BBC Horizon Scandal

Author of the Month

The Mystery of the 'Upside-Down' Pyramids:
The Case of the BBC Horizon 'Atlantis Reborn' Programme
BY ROBERT G. BAUVAL

In January 1999 Graham Hancock informed me that the BBC Horizon team wanted to arrange an interview with me in Egypt. He had been working with them on a programme which was to be a very balanced critique of his work and investigations on the theory of a lost civilisation in remote antiquity. Although Graham had a few misgivings about such a programme, he felt confident that the BBC Horizon team would be fair and would allow us to present our own side of the case. With this in mind, I decided also to participate in this programme. Horizon is the BBC most important scientific programme. It has been on air for over 35 years and, according to the BBC, it is "the world leader in its field [and] regularly wins the sweep of international science, medical and environmental film awards and recently has won BFTA, the Prix Italia and the Emmies." Their programmes generally achieve 12% of the UK audience share, putting the number of viewers well-over 2 million. The length of typical horizon programmes is 50-minutes. They apparently were going to allocate two programmes for this critique on Graham's work and mine. This was very unusual, and we were, of course, thrilled at an opportunity to have our theories investigated by Horizon in such a big way.

The producer in charge to make these two Horizon programmes (later to be called 'Atlantis Revisited' and 'Atlantis Reborn') was Chris Hale, a well-known film and documentary maker. His assistant and researcher was a young man called Julian Hudson. I was contacted by Hudson in late January 1999 and I arranged to be in Egypt to be interviewed by Chris Hale in early March. The interview took place in the morning on the Giza Plateau. From the BBC side there was Chris Hale, who conducted the interview, Julian Hudson, two British technicians for camera and sound work, and some personnel from an Egyptian film-making company. I had asked the American author John Lash to accompany me. John was on a short visit to Egypt and was staying with me at my rented flat in Alexandria. Chris Hale asked me the usual questions concerning my theory, which allowed me to give a good and balanced overview of the issues. I spoke in detail of the astronomy of the Pyramids, the alignment of the shafts to Orion and Sirius, the Pyramid Texts and how they associated Osiris with Orion and, of course, of the layout plan of the Giza Pyramids and how they matched the pattern of Orion's belt. Chris Hale then informed me that he wanted my response on a serious critical attack made recently by the American astronomer Ed Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. It is important to understand the origin and crux of Krupp's argument.

Since early 1997 Krupp has maintained that I had somehow placed the map of the Giza Pyramids 'upside down' in order to match it with the star map of Orion's belt. His argument was that the smaller or third Pyramid --that of Menkaure-- is positioned towards the south, whereas the topmost smaller third star --Mintaka-- is positioned towards the north. On the other hand I argued that the Giza-Orion's belt correlation theory worked because the similarity in patterns between the three pyramids and the three stars had to be observed by looking towards the south., such that the Nile and the Milky Way were to the left of the observer. My views were strongly supported by Dr. Archibald Roy, professor Emeritus of Astronomy at Glasgow University, and also Dr. Percy Seymour. Both these eminent astronomers publicly had rejected Krupp's argument and criticism. First, in 1998 (that is more than a year BEFORE the airing of the BBC Horizon Altantis Reborn) Dr. Seymour, referring to Krupp's criticism, published a book in which he wrote:

"However, when one looks at the relationship between the pyramids in relation to the course of the Nile, another interesting factor emerges. The Pyramids' position correlates closely to positions of relevant stars (of Orion) in relationship to the path of the Milky Way across the sky. So what were the Egyptians aiming to achieve? The work of Bauval and Gilbert on the Pyramids and the Orion constellation has been dismissed as a Pyramid marketing ploy by Krupp, an astronomer at the Griffith Observatory in America. He claims that the representation of Orion by five pyramids is upside down in relation to the real constellation. In the sky, the head of Orion is in the north and his feet are in the south, whereas in the supposed representation the head of Orion would be towards the south and the feet in the north. Krupp's comments show the difficulty that arises when modern knowledge is used to criticise a suggestion concerning the way in which the ancients might have seen themselves in relation to the universe. However Krupp makes the mistake of assuming that the Egyptians thought in terms of latitude and longitude, north and south. The overwhelming evidence is that latitude and longitude came much later in the history of geography. His objection is weakened by the fact that there is no evidence that the Egyptians saw the earth or sky as spheres." [The Birth of Christ: Exploding the Myth, Virgin Books, 1998, pp.66-7]

