BENEATH THE PYRAMIDS
EGYPT'S GREATEST SECRET REVEALED
CHAPTER BREAKDOWN as of 31 March 2008
1816, Sir Henry Salt, British Counsel General to Egypt, along with the maverick
Italian explorer Giovanni Caviglia, explored a spacious tomb on the northern slopes
of Giza's famous plateau. It was part of a systematic investigation of all tombs,
mastabas and pyramids in their unerring bid to find, and convey back to their
own countries, antiquities and treasures of every kind, whether of commercial
or philological value.
It is a wonderful story, yet one that has gone unreported through to this present day, since no record of Caviglia's exploration of the 'catacombs' have survived, and Salt's own account, preserved in his memoirs, were only rediscovered recently, after nearly 200 years of obscurity.
So what exactly had Salt and Caviglia found, and why is their account so important?
Ever since the
age of the Pharaohs Egyptian myths have spoken of an underworld domain existing
beneath the Giza plateau. Similar stories were told by Roman and Arab travellers
to Egypt, and even by those who inhabit the villages on the edge of the hot desert
that still encroaches on the plateau today.
In more modern times psychics and mystics such as America's 'sleeping prophet' Edgar Cayce (1877-1945) have revived the search for what has come to be known as the Hall of Records, an underground realm thought to contain the lost arts and treasures of the ancients. In the last 30 years several expeditions, almost all of them funded by the Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE), the active wing of the Edgar Cayce Foundation, have attempted with success to locate its entrance.
Did the series of catacombs uncovered by Salt and Caviglia lead eventually to the lost Hall of Records, or were they simply natural cavities of very little archaeological value? Was there any real truth in the stories regarding the existence of an underworld domain beneath the Giza pyramid field? Was there any way its entrance might be located today? These were the questions the author sought to answer when in 1998 he began his own quest of discovery on the celebrated plateau at Giza, strewn with ruined monuments and empty sepulchres from a bygone age. Little did he realise that just ten years later he would be the first person to find and enter those same catacombs and 'labyrinthink' passages in an incredible story of treasure and discovery, reminiscent of the earliest days of exploration on the plateau.
In the Edfu building texts, carved on the walls of Ptolemaic temple of Edfu in southern Egypt, we find reference to an island surrounded by water was expressed in terms of an original mound of creation that emerged from a primeval ocean (called the nun) at the beginning of time. Although this concept is found among the creation myths of other cult centres in Egypt, what makes the Edfu texts unique is that they allude to the existence within the island of a subterranean realm known as the duat n ba, literally translated as the 'Underworld (or Netherworld) of the Soul'.
This sacred domain was reached via a construction named bw-hnm, the Place of the Well, within which was an object described as the bnnt, meaning 'embryo', or 'seed', called also the 'Great Lotus', or 'throne', which exuded a divine radiance or efflux able to effect creation in the outside world, i.e. create the physical world around it. During an epoch known as the First Occasion (zep tepi), mythical beings referred to as the wrw n wrw, a term meaning the Eldest of the Eldest Ones, or more commonly the Primeval Ones, gathered here to perform magical rites using power objects, called iht, in concert with the functions of the bnnt-power object. The expression iht might well imply a hand-held stone or crystal, like the sacred lingam stones of Hindu tradition, which symbolise growth or new life. The Primeval Ones were said to have created a sacred domain on the edge of the lake, where they erected the first temple and temple enclosure in honour of their glorious leader called the Falcon, a kind of bird-man, arguably a powerful shaman in the guise of a bird.
Egyptologist EAE Reymond wrote in 1969 that the mythical world described in the Edfu texts must really have existed during some primordial age. She saw clear signs in the texts that this sacred domain was located near the ancient royal city of Memphis in Lower Egypt. It necropolis, or city of the dead, stretched from Sakkara in the south to Giza in the north.
So was the primeval mound or island of the Edfu texts to be found in the vicinity of Giza, where an ancient branch of the Nile once flowed? If so, what became of this place, and where was it in relationship to the Great Pyramid and its neighbours on the plateau today? More importantly did the Underworld of the Soul really exist as a subterranean realm? If so, could its entrance, called the Place of the Well, be located today?
Well of the Saint
Convinced that the Place of the Well existed somewhere in the vicinity of the plateau at Giza, I discovered a legend preserved among the inhabitants of Nazlet es-Samman, the modern village that today encroaches on the eastern edge of the pyramid field. It spoke of a holy well of untold importance said to be the abode of a holy man named Hammed es-Samman. His duty was to guard its entrance, for beneath it was a stone passage that led directly to what was remembered as an underground 'city' or 'palace'.
That was at the end of 1998. No further information was forthcoming until May 2005, when during a research trip to Giza the author was introduced to a local business entrepreneur named Ali es-Samman. He knew very well the legend of Hammad es-Samman, explaining that until recently the saint had been venerated during an annual festival organized by the inhabitants of Nazlet es-Samman. More significantly, Ali was himself a living descendent of Hammad es-Samman, adding that the truth about the well had been kept secret until now, its significance being known only to a handful of village elders. According to Ali it did indeed link to an underground passageway which led, eventually, to a subterranean 'city' located beneath the modern village.
Incredibly, Ali went on to reveal the whereabouts of the well. He said it was located beneath one of several sacred sycamore fig trees, located in the heart of the modern Islamic cemetery Aish el-Ghurob ('bread of the crow') in the south-east corner of the plateau. Stunned, I asked whether I might be able to visit this holy place, and was told 'yes', we could go there the following day. It is important to emphasise here that prior to this time there had been very few references to this well in any of the hundreds of books written on the history of the monuments on the Giza plateau, and even then its significance had not been recognised.
