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The Riddle of the Sphinx Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

A closeup view of the Sphinx's southern face. The Sphinx gazes due east, towards the sun as it rises on the equinox. Photo copyright 1999 Santha Faiia. Photo montage at top based on images adapted from The Message of the Sphinx, copyright 1996 Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval.

gyptian religion, as we have seen in parts one and two of this series, was essentially astronomical in nature. It is clear from even the most basic study of astronomy and architecture that the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids, Sphinx, and possibly other structures in such a way so as to imitate the stars in the sky, to the point where many now believe that they were attempting to make a "heaven on earth" in a very real sense.

In part one of this series, we saw how the three great pyramids were laid out in such a way as to mimic the three belt stars of Orion. In part two, we saw how the constellation of Orion sat at the center of the Egyptian astronomical religion. Now it remains to be seen exactly why the ancient Egyptians expended so much effort in order to built these massive structures.

Not only the layout of the Giza necropolis but many major pyramids — even the Nile itself — may have
Heaven and Earth

(Move your mouse over the image to reveal a secret.)
Images adapted from The Message of the Sphinx, copyright 1996 Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval

been used by the ancient Egyptians to mirror many major star patterns, such as the belt stars of Orion, (the three great pyramids); the Hyades cluster in Taurus (the Dahshur group of pyramids, which include the peculiar Bent and Red pyramids; the horns of Taurus, including El Nath (northern horn) and Zeta Taurus (southern horn), which may be represented by structures in Memphis and Ayan; and, interestingly, the Nile itself, which was believed by the ancient Egyptians to be the earthly counterpart of the Milky Way.

Moreover, as discovered by Robert Bauval in his ground breaking book, The Orion Mystery, there is even more to the sky-ground connection — within the Great Pyramid itself. Bauval explains, "In the Great Pyramid are four protracted and narrow channels or shafts which have long baffled Egyptologists.... The two shafts within the King's Chamber had been known since the early seventeenth century.... At first they thought the shafts led to a room ... but abandoned this idea when the air rushed through the chamber after they had cleared the southern shaft. They then decided, erroneously, that the shafts had been designed for ventilation, and coined the term air-shafts.1 Two more shafts, this time in the Queen's chamber, were found in 1872 by a British engineer named Waynman Dixon, but these

Cross section of the Pyramid of Khufu. The "air shafts" located on the northern and southern walls of the King's Chamber and the Queen's Chamber were formerly thought to be for ventilation purposes. However, recent investigations have revealed that these shafts were actually celestial time-markers, pin-pointing the time of the construction of the Giza pyramids. These shafts actually point at several major stars in the northern and southern skies which, due to precession, were only aligned with the shafts during the epoch of 2450 b.c. This aligns perfectly with the accepted date for the construction of the Giza pyramids, neatly confirming this theory. Image adapted from The Message of the Sphinx, copyright 1996 Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval

A closeup of the interior structure of the Khufu pyramid, with a detailed look at the paths of the shafts relative to the inner chambers. Image adapted from The Orion Mystery, copyright 1995 Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert

shafts had been hidden behind several inches of stone, and therefore had clearly not been intended as air shafts. Yet, the air shaft theory continued on for decades longer.

In 1964, Dr. Alexander Badawy, a renowned architect and Egyptologist, was the first to suggest that the shafts might have had some sort of ritual function. He pointed out that not only did the northern shafts point at important stars near the north celestial pole, the southern shafts point at the constellation of Orion. Furthermore, Badawy's experience in studying Egyptian architecture made him uniquely suited to pass judgement on the feasibility of the "Air Shaft" hypothesis. "Badawy's architectural studies had shown that the ancient Egyptians did not ventilate tombs."2

Virginia Trimble, coauthor of the article that first revealed this hypothesis, calculated that the belt stars of Orion, Al Nitak, Al Nilam, and Mintaka, would have been aligned with the southern shaft in the King's Chamber around 2500 b.c., corresponding with the generally accepted date for the building of the pyramids. This was due to the fact that the constellation of Orion (and all stars) change their rising and setting points on the horizon over time, due to the phenomenon of precession (click here for a detailed explanation of precession), which allowed Trimble the ability to calculate in exactly what epoch — give or take a century — the belt stars in the constellation of Orion would have been high enough over the horizon to be in line with the southern shaft in the King's Chamber.

