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The Xenophile Historian

K. U. P.

(Kimball's Unauthorized Perversion)

Pyramidology = Pyramidiocy

Strange theories about the pyramids have been going around since Napoleon's Egyptian campaign got the rest of the world interested in Egyptian monuments. The idea that the pyramids were built to contain great mathematical, religious or astronomical secrets is called pyramidology. Unfortunately for its advocates, it falls flat on its face time and time again.

For example, Charles Piazzi Smyth predicted, from his measurements of the Great pyramid's passages and chambers, that a great miracle, like the Second Coming of Christ, would take place in 1881. If it happened I must have missed it, for the only events I can think of that happened in 1881 were two assassinations, those of U.S. President Garfield and of the Russian Tsar Alexander II.

Sir Flinders Petrie, one of the greatest archaeologists of all time, believed in Smyth's theories when he was young, but changed his mind when he got to measure the pyramids himself. Smyth used the best measuring tools that anyone in the mid-19th century had, but Petrie found Smyth's measurements to be inaccurate anyway. Imagine how much less accurate they must seem in the computer age!

Despite this, pyramidology did not go away; Petrie even reported a case where a follower of Smyth tried to reduce the size of a granite figure found in the Great Pyramid, because its size opposed his theories! A new cultist named David Davidson then used Petrie's figures, combined with Manetho's king list, to predict that a great war would break out in 1928, and that the Second Coming would take place in 1936. When neither happened, others predicted that according to the Great Pyramid, the world would end in 1953. I guess they didn't mean the world we're living in.

The best quote I've heard on the matter came from L. Sprague & Catherine Cook de Camp: "It has often been shown that with enough figures to juggle, one can readily extract cosmic results from unlikely material. Borchardt, as an anti-Pyramidological joke, derived the base e of natural logarithms from the slope of Sahura's pyramid. Barnard, by juggling the dimensions of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, got the moon's diameter, the length of the lunar month, and the date of the building." (Quote taken from Citadels of Mystery, pg. 31.)

While we're talking about other pyramids, let me ask this: If Egypt has more than a hundred pyramids, why does the largest one get most of the attention, from fans of nonconventional theories like this? True, the others weren't as well constructed, but if the Egyptians could use a geometry-based code in one pyramid, why wouldn't they try it in the rest? Why not the pyramids of Saqqara, like the Step Pyramid of Zoser (the oldest), or the inscription-filled pyramid of Unas? Having seen both Giza and Saqqara, I consider Saqqara the more interesting of the two ancient cemeteries. And if a pyramid could contain lost knowledge, how about the surrounding structures, like the valley temples and the tombs of queens and nobles? So far I've only heard such claims made for the Great Sphinx of Giza.

Finally, whatever else the pyramids were for, they were used as tombs. The presence of a sarcophagus in each one attests to that. The reason some people think otherwise is because every pyramid was picked clean of its valuables long ago. If we had been lucky enough to find an intact pyramid, with a mummy in its sarcophagus, I wouldn't have to assert all this for everybody. In the case of the Great Pyramid, Khufu's sarcophagus is one inch wider than the entrance to the King's Chamber, so I believe that they brought it in while the pyramid was under construction, before the walls and roof of the King's Chamber were finished. The size of the sarcophagus is the only reason why it's still there; even the lid is gone!

(See also "The Barney Connection" in the joke section on this site.)

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