So the next day, after dodging the secret police that linger around the Sphinx entrance on to the plateau in the company a guide, and paying baksheesh to the guardians of the cemetery, the author found himself being ushered past rows of white painted box tombs into the presence of one of Giza's lost holy sites.
The well, called Beer es-Samman, meaning the "well of the samman bird", is extremely old, being shown on the very earliest maps of the plateau. Its crystal-clear water, drunk by all who frequent the cemetery, comes from subterranean fissures that might easily break through to underground chambers and passages deep beneath the plateau.
Whilst at Beer es-Samman, standing beneath the shade of a mature sycamore fig tree (known as el-gomez in Arabic), a descendant of one mentioned in ancient Egyptian texts, I noticed just how close the well was to the north face of a prominent rocky knoll, situated some 150 metres to the south.
Known today as Gebel Ghibli (or Qibli), Arabic for 'southern hill', this enigmatic rock formation rises to a height of 60 metres (197 feet) above sea-level and lies approximately 400 metres due south of the Sphinx.
From the north, where the Giza pyramids are located, Gebel Ghibli seems to stick out like some kind of age-old primeval mound. Was there any evidence that this area might hold clues regarding Giza's greatest secret - the Underworld of the Soul of the Edfu texts?
One clue regarding Gebel Ghibli's role at Giza is the Dream Stela, an inscribed stone slab set up between the paws of the Sphinx. It was erected by the pharaoh Thutmosis IV to commemorate the role played in his ascension to the throne by Harmachis (Hor-em-akhet, Horus in the Horizon), an ancient name for the monument. It refers to the Sphinx being located 'beside Sokar in Rostau', with Rostau being an ancient name for Giza. Significantly, Rostau means something like 'mouth of the passages'.
Sokar is arguably one of the oldest gods of ancient Egypt. He presided over death, resurrection, as well as the darkness of the tomb in which the dead lay in eternal slumber. Sokar is usually shown as a falcon-headed deity, either seated on a throne or wrapped as a mummy. He was guardian of the necropolis that served the ancient city of Memphis, and in particular the area of Rostau, ancient Giza, where once was to be found a shrine to Sokar known as the Shetayet. Although its location has never been determined, some Egyptologists believe it to have been in the vicinity of Gebel Ghibli, beneath which lies the well Beer es-Samman. More revealingly, Sokar has been identified with the mythical leader of the Edfu texts known as the Falcon, whose mythical precursors, the Primeaval Ones, were responsible for building Egypt's first temple and enclosure, on the banks of the lake containing the sacred island of creation.
Sokar's greatest rival, even by the Pyramid Age, was Osiris, the god of death and resurrection. His cult absorbed the falcon god's attributes and sites, until Sokar became simply Sokar-Osiris or even Ptah-Sokar-Osiris, after Ptah, the creator god of Memphis, whose cult also absorbed that of Sokar. Even though Osiris most probably started as a vegetation god of the Nile Delta, associated with cycles of regeneration, he quickly usurped Sokar's role as 'Lord of Rostau'. Even the Shetayet, the lost shrine of Sokar, evolved into the 'Tomb of Osiris'.
Yet one place that Sokar continued to rule was the duat, the Egyptian underworld, or netherworld, seen as both a physical realm beneath the earth, and also as a region of the night sky associated with the Egyptian afterlife. Ancient funerary texts, specifically the Am-duat, the 'Book of that which is in the Underworld', found inscribed on funerary papyri and on the walls of tombs during Egypt's New Kingdom period, c. 1575-1214 BC, speak of Sokar as governing the subterranean realm of Rostau. The deceased pharaoh in his role as the sun-god would have to navigate through this duat in order to reach an afterlife among the stars.
The ancient Egyptians believed that the trials and tribulation that the soul of the dead pharaoh would have to undergo on his dark journey through the underworld were reflected in the sun's journey through the hours of the night. As the sun-god, the solar orb was seen to enter the duat-underworld at sunset and travel via an imaginary tunnel beneath the earth, before emerging again at dawn on the eastern horizon. This strange chthonic realm was seen to be populated by multitudes of snakes, demons and spirits, and was divided into twelve 'hours', or divisions, reflecting the passage of the deceased's soul across the midnight hours.
The Fourth and Fifth Hours of the duat, where the pharaoh as the sun-god approached the midnight hour, were the dominion of Sokar. They even bear titles such as the 'House of Sokar', the 'Land of Sekri' (another form of the name Sokar) and, more significantly, Rostau, i.e. Giza. So different are the descriptions of the deceased's navigation through the Fourth and Fifth Hours of the duat, as opposed to the other ten hours, that Egyptian Egyptologist Selim Hassan (1893-1961) wrote that they must be interpolations stemming from a separate tradition dealing solely with the underworld of Giza-Rostau. Moreover, he wrote that a physical representation of the duat-underworld might once have existed at Giza, especially since representations of the Fourth and Fifth Hours seemed to reflect the manner in which the plateau slopes down from northwest to southeast as viewed from its southeast corner, i.e. from the vicinity of the Aish el-Ghorab cemetery lying beneath the shadow of Gebel Ghibli.
In the Fifth Hour Sokar is pictured standing on a double- or multi-headed serpent, holding its wings apart. Both figures appear on an oval-shaped island. This is guarded by a double-headed sphinx known as the aker-lion (akeru in plural). It is also surrounded by a waterway. Unquestionably the island is a representation of the mound of creation in the primeval waters. Elsewhere the aker-lions are said to protect the entrance and exit to the duat-underworld, symbolising, respectively, the point at which the sun disappears at sunset and rises again at dawn. Selim Hassan equated the aker-lion with Giza's Sphinx monument, which guards the eastern entrance to the plateau (as has Mark Lehner), while a mythical location in funerary texts known as the 'Highlands of Aker' has been identified as another name for the hills that encircle Giza.
