Architect of the cosmos



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ARCHITECT OF THE COSMOS

ROBERT BAUVAL & THOMAS BROPHY PhD

Bestselling Authors of

 Black Genesis

I m h o t e p

 

the African



Imhotep 

the Afric

an

9 7 8 1 9 3 8 8 7 5 0 0 7



5 2 4 9 5

ISBN: 978-1-938875-00-7        U.S. $24.95

www.redwheelweiser.com

The True Story of   

the African Father   

of Civilization

A few kilometers outside the modern city of Cairo, on a large, flat elevation at 

the edge of the Sahara overlooking the Nile, is the world’s very first architectural 

complex. Nearly 5000 years old, the centerpiece of this mindboggling complex 

is a huge stepped pyramid surrounded by strange, temple-like structures. Aligned 

conspicuously towards the four cardinal directions, the whole mood of this strange 

place evokes, for lack of better words, ‘sacred architecture’ or, perhaps more aptly, 

‘sacred astronomy’.”—from the Introduction

In this groundbreaking book, Egyptologist Robert Bauval and astrophysicist 

Thomas Brophy uncover the mystery of Imhotep, an ancient Egyptian superstar, 

pharaonic Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo, and Newton all rolled into one. Based 

on their research at the Step Pyramid Complex at Saqqara, the book delves into 

observational astronomy to “decode” the alignments and other design features of 

the Step Pyramid Complex, to uncover the true origins and genius of Imhotep. 

Imhotep the African is an archeological detective story. Bauval and Brophy make 

the case that the legendary Egyptian physician, architect, and astronomer Imhotep 

was not only an historical figure but that he was black. This remarkable book 

challenges many assumptions about life along the Nile, revealing a worldview and 

technology that was more sophisticated than anything previously imagined.”



—STANLEY KRIPPNER, PH.D.,

 co-author of Personal Mythology

It is evident to many of their colleagues that Robert Bauval and Thomas Brophy 

are the dynamic duo of independent Egyptologists. They are to be commended for 

their scholarship and their dogged determination to present an honest assessment 

of historical events—even if it flies in the face of conventional dogma.”



—ANTHONY T. BROWDER, 

author and independent Egyptologist



Imhotep the African describes how Imhotep was the ancient link to the birth of 

modern civilization, restoring him to his proper place at the center of the birthing 

of Egyptian, and world, civilization.



BAUV

AL & BROPHY



Praise for Imhotep the African

Imhotep the African is an archeological detective story. Bauval and Brophy 

make the case that the legendary Egyptian physician, architect, and astrono-

mer Imhotep was not only an historical figure but that he was black. This 

remarkable book challenges many assumptions about life along the Nile, 

revealing a worldview and technology that was more sophisticated than 

anything previously imagined.”

—Stanley Krippner, Ph.D., co-author of Personal Mythology

“Bauval and Brophy have once again brought their keen intellectual and 

scientific skills to bear by examining an aspect of ancient history that con-

temporary Egyptologists have been either too afraid or too unwilling to 

investigate. Imhotep the African is the perfect sequel to Black Genesis, for it 

presents incontrovertible truths that will either be accepted on their merits 

or ignored for fear of exposing a house of lies built upon foundations of 

historical falsehoods. It is evident to many of their colleagues that Robert 

Bauval and Thomas Brophy are the dynamic duo of independent Egyptolo-

gists. They are to be commended for their scholarship and their dogged 

determination to present an honest assessment of historical events—even 

if it flies in the face of conventional dogma.”

—Anthony T. Browder, author and independent Egyptologist



Praise for Black Genesis

Black Genesis offers astounding new insights as Bauval and Brophy force-

fully support, with hard data, the radical idea that Egyptian civilization was 

the outgrowth of a sophisticated Black African culture that existed thou-

sands of years prior to the earliest known pharaohs. Their book is a must 

read for anyone interested in genuinely understanding the true origins of 

ancient Egypt and the dynamics of how civilizations develop.”

—Robert M. Schoch, Ph.D., author of  



Voyages of the Pyramid Builders and Pyramid Quest

“Readers of Black Genesis will never think of ancient Egypt in the same 

way again. Bauval and Brophy make the case that this venerable civiliza-

tion was originated by Black Africans from the Sahara Desert and that the 

pyramids, the statues, and the hieroglyphs were the result of their knowledge 

and ingenuity. The authors trace the series of errors and misjudgments that 

have obscured the origins of this remarkable civilization. It is time for the 

record to be set straight, and Blac

k Genesis is the book that may well do it. 

This is an authoritative, excellent, well-written book.”

—Stanley Krippner, Ph.D., professor of psychology  

at Saybrook University and co-author of Personal Mythology

“In Black Genesis, Bauval and Brophy combined their investigative skills 

to answer an obvious but often-neglected question, ‘who were the ancient 

Egyptians?’  With new astroarchaeological evidence they build a strong 

case for ‘the African origin of the pharaohs’ and have dramatically altered 

our understanding of the past.”

—Anthony T. Browder, author and independent Egyptologist

“Extremely dense and possibly groundbreaking, Bauval and Brophy make 

an honest case for a ‘very different story of the origins of ancient Egypt.’ 

