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Introduction

GIZA – THE ADOPTION THEORY

It must be emphasised that the age of the Giza monuments is a complex question, and not a subject on which anyone can speak with absolute certainty. Anyone who pretends to have a definite answer to this question, based on the evidence available as at 2003, is, in my opinion, deluding himself. Rather, it is a case of looking at all the evidence, making judgements about ‘facts’ which seem to contradict one another, and drawing an overall ‘most likely’ conclusion based on the balance of evidence.

GIZA – THE ADOPTION THEORY

In my book ‘The Phoenix Solution’ (1998), I noted that virtually all of the supposed evidence for 4th dynasty construction of the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx was, in fact, consistent with an adoption scenario. In other words, it seemed entirely plausible that the Egyptian kings Khufu and Khafre had adopted pre-existing structures in the form of the Great Pyramid, the Second Pyramid and the Sphinx, and merely added the causeways which ran between the mortuary and valley temples. It should be noted that the construction of each of these causeways was an absolutely stupendous task in its own right, and would more than justify the 4th dynasty workers’ villages which have recently been found at Giza. (As for the Third Pyramid, the much smaller pyramid of Menkaure, I did not include this in my adoption hypothesis).

Only one piece of evidence speaks unambiguously for 4th dynasty provenance of the Giza monuments, namely the ‘workmen’s graffiti’ inside the Great Pyramid which contain the names of king Khufu. This graffiti, discovered by the English explorer Colonel Howard Vyse in 1837, was located inside sealed chambers (the so-called ‘relieving chambers’ above the King’s Chamber) and thus, on the face of it, seemed to prove that the Great Pyramid was built by the 4th dynasty king Khufu.

If this were so, it would be virtually certain that all of the structures at Giza, including the Sphinx, had a 4th dynasty provenance (as I note in ‘The Phoenix Solution’, all of the Giza structures are closely linked stylistically, topographically and geometrically; one reliable dating of any single monument has the potential to date all of the structures, as Egyptologists are fond of pointing out).

However, against the evidence of the workmen’s graffiti, I discovered quite a lot of evidence – including some peculiar anomalies which had previously gone unrecognised – which argued for a much older construction of the Great Pyramid, the Second Pyramid, the Sphinx, and their associated megalithic temples. This evidence, which I will summarise in a moment, clearly produces a tension with the evidence of the workmen’s graffiti.

How to resolve the apparent conflict between the workmen’s graffiti in the Great Pyramid, which incorporate the names of the 4th dynasty king Khufu, and all the other evidence which seems to point to an earlier, pre-4th dynasty provenance?

The solution, I argued, was that the workmen’s graffiti in the ‘relieving chambers’ of the Great Pyramid had been faked by their ‘discover’ Colonel Howard Vyse, who had copied inscriptions which he had already found outside the Great Pyramid in the temples and the quarries (the presence of these inscriptions being fully consistent with the 4th dynasty ‘adoption’ scenario mentioned earlier). His motive, I suggested, was a desire for fame and money. For the full details of my argument, which differs in certain crucial respects from other writers’ forgery theories, see chapter three of ‘The Phoenix Solution’.

Now, it must be emphasised that I do not claim with any degree of certainty that the workmen’s graffiti was forged by Howard Vyse. It is purely a theory, as indeed are most assertions within the field of Egyptology. In the absence of a radiocarbon dating of the ‘red ochre’ paint which was used, and without access to Howard Vyse’s original diaries, proof of the forgery theory lies beyond our grasp. In the meantime, we can only speculate about the authenticity of the workmen’s graffiti, based on what we know about them and, more importantly, on what we know about the context in which they are found. And it is this context, in my opinion, which points to a pre-4th dynasty provenance of the Great Pyramid and most of the other structures on the Giza plateau.

Consider the following evidence which I cite in my book.

1 The Sphinx

From a detailed study of the highly-weathered limestone rock of the Sphinx and the enclosure in which it sits, Robert Schoch, a geologist from Boston University, has concluded that the monument was exposed to prolonged heavy rainfall, and he has therefore dated its construction to around 7000–5000 BC. I will not regurgitate the whole argument here, but in my opinion Egyptologists have not satisfactorily rebutted Schoch’s premise. Moreover, as noted earlier, a redating of the Sphinx threatens to redate most of the other structures on the Giza plateau.