Not even the sun-god was allowed to penetrate Sokar's secret chamber during his nocturnal journey into an afterlife among the stars, reached following his release from the duat into the pre-dawn light of the eastern horizon. Instead, the soul of the deceased is pulled along on his night-barque over the top of a conical pyramid-mound often drawn above the aforementioned oval-shaped island on which Sokar stands.
Was the island on water in the Land of Sekri the same as the primeval mound of the Edfu texts? If the Shetayet of Sokar was located in the vicinity of Gebel Ghibli, as seems likely, then the presence beneath its northern face of the well Beer es-Samman, with its legend concerning subterranean passages leading to either a mythical 'palace' or 'city', was of deep interest. Did the well mark the site of the Shetayet of Sokar, where the entrance - or indeed the eastern exit - to Rostau, the 'mouth of the passages', was to be found?
Could additional evidence help confirm Gebel Ghibli's role in this fascinating saga? We shall see now how Giza's southern hill was used during the Pyramid Age not only as a survey point (as it has been again in modern times), but that it also features in landscape geometry that implies some kind of unified plan, or 'grand design', that decided the placement, and maybe even the visual perspective, of the Giza Pyramids.
Since pharaonic times the Great Pyramid has been associated with the stars. Its air shafts and descending corridor are thought to align to stars, while as late as medieval times star worshippers called Sabaeans came to from Syria to Giza on pilgrimages to venerate the Great Pyramid as the expression of a specific star. Thus when in 1993 Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert in their super bestseller The Orion Mystery saw the three 'belt' stars of Orion as defining the ground-plan of the Giza Pyramids the theory met with considerable enthusiasm. However, not all were convinced by this 'Orion correlation theory' (OCT), as it became known, since its accuracy left much to the imagination.
Among the dissenters was chartered engineer Rodney Hale, C.Eng MIET, a friend and colleague of the author. He attempted to superimpose the Orion belt stars upon a plan of the Giza Pyramids. Matching the stars -Alnitak and Alnilam - to the Great and Second Pyramid was easy, but the third star, Mintaka, fell way short of marking the apex of the Third Pyramid. In fact, it did not even hit the pyramid. Extending out this ground-sky overlay to incorporate other nearby pyramids was even less accurate.
This had always troubled Hale, and whilst working on a research project with the present author to understand the importance in the ancient mindset of the Northern Cross, the constellation of the celestial swan Cygnus, he had a flash of inspiration. He wondered what would happen if the three main 'wing' stars of Cygnus - Gienah (epsilon Cygni), Sadr (gamma Cygni) and Delta Cygni (it has no other name) - which form an arrangement similar to that of the Orion belt stars, were to be superimposed on Giza's pyramid field?
The answer is that the stars matched very well the geographic positions of the three main pyramids. In addition to this, another key star in Cygnus, the second brightest in the constellation, named Albireo, situated at the base of the constellation's cruciform design, was found to fall upon the heights of Gebel Ghibli, while Cygnus's brightest star, Deneb, was denoted by a huge stone mastaba (labeled 'Lepsius 14') in Giza's western cemetery, west of the Great Pyramid.
Hale and the author also determined that the star Deneb, as viewed from Giza at the start of the Pyramid Age, would have risen over the Cairo suburb of Matariyeh, which once formed part of the ancient cult centre of Heliopolis (the biblical city of On), meaning 'city of the sun'. Here was to be found another holy well named Ain-shams, Arabic for 'eye of the sun'. This lies beneath a very ancient sycamore fig, just like it counterpart at Giza. The earliest descendent of this tree at Heliopolis was sacred to the sky-goddess Nut (pronounced nu-it or noot), who seems to have been a personification of the Milky Way as it arches over the earth at night. Nut was said to have given birth each day to the sun-god Ra from a region of the Milky Way known as the Great Rift, where the stars of Cygnus are to be found. She was also said to have given birth to the falcon-headed Horus, a stellar counterpart to Sokar, which, as we shall see, might well have defined Cygnus's role as a celestial falcon in ancient Egyptian astronomy.
At Giza the sacred sycamore, or gomez tree, was sacred to the goddess Hathor, who like her Heliopolitan counterpart Nut, bore the title 'Mistress of the Sycamore'. Hathor was the female patron of Giza, and a strange legend preserved even today speaks of how she fed on the blood of the dead in the necropolis by eating of the crimson red fruit of the gomez in the Islamic cemetery. Local folk tradition records how if a woman wishes to get pregnant she repairs to Beer es-Samman and here eats of the fruit of the gomez, which, through its distinctive appearance, has become a universal symbol of fertility (fig leaves even feature in the biblical story of the garden of Eden).
Hathor in her role as a sky-goddess was, like Nut, the mother of the falcon god Horus, her name even meaning the 'house of Horus', a reference to her cosmic womb. Also like Nut, who was perhaps merely an extension of the same goddess, Hathor was most likely a personification of the Milky Way. It was Horus with whom every pharaoh was associated in life, whilst the king's mother and wife were usually identified with Hathor.
The relationship between Nut at Heliopolis and Hathor at Giza, connected respectively by their own sacred trees and holy wells, and linked through the influence of Cygnus, only strengthens the case for the constellation's influence in ancient Egyptian astronomy.
