(Investigator 137, 2011 March

Sixteen kilometres west of Cairo stands one of the seven wonders of the world, the Great Pyramid of Cheops at Giza its base covers 5.30 hectares, it consists of nearly 2.5 million granite and limestone blocks of stone, each with an estimated weight of 2.5 tonnes, and its sides are accurately aligned to the four cardinal points.

While many accept that it was built as a tomb, others are not so sure. Why was it built and by whom? are questions which, to some minds, have never been satisfactorily answered.

The Pharaoh Khufu, otherwise known by his Greek name Cheops, was said to have been responsible for its erection nearly 5000 years ago, but that raises the question of the ability at the time of the ancient Egyptians to build such an enormous structure with the primitive technology extant in the IVth Dynasty.

The first account of the Pyramid comes to us from Herodotus, the Greek traveller who visited Egypt in 440 B.C. He describes the four faces of the pyramid as being covered with limestone facing, with joints so fine that they could scarcely be seen. Unfortunately, all the details of the Great Pyramid's history and construction were destroyed when the great library of Alexandria was sacked in 389 A.D. by the Emperor Theodosius.

Following the first archaeologists' investigations in the late 17th and early 18th centuries and among those who have speculated that the Great Pyramid is other than an ancient tomb, was a retired publisher, John Taylor, who believed that it had been divinely inspired by God, who had instructed Noah to build it to his specifications. His belief was based on the fact that certain dimensions of the Great Pyramid indicated that the ancient Egyptians were further advanced mathematically than previously thought possible.

After Taylor, came Charles Piazzi Smyth, an Astronomer Royal for Scotland, who discovered that one of the casing stones of the Great Pyramid was approximately 25 inches long and equal to an ancient measurement, the cubit. Smyth was infatuated with measurements and ratios and came up with what he called the “pyramid inch", one "pyramid inch" representing a calendar year. This he used to correlate the distance from the pyramid entrance to beyond the King's Chamber with historical events, the calibration giving a time span of 6000 years from 4000 B.C. to 2000 A.D. At many points along the corridor there are changes — uphill, down hill, left fork, right fork and so on until the gallery is reached. While many of the changes did coincide with historical events, most did not. He wrote a book in 1864, Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid, in which he details some remarkable correlations between various measurements taken in and around the structure. The Great Pyramid, according to Smyth, was a history of the world beginning in 4004 B C and a calendar of future events.

Just how accurate was this theory of pyramid prophecy?  Not very, the much heralded second coming for example was predicted for 1881, 1936, and again in 1953.

Another who was intrigued by this great monolith was John Mitchell who, in his book, The View Over Atlantis, says, "It was constructed for a magical and sacred purpose, as a vehicle for transcending the material state, for travel in space, through time, and into a further dimension."

This theme has been taken up and expanded upon by Eric von Daniken (1971), in Chariots of the Gods? where he admits that even after a highly critical examination of Charles Piazzi Smyth's theories, his book still contains some facts that should stimulate reflection. "Is it really a coincidence that the height of the Great Pyramid multiplied by 1,000 million corresponds approximately to the distance between the earth and sun?" he asks; "That a meridian running through the pyramid divides continents and oceans into two exactly equal halves?" or that "the area of the base of the pyramid divided by twice its height gives the celebrated figure = 3.14159 discovered by German mathematician Ludolf."

Von Daniken poses many other questions that throw doubt on whether or not the Pharaoh Khufu was in fact the inspirer and builder of the Great Pyramid at Cheops. He asks how the great blocks of stone were cut so precisely, moved, and fitted together to the thousandth of an inch; how blocks weighing as much as 12 tons were raised to great heights without mechanical aids; how the tens of thousands of workers were housed and fed; and argues that to assemble two and a half million blocks of stone using only manual labour would have taken well over 600 years.

A revised interest in pyramids came about this century when Karel Drbal, a Czecholslovak radio engineer, was inspired by experiments carried out by a Frenchman by the name of Monsieur Bovis. Bovis had discovered that animals that had wandered into the Great Pyramid and died, hadn't decayed, but had mummified. When he made a model of the Great Pyramid and put a dead cat inside, the same thing happened and he concluded that the pyramid shape stopped normal decay of organic matter. Further experiments showed that razor blades when put under a small pyramid regained their sharp edges. Drbal replicated these experiments which were so successful that he applied for a patent. The patent (No. 91304) was eventually issued by the patent office of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1959. If the experiment only works when a pyramid shape is used, we must ask why? Is some strange force unknown to man at work?

In an effort to answer the question, American Scientists, members of the Atomic Energy Commission, the Smithsonian Institute, and the Ein Shams University in Cairo, conducted experiments with a machine developed by Dr Luis Alvarez, a Nobel prize-winner, to measure the passage of cosmic rays as they passed through another pyramid, the Chephren. The purpose was to X-ray the pyramid to see if there were any secret vaults inside. A detector placed inside would measure the cosmic rays as they passed through the structure and if there were any hollow areas the routes of the rays recorded on magnetic tape would indicate where they were. When the two-million ray tracks were analysed using an IBM 1130 computer installed at the Ein Shams University, Dr. Amr Gohed, who was in charge of the installations at the pyramid site admitted that he was more than puzzled, "nothing made sense, the patterns were never the same, it is scientifically impossible" he said, alleging that there is some force at work in the pyramid which defies the known laws of nature.

