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

By Robert G. Bauval


There are many references to a mysterious object called the 'Great Mooring-post' in the Pyramid Texts, often found alongside passages that are clearly astronomical in character [14].

"The Great Mooring post calls to you... you ascend here as a star, the Morning Star. He comes to you his father, he comes to you, O Geb; take his hand and let him sit on the great throne that he may join the two 'Hrmt' [?] of the sky. " PT 2014

"The doors of the sky are open for you, the mourning-woman summons you as Isis, the Great Mooring-post calls to you as Nephtys, you have appeared upon the causeway..." PT 2232

It is clear that the 'Great Mooring-post' is somehow to be regarded as being associated to the sky ascent of Osiris, the form of the defunct king who is assisted by his sisters, Isis and Nephtys. Now it is well-known that Osiris in his stellar form is the constellation of Orion. Not surprisingly, therefore, there are other references in the Pyramid Texts to the Great Mooring-post which appear in passages where Orion is specifically mentioned. For example:

"O King, you are this great star, the companion of Orion, who traverses the sky with Orion, who navigates the Netherworld with Osiris... the Great Mooring-post cries out to you as to Osiris in his suffering." PT 882-4

The Great Mooring-post calls out, because you are he who stands and will never tire in the midst of Abydos [Osiris?]... Betake yourself to the waterway, fare upstream to the Thinite Nome, travel about Abydos, in this spirit form of yours which the gods commanded belongs to you, may a stairway to the netherworld be set up for you to the place where Orion is..." PT 1711-7

Orion, however, is not a circumpolar or even a northern constellation but very much a southern constellation. Oddly, there are other passages which associate the Great Mooring-post to the 'imperishable stars', the northern circumpolar stars that never 'die' i.e. never set [15]:

"The doors of the sky are opened for you, the doors of the firmament are thrown open for you... the Mooring-post cries to you, the sun-folk call you, the Imperishable Stars wait on you..." PT 876

"The Great Mooring-post calls to you... may you remove yourself upon your iron throne, may you cross the lake, may your face be [cleansed?] in the north of the sky..." PT 1012-6

It has long been accepted by Egyptologists that the imagined skyward ascent of the king's soul was either in the north of the sky among the 'Imperishable Stars' or in the south of the sky amongst the stars of Orion [16]. This specific belief is materialised in the Great Pyramid of Giza by the so-called star-shafts emanating from the King's Chamber, where one was targeted north to the circumpolar stars and the other targeted south to Orion [17]. In consideration of this, it is justified to wonder if the pyramids were not, in some symbolic way, 'moored' or 'anchored' not just to the circumpolar region of the sky in general but, more specifically, to the pole of the ecliptic, the true 'pole' of the sky ?

Figure 4
The shafts in the Great Pyramid: the southern shafts were directed to Orion's belt and Sirius; the northern shafts to the circumpolar constellations of Ursa Minor and Draco. The mythological counterparts are Orion-Osiris; Sirius-Isis; Ursa Minor-Upuaut/Horus; Draco-Hippopotamus Goddess.
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  1. See PT 794; 863; 872;884;1012; 1366; 1711; 2013; 2232; 2239].
  2. R.O. Faulkner, The King and the Star-Religion in the Pyramid Texts, J.N.E.S. xxv, 1966, pp.153-161.
  3. I.E.S. Edwards, The Pyramids of Egypt, Penguin, London 1993, p. 285.
  4. E.C. Krupp, Echoes of the Ancient Skies, Oxford Univ. Press, 1983, p.102.

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