The Orion Correlation Theory is a pseudo-scientific and pseudo-archaeological hypothesis originally proposed by the ‘New Egyptologist’ Robert Bauval in 1983. The theory is one that is referred to within mainstream archaeology in derogatory terms as “bullshit archaeology” (Daniel, 1977). Robert Bauval is an author, lecturer, ex-engineer and researcher into ancient Egypt who was born in Alexandria in 1948. He is well known for his book The Orion Mystery written in collaboration with Arian Gilbert in 1994.
The Orion Correlation Theory (OCT) is also known as the Giza-Orion correlation theory (Bruce, 2009) and is a theory within the field called pyramidology. The Orion hypothesis is rooted in the observations of Robert Bauval at Giza. The essence of the theory is that it claims there is a correlation between the position of the three largest pyramids at Giza and the three stars comprising the belt in the constellation of Orion. Moreover, this was the intention of the builders of the pyramids. It is thus claimed that there is a purposive relationship between the pyramids of the 4th Dynasty on the Giza Plateau and the alignment of three stars comprising what is commonly referred to as Orion’s belt.
The curious alignment that is referred to by Bauval is that of the pyramid of Menkaura relative to the positions of the pyramids of Khufu and Khafra. A connection was made between the linearity of the three main stars in the belt of Orion and the layout of the three main pyramids of the Giza necropolis (Bauval,1989). The theory, first published in 1989, became a best seller in the book written by Robert Bauval and his collaborator A. Gilbert (1994). The correlation is apparently as these stars appeared in 10,000 BC and the initial claim was that “…the three pyramids were a terrestrial map of the three stars of Orion’s belt.” (Hancock. 1996; Hancock, 1998). Robert Bauval examined the wall paintings found in one of the pyramids at Saqqara which have come to be known as the Pyramid Texts.
Robert Bauval and Gilbert concluded that the religion of ancient Egypt was stellar in origin and their interpretation has received much criticism, especially as their ideas conflict with traditional thought. They chose examples from the Pyramid Texts that supported their view of a stellar slant in Egyptian theology to rebirth. They concentrated on passages from the texts that they believed established the stellar origin of Egyptian religion. However, their reasoning was flawed. The stars of Orion are associated with Osiris, the Sun-God and god of rebirth as well as the afterlife in Egyptian religion (Mackenzie, 1907). However, despite the inaccurate readings of the texts by Bauval there is only one golden star in the firmament and that is the sun. Proof hat Bauval and Gilbert are wrong and that ancient Egyptian religion is solar in origin.
Robert Bauval attempts to illustrate his claims by referring to how the pyramids of Kahfra, Khufu and Menkaura mimic the curious misalignment of the stars of the belt of Orion. However, the arguments offered by Bauval are not convincing. Never does he offer any proof, any evidence in the form of an overlay of the pyramids at Giza and the constellation of Orion. Bauval does not offer any proof or evidence of any connection of the pyramids with Orion, either in astronomy or mythology. Neither does he offer any explanation for the architectural decline in pyramid building after the 4th Dynasty. One begins to wonder if there is an ulterior motive behind the dubious claims of Bauval and Gilbert? Apart from their obfuscation and paucity of academic validity is there some link with a wider conspiracy? (Picknett, 2000).
The hypothesis of Bauval and Gilbert that ancient Egyptian theology was stellar orientated is in complete contradiction with traditional Egyptology, because ancient Egyptian religion was sun-based. They both try to reinterpret the Pyramid Texts to bolster their claimed stellar basis to support a reappraisal of Egyptian religion. Bauval erroneously interpret the Pyramid texts in order to establish a false stellar nature for ancient Egyptian religion. One of their flawed examples becomes apparent in their reasoning when they quote “I am a soul… I am a star of gold.” A few stars in the constellation are somewhat tinted, and Betelgeuse is obviously red, most are white, but none are yellow or gold. The only star that is gold in the firmament is the sun and the Pyramid Texts refer to the veneration of the sun, or Osiris as the sun-god.
Bauval quotes from Pyramid Text 882 which hymn says “Thou art that Great Star, the supporter of Orion, travelling through heaven with Orion, navigating with Osiris.” But, is the ‘Great Star’ in connection with Osiris to be Sirius. If Osiris is a solar deity is not the Great Star the sun? Orion is the most obvious constellation in the southern hemisphere, and in close association is the star Sirius. However, the star called Sirius usually assumes its position in the constellation, as seen in the northern hemisphere, behind Orion situated at his feet. Orion is referred to as ‘Leader of Upper Egypt’ in Pyramid text 959. At the feet of Orion was what made the ancient Greeks refer to the star Sirius as the ‘Dog of Orion’ and is noted as such in The Iliad (XXII, 29, 30), as the ‘Dog Star’. Therefore the Greeks relegated Sirius to the status of a huntsman’s hound, whereas the Egyptians thought of him as the companion of Orion.
In terms of archaeo-astronomy and in the days of the Pharoahs Orion and Sirius “…were considerably lower in the skies at their meridian altitude than they are today, and they also rose and set farther along the horizon towards the south.” (Wainwright, 1936). The starting point for this was 3500 BC at Heliopolis. Where does this stand with the Pyramid Texts? They say that the only human directive given to Orion is that he looks forward, and not backwards” (Wainwright. 1936), affirmed by a regular coffin inscription which says “…Orion, turn thy head, that thou mayest see Osiris.” An instruction to follow the sun, the sun god, as a component of a solar religion. The theories of Bauval may well fit with an astrological or mythic view of ancient Egyptian religion but certainly not with modern astronomy.
Bauval, R. (1989). Discussions in Egyptology. Volume 13.
Bauval, R. & Gilbert, A. (1994). The Orion Mystery. Heinemann, London.
Bruce, A. (2009). Science or Superstition?
Daniel, R. (1977). The forgotten milestones and blind alleys of the past. Royal Anthropological Society News. 33.
Hancock, G. (1996). The Keeper of Genesis.
Hancock, G. (1998). The Mars Mystery.
Mackenzie, D. (1907). Triumph of the Sun God. In: Egyptian Myth and Legend. Gresham. London.
Picknett, L. & Prince, C. (2000). The Stargate Conspiracy. Warner books, London.
Wainwright, G. A. (1936). Orion and the Great Star. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology. XXII, part 1.
To be continued