In addition, it should be noted that the Inventory Stele (26th dynasty) informs us that Khufu repaired the headdress of the Sphinx after it had been damaged by lightning. If this is true (and there is no particular reason to doubt it), this would negate the theory that Khufu’s son Khafre built the Sphinx, and it would throw up serious questions about the orthodox dating of the rest of the Giza site. Moreover, the Inventory Stele fails to make any claim that Khufu built the Sphinx or the Great Pyramid, and these surprising omissions offer considerable support to my adoption hypothesis.

In my view, the evidence from geology and the Inventory Stele, together, make a compelling case for an older Sphinx.

2 Radiocarbon Dating

Egyptologists date the 4th dynasty kings Khufu and Khafre to the period 2500-2400 BC. However, the 1983-84 ‘Pyramids Carbon-dating Project’, commissioned and funded by the Edgar Cayce Foundation, and directed by the Egyptologists Mark Lehner and Robert Wenke, discovered some highly anomalous results.

For example, thirteen samples of mortar from the Great Pyramid produced dates in the range 3101-2853 BC, and an average date of 2977 BC. Similarly, seven samples of mortar from the Second Pyramid produced an average date of 2988 BC. Equally intriguing, a sample of wood from ‘Khufu’s Boat’, buried alongside the Great Pyramid, produced a remarkable date of 3400 BC.

Such was the confusion caused by the 1983-84 ‘Pyramids Carbon-dating Project’ that a second, more thorough study was carried out in 1995. The results of this study were published (belatedly) in 2001 in the journal ‘Radiocarbon’, volume 43, number 3, pp. 1297-1320. I will comment upon this report in due course when I have had time to consider its contents. In the meantime, copies can be purchased here.

3 Inscriptions

The Inventory Stele, mentioned earlier, was supposedly written by the priests of the cult of Khufu during the 26th dynasty to praise the deeds of the ancient king. However, it makes no claim whatsoever that Khufu built the Great Pyramid. A very strange omission indeed if Khufu really did build the Pyramid.

Moreover, 4th dynasty inscriptions found at Giza confirm that Khufu was building the mastaba fields for his high officials to the west of the Great Pyramid in ‘year 5’ of his reign. Is it really likely that Khufu, having initiated the largest, most complex and innovative pyramid-building project in Egyptian history, would have allowed any work to be carried out in building mastabas? Can we seriously believe that Khufu would have put his great venture at risk by diverting resources to the building of such mastabas in the fifth year of his reign, bearing in mind that he did not know whether he would live long enough to see the completion of his pyramid? The idea is ludicrous. The inscriptions only make sense if the Great Pyramid was already built before the time of Khufu. (As far as I know, I am the first person to have highlighted this anomaly; my thanks to Mark Lehner for mentioning it in his book ‘The Complete Pyramids’.)

4 The Alignment between Giza and Dahshur

In chapter two of ‘The Phoenix Solution’, I pointed out a relationship between the Giza and Dahshur pyramids that no-one had ever noticed before. In a nutshell, it involves an alignment between the twin pyramids built by Sneferu at Dahshur and the two giant pyramids at Giza. Amazingly, the alignment is such that Sneferu’s pyramids must have been oriented towards two pre-existing pyramids at Giza (this fact is apparent to any intelligent person who knows the topographical constraints of the Giza and Dahshur sites and who is able to study the alignment free from bias and preconceptions; interested parties are referred to figure 4 in the book).
Since Sneferu was the father of Khufu, this fact alone precludes any possibility that Khufu built the Great Pyramid at Giza.

5 Archaeological Context

As I argue at great length in ‘The Phoenix Solution’, the Great Pyramid does not fit in to the standard evolutionary model of pyramid-building. In particular, its builders used an innovative design and several revolutionary technologies which immediately thereafter disappeared from the archaeological record. When studied in its essential archaeological context, the Great Pyramid simply does not belong in the mooted sequence of 4th dynasty pyramids

6 Refurbishment of Khafre’s Valley Temple at Giza

As has been pointed out by Robert Schoch and others, there is clear evidence that the granite casing blocks of Khafre’s Valley Temple were fitted to limestone blocks which were already severely weathered. Since the granite blocks are dated to the 4th dynasty, the inner limestone core, i.e. the original temple, must date to long before the 4th dynasty.

