee noted that he'd had the luck to work with books from Mercer's own library and had noticed that Mercer often wrote transliterations between the lines and wondered how often Mercer got even simple constructions wrong.
This does not really inspire confidence in this source. But Bauval sees things differently. In his eyes Mercer is more of a rebel against mainstream Egyptology, a sort of Robin Hood:

"This, of course, conflicted with the established view, and Mercer was pilloried for being rash and far too bold in his interpretations. It was also said that his translations did 'not represent current knowledge of ancient Egyptian' which was not entirely true. Mercer's study must have its place in the anthology of the Pyramid Texts, and his boldness may yet prove to be a good thing. (However, I soon discovered that quoting Mercer on the Texts was frowned on by academics.)"7 ]

I will discuss some of Mercers points later in the pyramid text section. Of course Bauval is aware of other available translations of, and commentaries, on the pyramid texts, and he also knows the modern standard translation from Faulkner.13 ] This translation is known to be very accurate, as an Egyptologist who translated parts of the texts herself told me. But Bauval has only sarcasm for him, because Faulkner, like the rest of the Egyptologists, is unable to see the coded stellar messages Mercer detected:

"Faulkner quoted a large number of passages from the Pyramid Texts which mention the stars in connection with the soul of the dead kings and their afterlife destiny. Yet he ignored hundreds of other passages which also refer to the astral destiny of the kings, without specific reference to the word star, and more which drew attention to the stars by metaphors and allegories." 14 ]

Then the book gets really funny, when Bauval demands a new review of the Pyramid Texts - in other words conformation to the unfounded speculations of Mercer:

"I discovered that I was not the only one who felt that a fresh review of the Pyramid Texts was imperative if progress were to be made in solving the mystery of the Egyptian pyramids."15 ]

In plain language: Twist the texts until you get the results desired by Bauval Oh yes, and Bauval's demand is funny because he is not even able to judge the validity of the interpretations.
If Bauval had a true interest in the meaning of the Pyramid Texts, he could do this "fresh review" himself. The hieroglyphs of the Pyramid Texts are published - even on the internet - and with a course of Old Egyptian (which is offered at adult evening classes here) he could translate the texts personally and thus judge Mercer's validity himself.

Star cults

But it's not only the pyramid texts that would need a fresh review, we would also have to revisit our knowledge about star cults in Egypt. Bauval's pyramid placement sounds so secondary that most readers are not aware of the seriousness of his idea. But we should be aware that the consequence of the thesis is that the largest building project in antiquity, if not the largest coherent building project of all time, was to praise the stars. According to Bauval seven gigantic pyramids (the Bent and the Red at Dahshur, the three large ones in Giza, the unfinished one in el-Aryan which would have been between the size of the Bent and Khafre's, and the pyramid of Neferirkare at Abusir) and a couple of smaller ones (the rest of Abusir, and Abu Roasch), built over a period of more than 200 years are part of a giant stone planetarium, a picture of the sky.
But not only the placement of the pyramids should be connected to the stars, even some details of their construction, like the mysterious shafts in the Great Pyramid, should hint at such a connection. And last but not least Bauval even tries to explain the pyramid form itself, the Benbenet (which is also the top part of an obelisk) as a stellar symbol.
With this reasoning we can say that the pyramids of the 4th and 5th dynasty form a large open-air temple for the stars, a sort of monster Stonehenge, which was planed and built by many generations of Pharaohs following a common plan. The funerary character of the pyramids is then only secondary.

Readers with some knowledge about Egypt surely know other multi-generational temples. For example the famous Hathor temple at Dendera (yes, the one with the "light bulb" reliefs in the basement :-) ) from the Ptolemaic/Roman era. This temple was built over a period of 200 years, but it was built on the foundations of a much earlier Hathor temple dating from at least the 6th dynasty.
Or the Osiris temple at Abydos. At least three pharaohs built there. Or the large Amun temple in Karnak with a building history of more than 1000 years up to Alexander the Great.
But all these temples, although dedicated to the most important gods of their time, are child's play compared with the star temple of the pyramids. What an important role the stars must have played during the Old Kingdom!

