Cairo, 14 September 2011 - The Giza Pyramids are among the most famous monuments in the world. They also raise endless questions by their visitors. Part of their mystery is the fact that there are no definite answers to questions such as: Why they were built? How they were built? Who built them? What do they symbolize? In our attempt to find answers, we find many theories.
Approximately 90 percent of the theories in Egyptology are based on hypothesis, and only 10 percent are proven ones. Bearing in mind that there are 3 mysteries connected to the pyramids, namely the mystery of the tools used, the mystery of the colors and the mystery of mummification, the pyramids are a challenge to all the technologies that we have in the 21st century.
Even the name ‘Pyramid’ is a mystery. Historians believe the word is derived from the Greek word ‘pyramos’-which means a type of bread that takes the shape of a triangle. Interestingly enough, the original hieroglyphic “MER”, which means an instrument used to ascend to the sun, has no connection with the Greek word that might help answer the question about the pyramid. Several researchers reject the traditional theory that a pyramid is a tomb for a king.
K .Mendelssohn believes that, ”While the funerary function of the pyramids cannot be doubted, it is rather more difficult to prove that the pharaohs were ever buried inside them...”. In fact, more than 118 pyramids in Egypt were found empty! A possible answer to this particular puzzle could be that grave robbers who plundered the pyramids a long time ago removed the mummified remains of kings.
Many scholars believe that the great pyramid held symbolic numerical values and that they were linked to astronomy, such as its base measurement, which equates to the time the earth takes to orbit the sun. Ancient Egyptians believed the number 7 was sacred, and researchers associated the number 7 with the shape of the pyramid. The base of a pyramid is a square (4 sides) and the face of a pyramid is a triangle (3 sides) it represents the sacred number 7, that symbolizes the unity between the material world (4) and the spiritual world(3).
Therefore, pyramids represent cosmic structures and man was created to fulfil a specific role within the grand cosmic theme. Though born of flesh, he has the potential to become spirit, in becoming spirit he transcends his earthly nature quite literally to become eternal. In fact, all the funerary texts of ancient Egypt e.g. pyramids texts or The Book of The Dead, made the physical death necessary to occur first in order to attain the progressive degrees of transcendence in eternal life.
It is interesting to note that the ancient Egyptians were the first nation to introduce mathematics as a science in order to calculate time. They developed the calendar and the accurate astronomical alignment for building their pyramids and their temples. The pyramids texts found inscribed on the walls of 9 old pyramids, excluding the Great Giza Pyramids, informed us about their sound knowledge of astronomy. They called the Milky Way ‘mespet shedu,’ and they described the’ path of the king in heaven’. Their detailed study of the stars enabled them to identify astral movement and even retrograde patterns. Astronomy as a science was essential for the priests, who decided the foundations of buildings including pyramids. In fact, authors such as Bauval and Gilbert have suggested that the Giza Plateau was designed on the Orion Constellation and that the pyramids airshafts were intended to take the soul of the pharaoh up to Orion-Osiris- and Sirius-Isis.
Another interesting mystery of the pyramids is the stone casing. No one was certain if the casing of the stones were from top to bottom or the opposite. Scholars do not know if the stones were dressed and polished before setting them in place or after. And if before, then the mystery of setting such huge blocks in place without banging or chipping them becomes more complicated.
Modern excavations face the mystery of the passages and chambers design inside the pyramids. In 1968, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Luis Alvarez came to Egypt equipped with sophisticated electronic equipment to monitor the cosmic rays passing through the walls of the pyramids; unfortunately, he discovered nothing definite.
The Great pyramid of Khufu has been the subject of the attention of different scholars who faced the problem of the 3 inner chambers that are very different in their design but possess 2 sets of so-called airshafts. Inside the king chamber, the airshafts lead directly to the outside of the pyramid, but the airshafts leading from the queen’s chamber have no such exit. Recent exploration inside these airshafts has led to the discovery of small portcullis like stone blocks, which have been investigated by remote-control robots. Theories assuming that these airshafts could be ‘star shafts’ that were intended to help the soul of the pharaoh on its journey to heaven. However, recent research, such as that set out 2001 has shown this to be unlikely.
The Pyramids, especially the Great ones remain as riddles in the sand and as endless mysteries.
Anwaar Abdalla, Ph.D. Helwan University, is a native of Cairo, Egypt and lecturer at Helwan Unv. Ms. Abdalla is also in demand as a lecturer on Egyptian history, Muslim culture and the antiquities and the sites and history of ancient Egypt.