Heliopolis was where the astronomer-priests responsible for the design of the Giza Pyramids would have lived and taught their arts. It is towards Heliopolis that American Egyptologist Mark Lehner, the director of the Giza Plateau Mapping Project, believes the pyramids are aligned.
Immediately the author's Cygnus-Giza correlation was published it ignited a ferocious debate which drew in Robert Bauval and his supporters - was Cygnus or Orion the better match at Giza? The author realized very quickly that he would have to verify his claims regarding Cygnus, and so once again the services of technical engineer Rodney Hale were sought.
addition to checking the validity of the initial Cygnus-Giza correlation, which
the author found remains compelling, other potential alignments at Giza were now
investigated. For example, in 2005 the author had taken some shots of the Giza
pyramids as viewed from the ruins of a 'sun' temple built by the pharaoh Userkaf,
who initiated the Fifth Dynasty of Egyptian history, c. 2480 BC. The site is located
just north of Abusir, a pyramid field some 13 kilometres (8 miles) south-southeast
of Giza. Userkaf's sun-temple is one of only two such structures surviving, even
though today it is little more than a scattering of desert-ravaged ruins.
Looking at the photograph of the Giza pyramids, Rodney Hale now noticed that the perceived heights of the Giza Pyramids as viewed from Userkaf's sun-temple matched very closely the positions of the three Cygnus wing stars as they set in the north-west. This was easily confirmed by synchronizing the three stars over the apexes of their respective pyramids - Gienah with the Third Pyramid, Sadr with the Second Pyramid and delta Cygni with the Great Pyramid, exactly the same order as the original Cygnus-Giza overlay.
On learning of this new match, the author checked survey measurements made during his visit to Userkaf's sun-temple, hoping to find that the recorded azimuth bearings of the Giza Pyramids would permit the three Cygnus wing stars to set down into their respective pyramids as viewed from this spot during the Pyramid Age. Yet Userkaf's sun-temple was located too far south of east for this to have happened with any accuracy. An observation point where this might have occurred, visibility permitting, would have to be at an azimuth much closer to south-east.
This fact aside, something did immediately become apparent. The projected line of sight which would have enabled the witnessing of Cygnus's wing stars setting into their respective pyramids was traceable much closer to the Giza plateau. Having scanned the local landscape, the author realized instantly where this was - Gebel Ghibli, Giza's southern hill. This seemed beyond coincidence.
Thus a line was projected from the summit of Gebel Ghibli through the centre point of the Second Pyramid, giving an azimuth bearing of approximately 307 degrees. The author then ascertained the setting point of Sadr, the pyramid's corresponding Cygnus star as viewed from Giza in 2600 BC, and found that this too was 307 degrees, meaning that the star would have extinguished, i.e. set, into the vertical centre line of the Second Pyramid as viewed from Gebel Ghibli during this age. Remember, it was the star Sadr that represented the Second Pyramid in the Cygnus-Giza gound-sky overlay.
More revelations were to follow. If this Sadr setting line was followed away from the plateau then at a position some two and a half kilometres from the Second Pyramid all three Cygnus wing stars would indeed have been seen setting into their corresponding pyramids. This certainly made sense of why the heights of each corresponding pyramid conformed perfectly with the astronomical positions of the Cygnus wing stars as viewed from this all important line.
One amazing fact concerning the three Giza pyramids is that their apexes form a perfect arc, and if the centre of this circle is traced it falls precisely on the Sadr setting line, close to where the three Cygnus wing stars set into their corresponding pyramids. Is this all simply coincidence?
This was extraordinary confirmation of Cygnus's role at Giza, and subsequent research carried out by Rodney Hale and the author uncovered a number of other major alignments featuring Gebel Ghibli, Giza and Cygnus. Such findings made sense of ancient texts, as well as medieval Arabian stories that spoke of each pyramid representing an individual star.
In addition to this, it was found that as viewed from Gebel Ghibli during the Pyramid Age, Cygnus's brightest star Deneb set down each night into the peak of the Second Pyramid.
On top of this was another compelling fact. Inside the Great Pyramid is a bare room high within its solid stone interior known as the King's Chamber. It contains a large granite sarcophagus orientated north-south. For many years writers have speculated as to why the King's Chamber, which some believe once contained the mummy of King Khufu, is positioned south of the monument's vertical centre line at an angle of just over 6 degrees. One quite incredible solution presents itself. In the Pyramid Age, the star Deneb culminated its nightly transit at 83.48 degrees, some 6.12 degrees north of Giza's zenith point, precisely in opposition to the King's Chamber's offset.
Anyone, whether dead or alive, lying within the chamber's sarcophagus, with their head in the south and their feet to the north, could have symbolically gazed up through the apex of the Great Pyramid to witness Deneb crossing the meridian each night. Putting it another way, once each day Deneb synchronised perfectly with the apex of the Great Pyramid as viewed from the sarcophagus in the King's Chamber. The fact that the two air-shafts in the north and south walls of the King's Chamber are thought to target the culmination of stars crossing the meridian makes this new Cygnus alignment totally viable. No other star crosses this same path during the Pyramid Age, making it a unique celestial phenomenon with profound implications to the concept of the soul's journey into an afterlife among the northern stars.
of the alignments identified by Rodney Hale at Giza feature Gebel Ghibli, which
was almost certainly the plateau's original survey point. Yet it is much more
than simply a convenient hill to be used for surveying purposes. It bears two
alternative names in Arabic - one being al-Hadbah, meaning the 'high place', a
name with religious connotations especially in Semitic religions. The other is
'Tarfiya', an ancient word meaning the 'first place', or the 'place of beginnings',
alluding to the hill's role as a primeval mound, from which all else in the outside
world took form. Among the geometry fixed on Gebel Ghibli is a north-south datum,
or meridian, line that targets the Sphinx monument. Right angles taken from this
datum line to each of the three pyramids create perfect Pythagorean triangles
with single number figure ratios 3:4, 5:2 and 7:1. Since such ratios were found
by Pythagoras to determine the interludes in musical scales, Giza's Pythagorean
geometry expresses the idea that Gebel Ghibli can be seen as the point of first
creation from which emanated primary tones that effected creation in the outside
In addition to the profound geometry showing Gebel Ghibli's importance in the grand design at Giza, it plays another significant role as well.
