Video: How the Egyptians May Have Aligned the Pyramids with True North Using the Sun

In this two minute video, we demonstrate how the Egyptians could have aligned the pyramids to cardinal directions using the sun. It’s a segment from Ancient Mysteries Solved: The Pyramids, an hour long documentary.  I have also uploaded a paper that describes the technique in more detail.

As with nearly everything archaeological, there is a backstory here. I was contacted by the producers of the series The Universe in 2013. Their 2014 season would focus on solving ancient mysteries, one of which was how the Egyptians had aligned the pyramids of the Fourth Dynasty, including the Great Pyramid of Khufu, to true north with such astonishing accuracy. In 2012, I verified that they could have done so by tracking the movements of the pole star of the time, Thuban in the constellation Draco. [1] However, the producers needed a demonstration they could film during the day, so I suggested we try the solar method.

It was an experiment designed to fail. How could it not? The sun is more than a half degree wide – more than 30 minutes of arc. How could the sun be used to find cardinal points to within a few minutes of arc? In fact, most scholars had rejected the solar method out of hand. But the solar method does work, and therein lay a lesson for scholars.

“Look, don’t think!” advises David J. Agans, a well-regarded expert in technical problem solving. [2] Instead of thinking about the problem, scholars long ago would have been well advised to do what I did, try the experiment and look at the results. The solar method, after all, is basically the same method we have been teaching boy and girl scouts for decades. Instead, scholars proposed all manner of methods over the last 130 years. Zbyněk Žába even wrote a whole book on the subject. [3] They should have consulted a scout.

The solar method could well be the method the Egyptians used to align the casings of their Fourth Dynasty pyramids with cardinal directions. [4] It makes sense, after all, the pyramids complexes were predominantly places of solar worship, what with their east facing pyramid temples and east-west running causeways.

The lesson to be learned here is that we need to be lookers and not just thinkers.

About the author: Glen Dash has been surveying in Egypt for more than ten years. He directs the Glen Dash Foundation for Archaeological Research. You can read more about his work at http://www.DashFoundation.org .

Links

Two Minute Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOLFX6azTas

Full Video: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1k4hl0_the-universe-8th-season-the-pyramids_shortfilms

Paper “Did the Egyptians use the Sun to Align the Pyramids?”: http://www.DashFoundation.org/downloads/archaeology/working-papers/Solar%20True%20North.doc

Notes

[1] Dash, Glen, “How the Pyramid Builders May Have Found Their True North,” AERAGRAM, Vol. 14 no. 1 (Spring 2013), 8-14. http://dashfoundation.com/downloads/archaeology/working-papers/True_North_2013_(July-14-13).doc

[2] Agans, David, Debugging: The 9 Indispensable Rules for Finding Even the Most Elusive Software and Hardware Problems, New York: American Management Association, 2002. http://www.amazon.com/Debugging-Indispensable-Software-Hardware-Problems/dp/0814474578/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1406310318&sr=8-1&keywords=agans+debugging

[3] Žába, Zbyněk, L’Orientation Astronomique Dans L’Ancienne Égypte, Et La Précession De L’Axe Du Monde, Prague: Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, 1953.

[4] The north facing entrance passageways of the pyramids, at least at Dashur, were probably still aligned to true north using the pole star method. (Dash 2013, 8-14)

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