My personal introduction to the Great Pyramid of Giza was in January 1982, when I traveled to Egypt. At that time there were few tourists, so I made my way alone up the Grand Gallery, mysterious, massive, and steep inside the man-made mountain, and for a time stood alone in the King’s Chamber at its top. I was surprised to find the chamber so plainno hieroglyphics, no carvings. It was like standing in a damp, dim concrete room, like a change-room at a public swimming pool, with the big, plain stone “sarcophagus” looking more like a broken watering trough for livestock. In short, the chamber, like the rest of the innards of the Pyramid, suggested a feeling of functionality, even if it was impossible to guess what that function was.
Fast-forward to March 1994. Browsing through the shelves of Westernesse, a used bookstore here in North Vancouver, I came across, in their “new” section, a copy of the Element Classic Edition of The Great Pyramid Decoded by Peter Lemesurier. Intrigued by the book’s high quality, detailed illustrations, and unconventional viewpoint, I bought it ($24.95—expensive at the time). I started reading and quickly became fascinated and excited. It was the first I’d ever heard of the phenomenal physical properties of the Pyramid and its encoding of a number of mathematical and astronomical quantities and proportions, including approximations of pi and phi (the irrational quantity that generates the Golden Section), accurate lengths of the tropical, sidereal, and anomalistic years, and accurate representations of the Earth’s polar and equatorial radii—among many other things. I was astonished, electrified. I had no difficulty believing the author’s contention that the Great Pyramid was something vastly more and vastly other than the mere tomb of a vainglorious king—one whose body was never found in the monument.
I came to see the Great Pyramid as the single greatest puzzle on Earth, the greatest monument to the question of human origins and destiny. We have forgotten the purpose of the most marvelous and stupendous structure ever built. What does that say about us?
Since the collapse of the Egyptian civilization a shroud of ignorance has fallen over Giza. The Pyramid’s brilliant white casing stones have been stripped from its surface, perhaps to build mosques in Cairo, and people have dynamited their way into the Pyramid in their lust for treasure. (What does that say about us?)
In the following years I dug further into the question, reading works by John Anthony West, R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, and Graham Hancock. My first encounter with the work of Robert Bauval was in his role as coauthor, with Graham Hancock, of The Message of the Sphinx, which came out in 1996, two years after The Orion Mystery. (The Sphinx is perhaps an even greater mystery than the Great Pyramid.) Since that book already took account of the discoveries documented in The Orion Mystery, I didn’t bother to get the latter book. But something (I forget what) flagged my attention back to the earlier book, and I ordered a copy.
I’m glad I did. Bauval, a native of Alexandria and a civil engineer by trade, is the antithesis of a New Age crackpot. Cautious, objective, and humble, he provides a good “outsider’s” view of the standard theories about the Pyramids, showing familiarity with the various people and texts that have presented these. For the New Age may have its crackpots, but orthodox, mainstream Egyptology has no shortage of its own. And in any field where there are such large gaps in the factual knowledge, there is no doubt a greater danger that scholarly consensus will be mistaken for truth. Egyptology needs fresh thinking, new ideas—it needs more Robert Bauvals instead of dismissing them as “pyramidiots,” one of the actual terms used by Egyptologists.
The book is a narration of how Bauval developed his own theory of the origin and purpose of the Egyptian pyramids. Quite a bit of it is concerned with the details of his efforts to get more information and his dealings with professional Egyptologists, most of whom were dismissive of his ideas. There were important exceptions, though, such as the warmth and interest he was shown by I. E. S. Edwards, octogenarian former Keeper of Egyptian Antiquities at the British Museum—the more important because he was regarded by many as the foremost authority on the Egyptian pyramids.
Bauval’s theory is that the complex of pyramids of the Fourth Dynasty was conceived and built as whole: a gigantic, multigenerational megaproject. They, along with the river Nile and the ancient cities of Heliopolis and Letopolis, mapped a portion of the heavens, and served specific funerary functions, although they were not tombs of individual pharaohs. Rather, they were a system to ensure the flight of the dead pharaoh’s soul to the stars, and his rebirth as the next pharaoh.
I won’t say more about the specifics so as not to spoil the reading journey, which does indeed read something like a mystery. The account of Bauval’s discovery of the correlation between the Giza pyramids and the belt of Orion is delightful and authentic. Adrian Gilbert, listed as coauthor, is an English publisher with whom Bauval joined forces when they discovered a shared interest in the pyramids. It seems that Gilbert provided organizational, research, and editorial help to a project that was really Bauval’s. The book is narrated in Bauval’s voice.
I learned a lot of new things in The Orion Mystery, and I say this as someone who has studied the Great Pyramid more than casually over the years. I suppose I would sum things up thus: if you’re interested in the mystery of the Great Pyramid of Giza, then this book is required reading for you. And if you’re not interested, you should be.