Well, the experts on Egyptian religion tell us - almost none at all. Stars were children of the gods, sitting on the body of the sky-goddess Nut. Nameless and low. Stars, that were the souls of the Dead. The Ach, the spirit of the person. Or the Ba souls, flying to the sky each night, to return to the dead each day. But practically without any religious meaning. And those few important stars are unfortunately (for Bauval) in the wrong region of the sky...
And because the religious role of the stars was so insignificant, few Egyptologists wrote about them.

The well known Egyptologist and expert on Egyptian religion Hans Bonnet is one of the few who examined the topic. His "Reallexikon" is somewhat old but still THE reference in most religious questions and is often cited even today. He writes;

"Additionally, the stars are well in the background of religious life. There is very little evidence that they were worshipped or that offerings were made to them. They are, after all, mites of the night and, as their incalculable number shows, of such a low rank. 16 ]

Bonnet further explains that only the so called Decan stars had some respect, but only because of their "practical use": the time keeping of the night used them to calculate the current hour. The only other two stars or constellations with some meaning, Sirius and Orion, were also known for their practical uses. The heliacal rising of Sirius, the brightest star, predicted the annual Nile flood - the connection of this star to the goddess Isis happened later.17 ]
And Sah, the constellation we may see today as Orion, had practical uses too. Its first appearance marked the time of the gathering of grapes and might have been the marker for the annual Wag festival.18 ] But some stars, or more correctly a region of stars, HAD special religious meaning for the pharaohs. Bonnet writes:

"There are 'those who cannot set', the imperishables, the circumpolar stars. They do not set in the west therefore they are the oarsmen of the day barque.
...
So the funerary literature is full of utterances where the hopes of an afterlife existence is connected with the desire to become a star ... Understandably enough that spell culminates in the wish to become a member of the imperishable stars."19 ]

The famous expert on religion Erik Hornung writes on the stars:

"The Egyptians conceived of only a few of the most important stars and constellations as deities. Apart from the sun and the moon only Sothis, the brightest fixed star Sirius, acquired a cult as herald of the inundation. ... Even the morning and evening stars had no cult; nor did the pole star (alpha Draconis in the early Old Kingdom), despite its great importance as the fixed pole of the sky and the goal of the dead king's ascent into the sky.
For the Egyptians the great mass of other stars was a metaphor for vast numbers and also embodied the souls of the dead. Because these souls counted as "gods", the stars were considered to be gods in the latest periods of Egyptian religion, and the word "god" came to be written with a star."20 ]

Strangely enough, one of the papers Hornung used as the basis for his conclusions is the one paper Bauval so openly disliked above: Faulkner's "The King and the Star-Religion in the Pyramid Texts", JNES 25(1966). The reason is clear: Hornung (and the rest of Egyptology) puts the target for the king's soul, the imperishable stars, to the north. Why? Because the pyramid texts describing their locations have a pretty clear directionality (as we will see later). That's a completely different region of the sky than Bauval needs - because Orion is not even near the celestial north pole, it's a constellation in the equatorial region. And it's in total contrast to what Bauval wrote in (1): "We are also told that the Osirianised kings became stars; not any stars but specific stars in the region of the constellation of Orion."
Although the circumpolar stars, the imperishables, clearly had the most important role of all the stars they had no cult, as Hornung reported. No temple was built for them, nothing. So Bauval has to deliver really good reasons to explain his giant star temple for seemingly unimportant stars in a completely different region.

