The Orion Mystery

 Concerning "The Orion Mystery"

a defence by its co-author, Adrian G. Gilbert



Ever since its publication in February 1994, The Orion Mystery has been controversial. The vast majority of its unbiased readers appreciate the originality of the ideas and discoveries it contains. However, some archaeologists, usually those whose special interest isn't Egypt, have been less than enthusiastic. Indeed it would seem that some regard it as an almost personal insult that two "amateurs" should have a best-selling book concerning a subject which they consider to be their personal domain. In their defence it has to be said that much nonsense has, over the years, been written about the pyramids. As this has muddied the water so to speak, their knee-jerk reaction was only to be expected.


Often the most skeptical are those least in the know. Real experts are not so quick to dismiss the Orion correlation theory, as it is known. For example Professor I.E.S. Edwards, the former keeper of Egyptian antiquities at The British Museum and acknowledged world expert on pyramids, has for some fifteen years given encouragement to Robert Bauval in his researches. Though by no means endorsing everything written in the book, he wrote to Robert Bauval on 16 October 1984:


 "...I am very much in agreement with your contention that the stars in Orion's Belt were an important element in the orientation of the Great Pyramid. I think you have made out a very convincing case that the other two pyramids at Giza were also influenced by it". (see "The Orion Mystery p.133).


Professor Edwards was not alone in giving support to the theory. Dr. Jaromir Malek, Director of the Griffith Institute of Oxford University at the Ashmolean Museum wrote in January 1995:


"I wholeheartedly agree with you that astronomical observations and mathematical calculations played an important part in the design, construction and perhaps even siting of Egyptian pyramids....I would be prepared to consider seriously the observation that the Giza pyramids were positioned or sited in a manner to represent the three stars of Orion." (Ibid. p.134).


This open-minded attitude of real experts contrasts strongly with that of some regular posters to Internet news groups, who seem to have nothing better to do than to "debunk" what is in their opinion a heresy: i.e. to suggest that the IVth Dynasty pyramids were more than large tomb-stones for megalomaniac pharaohs. They attack as implausible that the ancient Egyptians should have had the vision to build what amounts to a "Heaven on Earth" simply because they don't really have a grasp on how the Egyptians viewed both themselves and their country.


Yet if they studied the Hermetic Tradition and in particular the Hermetica, which represent the last outpouring of Egyptian thought prior to the advent of Christianity, they would know that it is not far-fetched to suggest that they built pyramids to represent stars. The key Hermetic dictum: "As above, so below" takes on a real and concrete meaning when viewed in this light.


The connection between the pyramids of Giza and Orion's Belt is not only easy to see but is supported by the fact that at the time they were built, Alnitak, the lowest star in the belt, would each day, as it crossed the meridian, align with the southern "air-shaft" (Note: Professor Edwards now calls them star-shafts) of the King's Chamber.


This was discovered in 1964 by Egyptian Egyptologist, Alexander Badawi, and his associate Virginia Trimble, then a student now herself a professor of Astronomy. To suggest, as some posters have, that Robert Bauval and I have plagiarised their work is not only wrong but libellous. Their pioneering work on the alignment of the King's Chamber shafts is described in detail in The Orion Mystery and indeed Virginia Trimble kindly gave us permission to reproduce her original article on the subject as an Appendix.


Robert Bauval was, however, the first person to discover the significance of the hidden shafts emanating from the Queen's Chamber. These were clearly never intended to be "air shafts" and at the time the pyramid was built they were blocked off at both ends. Indeed until 1993, when Rudolf Gantenbrink sent a small robot some 60 metres up the southern one of the pair, it was believed by Egyptologists that both they and the Queen's Chamber were abandoned at the time of building. We now know this to be untrue else why would the Egyptians have carried on building the shafts when they had already begun work on the King's Chamber?


In 1986 Bauval found that just as the southern shaft of the King's Chamber pointed towards the culmination of Orion's Belt, so the southern shaft of the Queen's Chamber pointed towards the culmination of Sirius. Since Orion is known to have been associated with the star-form of Osiris and Sirius with his consort Isis, this was clearly no accident. Furthermore, in 1993, using the latest data available, Robert was able to show that the northern shaft of the Queen's Chamber was also important as it pointed towards a star called Kochab in the Little Bear constellation. From all of this data we were able to put forward a convincing case that far from being abandoned, the Queen's Chamber was used for rebirth rituals and in particular the "Opening of the Mouth Ceremony".


These discoveries would make little sense were it not that they fitted with what we know of Egyptian religion from the Pyramid Texts. Granted that these were written down a few generations after the building of the Great Pyramid but there can be little doubt that the religion of the IVth, Vth and VIth Dynasties was broadly the same, even if the emphasis on one or another element may have shifted. The Pyramid Texts tell us that the pharaohs wanted to become stars—not just any old stars but stars of Orion. Also the pyramid of Abu Ruwash bears the name "Djedfra is a Sehetu star".


Since "Sahu" was the Egyptian name for Orion, it is not unreasonable to see this name implying a link between this pyramid and Orion. Similarly the pyramid at Zawayat al Aryan has the name "Nebka is a star", implying that it also is to be seen as part of the pattern. Djedfra and Nebka were both pharaohs and it is quite probable that different pharaohs saw themselves as linked to different Orion stars, in which case it could be that Khufu linked himself with Alnitak, Khafra with Alnilam and Menkaura with Mintaka; the three builders of the Giza pyramids with the three stars of Orion's Belt.