Their scholarship is meticulous.”

Publisher’s Weekly, June 2011

“. . . packed with revelations!”

—Midwest Book Review, July 2011

“The tales of the authors’ 2008 expedition and of explorers in the past 

century add to the enticing read.”

Nexus Magazine, August 2011


“Recommended.”

—R. Fritze, Athens State University,  

Choice Reviews Online, October 2011

“Both authors are highly accredited researchers who have provided an 

incredibly detailed book examining the connection between the astronomy 

of the pharaohs and their Neolithic counterparts.”

Fate Magazine, October 2011

Black Genesis is a captivating, thought-provoking, utterly intriguing read 

that traces back the origins of the high civilization of ancient Egypt into 

deepest prehistory. Buckle your seatbelts for a rollercoaster ride.”

—Graham Hancock, author of Fingerprints of the Gods

Praise for The Egypt Code

 

“In  The Egypt Code Robert Bauval unveils a sacred landscape, lost for 

thousands of years, and provides us, literally, with the key that unlocks 

ancient Egypt.”

—Graham Hancock, author of Supernatural and Fingerprints of the Gods 

“Bauval’s arguments are very convincing. . . . They are practical, scientific 

views and they explain a lot that is otherwise difficult to understand. Most 

of all, this book is imbued with the sense of wonder that is essential for 

good science, plus the intrigue of a good thriller.”

Popular Science



Imhotep

 

the African 



A r c h i t e c t   o f   t h e   c o s m o s

robert bAuvAl & thomAs brophy

disinformation

®


Published by Disinformation Books,

An imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC

With offices at

665 Third Street, Suite 400

San Francisco, CA  94107

www.redwheelweiser.com

Copyright © 2013 by Robert Bauval and Thomas Brophy. All rights reserved. No part of this 

publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or 

mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval 

system, without permission in writing from Red Wheel/Weiser, llc. Reviewers may quote 

brief passages.

ISBN: 978-1-938875-02-1

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data available upon request

Cover design by Jim Warner

Interior design by Kathryn Sky-Peck 

Cover photograph © Omar Buckley

Printed in the United States of America

MAL

10  9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1



Disinformation® is a registered trademark of The Disinformation Company Ltd.

 

  

Preface

A few kilometers outside the modern city of Cairo, on a large, flat eleva-

tion at the edge of the Sahara overlooking the Nile, is the world’s very 

first architectural complex. Nearly 5,000 years old, the centerpiece of this 

mindboggling complex is a huge stepped pyramid surrounded by strange 

temple-like structures, the lot contained inside a giant perimeter wall 

whose length is more than 1,500 meters. Aligned conspicuously toward 

the four cardinal directions, this strange place evokes a mood, for lack of 

better words, of “sacred architecture”—or, perhaps more aptly, “sacred 

astronomy.” No doubt something extremely potent took place here—

certainly rituals of the highest order that somehow involved the cycles 

of the celestial bodies as seen through the eyes of a holy man or shaman. 

Amazingly, when one considers the extreme antiquity of this complex, 

Egyptologists know for sure who conceived it: Imhotep, the high priest 

of Heliopolis and vizier of King Netjerykhet/Djoser of the 3rd Dynasty 

in c. 2650 BC. And that, if the truth be told, is just about all they know 

with certainty. All else is educated guesses, speculation, and even fanciful 

thinking derived from later sources when Imhotep the man had been 

mythologized and even deified beyond recognition.

So who was this ancient Egyptian superstar—this pharaonic Da Vinci, 

Michelangelo, Galileo, and Newton all rolled into one—whose very name 

still commands reverence and awe? From where or from whom did he 

acquire his vast knowledge of astronomy and the art of stone masonry? 

And perhaps more intriguing still, what was the real purpose of his Step 

Pyramid Complex at Saqqara? Is there embedded in it an encoded mes-

sage? And if so, what? And from whom?

Much has been written and said about Imhotep, from scholarly the-

ses to bizarre novels and movie scripts of pure science fiction. But the 

real person—his true origins, his race, the root source of his knowledge 

and genius—all seem lost forever in the mist of time. How does one go 


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about finding the truth about a man who lived 5,000 years ago? Where 

does one begin the search? There are no written papyri or inscriptions 

about Imhotep’s life that are contemporary or even near contemporary 

to him, except for his name and his royal titles inscribed on the podium 

of a broken statue found in the 1920s at Saqqara. So where can one look 

for more clues? Which stone remains unturned that may reveal the truth 

of this giant of a man?

There is one aspect of Imhotep’s life, perhaps the main aspect, that 

is often overlooked or, at best, trivialized by Egyptologists—his occu-

pation as Chief of the Observers or Chief of the Astronomers, which, 

in today’s terminology, would be Astronomer Royal. This important 

occupation of sky-watching, when combined with Imhotep’s other roles 

as high priest of Heliopolis and vizier of the pharaoh, provides us with 

the means to “read” him, as it were, through the complex at Saqqara, 

which was designed to service the high occult rebirth rituals of pharaohs. 