There are clear indications from the ancient texts that the entombed body of Osiris was brought from the nearby Nile to Giza for interment. Indeed, it is said that the 'Tomb of Osiris' can be found at Rostau, ancient Giza. Many have attempted to understand these claims, with most concluding that the body of Osiris lies somewhere either in the vicinity of Gebel Ghibli or beneath the plateau somewhere in its physical representation of the duat-underworld.
When viewed on the line between Gebel Ghibli and the vertical centre line of the Great Pyramid, and only from this line, the hill bears an uncanny resemblance to a mummified human form lying on its back, its arms crossed over its chest and its feet raised upright. Incredibly, this is how Osiris is represented lying in rest after his evil brother Set tricked him into a coffin, which was then sealed and cast into the Nile close to Giza, before being retrieved by his wife Isis and interred at Rostau.
Since Osiris usurped the role earlier played at Giza by Sokar, who is also depicted as a mummified human although with the head of a falcon instead of that of a man, it is possible that Gebel Ghibli originally represented Sokar, not Osiris. A virtual beak-like protuberance is visible within the simulacra formed by Gebel Ghibli, and if this was recognized by the ancient Egyptians then it makes sense of why the Sheyatet or shrine of Sokar was said to have been located in this very area, arguably even in the vicinity of the well Beer es-Samman at its base.
Sokar was a guardian of Rostau, the name given to the Fifth House of the duat-underworld,
it makes sense to look for its entrance, or indeed exit, in the vicinity of Gebel
If so, then Beer es-Samman becomes the most obvious candidate for such an entrance. The belief held locally by village elders that it allowed access to a tunnel system that led eventually to a subterranean 'city' or 'palace' should be taken very seriously indeed. Moreover, the author has recently uncovered evidence that the subterranean passage that leads away from Beer es-Samman is said to link to another well 400 metres to the north-northeast in the Valley Temple of Khafre, just beyond the right paw of the Sphinx. This is exactly where Edgar Cayce predicted an entrance to a passageway leading to the Hall of Records would be found.
The role played at Giza by Gebel Ghibli and the well Beer es-Samman was becoming clearer, but why exactly was Cygnus so important to the ancient Egyptian mindset, especially at Giza? Would its role at Giza help us to uncover even more about the plateau's chthonic domain?
protective wings of a bird, particularly the hawk, falcon or vulture, were very
significant in the funerary religion of ancient Egypt. The soul, or ba, of the
deceased was depicted as a human-headed falcon on its journey into an afterlife
among the stars, while a protective falcon is shown squatting with its wings outspread
on the roof of the shrine on Sokar's henu-boat. A similar protective falcon is
seen on the roof of Osiris's funerary shrine, and often the pharaoh was depicted
as a child beneath the protective wings of Horus. Most famously, a life-size seated
statue of Khafre - builder of the Second Pyramid - carved in hard speckled diorite
and found down the aforementioned well in the Valley Temple of Khafre, next to
the Sphinx, in the nineteenth century, shows a falcon on the king's shoulders
with its protective wings embracing his neck. Was this protective role of the
divine falcon the inspiration behind the Giza Pyramids being laid out to mimic
the stars forming the outstretched wings of the celestial bird? If so, then can
we go on to identify the constellation's role in ancient Egyptian cosmology?
In Egypt's New Kingdom, c. 1575-1087 BC, Giza's Great Sphinx bore the name Hor-em-akhet, Horus-in-the Horizon (the Greek Harmachis), a form of the god Horus the Elder, whose usual guise was as the divine falcon. Was it possible that the divine falcon of ancient Egyptian mythology was in some way connected with Cygnus's role as a protective influence over the Giza Pyramids?
Both Horus and Sokar, the underworld god of Rostau, are likely to have had a common ancestor in a stellar falcon god known as Dwn-'nwy (pronounced dun-neu-wi). He is mentioned several times in the Pyramid Texts, c. 2350 BC, alongside other principal gods such as Osiris, Thoth and Atum. More significantly, Dwn-'nwy features among a group of sky figures shown together on astronomical ceilings found in tombs as far back as 1475 BC.
This familiar group (see below), which include a hippo-croc hybrid, an ox's foreleg or complete bull, and the falcon man Dwn-'nwy, are thought to represent key constellations of the northern sky, especially those in the vicinity of the northern celestial pole. As to their identifies, there are only a few certainties. The Ox foreleg, or bull, known as Mhtyw, is unquestionably the seven stars of the Big Dipper, or Plough, part of the constellation we know today as Ursa Major, the Great Bear. The hippo-croc has been identified as the constellation Draco, the celestial dragon, while the falcon man Dwn-'nwy was identified as early as 1932 by distinguished British Egyptologist Gerald Wainwright, an expert in ancient Egypt's sky-religion, as made up of stars from the constellation Cygnus, the Northern Cross.
