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Did the Pyramid Builders of the Old Kingdom use the Pole of the Ecliptic?

By Robert G. Bauval


The pole of the ecliptic seems to have been known by some ancient cultures. For example, the French astronomer A. Bouche-Leclerq noted that "it is well-known that the pole par excellence for the Chaldeans was the pole of the ecliptic, which is in the constellation of the Dragon (Draco)" [10]. Also the MIT scholar Giorgio de Santillana believed that the ancients perceived the pole of the ecliptic as the centre of a 'whirlpool' in the sky [11]. In keeping with this hypothesis, R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz demonstrates that the astronomical arrangements of the circumpolar and zodiacal constellations at the centre of the circular Denderah Zodiac show both the pole of the ecliptic as well as the north celestial pole. As the author and pyramid researcher Peter Tompkins explained:

"The zodiac (of Denderah) is a circle at the centre of which is our north pole... our north pole is correctly located in the constellation of the jackal, or Little Bear (Ursa Minor), as it was at the time the zodiac was carved, sometime about the first century BC. But the zodiac also shows the pole of the ecliptic, located in the breast of the hippopotamus, or constellation of Draco. To Schwaller this explains the spiral formation of the constellations. The mythological figures are entwined in two circles --one around the north pole and one around the pole of the ecliptic. Where these two circles intersect marks the point of the equinox, or due east. The zodiac thus becomes a calendar going back to remote antiquity." [12]
Figure 1
The dark-lined circle has its centre at the north celestial pole, marked today by the star Polaris in the Small Bear (Ursa Major). The faint-lined circle has its centre at the pole of the ecliptic at a spot within the constellation of Draco. Where the circles intersect are found the equinoxes. The north celestial pole and the vernal equinox will drift with time, denoted by the other small circles, but the pole of the ecliptic will remain relatively fixed.
Figure 2
The Denderah Zodiac by Schwaller de Lubicz. Schwaller has the pole Of the ecliptic on the breast of the Hippopotamus (Draco) constellation, and The north celestial pole at the front feet of the Upuaut/Fox constellation (Ursa Minor).

In the 1970s the professor of the History of Science, Livio C. Stecchini, examined ancient Egyptian charts of the circumpolar constellations, showing the Hippopotamus (Draco) and the Thigh (Ursa Major or Great Bear) as well as a hawk-headed man, probably Horus, seen pointing a pole or spear at the head of the Bull [13].

Figure 3

According to the Czechoslovakian Egyptologist Zybnek Zaba, the pole or spear held by the hawk-headed man indicated the meridian line passing through the north celestial pole. But Stecchini did not agree. He maintained that Zaba did not notice that the spear's head divided the seven stars of the Thigh (Big Bear) constellation into groups of three and four stars. This line defined by the spear, argued Stecchini, does not indicate the meridian passing through the north celestial pole at all but the meridian passing through the pole of the ecliptic. According to Stecchini, the ancient Egyptians not only understood the precession of the equinoxes but also knew that the true meridian is the one passing through the pole of the ecliptic. Another point that seems to have escaped both Zaba and Stecchini, however, is the peculiar way the standing Hippopotamus holds a rope with its right hand that is attached to the lower end of the Thigh constellation. In my opinion the position of the 'right hand' seems very much to denote the actual position of the pole of the ecliptic onto which the Thigh (Great Bear) constellation seems to be 'moored' to or 'anchored' with a rope.

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  1. See Appendices 1 and 2 in The Orion Mystery.
  2. L'Astrologie Grecque, Paris 1899 reprinted 1963; also Hamlet's Mill, D.R. Godine Publishers, Boston 1969, p.143, fn. 11.
  3. Hamlet's Mill, p.239.
  4. Peter Tompkins, Secrets of the Pyramid, Allen Lane, London 1973, p. 172-3.
  5. Ibid. p.174.

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