Since 1984, I have argued that observational astronomy and a basic 

knowledge of the precession of the equinoxes should be incorporated 

into the science of Egyptology or, to be more specific, used to decode 

the sky religion and associated rituals found in the Pyramid Texts and 

incorporated into the religious architecture of the pyramid and temple 

builders of ancient Egypt. I applied this approach to the famous Giza 

pyramids in the 1990s with great success. I now want to do the same 

for Imhotep’s “Testimony in Stone” at Saqqara.

This was the daunting task I set myself. Knowing myself—and with 

so many other matters to attend to—I waited for something—a new dis-

covery, new clues—to jumpstart the quest. As is often the case with such 

things, this came from a totally unexpected quarter.

In early December 2007, I received a phone call from a friend whom 

I had not heard from in years—Mark Borda, a businessman turned desert 

explorer. Mark called from his home in Malta to tell me of an amazing 

discovery he had made a few weeks earlier in Gebel Uwainat—an uninhab-

ited mountain region in the remote southwest of Egypt’s Western Desert. 

Mark informed me excitedly that he had found hieroglyphic inscriptions 

on a boulder, which, on first analysis, showed that the ancient pyramid 

builders of Egypt had managed to travel to this distant place and meet with 

a previously unknown people—something that had so far been deemed 



 

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impossible by Egyptologists due to the total aridity of the region and the 

distance involved. Mark’s discovery changed all this. To me, however, it also 

meant that an important “missing link” had been found that could connect 

the ancient Egyptians to their true black-African origins. For now Mark’s 

crucial discovery could be linked with another all-important discovery 

made in 1997 by American and Polish anthropologists at Nabta Playa, a 

prehistoric site of great antiquity located some 100 kilometers due west 

of the Nile, but still 500 kilometers east of Gebel Uwainat.

At Nabta Playa, a plethora of mysterious man-made megalithic 

structures—stone alignments, stone circles, strange tumuli, and deep buri-

als—were found to have astronomical alignments and symbolism closely 

resembling, if not identical to, that of the pyramid builders of Egypt. Was 

it from these mysterious megalithic stargazers that Imhotep derived his 

advanced astronomical knowledge and stone-shaping art? The question 

begged the answer.

No sooner had Mark hung up than I decided, there and then, to 

investigate this matter further. I had to see these hieroglyphic inscriptions 

for myself and, hopefully, find more clues in their vicinity that could help 

resolve this enigma. So I contacted an American colleague and friend from 

San Diego, author and astrophysicist Dr. Thomas Brophy, who had already 

carried out extensive research at Nabta Playa, and invited him to join me 

on an expedition into the Egyptian Sahara. Thomas, too, had a strong 

hunch that the Egyptian civilization was connected to a prehistoric African 

people who inhabited the Sahara thousands of years before the pharaohs. 

In 2003, Thomas had boldly gone on a solo expedition to Nabta Playa to 

obtain the precise coordinates of the stone alignments and had published 

his findings in a book, The Origin Map, as well as in peer-reviewed articles.

 In early April 2008, Thomas and I set off from Cairo with a small 

convoy of 4-wheel-drive vehicles. We were guided by Mahmoud Marai, a 

professional desert guide who had been with Mark Borda when the Gebel 

Uwainat inscriptions were discovered. The story of this expedition and 

our findings are told in our book Black Genesis (Inner Traditions, 2011). 

In Black Genesis, however, we refrained from discussing Imhotep and his 

true origins because we wanted first to establish a firm foundation for our 

thesis. Later in the course of 2011, I had the opportunity to visit several 

times and do research at the Step Pyramid Complex at Saqqara. It was 



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then that Thomas and I reconnected to write the story of Imhotep based 

on our new research.

In Black Genesis, our approach was to apply our knowledge of obser-

vational astronomy and precession to “decode” the alignments and other 

design features of the Step Pyramid Complex. Slowly but surely, we began 

to enter the mind-set of Imhotep via his opus magnum in stone. As if 

immersed in a whodunit detective story, we followed the clues that took 

us on an exhilarating magical mystery tour that started at Saqqara and 

led us beyond its confines to temples in Upper Egypt—and ultimately, 

as we had suspected, to the stones of Nabta Playa and the black-African 

stargazers who had placed them there.

Throughout the rest of this book, for simplicity and ease of reading, 

we always use “we” when describing our travels, researches, and previous 

publications, even when the actual event involved only one or the other 

of us. For example, the visit to the Heliopolis area of Cairo (chapter 1) 

involved only myself and a small group, while the 2003 visit to Nabta 

Playa (chapter 4) involved only Thomas and a small group. If the actual 

referent is not obvious from the context, in essentially all cases it can be 

found in the references we cite.

Thomas and I are proud to have pooled our knowledge and experi-

ences again in this quest for the truth of the origins of Egypt’s civilization. 

It’s a rewarding feeling that is not easy to describe. Our ultimate reward, 

however, will be that you enjoy reading our story as much as we enjoyed 

writing it.

—R

obeRt


 b

auval


, J

anuaRy


 8, 2013

Why should we attempt to combine the rigors of the science of modern 

astronomy with the more art-like pursuits of Egyptology and biography? 