The attempt to explain the pyramid form as a stellar symbol also has little chance of success. The English Egyptologist Stephen Quirke writes:

"The word for pyramidion, benbenet, seems unambiguous on this score; the root word from which it derives, weben 'to shine', refers specifically to sunshine, not to the glittering of stars." 21 ]

Dahshur

By looking through the paers about star cults I noticed, that one of the basic requirements for the "wider plan" of the OCT vanished into thin air. Namely the connected points (7) and (8) which are culminating in the sentence

"As Jane Sellers previously concluded: 'an important court decision gave the office of Osiris to Horus, and Seth was banished to a position bearing the 'southern' constellation ORION' - that is the Hyades stars."

I don't know what Sellers wrote - but I bet that she didn't mention the Hyades. It is pretty clear for a long, long time now that the "Seth-stars" are the constellation "Leg of a Bull". But that bull has nothing to do with our constellation Taurus, although Bauval wished it would. In fact, the "Leg" is what we know today as the "Big Dipper".22 ] This is not even near the Hyades which are needed to connect Dashur culturally with the stars. The Hyades, and the region of our Taurus, are nonames in the Egyptian star lore. Some stars of the nameless masses, therefore ther is no reason at all to build pyramids to represent their positions. The basis for Bauvals wider plan in Dashour does not exist!

The results of the last 150 years of Egyptology are clear. Against an important stellar cult, and even against the pyramid itself as a stellar symbol. What does Bauval know that no Egyptologist has detected before?

Multy Generation Funerary Projects

MGFP, in short, seems to be the new buzzword used as an excuse for the OCT. Because some Egyptologists suggest some form of MGFP in different areas, it validates the whole OCT as one gigantic MGFP.
What signs do we have for multi generational funerary architecture? Not much. There are signs that the immediate successor finished the work of his predecessor so that a regular funerary- and cult procedure was possible - but often only in a "quick and dirty" form. Examples are the mortuary temple of the Red Pyramid (started in limestone but then finished quickly with mudbrick), Khufu's boat pit which was finished by his son Djedefre (his cartouche was found inside it), the mortuary temple of Djedefre (also finished in mudbrick), and Menkaure's Pyramid (valley temple finished in mudbrick by Shepseskaf, but his pyramid was left in an unfinished state; only the casing stones around the entrance and the mortuary temple were finished, the rest was left as it came from the quarry).23 ]

unfinished blocks
Fig. 4 - Border between finished and unfinished blocks on Menkaures east side

This doesn't look as if successors cared much about the pyramid complex of their predecessors. And that is not a good basis to claim a MGFP of such a scale as proposed in the OCT. But what IS the basis for such a claim in "orthodoxy"?

It was Hans Goedicke who made some early suggestions. But they were not published first in a scientific journal, but in a newspaper in 1983 !24 ]
THIS was the basis for Lehner's speculations in his Giza. A Contextual Approach25 ]. And what does that groundbreaking theory say? Well, Goedicke noticed that there seems to be a common constructional element at several necropolises: one corner of each structure is often on a straight line with the same corner of other structures in the necropolis. These alignments are found at Giza (south-east corners of Khufu, Kaphere and Menkaure), Abusir (north-west-corner of the pyramids of Sahure, Neferirkare und Neferefre), Saqquara (south-east-corners of Sekhemkhet, Djoser, Userkaf und Teti) - and even between necropolises as Goedicke thinks that the east face of Userkaf's Pyramid is aligned with the same face of Khufu's Pyramid several kilometres to the north!
Goedicke later concluded that some of these sight lines were aimed at the solar temple at Iunu (Heliopolis) and later wrote papers about it in "real" scientific publications.

Pyramid sight lines
Fig. 5 - Pyramid sight lines at Abusir, Saqquara und Giza; Top North
Abusir, Sakkara after Stadelmann; Giza after Verner