Because of their age and importance to archaeology, the pyramids have been the subject of both scientific and pseudo-scientific study, the latter spawning speculations resulting in the creation and perpetuation of enigmas, myths and ephemeral cults. There can be little doubt if any, at least in the minds of rational men, that the pyramids were constructed by mortal man during the Old Kingdom...  The history of the pyramids can be traced from their predecessors, called mastabas, which were small brick tombs. The methods and engineering principles used in their construction are well known, and to suggest as Von Daniken does, that an infusion of advanced knowledge from extraterrestrial visitors was required is fatuous. The Egyptians were not a primitive people and the simple technology available to them was adequate for the purpose.

Why the pyramids were built in the first place is still a matter for debate. Among the logical hypotheses — a tomb, a memorial, and a "stairway to the heavens"; about their religious nature however, there is no disagreement.

Pyramidologists speculate that God may have revealed the future to the chosen ones, and they in turn recorded it in this marvel of masonry. Given that it took an estimated 100,000 men and 30 years to construct, it seems to me to have been a rather expensive and masochistic way to compile what can only be described at best as an inaccurate calendar.

Regarding Smyth's calculations, one can take any unrelated facts and figures and come up with some correlation, albeit significant only in the mind of the percipient. Not dissimilar in result to the false conclusion that can be deduced from two irrelevant premises in logical deduction.

The cult of "pyramidology" was given a tremendous boost by Erich von Daniken's books in the 1970s, his fantasies, distortions and inaccurate writings positing mystery and magic where none existed, and usurping the more mundane albeit historically accurate accounts with some extraordinary theories. His arguments do not stand up to scrutiny however, he even gets the distance from the Earth to the Sun wrong (93 million miles and an error of 6 per cent. p 99), such calculations in any case being meaningless for the reason already given. Other false claims include "the Egyptians lacked the necessary technology to build the pyramids and that conventional methods could not have been used since the Egyptians didn't have ropes or trees to make rollers to move the stones." This flies in the face of the known facts. Rope for example was available in large quantities and examples are preserved in the Cairo and other museums, and the methods used in both rope making and pyramid building are recorded on tomb walls of the Fifth Dynasty. In the case of the pyramid at Saqqara, the ramp up which the blocks of stone were hauled is still in situ.

While Von Daniken's writings may be entertaining fiction in the eyes of some, his pre-occupation with substituting extraterrestrial influences for man's own ingenuity and inventiveness has served only to encourage irrational and unscientific thinking — the belief in "pyramid power" — the supposed ability of a pyramid shape, among other things, to preserve food and sharpen razor blades, being prime examples. When it comes to proving the claims however, the paranormalists invoke energies unknown to science, thus eliminating the possibility of properly controlled tests to give factual results and reducing the evidence to that of subjective opinion.
It is interesting to note too, that the whole concept of a unique shape (A polyhedron whose base is a polygon and whose sides are triangles having a common vortex [a pyramid shape] ) to sharpen razor blades as postulated by Karel Drbal, was negated in his own patent where he says, "It (the container) may consist of another geometric shape...regeneration of the razor blade will take place too." (Edwards 1991).
Where tests have been carried out using scientific methodology the results are conclusive — a pyramid shape has no mysterious power nor does it exert any influence other than that one chooses to believe. One such test was carried out by the French Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Paranormal Phenomena (CEFPP) to determine the validity of a claim that wine placed under a pyramid shape would mature in weeks as against years using conventional aging in a cellar. The Salon of the Unusual at the International Fair held in the city of Lille in November 1986, provided the opportunity.

A big plexiglas model of the Great Pyramid was set up by Pierre de Carello, a well known specialist in pyramidology and seven bottles of wine less than two years old were placed inside. They were supposed to age in a few days. Seven other bottles of the same wine were put into the office of the president of the Fair to wait for the last day of the Fair, when they would be tasted along with the seven bottles in the pyramid by members of the Wine-Waiters' Association. The wine tasters judged the colour, the smell and the taste of the "pyramid" wines and the control samples and then ranked them. The experiment was conducted twice, the conclusions the same — the pyramid model had no influence of any kind on the wine.

H.G.Wells summed up the pyramids as "unmeaning sepulchral piles", and Bertrand Russell (Gardner 1957) noted "that it is a singular fact that the Great Pyramid always predicts history accurately up to the date of publication of the latest book, after which it becomes less reliable!"


Castle, E.W. and Thiering, B.B. (Eds.) 1972. Some Trust in Chariots. Westbooks. Pty. Ltd.
Daniken, Erich von 1971. Chariots of the Gods? Corgi. London.
Edwards, Harry. 1991. "Pyramid Power or Sharp Practise?" the Skeptic. 11(1):23-25.
Edwards, I.E.S. 1961. The Pyramids of Egypt. Pelican. Gardiner, A. 1961. Egypt of the Pharoahs. London. O.U.P.
Gardner, Martin. 1957. Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science. Dover Publications, New York.
Kerrell, B. & Goggin, K. 1975. The Guide to Pyramid Energy. Santa Monica.
Lucas, A. 1959. Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries. London.
Williams, Barry. 1988. "Pyramids, Pyramyths & Pyramidiots." the Skeptic. 8(3): 14-20. Australian Skeptics Inc.

From: Edwards, H. A Skeptic's Guide to the New Age

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