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The Panleonist Lost Civilisation Theory

The panleonist theory proposes that a highly advanced civilisation existed on the Earth during during the precessional age of Leo (c. 10900-8700 BC), but was destroyed by a cataclysm circa 10500 BC and hence became a ‘lost civilisation’. The theory proposes that the lost civilisation encoded the date 10500 BC into their monuments (e.g. by astronomical alignments) so as to commemorate the date of the cataclysm.

The panleonist theory is best known from the writings of Robert Bauval, Adrian Gilbert and Graham Hancock. But it has its roots in an assortment of different writings. Firstly, in Plato’s story of Atlantis, which recalled the destruction of an advanced civilisation nine thousand years before the time of Solon, i.e. c. 9600 BC. Secondly, in the prophecies of certain mystics, such as Edgar Cayce. And thirdly, in the writings of Zecharia Sitchin, who dated the beginning of history to the Great Flood in 11000 BC, at the beginning of the age of Leo.

It is on the writings of Bauval, Hancock and Gilbert that I wish to comment here, in particular their claims that the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx were built to commemorate the date 10500 BC.

The Orion Theory

In ‘The Orion Mystery’ (1994), Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert made a very interesting discovery, namely that the three main pyramids at Giza (of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure) formed a pattern on the ground virtually identical to that of the three belt stars of the Orion constellation. This was a perfectly plausible hypothesis. However, Bauval and Gilbert then entered controversial territory. Using computer software, they wound back the Earth’s skies to ancient times, and witnessed a ‘locking-in’ of the mirror image between the pyramids and the stars at the same time as Orion reached a turning point at the bottom of its precessional shift up and down the meridian. This conjunction, they claimed, was exact, and it occurred precisely at the date 10450 BC.

In ‘Keeper of Genesis’ (1996), Robert Bauval teamed up with Graham Hancock, and took the 10500 BC theory further, claiming corroborative evidence in the form of the Sphinx at Giza (see below).

In ‘Heaven’s Mirror’ (1998), Graham Hancock tried to argue that the date 10500 BC was encoded also at the ancient Cambodian site of Angkor Wat (the temples, he alleged, were in the image of the constellation Draco at exactly 10500 BC).

On 15th September 1998, I issued a detailed rebuttal of Hancock’s Angkor Wat theory, which I published on my website. I concluded that ‘Hancock’s case is extremely weak, and by pursuing it with such vigour (claiming ‘no doubt that a correlation exists’ p.126, and then winding back the skies to 10500 BC to claim a ‘precise’ match) he risks bringing this kind of research into disrepute. He certainly does Robert Bauval no favours, for many people will now highlight the poor quality of Hancock’s research to debunk the more plausible (though unproven) 10500 BC alignment at Giza.’

My comments were to prove farsighted. On 4th November 1999, BBC screened a Horizon documentary which raised serious questions about Bauval and Hancock’s panleonist theory. Hancock, in particular, was ridiculed for his theory of a 10500 BC alignment between Angkor Wat and the constellation of Draco (rightly so in my opinion). But Bauval too was criticised for being careless in his calculation of the 10500 BC alignment between the Giza Pyramids and the stars of Orion’s Belt. To the shock and horror of Bauval’s followers, the BBC claimed that the accurate 10500 BC ‘lock-in’ between the Giza pyramids and Orion’s Belt was not quite so accurate after all. Worse still, in the ensuing furore, Bauval and Hancock actually conceded the point and admitted that the alignment was not precise.

Bauval and Hancock went on to accuse the BBC of bias, and their complaint was upheld in one respect (although not in the majority of respects) by an independent commission. Nevertheless, in the heat of the argument, the fact was obscured that (a) the alleged accuracy of the Pyramids/Orion’s Belt alignment had been absolutely central to Bauval and Hancock’s original argument of a lost civilisation of 10500 BC; and (b) the alleged accuracy of the Pyramids/Orion’s Belt alignment had been successfully rebutted by the BBC.

The present situation is this. It is accepted that the alignment between the Giza pyramids and the stars of Orion’s Belt is not precise but approximate. Therefore, no firm conclusion can be drawn about any particular date which the monuments might have commemorated. Accordingly, the panleonist theory of Giza is entirely baseless (nevertheless, it remains an important discovery that the layout of the three Giza pyramids mirrors the shape of Orion’s Belt).