What do these sight lines have to do with the concept of the OCT? Not much. Whereas the OCT is a fully intentional multi-generation project which requires a plan from the beginning of the first building phase at Dahschur (and all kings until the middle of the 5th dynasty sticking to it), the "Sight Line Theory" (SLT, as I call it) is a un-intentionally MG-project where a later pharaoh decided to built his, and only his, pyramid on the same sight line as one of his successors. It was not a strict scheme, as we can see very good in Saqquara, where pharaos of the 3rd, 5th nd 6th dynasty mixed their pyramids on a sight line. In the 4th dynasty only 3 out of 8 pharaohs decided to "build in line"; Snofru, Djedefre, Bakare and Shepseskaf didn't care, and neither did Khentkaus, probably the last, and female, pharaoh of Dynasty IV. And in Dynasty V most kings decided not to stick to the Abusir-line: Userkaf (who lined up his pyramid at Sakkara with Khufu's), Niuserre, Menkauhor, Djedkare and Unas chose not to build their pyramids on the alignment and sometimes built in totally different regions. Again only 3 out of 8 pharaohs were "on-line" in Abusir.
It is pretty clear: Whereas it ws necessary for the OCT that the first pharaoh knew everything about the postitions of his successor's buildings, with the SLT each king decided individually if he wanted to share an alignment with his predecessors. No king needed knowledge about the intentions of his predecessor or successor. From the kings deviating from this layout we can be sure that there was no master-plan from the beginning for all pyramids, not even for individual necropolises.
To compare these "linearity-on-demand" alignments with the strict plan necessary for the OCT is therefore in my opinion just plain silly.

Addendum: I received a quick objection against my judgement regarding the effort required for the star temple as Bauval has removed two pyramids from the wider plan.
But the effect is only minute. The pyramid at el-Aryan never got much further than a large hole in the ground for the chamber system, and the pyramid of Abu Roasch, if ever finished, had a height of 60 m; one of the smaller ones. Compared with the other pyramids it's a "reduction" in the range of 1% or so. Bauval never removed "serious" pyramids like Abusir or Dahshur from the wider plan, just the contrary: In his "retractment" he writes, that the Dahshur-pyramids are definitively part of the original plan.

Remarks:
[1] Bauval, Robert & Gilbert, Adrian; The Orion Mystery, Crown 1994 p 86
[2] ibd. S. 157
[3] ibd.
[4] ibd. p. 76
[5] ibd. p. 123 f
[6] Lawton, Ian; Ogilvie-Herald, Chris; Giza, the Truth, ICP 2001, p. 354
[7] Bauval/Gilbert p. 139
[8] ibd. p. 139 and 143
[9] ibd. p. 159
[10] A discussion about Mercer and his qualities can be found here: www.rostau.clara.co.uk
[11] Mercerize
[12] Bauval/Gilbert p.159
[13] Faulkner, Ron Oliver; The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, Oxford University Press 1969
[14] Bauval / Gilbert p. 76; the text does not refer to Faulkner's Pyramid Texts but to a paper about them he publised a short while before.
[15] ibd.
[16] Bonnet, Hans; Reallexikon der ägyptischen Religionsgeschichte (RÄRG), de Gruyter 1952, p. 749 f
[17] ibd.
[18] Erman, Adolf; Die Religion der Ägypter de Gruyter 1934, S. 23, and
Krauss, Rolf; Wenn und aber: Das Wag-Fest und die Chronologie des Alten Reiches in "Göttinger Miszellen" (GM) 162/1998 S. 53.64
[19] Bonnet, RÄRG p. 749 f
[20] Hornung, Erik; The one and the many; Conception of God in ancient Egypt, Cornell University Press 1982/ Darmstadt 1971, p. 80 f
[21] Quirke, Stephen; The Cult of Ra, Thames & Hudson 2001, p. 117
[22] see for example Kees, Hermann; Der Götterglaube im alten Ägypten, Göttingen 1941 p. 321
[23] all from Stadelmann, Rainer; Die ägyptischen Pyramiden, 3rd ed. Zabern 1997
[24] C. Brown; A theory on the pyramids, Hopkins professor tells why they were put there, Washington Post 11-30-1983 C.8
[25] Lehner, Mark; Giza. A Contextual Approach to the Pyramids., AfO 32, 1985
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All pictures and texts © Frank Dörnenburg