Dwn-'nwy, whose name means 'he who unfolds two wings', is shown repeatedly holding between his outstretched hands either a rope, a pole or spear that extends to touch or reach the bull or ox foreleg constellation. Wainwright saw this link as reflecting the very similar relationship between Cygnus and Ursa Major, which spar around each other with the stars of Draco between them.
Following Wainwright's lead, Czech Egyptologist Zbynek Zaba, and after him French Egyptologist and astronomer Jean-Philippe Lauer and Italian mathematician and metrologist Livio Stecchini, wrote that the visual relationship between certain stars in Cygnus and those of Ursa Major were utilised during the Pyramid Age to determine true north, towards which the entrances to almost all pyramids and mastaba tombs were orientated. This symbolic meridian line, universally seen among indigenous cultures as a sky-rope or ladder stretching from the northern horizon to the southern horizon via the zenith point, was utilized to access a heaven conceived of as existing beyond Ursa Major and Draco in the vicinity of the Cygnus constellation.
The rope, pole or spear held by Dwn-'nwy and attached to the ox foreleg, or bull, constellation has long been thought to represent the meridian line, and new research by Rodney Hale and the author ably shows that this was indeed the case. Moreover, this line was created using the star Sadr in Cygnus along with Megrez and Phecda in the Big Dipper, which when aligned comes within 30 arc minutes of true north. More significantly, at the beginning of Giza's pyramid building phase, Sadr crossed the meridian in the northern night sky close to midnight at the time of the summer solstice, the new year in ancient Egypt, when Sirius returned to the night sky after a period of 70 days in the underworld and the Nile inundation brought new life to the Nile valley. Six months later at midnight on the winter solstice, the meridian line was reversed with Cygnus beneath the horizon (i.e. in the underworld) and its place taken by the stars of Leo, the celestial lion, which, it has been argued, was identified with both the Great Sphinx and Hor-em-akhet, Horus in the Horizon.
It thus becomes clear why Sadr, Cygnus's central cross star, might have played such a crucial role in the alignment of the Giza monuments. It helped mark the passing of the old year, and a bringing forth of a new one - the passage of time and time cycles of crucial important to the ancient Egyptians. This is why, according to the findings of astronomer Dr Ronald Wells, Sadr appears as the last in a sequence of early morning stars used as a star-clock during the reign of Userkaf.
Cygnus played other roles in ancient Egypt as well, from the vulva or womb of the sky-goddess Nut to the cosmic bird Gengen-wer, who brought the universe into manifestation through its honk or call. Even though the constellation's greater significance has not previously been recognized by Egyptologists, there is no doubt that it was an important constellation in Egyptian myth and religion. Moreover, it was seen as the entrance to the sky-world in various cultures around the world.
Cygnus is arguably the oldest constellation in the world, being seen as a bird since Palaeolithic times, when Deneb, Cygnus's brightest star, bore the role of Pole Star. In otherw words, Cygnus was seen to turn about the northern celestial pole each night, without ever setting, why in shamanic traditions around the world the sky-pole was often shown with a swan on top. It is even shown as a bird on a pole in a fresco dated c. 15,000 BC in the famous caves at Lascaux in southern France.
Cygnus has since Palaeolithic times been seen variously as the womb, vulva or navel of the Cosmic Mother, through which the world was linked via an imaginary umbilical cord, symbolised either by the Milky Way or meridian line. Key prehistoric and ancient sites worldwide were created to reflect on the ground the influence of the Cygnus stars, particularly at Newgrange in Ireland and Cuzco in Peru. Many other sites bore specific stellar alignments featuring Cygnus including Gobekli Tepe in southeast Turkey, Avebury in southern England, Alas Stenar in Sweden and Great Circle in Newark, Ohio. Everywhere in the world its stars formed an integral part in cults relating to the process of death and rebirth.
Thus Cygnus's role in ancient Egypt cannot be seen in isolation. It was fundamental in the creation of Egypt's earlier myths, particularly those associated with the sky-world and its shadow counterpart in the underworld.
At Giza Cygnus is represented on the ground as the constellation as it might appear when upside down beneath the earth, i.e. in the duat-underworld, and thus as the chthonic falcon god Sokar. His 'feet' (represented by the star Albireo) are thus on Gebel Ghibli, with his head in the northwest close to where the star Deneb falls in Cygnus-Giza ground-sky correlation. In the illustration showing Sokar's dominion over the Fifth House of the duat-underworld, the falcon-headed figure is shown on an island surrounded by a waterway, very likely an illusion to Gebel Ghibli as the primeval mound. He stands on a double or multi-headed serpent, which in celestial terms is the constellation of Draco, which when Cygnus is in the underworld hangs above the northern horizon like a string of beads, its head only out of view below the earth - a striking pose that in Graeco-Roman times gained it the title Akephalos, the Headless One.
In chthonic terms the serpent signifies the duat-underworld, sometimes described in Egyptian funerary texts as the backbone or body of a serpent, through which the midnight sun has to pass on his journey into the afterlife. It has been proposed elsewhere that Gebel Ghibli is the simulacrum of a head of a snake, its body being the hills that encircle the plateau. As an extension of this idea, the multiple heads of the snake can be seen quite literally as 'the mouths of the passages', an allusion to the entrances to Giza's own subterranean realm preserved in the ancient name Rostau. That Sokar stands upon the serpent is evidence of his dominion over Rostau's duat-underworld.
The waterway in the illustration is at the same time the underground waters that run through the natural fissures beneath the plateau and feed wells such as Beer es-Samman, as well as the former extension of the Nile that once flowed past the plateau. Celestially, the running water is the Milky Way, known in ancient Egypt as the Winding Waterway, over which the deceased must cross on his way to the starry realm. It was from the Cygnus region of the Milky Way that life was seen to originate, and thus it was here that the pharaoh had to reach in order to become a star himself.