If the Valley Temple dates to long before the 4th dynasty, then it becomes a virtual certainty that the other megalithic temples at Giza, which are attributed to Khufu and Khafre, were also built long before the 4th dynasty (it may be significant that some of the limestone blocks were excavated from the Sphinx enclosure, making the temples contemporary with the carving of the Sphinx). Of course, no-one would build temples in front of non-existent pyramids. QED, the two giant pyramids, by the same token, must date to long before the 4th dynasty.

Summary

All things considered, I suggest that there were two phases to the pre-dynastic construction at Giza: firstly the Great Pyramid; and secondly the Second Pyramid, Sphinx, and megalithic temples. (This sequencing reflecting the superior build quality of the Great Pyramid.) These construction phases would probably date to the 6th-4th millennia BC.

Thereafter, it is possible that a major renovation of the Great Pyramid and Second Pyramid was undertaken by the 1st pharaonic dynasty, this accounting for the radiocarbon dates of c. 3000 BC.

Later, in the 4th dynasty, the two giant Pyramids at Giza were adopted by Khufu and Khafre, who added the huge causeways which ran between the mortuary and valley temples. Perhaps at this time the third, smaller pyramid of Giza was built by Menkaure to create a symbolic link to the three belt stars of Orion.

It is a corollary of my theory that the workmen’s graffiti inside the Great Pyramid cannot be what they seem, i.e. they cannot constitute proof that the 4th dynasty king Khufu built the Pyramid. A possible explanation for the workmen’s graffiti is that it was forged by Colonel Howard Vyse in 1837 (he certainly had the motive, opportunity and means to commit such an act). Another possibility, however, which might yet become the stronger contender, dependent on future discoveries, is that the divine names in the graffiti refer to pre-dynastic gods and an earlier, pre-dynastic king Khufu.

Postscript

It was not my aim in ‘The Phoenix Solution’ (1998) to offer conclusive proof of the provenance of the workmen’s graffiti. My main focus in that book was to research the meaning of the Egyptian religion; and that, by and large, has been my focus ever since. At the present time (2003), I am not actively engaged in debate over the age of the Great Pyramid, and I find the dogmatism and passion of my opponents rather nauseating. I do not share their enthusiasm for this subject; I have no axe to grind about the age of the Great Pyramid, and I have better things to do with my time than argue the toss about evidence which, for the most part, can be interpreted one way or another, depending on one’s preconceptions. Nevertheless, I do have a passing interest in seeing new evidence brought to light pertaining to the Great Pyramid’s age, and thus in respect of the workmen’s graffiti I urge open-minded Egyptologists to pursue two pertinent lines of enquiry:

1 Find Howard Vyse’s Original Diaries

While I was writing ‘The Phoenix Solution’ in 1998, the British researcher Martin Stower informed me that the original journals of Howard Vyse’s 1835/37 expedition to Egypt could not be located. These journals, if they could be found, would shed light on the circumstances surrounding Howard Vyse’s ‘discoveries’ inside the Great Pyramid, including the all-important graffiti containing Khufu’s names. A little while later in 1998, Martin Stower, in a fit of pique, announced that the Howard Vyse journals had been found. Since then, however, nothing has been heard on this matter, and it would seem that Stower’s claim should be taken with a large pinch of salt. My challenge to Egyptologists is this. Find the Howard Vyse diaries and show them to me. If I cannot find at least three incriminating statements in those diaries, I will drop my argument that the workmen’s graffiti was forged.

2. Radiocarbon Date the Paint of the Khufu Inscription

In ‘The Phoenix Solution’, I noted that the red ochre paint which was used in ancient Egypt contained an organic binder, which would allow painted inscriptions to be radiocarbon dated. In chapter 14 of my book I wrote: ‘in the event that the painted marks ‘discovered’ by Howard Vyse above the King’s Chamber are ever radiocarbon dated, I confidently predict that their age will be nearer to the time of Howard Vyse than to the time of Khufu.’ My challenge to Egyptologists is this. Take a sample of red ochre paint scratchings from the various inscriptions in the Great Pyramid’s relieving chambers and from other 4th dynasty sites in Egypt and radiocarbon date those paint samples. If the paint used in Khufu’s names is contemporary with that used in other 4th dynasty sites, you win. If the paint is younger than that used in other 4th dynasty sites, I win. If, on the other hand, the paint is significantly older than that used in other 4th dynasty sites, then we jointly investigate the idea that the inscriptions commemorate an earlier king Khufu.