Bauval later followed up on their discoveries in The Orion Mystery, adding his own discovery to the mix, that the three main pyramids at Giza

The elevation of Orion in the night sky depends on what point Earth is in its precessional cycle of roughly 26,000 years. It is through this relative positioning that Trimble was able to calculate in what epoch the belt stars of Orion were exactly in line with the southern shaft of the King's Chamber (ca. 2500 b.c.). Moreover, it was in this epoch that the southern shaft in the Queen's chamber aligned with the star Sirius, and the northern shafts in the King's and Queen's chambers pointed at the stars Alpha Draconis and Beta Ursa Minor respectively. Beta Ursa Minor was the pole star at that time, as opposed to Polaris, the current pole star. So the shafts in the Great Pyramid were, in effect, markers that used the stars to indicate in what era the pyramids were built — in effect, they were markers in a vast astronomical calendar. Also, note how the Milky Way appears to continue the Nile's path on into the heavens.

were laid out in such a way so as to act as earthly representations of the belt stars of Orion (see part one). He further elucidated that the ancient Egyptians' knowledge of precession, as hard coded (literally) into the rocks of the Giza plateau, had been used by them as a means of marking significant points in their history — as a sort of celestial "calendar". But were there other important events marked by the pyramids and Sphinx that were yet to be found?

From here, Bauval teamed up with Graham Hancock to collate and resolve all of the extant data on the clues regarding the riddle of the Sphinx in their seminal work, The Message of the Sphinx (1996). Hancock and Bauval did not arrive at their conclusions only through observing the correlations between the layouts of various internal and external pyramidal structures and certain star patterns, however. These observable correlations were, so to speak, only the tip of the pyramid. Once they had confirmed these correlations, far from having solved the riddle of the Sphinx, they realized that they were now only beginning "initiates" into an ancient Egyptian mystery school, a school whose graduation requirements required a wholistic understanding of ancient Egyptian religion, myth, and history.

An Egyptian priest.

We saw in part two how that before the advent of the reign of mortal kings in Egypt, the ancient Egyptians believed that Egypt had been reigned over by a race of semi-divine beings called the Shemsu Hor, or "Followers of Horus". These beings, Hancock and Bauval concluded, were an ancient society of astronomer- priests, who manipulated Egyptian history and culture from behind the scenes in order to keep their ancient wisdom alive. By engineering Egyptian society from behind the scenes from their base in Heliopolis, creating and maintaining the state religion through a carefully trained priesthood, the Shemsu Hor were able to create such massive monuments as the pyramids and Sphinx, so that their scientific knowledge was, quite literally, "set in stone". As Hancock and Bauval were soon to discover, this knowledge still exists to this day; for thousands of years, the Sphinx had sat quietly, waiting for someone with the courage and tenacity to solve its riddle.

Through careful study of ancient Egyptian religious texts, specifically the Pyramid Texts, Hancock and Bauval were able to begin to discern a pattern emerging that involved a "sky-ground" dualism that matched the dualism apparent in the layout of the pyramids and Sphinx. Furthermore, it became increasingly clear that the Heliopolitan Priesthood well understood the concept of precession; it is even possible that it lay at the very heart of their astronomical religion, that precession was one of the "greater mysteries" of their faith. (Click here for a detailed explanation of precession.) As Hancock and Bauval proceeded in the quest, they discovered that this was indeed the case, and that the entire purpose of the Quest of the Horus King was to use the clues left behind by his ancestors to solve the riddle of the Sphinx, and to find the treasures that the answer to that riddle would reveal.

The god Horus, wearing the Pharaonic crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. The pharaoh was considered to be the incarnation of the god Horus, son of Osiris, and undertook the Quest in order to prepare himself to be reunited with his heavenly father (Orion/Osiris) in death.

Through their study of the pyramid texts, Hancock and Bauval were convinced that all of the pharaohs, as a part of their office, underwent an initiation that had the purpose of initiating them into the mysteries of the ancient astronomical religion of the Heliopolitan priesthood, the "Followers of Horus". As such, the pharaoh was to undergo a religious ritual, wherein he was transformed, ritually, into the "Horus-King", the embodiment of the Egyptian god Horus on Earth. Horus was the son of Osiris, the chief of the Egyptian deities, and the pharaoh was believed to be his earthly incarnation. And it was each pharaoh's responsibility to undergo the Quest of the Horus-King in order to become fully initiated into the religion of the Egyptians. Part of this ritual, it is believed, was a knowledge of the deepest mysteries of Egypt, including the deepest mystery of all, the riddle of the Sphinx.