As synchrony would have it, I am drafting this on a very chilly American 

holiday—Martin Luther King Day—while President Barack Obama deliv-

ers his second inaugural address, echoing the words of MLK and offering a 

poetic route to an answer for that question: “We, the people, declare today 

that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the 



 

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star that guides us still; . . .[T]o hear a King proclaim that our individual 

freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.” 

Later in his speech, Obama continued to echo MLK by articulating the 

many ways in which “our journey is not complete” until we incorporate 

that “most evident of truths,” through our actions, into our worldview. 

The inextricable linking of the “I” that is “we” and the re-integration of 

the interior arts with the exterior sciences are the two axes of the integral 

mission to achieve a sustainable post-postmodern worldview.

I see our attempts in this current book as a small part of that great 

mission. Attraction to the modern pursuit of archaeoastronomy in general 

fits into that context as well. Something about the mysterious monuments 

of deep antiquity that our ancestors have left for us speaks to a time when 

the inner arts and the outer sciences were more fused—yet somehow more 

noble, even more aware, in ways that our modern rigid segregation of the 

inner and the outer blocks us from embracing. And clearly, Imhotep played 

a key role in bringing those noble truths of awareness into the earliest 

embodiments of human civilization. The current integral mission to bring 

together all the disciplines in pursuit of a more powerful, wholistic grasp 

of reality is a step forward toward completing our journey to reunite with 

the essence of our own origins. It is in that spirit that I joined Robert 

Bauval on our journeys to the remotest desert—on a mission toward the 

reality of our deep past. And in that spirit, I hope we bring to readers of 

this volume some of the results of those journeys—with both fidelity 

and enjoyment.

—t

homas


 b

Rophy


, J

anuaRy


 21, 2013

 

  

Chapter One

The City  

of the Sun



Heliopolis: one of the most important cult-centers of the pharaonic period 

and the site of the first sun-temple, dedicated to the god Ra-Horakhty . . .

I

an



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aul


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Icholson


1

The greatest center of magic in Egypt was probably the holy city of 

Heliopolis, the city of the sun, where the most ancient theology developed. 

Here were preserved numerous papyri, “magic” in the widest sense of the 

word, including medical, botanical, zoological and mathematical texts. 

Most Greek philosophers and savants travelled to Heliopolis to study 

some of that knowledge.

c

hRIstIan



 J

acq


2

 

A lonely obelisk stands in the northeast part of the modern city of Cairo. 



It represents Heliopolis, the most revered “center of learning” of the 

ancient world. Most Egyptologists believe that Heliopolis existed long 

before the pyramids. It was known as Innu by the ancient Egyptians; later, 

the Hebrews called it On; much later still, the Greeks gave it the current 

name of Heliopolis, which means “City of the Sun.” Today, local inhabit-

ants call it Ain Shams, “Eye of the Sun.”

Egyptologists tell us that Heliopolis was headed by a high priest—the 

our mau, or Chief of the Observers—whose main function was to observe 

the night sky and the motion of the stars. One such high priest, indeed 



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the earliest known to us by name and the most revered, was a man called 

 Imhotep, “He Who Comes in Peace.” So famous and admired was Imhotep 

that, during the latter part of the pharaonic civilization, he was vener-

ated as a god. Later, the Greeks regarded him as the Father of Medicine, 

associating him with Asclepius and thus bestowing on him the unique 

position of being a historical human, not a king, who was officially dei-

fied. Imhotep even gained super-villain stardom status in Hollywood in 

1932 in the original movie The Mummy starring Boris Karloff, and sub-

sequently in the 1999 loosely remade blockbuster by Stephen Sommers 

starring Brendan Fraser. The latter grossed 415 million dollars and spawned 

several sequels—the 2001 The Mummy Returns and the 2004 Revenge of 

the Mummy—as well as many spinoffs like the Scorpion King and a series 

of novels, cartoons, and comic books. Second only to Tutenkhamun, or 

perhaps now even on a par with the boy-king, Imhotep holds a central 

place in modern pop culture, ranking in the Top 10 list of super villains 

thanks to Karloff and Fraser.

The truth, however, is that very little is known about Imhotep the 

man. Although he receives high praise from Egyptologists and historians 

alike and is often referred to as a genius—or the inventor of architecture, 

or the father of science—Imhotep’s true identity is really largely the subject 

of guesswork and speculation. In fact, as high priest of Heliopolis during 

the 3rd Dynasty of Egyptian kings, Imhotep’s name appears less than half 

a dozen times in contemporary texts. The recent academic work on the 

3rd Dynasty refers to him in only seven of its 300 pages, with most of the 

information culled from writings long after Imhotep’s time. In short, one 

could say that Imhotep is a Jesus of deep antiquity—highly mythologized 

and eventually divinized, but with little or no contemporary archaeological 

or textual evidence to support the myth. The main reason for this huge 

lacuna is that Egyptologists have generally ignored one of Imhotep’s most 

important proficiencies: his highly advanced knowledge of astronomy.

