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MARGINALIA

Astronomy and the Great Pyramid

J. Donald Fernie

Pyramidology! The very word produces groans and upturned eyes in an audience of scientists, along with sighs of "here we go again." As well it might. The rubbish written about pyramids generally, and the Great Pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops) in particular, is overwhelming. Bizarre theories about its construction and supposed metaphysical properties have only multiplied over the centuries. The Internet is filled with this nonsense.

Figure 1. The Great Pyramid of Egypt...Click to Enlarge Image

Yet these age–old monuments are a marvel, and they do tether our modern civilization to its origins. So there is a danger that the baby of rigorous scholarship can all too easily be thrown out with the bathwater of mystical blather, particularly by those scientists or educators who are plied with questions from well–meaning New Age disciples. But in fact, there are, and long have been, serious scientists applying careful methods to the study of ancient pyramids. Henry Petroski penned a thoughtful analysis of the engineering challenges of pyramid construction in a recent issue of American Scientist (May–June). Here I look at some studies that examine the astronomy of the pyramid builders.




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