The Horus-King, in order to find the answer to the riddle, must first, in effect, travel back to the "First Time" — what the ancient Egyptians believed to be the beginning of their history. It is here, they believed, that the answer to the riddle might be found. Hancock and Bauval explain, "We wonder whether it is possible that the quest of the Horus-King might have had as its ultimate objective the acquisition of knowledge concerning the 'First Time' — perhaps even the acquisition of specific knowledge from that remote epoch when the gods had walked the earth."3 Hancock and Bauval came upon this idea from the Pyramid Texts, ancient texts that been found inscribed on the

The Horus-King, who had been taught the concept of precession as a part of his training, was now able to imagine how Osiris-Orion "moved" up and down in the sky relative to the earthbound viewer over the 25,920-year precessional cycle. As such, he could envision in his mind's eye how the sky would appear at any time in history, past or future.

inner walls of the pyramid of Pharaoh Unas (c. 2356 — 2323 BC) in Saqqara. These texts were intended to give the dead Pharaoah instructions on what he needs to do in the afterlife to attain eternal life. However, they believed that these instructions had a very real earthly meaning as well. Hancock and Bauval explain that, according to the Pyramid texts, "We are told that the Horus-King must 'travel upstream' — i.e., must push against the natural drift of 'time' — in order to reach Orion-Osiris in his proper 'First Time' setting.4 As we saw with the above Orion animation, over millenniums of time, the constellation of Orion appears to literally "move upstream" against the Nile's heavenly counterpart, the "Milky Way". Using this mental image of the constellation of Orion traveling "upstream" (or downstream), the Horus King initiate was able to view in his mind's eye how the stars would look relative to the earthbound observer at any time in history.

Betake yourself to the Waterway, fare upstream [south], travel about Abydos in this spirit-form of yours which the gods command to belong to you; may a stairway [road] to the Duat [the Egyptian "heaven"] be set up for you in the place where Orion Is.... Betake youself to the Waterway, fare upstream ... traverse Abydos. The celestial portal to the Horizon is open to you ... may you remove yourself to the sky, for the roads of the celestial expanses which lead up to Horus are cleaned for you ... for you have traversed the Winding Waterway [Milky Way] which is in the north of the sky as a star crossing the sea which is beneath the sky. The Duat has grasped your hand at the Place Where Orion Is.5

In the final installment of the Riddle of the Sphinx, we will complete The Quest of the Horus King, and see how the quest had as its ultimate prize the Hall of Records, a sacred place hidden somewhere underneath the Giza plateau, that some believe may still hold secrets from times unremembered, possibly from the time before the Flood.

The Riddle of the Sphinx Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

Editorial | Fragments | Cahokia II | Piasa Creature II | Sphinx III
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1 Robert Bauval, Adrian Gilbert The Orion Mystery: Unlocking the Secrets of the Pyramid (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1994), 97.

2 Bauval, Gilbert The Orion Mystery, 101.

3 Graham Hancock, Robert Bauval, The Message of the Sphinx: A Quest for the Hidden Legacy Of Mankind (New York: Crown Publishers, 1996), 232.

4 Hancock, Bauval, The Message of the Sphinx, 232.

5 Hancock, Bauval, The Message of the Sphinx, 232.

The Message of the Sphinx:
A Quest for the Hidden Legacy of Mankind
Graham Hancock, Robert Bauval
A provocative new approach to Egyptology argues that the ancient structures at Giza may be much older than originally thought and that their alignment may be a cryptic message directed toward a mysterious underground chamber recently detected beneath the Sphinx. In this riveting account of historical and archaeological investigation, the authors present hard evidence that the Sphinx, the Pyramids, and the other monuments at Giza are of far more ancient origin than previously believed. Complete with evidence of a conspiracy between the Egyptology establishment and various confidential organizations to keep the secrets of the Pyramids from the world, The Message of the Sphinx is also a modern-day detective story. This popular book has received many good reviews, and is personally recommended by the publisher.
Click here to buy this book.