The Sphinx Problem

One of the foundation stones of the panleonist theory is the Great Sphinx of Egypt, which is presumed to have the body of a lion, thus evoking the precessional era of Leo (10900-8700 BC).

In his follow-up work with co-author Graham Hancock, Robert Bauval wound back the skies to show that not only did the three Giza pyramids line up with the three stars of Orion’s Belt at 10500 BC, but also, at the same time, the constellation of Leo rose exactly due east of the Sphinx. This occurrence, they said, was unique to 10500 BC, and it was therefore beyond coincidence that the Sphinx had been carved in the form of a lion.
According to Bauval and Hancock (and other researchers, such as John Anthony West) the weathering of the Sphinx by rainwater supports a date of construction c. 10500 BC, at the same time as the ground plan had been designed for the three Giza pyramids.

I would like to make three critical observations on this theory.

Firstly, the geological evidence for an older Sphinx, based on the work of the geologist Robert Schoch, is more in line with 5000-4000 BC than with the extreme date of 10500 BC. I know from personal discussion with Robert Schoch that he is quite unhappy with the way Bauval, Hancock and West have hijacked his evidence to fit their pet theory.

Secondly, as I pointed out in chapter 1 (p. 24) of my book ‘The Phoenix Solution’ (1998), there is a much more plausible reason fot the importance of the age of Leo in ancient Egypt, namely that the Sun rose against the backdrop of Leo during the heliacal rising of the star Sirius at the summer solstice throughout most of Egyptian dynastic history. The leonine imagery of the Sphinx (if indeed it be a lion) points us not necessarily to the 11th millennium BC, but rather to the much more plausible era of the 4th millennium BC.

Thirdly, I would question the assumption that the Sphinx has the body of a lion. In fact, as Robert Temple has pointed out, the Sphinx has ‘no mane, no tufted tail (and) no raised haunches’, which we would expect of a lion, and nor does it have a lion’s powerful shoulders. Furthermore, the lion was a dualistic concept in ancient Egyptian myth and architecture; lion sphinxes, for example, were generally built in pairs, protecting the entrances to temples. And yet the Sphinx of Giza is most certainly a solitary figure; there is no evidence whatsoever for a second Sphinx.

On balance, it seems to me that, as Robert Temple has suggested, the Sphinx was built with the body of a dog, presumably to symbolise Anubis (with the cat’s tail representing a later modification). Anubis, it should be noted, was the god who guarded the Earth and the Underworld, and protected the body of Osiris. With the Pyramid representing Osiris (Pyramid Texts, Utterance 600), it would make sense that the Sphinx was originally an image of Anubis (its head was probably recarved from the head of a dog to the head of a king).

The Anubis theory may, or may not, be correct, but its plausibility brings into question the widely-held assumption that the Sphinx has the body of a lion. Of course, if the Sphinx has the body of a dog, then astronomy is of no use whatsoever in dating it.

All things considered, the Sphinx offers no evidence whatosever in support of the panleonist lost civilisation theory. It might well date to the pre-dynastic era (as I have indeed argued in ‘The Phoenix Solution’), but probably to no earlier than the 5th or 6th millennium BC.


Much credit is due to Bauval, Gilbert, Hancock and West for getting us all looking at Egypt again with a fresh perspective. But the debate must move on, and frankly I would like to see an end to this obsession with 10500 BC. At the present time, there is not one single piece of evidence anywhere in the world to justify the idea that 10500 BC was being commemorated by a lost civilisation. In my view, this obsession with 10500 BC has done great harm, and continues to do great harm, to the cause of those, such as myself, who would make a serious challenge to official dogma on the origin of the Giza pyramids and the history of civilisation. Yes, there is a mystery which requires an explanation. But what if the answer to the mystery lies not in 10500 BC but rather in the more plausible period of 6000-5000 BC? The worst thing we can do is investigate the past with a preconceived dogma to rival that of mainstream academia. Rather, it is time to take account of all the scientific evidence and draw our conclusions accordingly.

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