Imhotep and Heliopolis

Imhotep’s architectural masterpiece, the fabulous Step Pyramid Complex 

at Saqqara, has for too long been studied as only that—an architectural 

masterpiece. But we have come to see it as an astronomical “manual” in 

stone. The Step Pyramid Complex, as we shall see in the coming chapters, 


 

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 3 

model of the step pyramid complex of imhotep now in the auditorium  

of the visitors’ center at saqqara.

view of the step pyramid complex at saqqara looking northwest.



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is a sort of pharaonic “Da Vinci Code,” which, if properly understood and 

decoded, can take us into the mind and even the origin of the architect-

astronomer genius who created it.

The first hint of this “Saqqara code” was given to us by Sir I. E. S. 

Edwards, one of the most eminent Egyptologists of the 20th century and 

widely acknowledged as the authority on Egyptian pyramids. The first 

time we met this affable scholar was in the summer of 1985 at his home 

near Oxford, where we had a long talk about pyramids. It was then, as we 

talked of the astronomy of the pyramids, that he referred to the new edi-

tion of his famous book The Pyramids of Egypt, the first edition of which 

appeared in 1947, the last in 1993. He pointed to this passage, which 

related specifically to Imhotep:

On the ground of internal evidence alone it has been deduced 

that the Pyramid Texts [dated c. 2300 BC] which refer to the 

stars had an independent origin from the solar spells and that 

eventually they were merged into the Heliopolitan doctrine. 

Imhotep’s title “Chief of the Observers,” which became the 

regular title of the High Priests of Heliopolis, may itself sug-

gest an occupation connected with astral, rather than solar, 

observation. Here therefore may be the difference between the 

underlying purpose of the true and step pyramid, the latter being 

the product of a stellar cult and intended to enable the king to 

reach the astral heaven.

3

Later, because of the overwhelming internal evidence of observational 



astronomy in the Pyramid Texts, Edwards preferred to translate Chief of 

the Observers as Chief of the Astronomers.

4

 He died in September 1996, 



long before we took up this hint and began to look carefully at the astral 

aspect of the Step Pyramid Complex.

In 2005, I moved from England to Cairo, and set up a study base 

near the Giza pyramids. From the balcony of my fourth-floor apartment, 

I had a view of the Great Pyramid. From the rooftop, I could easily see 

the majestic Step Pyramid at Saqqara, the principal legacy of Imhotep. 

The result of my 2005–2006 Egypt study was the book The Egypt Code, 

in which we showed how various aspects of the Step Pyramid Complex 

were designed according to “sacred astronomy”—i.e., astronomical 

observations incorporated into the architecture of a sacred complex.

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view of the Great pyramid from our apartment balcony in cairo.

view from the rooftop of our apartment building in cairo,  

with the step pyramid at saqqara in the far distance.



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We will revisit this material in chapters 3 and 4 when we probe the Step 

Pyramid Complex and the Saqqara code. But first, we need to understand 

what went on at the cult center of Heliopolis and, more specifically, 

why it was that Imhotep was both high priest and master architect of 

the Step Pyramid Complex.

El Massalah 

Today, the local Arabs call the spot where the temple of Heliopolis once 

stood El Massalah, the Obelisk. This is because the only visible thing that 

remains—other than a very small part of a temple’s foundation and a few 

pitiful broken statues—is a lonely free-standing obelisk. When the city 

of Fustat (medieval Cairo) was built by the Arabs starting in the late 7th 

century, the remains of the temples and 

buildings of Heliopolis were systemati-

cally ransacked and used as a quarry for 

building material. The few remaining 

artifacts are strewn outside a rickety 

wooden shed within a large open rect-

angular space known as Tel el Hisn, the 

Hill of the Horse

,

 which is surrounded 



(“besieged” is a better word) quite liter-

ally by ugly apartment blocks built in 

the 1960s and 1970s during Nasser’s 

socialist era. Ancient Heliopolis is now 

an integral part of the Matareya district, 

swallowed by the ever-growing city of 

Cairo.

We vividly recall our first trip to 



Matareya, ancient Heliopolis, in March 

1993. It was a time of turmoil when 

anti-government terrorists had set off 

makeshift bombs in central Cairo, one of 

which exploded inside a restaurant in Tahrir Square on February 26, killing 

two students at the nearby American University and injuring many others. 

the obelisk of sesostris (senurset) i, 

known locally as El Massalah, where 

the temple of heliopolis once stood.


 

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One week later, on March 5, we decided to visit the Egyptian Antiquities 

Museum in Tahrir Square. We reckoned that, with such low tourism, it 

would be an ideal opportunity to take photographs unobstructed by the 

usual throng of tourists. As we happily clicked away in the ground-floor 

gallery, we became aware of a commotion at the entrance of the museum. 

A congregation of impressive-looking Coptic bishops had come into the 

gallery with their bodyguards. Upon seeing us, one of the bodyguards, 

indicating that he was armed by placing his hand inside his jacket, shouted 

“no photos!” But one bishop, named Baba Moussa, asked who we were. 

After we explained that we were taking pictures for a book, he signaled his 

bodyguards to let us take all the photos we wanted.