Dating the Pyramids by Stellar Alignments

A number of studies have attempted to shed light on the Great Pyramid’s date of construction by examining possible alignments to stars. Whilst I do keep an open mind about such methods, I find myself entirely sceptical about two such studies which have been published in recent years: firstly, Robert Bauval’s theory that the Great Pyramid’s shafts were aligned on certain stars, e.g. Sirius and Al Nitak in Orion; and secondly, Kate Spence’s theory that the Egyptians used the circumpolar stars Kochab and Mizar for the alignment of all their pyramids to true north. Both of these theories, it should be noted, support the orthodox theory that the Great Pyramid was built by Khufu c. 2450 BC.

On Robert Bauval’s Star-Shaft Datings


The Great Pyramid contains four tiny shafts, which lead upwards and outwards, northwards and southwards respectively, from the Great Pyramid’s so-called King’s and Queen’s Chambers. For many years it was assumed that these shafts were for ventilation purposes, but there have always been Egyptologists who have argued for a ritual or symbolic function. Two such scholars were Alexander Badawy and Virginia Trimble, who put forward a theory in the 1960s that the shafts were aligned to certain stars, with one of them being targeted towards Orion’s Belt.

In 1993, Robert Bauval took Badawy and Trimble’s theory a step further, using new data for the shafts’ slopes, as measured by Rudolf Gantenbrink’s robot. His findings were as follows:

Shaft Bearing Star Alignment Epoch of Alignment
QC south 39 deg 30' Sirius (Alpha Canis Major) c. 2400 BC
QC north N/A    
KC south 45 deg Al Nitak (Zeta Orionis) c. 2475 BC
KC north 32 deg 28' Thuban (Alpha Draconis) c. 2425 BC

Bauval concluded from this data that the Great Pyramid had been built c. 2450 BC – an average of the three dates shown above. He and Graham Hancock would later suggest that the Giza ground plan had been fixed in 10450 BC, but completed in 2450 BC, in their own words an ‘enormously long-drawn-out period’.

A close examination of the ‘Stellar Shaft Theory’, however, raises a whole host of questions, which Egyptologists have been slow to ask.

For one thing, the very idea of the Great Pyramid’s shafts targeting certain stars seems to be highly dubious. For instance, the reason we do not have a bearing for the northern shaft of the Queen’s Chamber is that Gantenbrink’s robot was obstructed by a piece of wood on the floor of the shaft. And the reason for this blockage was that the shaft made a sharp ‘kink’ away from its northerly path. Why, might we ask, would this be so, if the shaft was being targeted on a star?

Similarly, we now know that the other shaft in the Queen’s Chamber is blocked at its top end by a slab of stone buried deep inside the core of the pyramid. If it was so important to align the shafts with certain stars, why was this shaft blocked in mid-construction?

It gets worse. Both of the Queen’s Chamber shafts were supposedly sealed at their lower ends when they were discovered in 1872. How could anyone use a sealed shaft to align a star? There is another problem too. The southern shaft of the Queen’s Chamber penetrates 2 metres deep horizontally into the wall of the chamber before turning upwards towards the stars (or rather towards the stone slab). Similarly, its northern counterpart penetrates 2 metres horizontally before turning upwards. Meanwhile, upstairs in the King’s Chamber, the southern shaft and northern shafts extend horizontally by 1.8 metres and 2.8 metres respectively before turning upwards. The latter shaft also contains a number of sharp bends which make stellar alignments an unlikely proposition.

If only one of the four shafts could not have practically been aligned to the stars, it would throw doubt on the role of the other three; as it is, there are significant practical doubts concerning all four. (I am pleased to say that, on this point, I have the support of Rudolf Gantenbrink.)

Moreover, Bauval’s theory of the shafts conveying the pharaoh’s soul (ba) to the afterlife (an idea shared by many Egyptologists) is highly questionable, for there was a continuous belief throughout Egyptian history that the soul could pass through solid doors and walls; therefore, it had no need of such a complex construction as the Great Pyramid’s shafts. Furthermore, it must be pointed out that the shafts of the Great Pyramid are unique, and are not found in later pyramids such as those of the 5th and 6th Dynasties in which the Pyramid Texts were inscribed.