The ancient Egyptians were great astronomers and used the rising and setting of 36 "decan" stars as the basis of their clock.  SIRUS, the brightest star in the sky, was especially important to them as its Heliacal, or dawn, rising marked the start of the sidereal year. These matters are well-known and easily understood by anyone versed in rudimentary astronomy.


Unfortunately there seem to be far too many "experts" who are star-blind and who wouldn't recognise Sirius if it jumped up and bit them on the nose! This ignorance, coupled with a shyness in getting involved with the Hermetic Tradition, is the reason why so many of these carping critics refuse to take The Orion Mystery seriously. Instead they cling to the preposterous theory that the pyramid shape represents rays of sunlight coming through the clouds. They believe that the pharaohs were daft enough to believe that by building smooth-sided pyramids they could somehow defy gravity and slide upwards to the sun. Perhaps they also think there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! This solar theory, poetic as it may seem, is not supported by the alignment of shafts or by the layout of the pyramids on the ground. The sooner it is abandoned and a new consensus formed around the stellar theory, the sooner real progress in pyramid research will be made.


The Orion Mystery implies that the Egyptians were a thoughtful, deeply religious people. They believed that "Heaven" was to be found in the region of the sky occupied by Orion and the Hyades. Accordingly, in the IVth Dynasty they built enormous pyramids to represent most of these stars. That their grand scheme was never completed does not invalidate their intention. After all many Medieval cathedrals remain only half built. By creating a "Heaven on Earth", the Egyptians seem to have believed they were establishing a link between our world and the world beyond. We can only assume that they did this because it was felt that this would make it easier for their souls to ascend to heaven after death. Who knows, perhaps they were right!


© Adrian G. Gilbert, July 1996.


FAQs concerning The Orion Mystery.

Q1) When will the "door" be opened?

I don't know. Unfortunately it has been become as much a political issue as scientific. It is all down to the Egyptian authorities when they choose to do something about it. Meanwhile the whole world waits with baited breath.


Q2) What lies behind the "door"?


As it hasn't been opened (or if it has we have not been told about it) nobody knows for certain. Professor Edwards is on the record as saying there may be a statue of the pharaoh Khufu "gazing in the direction of Orion". In The Orion Mystery we suggested there may be a chamber containing the Benben stone.


Q3)If the Egyptians went to all the trouble of building pyramids to represent Orion, why did they leave out its two brightest stars: Betelgeuse and Rigel?


Again we cannot give a clear answer to this. It seems that the work was interrupted leaving the pyramids of Abu Ruwash and Zawayat al Aryan incomplete. They may have intended to build further pyramids to represent Betelgeuse and Rigel later but not got around to it before political, economic or other factors intervened. As the size of pyramids seems to be related to the brightness of the stars, they may have left these two till last as they would have been the largest of all.


Q4) But what about all the other pyramids in Egypt? Why only focus on the seven built by the IVth Dynasty?


Its a matter or scale and quality. The pyramids of the IVth Dynasty are unique. They are by far the largest and they are laid out with an accuracy unsurpassed either before or after. The pyramids of later dynasties are now little more than rubble heaps whilst those built before are "stepped" pyramids and not really true pyramids at all. The IVth Dynasty pyramids still stand proud and are indeed emblematic of Egypt.


Q5) Why did the Egyptians only attempt this once? Perhaps once was enough. Later on they expressed themselves more through written texts rather than enormous heaps of stone. Their funerary rituals also seem to have become more elaborate as time went on. It would seem that the stark simplicity of IVth Dynasty pyramids gave way to other art forms.


Q6) Why don't the pyramids of Giza, Dashur and the other sites form an exact geographical match for the stars in question? The ones at Giza do pretty well match the stars of Orion's Belt but they also seem to have had to conform to an exact geometrical pattern too. They are laid out on a grid that pre-determines where each one has to lie and this somewhat complicates the issue. Like all Egyptian art, pyramid building was done in conformity to a canon of proportion and measure. The positioning of the other pyramids is less exact because a) the distances are larger and therfore more difficult to determine on the ground; b) the land is undulating in places making life more difficult than it it were completely level; c) the area of the sky being mapped is curved in three dimensions making it difficult to map in only two; d) they didn't have maps of the precision of the "Ordinance Survey" at their disposal. Have you ever looked at pictures of ancient maps?


Q7) Why didn't they build a pyramid to represent Sirius, after all it is the brightest star and they did use to determine their calendar?


Sirius isn't a Sehetu star. It seems to have been associated with the birth of pharaohs and is the star of Isis. As such it doesn't seem to have been connected with the idea of ascension and was therefore not where they wanted to go. The city of Letopolis would appear to have been linked with Sirius and it seems that there was once a meteorite kept there on a pedestal which may have had associations with Sirius.


Yes, but what about....


Woe, hold on here! We haven't got time or space enough to go into everything that is contained in a book which is 350 page long! If you would like to find a bit more about The Orion Mystery, including availability in languages other than English, then more details can be found curtesy of the SIS at Robert Bauval, co-author with Adrian Gilbert, has his own web page on This site shows some of the pictures from the book, in particular the pyramids of Giza overhead that compares with the stars of Orion's Belt. Adrian Gilbert is also the co-author (with Maurice Cotterell) of The Mayan Prophecies. Details on this book can be found at the SIS on