But where exactly were the 'mouths' of Giza's chthonic serpent, the entrances to its duat-underworld? One 'mouth', the eastern exit, from which the sun emerged at dawn, was most probably Beer es-Samman, situated at the base of Gebel Ghibli, just 400 metres from the Sphinx monument. Yet where was the western entrance, in to which the sun disappeared at night? Selim Hassan noted how similar the illustration of the Fifth House of the duat-underworld, with its view of Sokar on the island, was to the plateau's gradually descending slope which starts in the northwest and runs down to the southeast. In the knowledge that Beer es-Samman is in the southeast corner of the plateau, then it seems likely that the serpent's 'mouth' acting as the entrance to Giza's duat-underworld was at its north-western extreme. Was this really possible? Was there truly another entrance to Giza's hidden realm somewhere in the northwestern corner of the plateau. It seems possible, and only one candidate came to mind - the enigmatic Tomb of the Birds.
In May 2005, when the well Beer es-Samman was discovered in Giza's Islamic cemetery, the author had also visited the site where the star Deneb fell on the plateau's ground-sky overlay. Nothing of any obvious value could be discerned, prompting the question of why this area on the edge of the western cemetery might be so important. This had led to the consultation of old plans of the plateau, and one in particular seemed of special significance. Composed in 1837 by British engineer John Shae Perring, working alongside British explorer Col Howard Vyse, it showed a site marked as 'pits and chambers of bird mummies'. The feature, composed of a series of chambers and parallel corridors, was shown in dotted lines indicating that it was cut deeply into the rock of the plateau's northern cliff.
Research into this 'Tomb of the Birds' revealed that in 1836-7 Vyse and Perring uncovered here the bodies of mummified birds (as well as those of some animals), signalling the presence here of a cult in honour of a specific god associated with birds in some way. Unfortunately, Vyse and Perring left no indication as to what type of birds were wrapped as mummies. Only one was mentioned specifically, and all that was said is that the bird was of great size. Most likely the birds were either raptors, thus indicating the cult of Horus or Sokar, or ibises, which were sacred to Thoth, the god of writing and the moon. He was guardian of a flint box contained in a hidden chamber that Khufu sought in vain to find in order to build the Great Pyramid. This story, told in a text recorded in the so-called Westcar Papyrus, makes it clear that something of immense value was contained in this box, something that belonged to a bygone era, and was eagerly sought after by Khufu. What was this item? Was it a secret locked in darkness within Giza's subterranean realm?
In January 2007 the author visited the Tomb of the Birds for the first time, sensing that it held important clues regarding Giza's Cygnus-Giza correlation. It is a large, spacious tomb with a deep cut façade and an opening towards the north, the direction of the afterlife in ancient Egyptian theology.
Other landscape geometry at Giza seemed also to emphasise the significance of the location of the Tomb of the Birds. More incredibly, the author then discovered that in 1816-7 Egypt's British Consul General Henry Salt, working alongside the famous Italian explorer Giovanni Caviglia, had visited the same area of the plateau and gained access in one particular tomb to what Salt would later describe in his memoirs as a series of 'catacombs'. These were explored for a distance of several hundred yards before the two men came across an enormous hewn chamber, adjoined to three others of equal size and shape. From these led various 'labyrinthick' passages, some of which Caviglia explored, before both men retreated having apparently found no treasure.
This recollection of a cave system long thought to have existed at Giza is found among Salt's personal diaries, which languished unnoticed in the British Museum for over 190 years before being rediscovered again recently, and published with a suitable commentary by a team of editors. They offered their own insights into the places mentioned by Salt in connection with Giza, and with reference to the tomb containing the entrance to the catacombs, they adjudged it to be in the northern most extreme of its western cemetery.
Yet keen eyed Egyptological writer-researcher Nigel Skinner Simpson, working in concert with the author, quickly realised that the editors of the memoirs had got it wrong, and that the real site indicated by Salt as the entrance to the catacombs was somewhere in the vicinity of the Tomb of the Birds. Arguably it was the tomb itself, yet since two others were to be found in the same vicinity, further work was needed to determine which one concealed a possible entrance to Giza's hidden realm.
The author was convinced that it had to be the Tomb of the Birds since it was the largest of the three tombs, and one of the other two he had visited back in January 2007. it was a small, single roomed affair, and unlikely to conceal some great secret. More likely was the Tomb of the Birds, which not only featured in Giza's Cygnus-based ground-sky correlation, but had also produced the mummified remains of birds, either raptors or ibises, suggesting that it had become a shrine to a deity with chthonic attributions, most obviously either Sokar or Thoth, both of whom have been linked with Giza's subterranean world. Moreover, the sun at midsummer when viewed from the Sphinx Temple sets exactly between the Great and Second Pyramid, very close to the position on the west-northwestern horizon of the Tomb of the Birds. Thus it might have been seen that the sun, as viewed from the Sphinx area, set down into this tomb, which acted as the entrance 'mouth' to the duat-underworld.
The fact that Salt and Caviglia had explored Giza's catacombs for a distance of several hundred yards before giving up implied that if these presumably nature fissures followed the natural contours of the plateau's geology and gradually headed east towards the main pyramid field, then it meant that they could easily link up with a whole labyrinthine network of cave tunnels that existed beneath the pyramids. These in turn would link with underground waterways, one of which carries water to the well Beer es-Samman, another possible entrance to Giza's hidden realm. The whole system would be interlinked, and somewhere in here were the four hewn chambers entered by Salt and Caviglia, as well as other treasures of a bygone epoch.
