Thursday, April 18, 2013

Preparing for Egypt, Part Thirteen

Well, there they are: the pyramids of Giza. How awesome it will be to stand there and look at them, live and in person! This has been on my bucket list for oh, so long. I mean, think about it: the Great Pyramid is the last of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that is still standing.

The thing about the pyramids is, we are still asking the same questions of them today as were asked in antiquity. Who built them? How did they build them? What were they for?

There is the standard accepted Egyptologists' view: they were built by Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure around 2500 BCE (subtract a hundred years or less for completion of all three) and they were tombs.

Then there are the other theories. Disregarding the loopiest (like, they were built by aliens), some of these theories offer food for thought. Let's take the Great Pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops). There was absolutely no mummy ever found in the pyramid. Okay, so maybe the mummy was stolen or later moved. Fine, but it was typical of the Egyptians to leave all kinds of grave goods for the Pharoah's use in the afterlife. The pyramid doesn't have any place for such goods. As for the sarcophagus in the King's Chamber, there is no lid and it appears to have never been used. And, there are no hieroglyphs anywhere to be found. Other pyramids, such as the earlier ones at Saqqara, were covered with glyphs and spells to assist the king in his journey to the afterlife. Finally, we know from the Osireion and the Tomb of Osiris discovered below the plains of Giza that sometimes the ancient Egyptians did place a sarcophagus for ritualistic purposes and never put a real body in them. So... perhaps the Great Pyramid was not a tomb at all, but some sort of ancient temple, a place where rituals of the mystery schools were reenacted? Mortuary temples were all originally associated with each pyramid, but the Eygptians didn't bury people in those. (Take Hatshepsut's famous, and simply gorgeous, mortuary temple on the West Bank near then-Thebes. She wasn't buried in it. No, she was buried miles away in the Valley of the Queens.) There are graves all over the Giza necropolis, but no bodies of kings appear to be in them. The closest to royalty that's been found are wives, sons, and daughters of kings from later dynasties.

Another interesting theory is that the Great Pyramid was actually an energy-producing machine, but honestly I don't know enough about engineering and physics and such to comment on how plausible that one is. If you're interested in chasing that theory down, there's a video about it here on Youtube.

There doesn't seem to be much argument about the dates of their construction other than to wonder how on earth they could have all been built so quickly. The rapidity with which they were constructed would be difficult to accomplish even today, with all our technology and machinery. Every last theory--the ramp theory, the wrap-around ramp theory, and the lever-lifting machine theory has its holes. More than likely, some combination of ramps, levers, ropes, and sheer manpower enabled them to be built, but we are talking a 480 foot pyramid consisting of some 2.3 million blocks that each weighed about two tons. Then the whole thing was encased in dressed limestone. We're also talking serious perfection: inside the pyramid, where blocks meet, you can't even place a razor blade in the gaps. It truly does boggle the mind.  How'd they pull all of that off in a mere twenty years?

And yet they did. It doesn't appear that slaves were used to construct them, either, although old black and white films about ancient Egypt show overseers mercilessly whipping teams of slaves pulling the stones up ramps to place them. This is a stereotype. Actually, it appears there was an entire community of pyramid builders who lived (and died) near the site of the construction, and their tombs have been uncovered. (Guess what? Mummies and hieroglyphs all over, just sayin'.) A bakery has been unearthed, along with a brewery, a fish-processing "plant," so to speak, and even a hospital. There are even records of workers having to ask for a day off for sickness or to visit a family member and mundane everyday things like that. It's theorized that there were standard teams of workers who worked there year-round, and during the "down seasons" before the Nile inundation and then before the harvest, farmers would come up to work as well so they could earn a wage. We know from Herodotus (450BC) that Egyptian priests reportedly told him the Great Pyramid was built by 400,000 men working in 3-month shifts 100,000 men at a time over twenty years. Evidence suggests it was more like thirty years, but even thirty years is fast.

In short, what we have is a bunch of theories and nobody knows for sure. Like I said, we're still asking the same questions that were asked in antiquity.

Here's another interesting, and little known, thing about the Great Pyramid. It actually has 8 sides, not four. Have a look:

 J.P. Lepre writes in his book The Egyptian Pyramids: A Comprehensive, Illustrated Reference, that:

One very unusual feature of the Great Pyramid is a concavity of the core that makes the monument an eight-sided figure, rather than four-sided like every other Egyptian pyramid. That is to say, that its four sides are hollowed in or indented along their central lines, from base to peak. This concavity divides each of the apparent four sides in half, creating a very special and unusual eight-sided pyramid; and it is executed to such an extraordinary degree of precision as to enter the realm of the uncanny. For, viewed from any ground position or distance, this concavity is quite invisible to the naked eye. The hollowing-in can be noticed only from the air, and only at certain times of the day. This explains why virtually every available photograph of the Great Pyramid does not show the hollowing-in phenomenon, and why the concavity was never discovered until the age of aviation. It was discovered quite by accident in 1940, when a British Air Force pilot, P. Groves, was flying over the pyramid. He happened to notice the concavity and captured it in the now-famous photograph. [p. 65]
Finally, there is more math associated with the Great Pyramid than my poor mind can comprehend. And, of course, there are astrological correlations. (I'm sure everyone is familiar with Robert Bauval's Orion theory.) You can read about those here.

The bottom line for me is this: there's enough different about the Great Pyramid when compared to other pyramids in Egypt that this one may have had a very special significance beyond "it's just a tomb."

Well, this about does it for my "Preparing for Egypt" series of posts. Perhaps my friends in recovery are happy to hear this news and would like for me to get back on point! But I'll be bringing an iPad mini with me on my trip which will serve as both camera and, if I get the opportunity, to post photos and blog a bit while I'm there. For now, it's back to the grind. I'll have papers coming out of my ears to grade starting on Monday pretty much non-stop until the end of the semester. Onwards and upwards! Salam.

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