[meteorite-list] Pyramids Inspired By Meteorite Fall?
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Apr 22 09:46:24 2004
Pyramids seen as stairways to heaven
The Guardian (United Kingdom)
May 14, 2001
Pharoahs used monuments as launch pads to the afterlife, says scientist
The pyramids of Egypt could be explained as symbolic stairways to the stars,
according to a British scientist. And - in a twist that will delight New Age
believers in mysterious energies and alien spacecraft - the inspiration for
the pyramids might indeed have arrived from outer space, in the form of a
Toby Wilkinson, an Egyptologist based at Cambridge University, told a
conference over the weekend that some of his theory was "deliberately
controversial, provocative, but tantalising".
He argued, from evidence of the orientation of the pyramids - always to the
northern pole star - and from the names given to estates to finance funerary
cults, and the shape of the pyramids themselves, that they could be seen as
launch pads for the pharaoh's journey to the afterlife among the stars.
"Circumpolar stars are a very good metaphor for the afterlife because when
viewed, they never seem to set: they simply rotate around the pole star.
They are the undying stars, or in Egyptian rminology, the Indestructibles, a
perfect destination for the soul of the dead king," he told a Bloomsbury
archaeological summer school at University College London.
Pyramid structures extend from the north of Egypt to the Sudan, and they
were built over thousands of years. "Where are all the steps that led up to
pyramid building?" he asked. "We stand marvelling at these monuments and
they seem to have appeared almost from nowhere, but clearly something like
that cannot be put up overnight without the infrastructure in place."
This infrastructure included royal command of the economy, systematic
taxation, a body of experience in public works and increasing mastery of
stone as a building material. There had also to be religious or political
motivation. Dr Wilkinson traced the rise of a professional civil service in
seals, documents and grave inscriptions dating back almost to 3,000BC, and
the continuing evidence of Egyptian belief not only in an afterlife, but in
death itself as a journey.
Kate Spence, a Cambridge colleague, had demonstrated in a paper last year
that from the first, the pyramids were all precisely oriented towards the
northern stars. There were further clues in the names, which were crucially
important in ancient Egyptian culture. One pyramid was explicitly called
"the gleaming". Another was called "the pyramid that is a star". From the
1st dynasty onwards - long before the pyramids were built - kings had
founded estates to finance their tomb cults: one of these was explicitly
called "Horus (that is, the king) rises as a star".
"What clearer exposition could we have of the ideology surrounding a king's
afterlife than that?" Dr Wilkinson asked.
Tombs of the first dynasties were concealed by mounds of earth, seen as
symbols of rebirth or resurrection. The first pyramid - the step pyramid at
Saqqara, built in the 3rd dynasty - had its altar to the north, and the ramp
down into its subterranean chambers started from the north face.
"It can also be seen as a ramp from the burial chamber," he said. "Because
if you stand in the burial chamber underneath, and look up this entrance
ramp, you are looking at the northern sky. And this is perhaps a launch pad
for the king's spirit, to eject him straight to the northern stars where he
hopes to spend his afterlife."
Fourth dynasty pyramids - including the Great Pyramid and others on the Giza
plateau - were very carefully oriented towards the stars. Could they have
been modelled on stars?
"What does a star look like in three dimensions? We could only know that if
we had a star that has fallen to Earth for us to look at. A meteorite,
perhaps, a shooting star that has literally come down to Earth."
He had a candidate: a stone - long since lost - that had been revered at the
temple of Heliopolis in the fourth dynasty. It was known as the Benben
stone, and it was represented in inscriptions as conical or pyramid-shaped.
Significantly, the Egyptian word for the capstone, the uppermost stone on a
pyramid, was "benbenet" or little benben. The high priest at Heliopolis was
called "greatest of observers", a title that had astronomical links.
"Could it have been that the Benben stone itself was a meteorite? A signal
from the celestial realm to the earthly realm, something that is worshipped
as a sign from the heavens? Well, it is a rather tantalising suggestion," Dr
"I'm not a geologist, and wouldn't claim to be, but there is a particular
kind of meteorite, a rare kind of meteorite, which as it enters the
atmosphere, is formed into a shape that startlingly resembles a pyramid.
Could the benben stone have been such a stone? Could it have been a shooting
star that had fallen to earth and been worshipped as a sign from the
Received on Tue 15 May 2001 12:43:02 PM PDT