ANCIENT and OLD THEORIES ON WHY THE GREAT PYRAMID WAS BUILT
I think it would be interesting if we listed in a concise form many of the ancient and old theories proposed on why the Great Pyramid of Giza was built. We really should call them hypotheses and not theories since most of them have not been tested using the scientific method and are not backed with the amount of scientific data to make them a theory. I will continue to use the word theory since this is what the general public usually refers them as.
The first part of this includes many old and unusual theories that go back even to ancient times. These should interest us from a historical point of view and also shed some light on the current theories. In many cases, a new current theory is just an old theory brought out again, revised and updated. This article does not favor one theory or another. It's purpose is to list as many theories as possible and give some basic information about them. It is not a detailed or exhaustive report but a short concise summary. Some of these theories may sound trite, but at one time were accepted by many people.
1) BARRIERS AGAINST THE DESERT SANDS
M. Fialin de Persigngy in 1845 expressed the opinion that the purpose of the pyramids were to act as barriers against the sandy irruptions of the dessert in Egypt and Nubia.
2) IMITATION OF NOAH'S ARK OR TOWER OF BABEL
Thomas Yeates in 1833 said "The Great Pyramid soon followed the Tower of Babel, and had the same common origin. Whether it was not a copy of the original Tower of Babel? And, moreover, whether the dimensions of these structures were not originally taken from the Ark of Noah? The measures of the Great Pyramid at the base do so approximate to the measures of the Ark of Noah in ancient cubit measure, that I cannot scruple, however novel the idea, to draw a comparison. "
3) FILTERING RESERVOIRS
A Swedish philosopher from the 1800's thought that the pyramids were simply contrivances for purifying the water of the muddy Nile, which would pass through their passages.
4) TO PLEASE THE WOMEN
This one is really unique. A Mr. Gable from the 19th century said that "it appears not that the founders of them had any such laudable design of transmitting to posterity specimens, as some had supposed; hence they appear to have been erected for no geometrical purpose. They were erected by those, who after their intermarriages with the daughters of men, became, not only degenerate despisers of useful knowledge, but altogether abandoned to luxury". Thus he felt they were built to please these women, who had requested that the sons of God employ their leisure after that fashion.
5) THE QUEEN OF SHEBA'S GIFTS
Mr. Wathen, in 1842 said that "the offerings of the Queen of Sheba are now beheld in the indestructible masses of the pyramids."
6) JOSEPH'S GRANARIES
Benjamin of Toledo, in the Middle Ages, was of the opinion that the Pharaoh had stored a great quantity of wheat there. It was thought that purpose of the Great Pyramid was to convert it into a granary in the time of famine.
7) DISPLAY OF ROYAL DESPOTISM
Aristotle thought the priests had persuaded the king to undertake the work, in order to find employment for the idle. This would divert them from mutinies and rebellions. Pliny thought it was built so the Pharaoh could keep his captives busy. Rev. E. B. Zincke in the 19th century had a practical suggestion. "In those days, labor could not be bottled up." Egypt was so fertile, and men's wants were then so few, that surplus labor was available, and much food, from taxes in kind, accumulated in royal hands. So, the pyramid was built to employ workers who had no job and to use up the excess money in the treasury.
8) PRESERVATION OF LEARNING FROM THE EXPECTED DELUGE
This theory has been preserved by many early Arabian authors. It was revealed by the antediluvian astrologers that a great flood was coming, and thus the pyramid was built to preserve the memory of the then existing learning. Other authors added that the pyramid was built to also preserve medicines, magic, and talismans. There is an interesting story as told by Murtadi in 992 AD at Tihe, in Arabia. The work was translated in 1672 and this is the story.
"There was a king named Saurid, the son of Sahaloe, 300 years before the Deluge, who dreamed one night that he saw the earth overturned with its inhabitants, the men cast down on their faces, the stars falling out of the heavens, and striking one against the other, and making horrid and dreadful cries as they fell. He thereupon awoke much troubled. A year after he dreamed again that he saw the fixed stars come down to the earth in the form of white birds, which carried men away, and cast them between two great mountains, which almost joined together and covered them; and then the bright, shining stars became dark and were eclipsed. Next morning he ordered all the princes of the priests, and magicians of all the provinces of Egypt, to meet together; which they did to the number of 130 priest and soothsayers, with whom he went and related to them his dream.