It was still early when we finished, so we decided to go to Matareya to 

take some photographs of the obelisk of Sesostris I (a 12th-Dynasty king) 

and whatever else remained of ancient Innu. The obelisk, 120 tons of solid 

granite towering some twenty meters, stands like a forlorn sentinel help-

lessly watching the ever-encroaching slums of Cairo. A beggar approached 

me with one palm outstretched and his other hand pointing at the obelisk 

and cried “el-massalah! el-massalah! Bakshish, bakshish!” We wondered if he, 

or indeed any of the locals today, were aware that this quasi-abandoned 

archaeological site was once the greatest center of learning of the ancient 

robert bauval with ethiopian and egyptian coptic bishops  

in the cairo museum, march 1993.


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world, where scholars from as far off as Greece came to be tutored by the 

Egyptian priest-scientists of Innu. For thousands of years, luminaries like 

Pythagoras, Eudoxus, Cnidus, and even, it is said, the great Plato came to 

be taught the sacred sciences of ancient Egypt: geometry, mathematics, 

medicine, divination, and, above all, astronomy.

The various epithets given to Heliopolis make this more than evi-

dent—“the chosen seat of the gods,” “the horizon of the sky,” and “the 

sky of Egypt,” to cite but a few. Abdel-Aziz Saleh, a professor of Egyptol-

ogy at Cairo University who spent many years excavating at Heliopolis, 

noted that “a number of high-priests of Ounu [Innu, Heliopolis] were 

individually entitled ‘He who discloses the secret of Heaven [sky]’ and 

the ‘Supervisor of the mysteries of Heaven [sky].’” 

6

So important was Heliopolis as a seat of high learning that, even 



though some of the great scholars from Greece may not actually have 

made the journey to study there, their biographers nonetheless feigned 

that they had in order to enhance their scholarly prestige. Even Christ did 

not escape such a connection, for the district of Matareya was once an 

enclave of  “Followers of Jesus,” later to become the Copts, the Egyptian 

Christians who fervently believe that the Holy Family received sanctu-

ary at Heliopolis. The canonical gospel of Matthew in fact says that the 

Holy Family sought refuge in Egypt from King Herod’s campaign to kill 

all baby boys in Palestine. Indeed, to this day, just a few hundred meters 

edwin long’s painting of the holy family in egypt, inviting the connection between isis  

and the infant horus, and mary and the infant Jesus.


 

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down the road from el-Massalah, the small Church of the Holy Family 

stands, its interior walls decorated with scenes of the family entering on 

a donkey into the semi-ruined city of Heliopolis.

Remarkably, there is a superb painting by the 19th-century artist 

Edwin Long showing Joseph leading the donkey that carries Mary with 

the infant Jesus in her arms, while passing by a religious procession with 

an effigy of Isis carrying the infant Horus. Many historians of religion 

hold that the Isis-Horus myth was absorbed into Christian mythology and 

converted into the Mary-Jesus myth, complete with the astro-symbology 

of the Star of the East, a clear indication of the enormous influence that 

Heliopolis had on world culture.

7

The guard at the small ticket office outside the Heliopolis archaeologi-



cal site told us that it was closed. The fact that the guard was alone made 

it easier to offer the proverbial bakshish (bribe/tip) to be let inside. An 

Egyptian note equivalent to about two U. S. dollars did the trick. The area 

was littered with garbage, and there were ugly puddles of green sewage 

water around the ruins. A few broken statues were displayed on the floor 

outside the small shed. We focused on taking photos of the obelisk, then 

a few others of the surrounding ruins and broken statuary. Then we drove 

church of the holy family in matareya, cairo.



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to the nearby Church of the Holy Family. There, a friendly guard let us 

into the small but very moving church, and we took some photographs 

of the murals showing the Holy Family at Heliopolis.

The Bird of Creation  

and the Marking of Time

The Pyramid Texts comprise the oldest collection of ancient Egyptian 

religious texts, perhaps the oldest known texts in the world. They were 

found by French Egyptologist Gaston Maspero in 1881 and 1882, carved 

on the inside walls of 5th- and 6th-Dynasty pyramids at Saqqara. The 

oldest version is found in the pyramid of King Unas (last king of the 

5th Dynasty, c. 2300 BC), which stands but a few hundred meters to the 

southwest of the earlier Step Pyramid Complex of Imhotep. The Unas 

pyramid has been closed since the late 1990s, but we managed to enter 

it several times between 1992 and 1995. On one occasion in December 

the texts in the pyramid of King unas, a few hundred meters to the southwest  

of the step pyramid complex of imhotep.



 

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1993, we spent several hours inside it filming a television documentary 

for the BBC’s

 

Everyman series, The Great Pyramid: Gateway to the Stars



which aired on February 7, 1994.