As for Dr. Roy of Glasgow, I had met him in 1996, and he had been impressed by the Orion's belt-Giza correlation. He later put his support on record in an open letter addressed to me as follows:

"I find it astonishing that you have been accused of fudging the maps of Egypt and particularly the Pyramid complex to make your theory 'fit'. In particular that the maps were placed upside down. This is a serious accusation. I have of course checked the orientation of the Orion constellation when it is on the south meridian, when an observer at Giza looks southwards from the Giza complex. Of course one finds that Orion's head is upper-most with the rest of his body further down towards the south point of the compass. The Milky Way is seen to be on the left of the body (i.e. its right ascension is bigger than Orion's) and the star Alnitak in Orion's belt is the star in the Belt nearest to the Milky Way. The third star in the belt (the one farthest from the Milky Way) is placed upwards from the line through Alnitak and the Belt's middle star (Alnilam). If our observer is standing north of the three pyramids and looking southwards, s/he will see (a) the Nile to the left of the pyramids, (b) the Great Pyramid (Khufu) to be the nearest to the Nile, (c) the pyramid farthest from the Nile (Menkaure) to be placed southwards from the line through the Great Pyramid and the middle pyramid (Khafre). If our observer then imagines the plane containing the pyramids and the Nile swung upwards about an east-west line through the observer, then s/he will see a fair representation of Orion's belt and the Milky Way, the 'belt' bent correctly. The accusation that the maps were placed upside down is therefore unfounded." [Letter from Prof. A.E. Roy, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Glasgow University, dated Nov. 1999]

The above clearly shows that there were at least two prominent astronomers who specialised in ancient astronomy and who openly rejected Krupp's 'upside down' arguments in connection to the Giza-Orion's Belt theory. This information was available to the BBC and, indeed, several months before the airing of the Horizon programme 'Atlantis Reborn' I had directed the producer Chris Hale, and his assistant Julian Chapman, towards Dr. Roy in Glasgow in order to obtain from him a counter-view to Krupp's argument. At any rate, when, during the interview at Giza conducted by Chris Hale, I was asked to give my own view concerning Krupp's 'upside down' argument, I replied on camera as follows:

"Well, first one must realise that the Egyptians directed themselves south. We know that from the texts and it is logical for two reasons: one is that the Nile, which was the dominant feature of this land, flowed from south to north, so the origin or source of the Nile (which is in the south) was regarded as a sacred place. (Secondly) the movement of the astral bodies --the stars, the moon, the sun-- are all around the southern side of the sky. So it was natural for them to face south. And in fact there is no reason to fix north as a main direction. This is a convention that we have today. So the Egyptians had a 'convention' of south, if you like. But the other thing is that in order to make the correlation visualbecause we are dealing with people who had a visual correlation, of course. You are observing the stars at their southern passage, so in about 2500 BC they had risen to about 45 degrees along the southern meridian. And indeed at their low point --in 10,500 BC they were in the lower south, that is the lower part of the sky in the south. So you're looking south at the correlation. Therefore the natural tendency is to draw what you see in that direction, and you would come up with three stars in that pattern or three dots or three pyramids or any three marks in the same direction. It is strange that certain astronomers have argued this in terms of [a modern] convention. We can't graft this convention of today on an [ancient] people who had a different way of looking at things So it's very simple. If you were to design by observation you would look south. You will have to look south because you will have to look at the stars and, therefore, on the ground you'll be marking the stars, and the Menkaura pyramid will be on top of your diagram, which is the way it is, the southernmost. In order to apply the convention of north, you will have to look in the other direction, and to see the stars you will have to use a mirror! So I don't see why we have to go through these complications when, pretty clearly, we have a correlation based on visual observations. Actually we did a test, as a matter of fact, during a conference when Ed Krupp was there We asked the audience to look at a slide of the stars in the south, and we gave them a piece of paper and we asked them to draw three dots (representing Orion's belt), and they did so by having the smaller dot (the 'smaller star') (representing) the Menkaure pyramid, if you like, at the top of the sheet. And then we told them "you are facing south!". That's the way you do it. It's a natural way of creating a perfect correlation. They were going for image correlation, they weren't going for 'convention' This simple litmus test proves that everybody will do the same thing if they are not biased by that 'convention'"