"Among others, the priest Aclimon, who was the greatest of all, and resided chiefly in the king's Court, said thus to him: - I myself had a dream about a year ago which frightened me very much, and which I have not revealed to any one. I dreamed, said the priest, that I was with your Majesty on the top of the mountain of fire, which is in the midst of Emosos, and that I saw the heaven sink down below its ordinary situation, so that it was near the crown of our heads, covering and surrounding us, like a great basin turned upside down; that the stars were intermingled among men in diverse figures; that the people implored your Majesty's succor, and ran to you in multitudes as their refuge; that you lifted up your hands above your head, and endeavored to thrust back the heaven, and keep it from coming down so low; and that I, seeing what your Majesty did, did also the same. While we were in that posture, extremely affrighted, I thought we saw a certain part of heaven opening, and a bright light coming out of it; that afterwards the sun rose out of the same place, and we began to implore his assistance; whereupon he said thus to us: "The heaven will return to its ordinary situation when I shall have performed three hundred courses". I thereupon awaked extremely affrighted."
"The priest having thus spoken, the king commanded them to take the height of the stars, and to consider what accident they portended. Whereupon they declared that they promised first the Deluge, and after that fire. Then he commanded pyramids should be built, that they might remove and secure in them what was of most esteem in their treasuries, with the bodies of the kings, and their wealth, and the aromatic roots which served them, and that they should write their wisdom upon them, that the violence of the water might not destroy it."
Another early Arab historian adds to the story:
"And he filled them (the pyramids) with talismans, and with strange things, and with riches and treasures and the like. He engraved in them all things that were told him by wise men, as, also, all profound sciences. The names of alakakirs, the uses and hurts of them, the science of astrology and of arithmetic, of geometry and physics. All these may be interpreted by him who knows their characters and language. ..."
As of this day, nothing of the sort has been found in any of the Giza pyramids. Some people think that these artifacts may eventually be found in a hidden chamber or passage.
9) THE TOMB OF THE KING
This theory goes back to the 4th Century when Herodotus described the building of the Great Pyramid to Philitis. He stated that "Cheops ordered Philitis to prepare him a tomb." A Syrian writer of the ninth century stated that "They are not granaries of Joseph as some say, but mausoleums erected upon the tombs of ancient kings." Mariette Bey is an advocate for the tomb theory. He states "with regard to the use of which the pyramids were destined, it is to do violence to all that we know of Egypt, to all that archeology teaches us of the monumental customs of that country, to see them any other thing than tombs." Most books today on Egyptology will tell you that the Great Pyramid and in fact all the pyramids in Egypt were built as tombs for the Pharaoh's. In fact, The Great Pyramid was built as a tomb for the 4th Dynasty pharaoh, Cheops. In other articles on this web site we discussed that it is very unlikely that the Great Pyramid was built as a tomb for a pharaoh. Other pyramids, yes, but not the Great Pyramid. The following will summarize the reasons of those who do not accept the tomb theory. No mummies or any human remains have been found in the Great Pyramid (and it is not likely that they were removed by Tomb robbers). The Great Pyramid is the only pyramid built with an ascending system of passages. All the other pyramids have only a descending system with the pharaoh buried below. Also it is the only pyramid with a Grand Gallery. What would be its purpose in a tomb? There are no hieroglyphics, paintings, inscriptions, etc. found on the Great Pyramid. Almost all the other pyramids, monuments, etc. in Egypt are covered with inscriptions. It is unlikely that a King would have been buried there with no inscriptions and paintings for his tomb. Thus maybe the other pyramids were built as tombs, but it does not appear that the Great Pyramid was built for that reason.
10) STANDARD OF WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
The Edinburgh Professor, Piazzi Smyth, is credited with the fatherhood of the idea that the pyramid contains a standard of measure. Actually, this theory was proposed by many others before him, but he was the one who developed this theory with mathematical skill and gave it public appeal. In fact, because of his books, the Great Pyramid received a popularity never realized before. But what intensified the interest was his statement that this standard was an ordinance from heaven - a gift from God.