There is a passage in the Pyramid Texts (Utterance 600) that speaks of 

Heliopolis in an intriguing way: “O Atum-Khoprer (the rising sun), you 

rose high on the heights, you rose up as the benben stone in the Mansion 

of the Phoenix in Heliopolis.” The benben stone was a very ancient and 

very sacred relic that was kept in the main temple at Heliopolis, called the 

Temple of the Phoenix (see Appendix I). But the most accredited transla-

tor of these texts, British philologist Raymond O. Faulkner, imposed the 

Greek word “phoenix” on the much older ancient Egyptian word bennu

The bennu was a magical bird that, according to the Egyptian Creation 

Myth, had appeared at the “first dawn of creation” to set time in motion 

by uttering a great cry that initiated life on earth. It is also evident that 

there is a word-play between benben and bennu, for both have the same 

etymological root, ben, and both are linked to the same ideas of creation 

and time. According to archaeoastronomer E. C. Krupp, the ancient priests 

of Heliopolis had interpreted an actual astronomical observation—not of 

the rising sun per se, but rather of the sun rising along with a very special 

star, the star Sirius:

The world began in earnest there (at Heliopolis) when Sirius, the 

stellar signal for the Nile Flood, in its first return to the predawn 

sky, alighted as the bennu, the bird of creation, upon the benben 

and then took wings as the sun followed it into the heavens to 

bring light, life, and order to the cosmos.

8

It is well known that the star Sirius, called Spd by the ancient Egyptians, 



was associated with the birth of Horus, the divine archetype of kings said 

to be born from the womb of the goddess Isis. It is also known that this 

star was used as a marker for calendric computations and especially to act 

as the starting point of the year—as well as to what is loosely termed the 

“Great Year,” but is more accurately referred to by Egyptologists as the 

Sothic Cycle (a name derived from the Greeks, who called Sirius Sothis).

When we speak of time, it is wise to note the words of archaeo-

astronomer R. W. Stoley. This astute scholar emphasized that “ultimately, 

our clocks are really timed by the stars. The master-clock is our earth, 

turning on its axis relative to the fixed stars.”

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 Early humans lacked 



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mechanical devices to measure the passing of time. So they, and especially 

the ancient Egyptians, used the natural “clock” of our world—the earth 

itself or, to be more precise, the apparent perpetual cycle of the fixed stars 

as they “sail” from east to west every night. The priests of Heliopolis, as 

the Chief Observers, were responsible for this important function. And 

even though they may not have known that it was the earth’s own rota-

tion and revolution around the sun that caused the apparent cycles of the 

stars, they, as we today, could observe the motions, record their duration, 

and therefore calculate the cycles.

Egyptologists are in agreement that, of all the stars that were observed 

by the ancients, one special star stood out above all others: Sirius (known 

as Alpha Canis Majoris by modern astronomers). Egyptologists have rec-

ognized how important the first dawn rising of Sirius, technically known 

as the “heliacal rising,” was to the Egyptians:

The importance of Sirius for the Egyptians lay in the fact that 

the star’s annual appearance on the eastern horizon at dawn her-

alded the approximate beginning of the Nile’s annual inundation 

which marked the beginning of the agricultural year . . .

10 

The 


Egyptian year was considered to begin on 19 July (according to 

the Julian calendar) which was the date of the heliacal rising of 

the dog star Sirius.

11

the Nile flood near the pyramids, from a pre-1905 photograph.



 

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The Nile River overflows and floods the adjacent valley in Egypt every 

year at about the time of the Summer Solstice—the last week in June, 

according to our present Gregorian calendar. By a propitious coinci-

dence, the star Sirius also rises in the east for the first time at dawn after 

a prolonged period of “invisibility” that lasts some seventy days. It is 

no wonder, therefore, that the early inhabitants of the Nile Valley saw a 

connection between the annual heliacal rising of Sirius and the annual 

inundation of the Nile. And since this event regenerated Egypt’s crops 

with rich detritus and fertilizers brought down from central Africa by 

the river, it is easy to see how this astronomical event was mythologized 

into the “birth of Horus” and, by extension, that of his earthly incarna-

tion, the pharaoh.

A powerful and elaborate sky religion centered on the rebirth of kings 

among the stars gradually developed around, or at least fundamentally 

intertwined with, this one vital astronomical observation. It would also 

lead to the design and construction of “resurrection machines” in the form 

of the great pyramid complexes of the Old Kingdom, whose ultimate 

function was to bring about the transfiguration of the king’s lifeless body 

into a “living star” in the sky.

12

The Sothic Cycle

It would have been relatively easy for the ancient Egyptians, or indeed 

anyone else for that matter, to count the days from one heliacal ris-

ing of Sirius to another and come up with the 365-day annual cycle. 

However, it was eventually noticed that, every fourth year, the heliacal 

rising was delayed by a day, so that this fourth year of the cycle had 366 

days. This was called the tetraeteris by the ancient Greeks, and known to 

the Romans as the quadrennium.

13

 Today, this “extra day” is taken into 



account in our Gregorian calendar by having a “leap year” of 366 days 

once every four years. The leap year was introduced by Julius Caesar in 

the Julian calendar, which, interestingly, was designed for Caesar by an 

Egyptian astronomer, Sosigenes of Alexandria.

It seems clear that the ancient Egyptians were quite aware of the 

extra day in the yearly cycle but, for reasons that we shall soon see, did 

not adjust for it in their 365-day calendar, known as the civil calendar. 


