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The Contemporary Review, Volume 36, September 1879

2170 years before the Christian era


I cannot but think that this ascending passage must also have been so directed as to show some bright star when due south. For if the passage had only given the meridian plane, but without permitting the astronomer to observe the southing of any fixed star, it would have subserved only one-half its purposes as a meridional instrument. It is to be remembered that, supposing the ascending passage to have its position determined in the way I have described, there would be nothing to prevent its being also made to show any fixed star nearly at the same elevation. For it could readily be enlarged in a vertical direction, the floor remaining unaltered. Since it is not enlarged until the great gallery is reached (at a distance of nearly 127 feet from the place where the ascent begins), it follows, or is at least rendered highly probable, that some bright star was in view through that ascending passage.

Now, taking the date 2170 B.C., which Professor Smyth assigns to the beginning of the great pyramid, or even taking any date (as we fairly may), within a century or so on either side of that date, we find no bright star which would have been visible when due south, through the ascending passage. I have calculated the position of that circle among the stars along which lay all the points passing 26 deg. 18' above the horizon when due south, in the latitude of Ghizeh, 2170 years before the Christian era; and it does not pass near a single conspicuous star.[45]

There is only one fourth magnitude star which it actually approaches--namely, Epsilon Ceti; and one fifth magnitude star, Beta of the Southern Crown.

When we remember that Egyptologists almost without exception assert that the date of the builders of the great pyramid _must_ have been more than a thousand years earlier than 2170 B.C., and that Bunsen has assigned to Menes the date 3620 B.C., while the date 3300 B.C. has been assigned to Cheops or Suphis on apparently good authority, we are led to inquire whether the other epoch when Alpha Draconis was at about the right distance from the pole of the heavens may not have been the true era of the commencement of the great pyramid. Now, the year 3300 B.C., though a little late, would accord fairly well with the time when Alpha Draconis was at the proper distance 3-2/3 deg. from the pole of the heavens. If the inclination of the entrance-passage is 26 deg. 27', as Professor Smyth made it, the exact date for this would be 3390 B.C.; if 26 deg. 40', as others made it before his measurements, the date would be about 3320 B.C., which would suit well with the date 3300 B.C., since a century either way would only carry the star about a third of a degree towards or from the pole.

Now, when we inquire whether in the year 3300 B.C. any bright star would have been visible, at southing, through the ascending passage, we find that a very bright star indeed, an orb otherwise remarkable as the nearest of all the stars, the brilliant Alpha Centauri, shone as it crossed the meridian right down that ascending tube. It is so bright that, viewed through that tube, it must have been visible to the naked eye, even when southing in full daylight.

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