It was Smyth's conclusion that the sacred cubit used by the builders of the Great Pyramid was the same length (25.025 British inches) as the one used by Moses to construct the tabernacle and by Noah when he built his Ark, and because the twenty-fifth part of this cubit was within a thousandth part of being the same as a British inch, Smyth also concluded that the British had inherited this sacred inch down through the ages.
Smyth upon measuring the Coffin in the King's Chamber, concluded that it was a standard of linear and cubic measurement. He observed that the coffin appeared to be designed to remain at a constant temperature and barometric pressure, its polished sides unaffected by decomposition over a period of thousands of years, subject only to the vandalism of man. Smyth also confirmed the value of Pi being built into the pyramids dimensions. Smyth made many exact measurements of the pyramid, both inside and out. Smyth also determined that the perimeter of the pyramid was 36524.2 Pyramid inches. This would correspond to a year of 365.2 days. Thus, the Egyptians built the value of the number of the number of days in a year into the Great Pyramid. Smyth summed up his work as "the linear measurement of the base of this colossal monument, viewed in the light of the philosophical connection between time and space, has yielded a standard measure of length which is more admirably and learnedly earth-commensurable than anything which has ever yet entered into the mind of man to conceive."
11) AN ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATORY
As the Tower of Babel was believed to have been erected for the purpose of observing the heavens, so have pyramids been thought to have been raised with a similar intention. The tops, it was said, would have been admirable platforms; while the long passages, pointing, as they all did, toward the pole, would have made admirable day-telescopes. It was observed by one of Bonaparte's scientists that "It is very remarkable that the opening of pyramids are all to the north. The passage seemed fitted for an observatory, as it formed a true tube, at the mouth of which it would be possible, to see the stars during the day."
Early Arab historians had also stated that the Great Pyramid was built as an observatory and it had contained reproductions of the celestial spheres. At the turn of the century, British astronomer, Richard Proctor, found a reference in the works of the Roman philosopher Proculus. Proculus had said that the Great Pyramid was used as an observatory before its completion. Proctor goes into a detailed analysis on how the Great Pyramid was used as an observatory.
12) CONNECTION WITH SIRIUS, THE DOG-STAR
Several Arabian writers have seen a mystic correlation between the design of the pyramid and the revolutions of Sirius, the judge-god of the dead.
Sirius was known as Sothis by the Egyptians, thus the so called Sothic year, or revolution of 1460 years. Some authors think Hermes, god of wisdom, was Sirius, or Sothis. Hermes is Thoth, or Anubis, the deity presiding over the dead, and yet being the originator of learning. Tradition among Arab writers and revived among certain mystical Christian writers of the 19th century, indicated Seth as the builder of the Great Pyramid. Seth , in this case is probably Sothis, or Sirius.
No star was so venerated in Egypt as Sirius, associated, as it was, with the time of the annual overflow of the Nile, which the rising of the star foreshadowed. The hieroglyphic for Sirius is, oddly enough, the triangular face of a pyramid. Some 19th Century writers suppose that the pyramid may have been dedicated to this venerated star or period. It was also believed that the pyramid was used for observations of Sirius.
Murtadi, in 1584, said that the magical priest Saiouph made his abode, at the time of the deluge, in the pyramid; which, he says "was a temple of the stars, where there was a figure of the sun, and one of the moon, both of which spoke." He mentions the great grandson of Noah, Bardesi, who, as priest, "applied himself to the worship of the stars." He adds "It is reported that he made the great laws, built the pyramids, and set up for idols the figures of the stars."
13) EMBLEM OF THE SUN OR SACRED FIRE
The shape of the pyramids has suggested that of tongues of fire. According to Jablonski, it appears as sunbeams streaming down from a point. Mr. Wild of Zurich points out that there is tradition that the pyramids were erected to the sun. The writer Syncellus informs us that Venephres built the pyramids of Co-chone. Co-chone means house of Chon, the sun. Thus it was a monument to the deity whose name it bore.
Pyramid Facts and Fancies, James Bonwick, 1877.
Secrets of the Great Pyramid, Peter Tompkins, 1971.