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Today, we know that this extra day occurs because the solar year is not 

exactly 365 days long, but nearly 365¼ days. At any rate, Egyptologists 

and astronomers alike agree that the ancient Egyptians did not cor-

rect their civil calendar by introducing a leap year, in spite of the fact 

that they were aware that their calendar “drifted” a lot over time. The 

question, therefore, is why not? Here, however, is where Egyptologists 

and astronomers part ways. For the explanation that is self-evident to 

astronomers is generally rejected by modern Egyptologists—thus the 

Sothic Cycle debate.

The adoption of a civil calendar of 365 days without a leap year every 

fourth year meant that the calendar drifted from the true astronomical 

year at the rate of nearly one full day every four years. A simple calcula-

tion shows that this would create a cycle of 365¼ x 4 = 1,461 years (or 

1,460 years if the extra ¼ day is left out). This, in a nutshell, is the calculated 

Sothic Cycle for a 365-day civil calendar or a 365¼-day (approximate 

solar year) calendar. In reality, as we shall see in a later chapter, this value 

can vary by a few years when and if the cycle is actually observed—that 

is, its start and end dates are actually recorded.

 

And to be precise,



 

the solar 

the rising of sirius, with the constellation orion high above it.


 

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year, also called the tropical year, which is the precise time between one 

Vernal Equinox and the next is about 365.2422 days, while the sidereal 

year, which is the time it takes earth to return to the same relationship of 

the sun to distant fixed stars is about 365.2564 days. In Black Genesis, we 

show how the fact that the solar year is a bit shorter than 365¼ days and 

the sidereal year is a bit longer than 365¼ days makes the average Sothic 

year, which is a combination of the two, come out very close to 365¼ 

days. At any rate, the Sothic Cycle debate among academics is simply this: 

Many astronomers believe that the Egyptians had to be aware of it and 

even made use of it in their calendric computations, but contemporary 

Egyptologists don’t.

Much ink has been spilled in this Sothic Cycle debate. It is fair to 

say, however, that the previous generation of Egyptologists was quite 

open to the idea of the Sothic Cycle, while today’s Egyptologists reject 

it on the basis that there is no direct evidence to support the notion 

that the 1,461-year cycle was known, let alone used, by the ancient 

Egyptians. We shall unequivocally demonstrate in chapter 3 that the 

ancient Egyptians not only knew the Sothic Cycle, but also used it from 

the very earliest times.



Polemics

The first-century Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus, who consulted the 

works of Egyptian astronomer-priests, reported that the cyclical return of 

the Egyptian “phoenix”—i.e., the bennu—to Heliopolis was none other 

than the cyclical return of the heliacal rising of Sirius to its point of origin 

on the calendar, namely New Year’s Day:

The bird called the phoenix (bennu), after a long succession of 

ages, appeared in Egypt and furnished the most learned men of 

that country and of Greece with abundant matter for the discus-

sion of the marvelous phenomenon [of its magical return] . . . it 

is a creature sacred to the sun. . . . Some maintain that it is seen at 

intervals of 1,461 years, and that the former birds flew into the 

city called Heliopolis.

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Egypt, with her mysteries, seems to have exercised a special fascination on 



the imagination of Tacitus; he boasts of knowing her better than others.

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British Egyptologist R. T. Rundle Clark also asserts:

Underlying all Egyptian speculation is the belief that time is 

composed of recurrent cycles which are divinely appointed: the 

day, the week of ten days, the month, the year (and) even longer 

periods . . . 1,460 years . . . in conjunction of . . . stars and inun-

dation. In a sense, when the Phoenix gave out its primeval call 

it initiated all these cycles, so it is the patron of all divisions of 

time, and its temple at Heliopolis became the center of calendric 

regulation. As the herald of each new dispensation, it becomes, 

optimistically, the harbinger of good tidings.

16

It seemed obvious to these experts, as it is also obvious to us, that the 



Sothic Cycle of 1,460 or 1,461 years, namely the calculated return of the 

heliacal rising of Sirius to its starting point in the calendar, was the same 

as the return of the mythical phoenix—i.e., the Egyptian bennu—that 

periodically returned to Heliopolis to begin a “new age.” And because the 

heliacal rising of Sirius symbolized the birth of Horus, the birth/rebirth 

of the pharaohs, earthly incarnations of Horus, was associated with this 

astronomical phenomenon.

We suppose, however, that pharaohs who happened to be born when 

a Sothic Cycle began were regarded as special, perhaps even messianic. 

In our book The Egypt Code, we argue that the birth of the pharaoh 

Akhenaten in c. 1356 BC coincided in his lifetime with the return of a 

Sothic Cycle and may have been the impetus for the dramatic religious 

reform he instigated. It is also possible that the birth of the 3rd-Dynasty 

pharaoh Djoser, whom Imhotep served as vizier and high priest, also 

coincided with such a return of a Sothic Cycle and, consequently, may 

have been the religious, intellectual, and creative impetus that brought 

about the Step Pyramid Complex.

Censorinus

If a Sothic Cycle ended and a new one began at intervals of 1,461 

years, and if we know at least one of these start/end years, it should be 

relatively easy to work out when other Sothic Cycles begin by simply 

adding or subtracting increments of 1,461 years. As far as we can make 

out, however, the ancient Egyptians left us no records of such events. 




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