In my view, Bauval and Hancock have lost their objectivity concerning the Great Pyramid’s shafts as a direct consequence of their obsession with the Orion theory, which was sparked, in the first instance, by the layout of the three major pyramids on the Giza plateau. This is a classic example of a good idea taken too far. Yes, the pyramids of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure were laid out in an image of the three stars of Orion’s Belt. Why dispute this excellent idea? It is not necessary, however, to rope the Great Pyramid’s shafts into the Orion theory and indeed, by proposing alignments at 2450 BC, Bauval and Hancock have simply lent strength to the orthodox theory that the Great Pyramid was built by the 4th dynasty king Khufu. Worse still, this stance has, in turn, led Hancock to abandon his scepticism about the Pyramid’s rather dubious ‘quarry marks’ (apparently naming Khufu as the builder), as if this were just a meaningless pawn in a game of ‘making friends with the Egyptologists’. What a tangled web we weave!

On Kate Spence’s Dating of Pyramids by Stellar Alignments

The following is a statement which I issued on 24th April 2001.

‘On 16th November 2000, an interesting article on the dating of Egyptian pyramids was published by Nature magazine.(1) In this article, Egyptologist Kate Spence argued that the Egyptians had identified true north, for the purpose of alignment of their pyramids, by using the polar alignment of two northern circumpolar stars, Kochab and Mizar. When a plumb line was set against the vertical alignment of these two stars approximately 4,500 years ago, it identified the exact point on the horizon which signified true north. The Egyptians could then knock a stake in the ground, in the distance, allowing them to mark out the pyramid’s axis with reasonable accuracy. In support of her theory, Spence demonstrated that the accuracy of certain pyramids’ alignments to true north had deteriorated progressively over time in exact accordance with the drifting positions of the two stars owing to the precession of the equinoxes.

This theory caught my attention owing to its potential ramifications for the dating of the Giza pyramids. In her thesis, Kate Spence included the Great Pyramid in her trend line, and thus suggested that it had been built in 2478 BC. This would, of course, support a construction by the 4th dynasty king Khufu, and go against my own theory – argued in my book ‘The Phoenix Solution’ – that the Great Pyramid had been built centuries earlier by a predynastic culture, and was merely ‘adopted’ by Khufu.

There is, however, a fly in Kate Spence’s ointment as far as the Great Pyramid is concerned, and that fly is the Second Pyramid of Giza which is generally attributed to Khufu’s son Khafre. In her all important diagram of alignment deviations (her Figure 1a), the Second Pyramid of Giza stands quite apart from the trend line, as if its alignment to true north had been determined by a different method.

Kate Spence has a clever solution to this discrepancy. She supposes that Khafre missed the normal date for the orientation ceremony of his pyramid, and took the alignment against Kochab and Mizar six months later, when the stars had realigned in an inverted position. But this solution has the hallmarks of a convenient fudge, and Spence has, in fact, overlooked another intriguing possibility.

Spence’s Figure 1a, it can be argued, does not show one trend line but two. The first applies to the non-Giza pyramids, whilst the second applies to the Giza pyramids. While the first trend line exhibits a progressive deterioration in accuracy of alignment to true north, the second trend line (for the Great Pyramid and Second Pyramid of Giza) exhibits a consistent accuracy of alignment which is extremely impressive (just 3 and 6 arc minutes from true north respectively). This means that the two giant pyramids at Giza do not necessarily belong to the chronological pattern which Spence has identified (based on the polar alignment of Kochab and Mizar during the mid-3rd millennium BC). Rather, the two giant pyramids at Giza seem to have been aligned by some completely different method. Which hints, I might add, at their construction by a different, earlier culture.

On 22nd November 2000, I wrote to Kate Spence and highlighted the fact that the two giant Giza pyramids had not only the most accurate orientations to true north per se, but also an astonishing consistency of accurate alignment across both their western and eastern sides (as per her Figure 1). “I am surprised”, I wrote, “that you did not comment on this”, and highlighted her comment on page 321 (second paragraph) that the builders of the non-Giza pyramids had apparently experienced tremendous difficulty in making right angles!!! “Why” I asked her, “did this problem not beset the builders of the Great and Second Pyramids?” In her response, dated 25th November, Spence wrote: “Nature have very strict length limits. My original 16,000 words ended up as 3,000. It was not possible to discuss everything but I am hoping to produce a longer version.” Apparently, she did not wish to answer my question.

