Sunday, January 27, 2008

Celestial Pyramids

To think of the Egyptians is to think of the pyramids, the great tombs of the pharaohs. Prayers carved into the walls of pyramid chambers make reference to the stars and to the pharaoh’s ascent into the sky among them. Texts inscribed on the monuments at Saqqara, Egypt, tell of the pharaoh joining the circumpolar stars, which neither rise nor set, and therefore live eternally. These texts also tell of the pharaoh’s journey to the constellation Orion—identified by the Egyptians with Osiris, the eternally resurrected god.
Replete as the pyramids are with such astronomical texts, it is little wonder that many archaeologists and others have speculated about the astronomical significance of the pyramid structures themselves. Certainly the Great Pyramid, by far the largest of the 80 or so known pyramids along the Nile’s west bank, is celestially aligned. Internal shafts or ducts point to the star Thuban, which in ancient Egyptian times was the North Star. Other shafts point to Orion’s Belt at certain times of the year, as if to indicate the afterlife destiny of the pharaoh, toward the deathless North Star (which does not rise or set) on the one hand, and toward the constellation associated with the eternally reborn god Osiris on the other.

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