Was the Tomb of the Birds really the western entrance to Giza's own physical representation of the serpent-like duat-underworld presided over by Sokar, whose visible 'tomb' was the all important hill of Gebel Ghibli?
Even though no obvious entrance to the catacombs had been discovered in the Tomb of the Birds by the author in January 2007, the author now became determined to get back there as soon as possible and search again. Through contact with the Association of Research of Enlightenment (ARE), the active wing of the Edgar Cayce Foundation, an organisation that has supported expeditions in search of the Hall of Records for the past 50 years. Suitably impressed by the author's findings, they agreed to sponsor a new exploration of the Tomb of the Birds.
After several delays, this expeditation finally took place in March 2008. On Monday, 3rd March the author revisited the Tomb of the Birds in the company of Nigel Skinner-Simpson and his wife Sue. Exploring the deepest part of the tomb, they came across a small hole in a mudbrick wall, on the other side of which was another wall of stone and mortar. Shining the torch down into the void, a wonderful sight greeted them. It was a vast natural chasm-like chamber, partly hewn, that led into a cave system. The author pursued one cave tunnel for some distance, before he and a guide came under attack from bats, forcing them to beat their retreat.
A email sent the next day to John van Auken, the director of the ARE, began 'Wonderful news', echoing Carter's cable to Lord Carnarvon following the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922. It went on to tell him that the author had at last located and entered Giza's cave system after nearly 200 years of obscurity.
Unfortunately, at this present time the author is unable to go into any detail
regarding what he discovered, on this and a subsequent visit to the cave system,
where he and his wife managed to travel a much greater distance into realms previously
never described on paper. Suffice to say it was beyond all expectations, and as
these words are being written further visits are planned to explore the site still
In this final chapter the author attempts to reconstruct the Hall of Records based on conventional knowledge drawn from various disparate sources.
For Edgar Cayce, Giza hidden realm concealed a Hall of Records, which, like the Library of Thoth, contained the wisdom of the ancients deposited before the time of the Flood. He said that an entrance would be found in the vicinity of the right paw of the Sphinx, and indeed we find that in this very vicinity is the Valley Temple of Khafre, in which is the well linked according to local legend via a tunnel with Beer es-Samman in the cemetery Aish el-Ghorab. This tunnel is said to lead to an underground 'palace' or 'city', almost certainly a reference to the Hall of Records.
In addition to this, the author is certain that Gebel Ghibli is 'the first pyramid builded', (341-8) where according to Cayce's readings members of a race that inhabited Giza prior to the rise of dynastic Egypt were interred. This 'mound [not] yet uncovered' faced 'that of the Mystery [of the Sphinx] (5540-5, see also 1717-1). The heights of Gebel Ghibli lie some 400 metres due south of the Sphinx, which can be seen side on, facing east, from this vantage point. Cayce's pyramid-mound is said to form an entrance to the 'Tomb of Records' (2329-3), another name for the Hall of Records. This is another indication that the well Beer es-Samman holds vital clues regarding another entrance into Giza's cave system, and arguably even an access route to what awaits discovery deep beneath the plateau.
For English mythic writer H Randall Stevens the chambers beneath the Sphinx monument were 'Halls of Initiation', where initiates could receive knowledge of the ultimate. Yet to Andrew's psychic colleague back in 1985 Giza's hidden realm consists of a series of chambers (one being the mysterious 'Green Chamber' - see below) recording the moment of first creation in the physical universe, an opinion that conforms very well with the Edfu building texts.
Many Arab and Jewish writers spoke of what lies beneath the pyramids. All suggested that something of great importance would be found there. Universally they said it belonged to a civilization that pre-dated the dynastic race.
Very little indication of this race has ever emerged at Giza, or elsewhere in Egypt. However, the fact that Giza's cave system is formed from natural fissures in the bedrock, carved out by the passage of water across 10,000s if not 100,000s of years, now provides a perfect opportunity to search for evidence of human activity at Giza stretching back well beyond the Pyramid Age.
Egyptologists will probably claim that they have known about Giza's cave system for years. Even if this were true, to date nothing has ever been made public about them. No articles have appeared about either the caves, or their entrances, and no pictures have emerged into the public domain. In our opinion, the exploration of Giza's cave complex after nearly 200 years of obscurity is itself arguably one of the greatest discoveries on the plateau for a very long time. It is a story of international interest, with incredible ramifications.
Beyond this is the knowledge that leading Egyptologists, currently engaged in excavations at Giza, do firmly believe that some kind of Hall of Records exists beneath the plateau. Yet in a move to distance themselves from the unorthodox ideas of Edgar Cayce, they have started to refer to it as the Green Chamber, strangely echoing the words of the author's own psychic friend. For them it is a physical expression of the cosmological wisdom and teachings of Thoth, vestiges of which are contained in the so-called Emerald Tablets of Hermes (the Greek name for Thoth). It from this text that we gain the basic hermetic tenet of 'As above, so below', something that is very applicable for the ground-sky relationship at Giza.
Such a belief creates a more acceptable vision of the Hall of Records, not just for the Egyptological community, but also for Arab Egyptologists, since it takes away nothing from the accepted origins of the ancient Egyptian race, whom they prize as their own ancestors. In Islamic tradition Hermes (and thus Thoth) is the prophet Idris (the Jewish Enoch), who brought back the children of God to the true faith through his profound wisdom and teachings. That Idris might have concealed the true wisdom and teachings of God in Egypt, which one day might be found and used to unite all those who have strayed from the true faith is a powerful message, and one that will remain poignant in the decades and even centuries to come.