On the 28th October 1999 BBC Horizon showed the first programme, entitled 'Atlantis Revisited'. It was mainly setting the scene over the issues of a lost civilisation, and neither Graham Hancock nor myself appeared on it. However, on the 4th November 1999 the second programme was aired, and on this programme Graham appeared extensively and, to a lesser extend, also myself. The first part of my interview was shown half way through the programme. I was puzzled and shocked that it had been heavily edited. There was hardly mention of the Pyramid Texts and how they extolled the role of Osiris as Orion, and no mention at all of the alignment of the southern shafts of the Great Pyramid towards Orion's Belt and Sirius. All this had been cut out. The Orion's Belt-Giza correlation was presented with hardly any support from textual material or the astronomical alignment of the shafts! I was made to sound flimsy and weird. But there was worse to come. A little later Dr. Ed Krupp was shown being interviewed. Here is the full transcript:

BBC NARRATOR: One astronomer took a keen interest in Bauval's theory --Ed Krupp. He quickly became troubled by Bauval's claims.

ED KRUPP: When the Orion Mystery came out my curiosity was naturally aroused. Anybody coming up with a good idea about ancient astronomy I want to know about it. And in going through the book there was something nagging me. In the Orion Mystery there's a nice double page spread (showing two pictures of the Giza Pyramids and Orion's Belt) and anybody looking at this would say, ah! Giza pyramids, Belt of Orion, one kind of looks like the other, you know, you've got three in row, three in a row; slanted, slanted; we've got a map! And what I was bothered by turned out to be really pretty obvious. In the back of my head I knew there was something wrong with these pictures, and what was wrong with these pictures in their presentation is that north for the constellation of Orion is here on the top of the page. North for the Giza pyramids is down here. Now they're not marked, but I knew which way north was at Giza and I knew which way north was in Orion. To make the map of the pyramids on the ground match the stars of Orion in the sky you have to turn Egypt upside down, and if you don't want to do that then you have to turn the sky upside down!

After seeing this, I waited to hear the response that I had given on camera to Chris Hale during my interview at Giza. But nothing came. Chris Hale, it seemed, had scrapped this part of my interview as well. I was shocked. How could the BBC allow Krupp to tell millions of viewers that in order to make my theory work, I had to 'turn Egypt upside down' or 'turn the sky upside down', and then not air my response to this preposterous accusation. The next day I phone my solicitor, Peter Bysshe, and asked him to come to my home. I showed him the BBC Horizon programme. He, too, was utterly shocked and said that it made me look like some sort of con-man. I decided to lodge a formal complaint to the BBC and also to the Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC), a government body which monitors unfair and unjust broadcasts in the UK. The BSC decided to take up the case. Several months later after a complete investigation, a hearing was held in London on the 7 June 2000 and, finally, the adjudication announced at the end of October. My complaint regarding Ed Krupp's argument was upheld. I had won my case. Now the BBC will be ordered by the BSC to make this complaint public by airing it on television as well as placing an official statement in The Times newspaper.

It seems that this is the only occasion in its history that BBC Horizon has lost a case regarding a complaint through the BSC. The proverbial justice, as the idiom goes, had been done. But what was even more rewarding to me was that The Orion Mystery and the theory it presents had survived the onslaught of the BBC's most powerful scientific programme. And it was certainly no credit to the BBC that the producer, Chris Hale, had to lower their standards by presenting the Ed Krupp argument in such an unfair way. I remain as convinced, indeed more convinced now, that the Giza-Orion's Belt correlation theory is based on truth and will serve as a landmark in furthering our knowledge of the Pyramid Builders of Egypt. A breakthrough has been achieved in understanding the minds of the ancient priest-astronomers of Heliopolis, and there is no turning back. There are, I am well-aware, many who have been saying that I do not respond to criticism about my theory, that I dodge issues and that this means that my theory is invalid. These people do not know me. But those who do, know that my attitude is quite the opposite. There is a place and a time for everything, and I will deal with criticism in the proper way, not in uncoordinated free-for-all discussions on the internet. In the last seven years since the publication of The Orion Mystery, hundreds of reviews and articles on my theory have appeared in newspapers, magazines and professional and academic journals. There have been dozens upon dozens of conferences and radio talks, and at least eight full-length television documentaries have been made. No-one could have done more to bring the theory out in the public domain and expose it to review and criticism. In recent months, however, I have been silent and my hands had been tied because of the closed-door policy of the very lengthy process of case review by the BSC. Now, however, that the BSC has adjudicated the case, I am free to act. I am pleased, therefore, to announce that I am preparing to respond to all the criticism brought against my theory in a new book that I am presently preparing for publication in late 2001, as well as presenting new material and evidence regarding the mysterious astronomical correlation of the ancient Egyptian Pyramid builders. This is a good time to send me your views, questions or comments. My email: starvlingb@aol.com.

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