The Orion Mystery:
Unlocking the Secrets of the Pyramids
by Robert Bauval, Adrian Gilbert (Contributor), Peter Ginna (Editor)
This fascinating archaeological detective story argues that the great pyramids of Egypt's Fourth Dynasty (c. 26002400 b.c.) were vast astronomically sophisticated temples, rather than the pharaonic tombs depicted by conventional Egyptology. Mysterious airshafts, which lead from the Great Pyramid's chambers to its exterior were sited, the authors argue, to coincide with the key stars of Orion, a constellation that had religious significance for the Egyptians. Using astronomical data about stellar movement, they argue that the Orion stars coincide exactly with the pyramids' positions in approximately 10,400 b.c.--a period the Egyptians called the First Time, when they believed the god Osiris ruled the Earth. This excellent book makes a good companion volume to Hancock's "The Message of the Sphinx", which it preceded.
Click here to buy this book.

The Serpent in the Sky:
The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt
John Anthony West
This revised edition of West's revolutionary reinterpretation of the civilization of Egypt challenges all that has been accpeted as dogma concerning this ancient and enigmatic land. It features a new introduction linking Egyptian science with the perennial wisdom tradition and an appendix updating the author's work in redating the Sphinx. Illustrations.
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Riddles of the Sphinx (1998)
Paul Jordan, John Ross (Photographer)
This book tells the full story of the Great Sphinx of Giza as Egyptology has uncovered it. The Sphinx is one of the most striking monuments of the ancient Egyptians, and has attracted the attention of travellers, scientists, archaeologists and others for generations. Paul Jordan details the Sphinx's impact on the ancient world, on Arab writers, on Renaissance travellers, on the pioneers of Egyptology and on modern scholarship. He tells the story of the Sphinx's many bouts of excavation and restoration, and above all puts the Sphinx in the context of all that is known about ancient Egyptian history and religion. This book examines every aspect of the Sphinx, including a professional geologist's recent claims regarding its age, and provides an authoritative and highly readable overview of the issues and debates currently surrounding it. Click here to buy this book.

History of Egypt
Manetho, W. G. Waddell (Translator)
Manetho was an Egyptian of the 3rd century b.c. Born probably at Sebennytus in the Delta, he became a priest or high priest at Heliopolis. Eight works or parts of works were ascribed to him, all on history and religion and all apparently in Greek. These survive only as quoted by other writers. This volume includes both the English translation and the original Greek, and also contains the doubtful Kings of Thebes (in Egypt) and the Old Chronicle. This small but important book is highly recommended by the publisher.
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Temples of Ancient Egypt
Dieter Arnold (Editor), Lanny Bell,
Ragnhild Bjerre Finnestad (Editor), Byron E. Shafer (Editor)
Five distinguished scholars here summarize the state of current knowledge about ancient Egyptian temples and the rituals associated with their use. The first volume in English to survey the major types of Egyptian temples from the Old Kingdom to the Roman period, it offers a unique perspective on ritual and its cultural significance. The authors perceive temples as loci for the creative interplay of sacred space and sacred time. They regard as unacceptable the traditional division of the temples into the categories of "mortuary" and "divine," believing that their functions and symbolic representations were, at once, too varied and too intertwined.
Click here to buy this book.

Beyond the Blue Horizon:
Myths & Legends of the Sun, Moon, Stars, and Planets
E.C. Krupp
Beyond the Blue Horizon is a treasure trove of myths, legends, and stories in which people have, through the ages, attempted to understand the cosmos and its meaning for humankind. Collecting an astonishing amount of lore between the covers of a single book, Krupp explains why our ancestors were so intrigued by the heavens, and what their celestial stories meant. An epic, authoritative, and cross-cultural exploration with over 150 illustrations, Beyond the Blue Horizon tells how all civilizations searched the sky to understand the universe - and our place in it.
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The Cambridge Star Atlas (1996)
Wil Tirion
After having established itself as a standard star atlas, "The Cambridge Star Atlas" by internationally famous astronomical cartographer, Wil Tirion, has now been improved. The popularity of this book, first published in 1991, is that it covers the entire sky, both northern and southern latitudes, in an attractive format suitable for beginning as well as experienced astronomical observers. The basis of the book is a series of twelve monthly sky charts, followed by an atlas of the whole sky, arranged in twenty overlapping charts. Each chart shows stars down to magnitude 6.5, together with about 900 nonstellar objects, such as clusters and galaxies, that can be seen with binoculars or a small telescope. There is also a comprehensive double-page map of the Moon's surface, showing craters and other named features. For this edition, author Tirion has added more detail to the monthly charts, and has included "all-sky" charts of interesting patches of sky in the northern and southern hemispheres. This book is the ideal reference atlas for sky watchers everywhere.
Click here to buy this book.