I also asked Kate Spence whether it was possible that the builders of the two giant Giza pyramids had used a method of alignment to true north that was completely different from the method she had suggested. Spence didn’t like the idea, but she admitted it was possible. “However”, she said, “You would have to explain why they chose to change and use a different method at this time and why they then abandoned it.”

Here, then, is my explanation. The ‘change’ in pyramid alignment method by the 4th dynasty, to which Spence refers in her challenge, is entirely illusory. The Great Pyramid and the Second Pyramid of Giza do not date to the 4th dynasty. They were built centuries earlier by a predynastic culture, and were merely ‘adopted’ by the 4th dynasty kings Khufu and Khafre. This would explain not only the more accurate alignments of these two Giza pyramids, but also their marked difference in build quality and design (the latter particularly the case in the Great Pyramid).

In summary, Spence’s theory is a good one, but nothing in Egyptology is ever as simple as it first appears, and the giant pyramids of Giza remain misfits in their grand scheme of things. Meanwhile, my ‘adopted pyramids hypothesis’ continues to be a worthy rival to the orthodox pyramids chronology - for more details on it, see my 1998 book ‘The Phoenix Solution’.’

Reference (1) Nature 408:6810, pp. 320-24; 16th November 2000; the full text of this article is available online at http://www.nature.com/nature/fow/001116.html

On the U-turns of Certain Researchers concerning the Howard Vyse Quarry Marks

The following is a statement which I issued in March 2000.

‘During the closing years of the 20th century, Robert Bauval, Graham Hancock and John Anthony West negotiated a peace treaty with the Egyptologists who hold sway at Giza (Zawi Hawass, Mark Lehner et al). As part of this rapprochement, Dr Hawass gave ‘personal tours’ of the Great Pyramid to Robert Bauval, Graham Hancock, John Anthony West and, in some cases, to their wives too. These personal tours notably included the so-called ‘relieving chambers’ above the King's Chamber – an area which is usually off limits even to card carrying Egyptologists. Dr Hawass went to a great deal of trouble to erect the necessary ladders and lighting to enable Hancock and West to personally inspect the ‘graffiti’ in these chambers, i.e. the ‘quarry marks’ which contain Khufu's names (these represent the only prima facie evidence that king Khufu actually built the Great Pyramid as opposed to adopting a pre-existent Pyramid).

At this point something quite remarkable happened. Hancock and West emerged from the relieving chambers to declare themselves converts to the establishment dogma. They claimed to have seen some masons’ marks set deep in the joints between the stones and, as far-fetched as it might seem, Hancock and West both asserted that these obscure and inaccessible marks were sufficient to sway them from their previously firmly-held beliefs that the inscriptions of Khufu’s name had been forged.

There is something not quite right here. What could Hancock and West possibly have seen in the relieving chambers which was so persuasive? If it was (as is claimed) certain masons’ marks which appear in the joints between the stones, then it must be emphasised that no photographs or transcripts of these masons’ marks have ever been produced (as at September 2001: there is still nothing published). In the absence of photos or transcripts it is only reasonable to presume that the marks are very indistinct, as indeed we would expect when they are between the stones of an intact structure. In which case, what possible use can these marks be, what can they possibly tell us about the Pyramid, and why have they had such a profound effect on the thinking of Hancock and West?

As I see it, the masons’ marks appear (allegedly) in the joints between the stones and this can prove absolutely nothing about the Khufu cartouches which appear on the face of the stones. If we wish to eliminate the Howard Vyse forgery scenario, we must first compare the two sets of marks in respect of their styles of writing and also in respect of the compositions and age of their red ochre paint.

In summary, I find it incredible that Hancock and West have been converted so easily on this issue and I know that many of my readers agree with me. It beggars belief to think that Hancock and West could have been so simple minded on this point (hence the widespread rumour that these researchers have ‘done a deal’ with the Egyptologists at Giza). On the other hand, it could just be that Hancock and West are victims of their own set of false preconceptions, including the crazy idea that Orion is the magical key to all of the mysteries of the Pyramids.’


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