NightWatch (1989)
Terence Dickinson
Dickinson, a renowned writer and former planetarium astronomer teaches you all the basics to start gazing, including: key facts of stargazing equipment (binoculars and telescopes), 24 seasonal star charts, "the universe in eleven steps", chapters on the planets; moon & sun; eclipses; comets, meteors & auroras; photographing the night sky; and essential resources.
Click here to buy this book.

The Backyard Astronomer's Guide (1991)
Terence Dickinson, Alan Dyer, Barry Estabrook (Editor)
An essential reference tool for both beginning and veteran sky observers. Drawing on decades of stargazing experience, the authors suggest what equipment to buy and what to avoid, describe observing techniques, and explain how to hunt down the most interesting celestial objects. Each chapter is illustrated with the latest, breathtaking astrophotography. This book is recommended as an excellent companion to "NightWatch" (above).
Click here to buy this book.

4th Edition (1993)
William J. Kaufmann III
This oversized tome is an excellent introductory overview of all aspects of modern astronomy. I first encountered this book as a textbook to an introductory astronomy class, and it has been an indispensable tool ever since, as it has to countless other students of astronomy. This popular book has received many good reviews, and is personally recommended by the publisher.
Click here to buy this book.

The Photographic Atlas of the Stars (UK edition) (1997)
by P. Doherty (Contributor), P. Moore (Contributor), H. J. P. Arnold (Photographer)
Presents the whole of the night sky in 45 color photographs taken through a 33mm lens, so that the field of view is similar to that of the naked eye. Each photograph is accompanied on the facing page by a map based on a negative print of that photograph, labeled to show the main stars of the constellations. These double-page spreads are preceded by commentary (written by author and BBC broadcaster Patrick Moore) and by tables which provide details of bright stars, double- stars, variable stars and deep-sky objects that may be seen with the naked eye or through binoculars. (Review by
Click here to buy this book.

Passion: Music for the Last Temptation of Christ
Peter Gabriel
This CD received superb reviews (5 stars) and is personally recommended by the publisher. (The background music on this page is from "The Feeling Begins", the first track of this CD.)
Click here to buy this music.

Passion: Sources
Peter Gabriel/Realworld Music
This excellent CD is a compilation of much of the source recordings that Peter Gabriel used for Passion (above). A must-have for lovers of world music, especially African and Middle-Eastern music.
Click here to buy this music.

The Musicians of the Nile: Luxor to Isna
Musicians of the Nile
Life in the villages spread out along the Nile hasn't changed in a thousand years; nor for that matter has the traditional music of the region which has remained impervious to outside influences, even Islamic ones. The recordings here weren't collected on site but captured live at a Paris concert and in Real World's own studios in darkest Wiltshire. No concessions are made to Western ears, however, other than upping the playback quality of the intricate tabla rhythms as they tangle with ancient instruments like the rababa, the droning oboe-like mizmar and the flutish arghul which goes all the way back to the Pharaohs. Not so much a record, more like an adventure in sound. This soundtrack is highly recommended by the publisher.
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The Mystery of the Sphinx (1993)
John Anthony West, with Robert Schoch
Click here for a sound sample!
The Mystery of the Sphinx contains information about the Sphinx, and Egyptian history and archaeology in general, that is nothing less than explosive. John Anthony West and Robert Schoch offer brilliant and convincing evidence that the Sphinx is much older than the pyramids, possibly as much as 8,000 years older than previously thought, indicating that our understanding of Egyptian history and religion has barely scratched the surface. Their convincing testimony is made all the more interesting and entertaining by the inclusion of Charlton Heston as the narrator. And this video is not merely a visual montage of Egyptian images overlaid with mystical-sounding rhetoric. This is real science and real history - and maverick archaeology at its best. This popular video is highly recommended by the publisher.
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Sphinx of Egypt
Part of the popular "In Search of History" series.
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