The Horizon of Khufu

To investigate further the possible existence of an overall plan at Giza, we start with the observation we made with regard to the two great pyramids' orientation on the cardinal points. As we saw in the previous chapter, the pattern of orientation errors of the pyramids of Khufu and Khafre suggest very clearly that both monuments were built, or at least laid out, contemporaneously; accordingly, this suggests that the project was originally conceived as a whole by Khufu, and then Khafre claimed for himself the second pyramid, perhaps completing its construction. Besides the clues coming from the orientation, one only has to observe Giza from a few kilometers' distance, for example from the hill of Abu Rawash (Plate 31), to realize that the two pyramids look like twins and give the impression of having been built to convey a single message, while the third pyramid, Menkaure's, becomes almost invisible, an upstart, an intruder into an already standing, far more ambitious project. One only has to experience this once to appreciate that the effect would be similar from any place in the Cairo valley (except one; see below), if it were possible to see through the modern buildings and air pollution that today are blocking the view of the two pyramids.

Thus, the two monuments dominate the western horizon. Is it really possible that Khufu conceived of, and in part executed, a project that was double the size of that commonly attributed to him? If so, it is highly likely that the temple complexes of the pyramids are also to some extent "twins." Further, as we already know, if a unified design of an architectural complex

Egypt Map Black And White
Figure 19.2: The two main pyramids as viewed from the area in front of the Sphinx

follows principles of symmetry, its astronomical alignments, granted that they exist, usually would tie in with this symmetry (think of the horseshoe axis of the Stonehenge triliths). To seek further evidence, I have therefore followed an archaeoastronomical approach, once again inspired by the studies of Mark Lehner (1985b), who was the first Egyptologist to highlight the main astronomical references of the monumental complex downhill of the second pyramid:

1. The Sphinx was probably a sun symbol aimed at ensuring the "solarization" of the deceased pharaoh. It looks toward true east, that is, to the rising of the sun at the equinoxes. On such days, if the sun is observed from the area of the Sphinx temple, it sets in the vicinity of the south corner of Khafre's pyramid. Specifically, the southern corner is aligned with the point found at the beginning of the causeway, reachable via a spectacular granite-encased tunnel that starts inside the Valley Temple.

2. At the summer solstice, beginning of the flood season, looking from the same point, the sun sets at the midpoint between the two great pyramids. This image creates a sensational hierophany: a giant replica of the hieroglyph akhet [Q or "sun mountains" made up of the solar disk, which sets—or rises—between two mountains. This hieroglyph also means "horizon" in the sense of the place where the sun sets or rises, and was associated with the Great Pyramid, which was called Akhet Khufu, that is, Khufu's horizon. The choice of the symbol was by no means coincidental. There also existed a version without a disk, or djew, which possibly represented a sort of "primordial mountain," still with two peaks, however, and was linked to the death cult—to the extent that Anubis, guardian of the underworld, is sometimes called "he who is between two mountains" (there also existed a version in which it was Horus who was placed between the two mountains, [®] so that the hierophany, seen from opposite the Sphinx, might also be referring to this symbol (Shaltout et al. 2007).

The appellation "Khufu's horizon" for the first pyramid is confirmed in several inscriptions dating from after its construction, although the corresponding hieroglyph entered in use in the 5th dynasty. The tomb of Qar also has the name of the second pyramid, "Khafre is great.'' Nevertheless, though it would appear linked only to the name of the Great Pyramid, the akhet hieroglyph only manifests itself if both the great pyramids at Giza exist. We thus have new and compelling evidence that we are dealing with a unified project.

Other evidence of an archaeoastronomical nature comes from the arrangement of the two causeways, which, as we have seen, are symmetrical in relation to the eastwest line. These causeways point toward the sunset in the two points located halfway between the equinoxes and the solstices (winter and summer, respectively, for the first and the second pyramid) (Bauval 1989, Bauval and Gilbert 1994). But as the rate of movement of the sun at the horizon is not constant, these two days do not correspond to the division of the period of time between equinoxes and solstices into two equal halves. What we have is rather a geometric division of the sun's path throughout the year rather than an astronomical or calendrical-type division. At any rate, it is an interrelated arrangement into which, yet again, Menkaure seems to have been inserted harmoniously at a later date, in the best possible way to respect the preexisting symmetries. Indeed, since the two causeways are symmetrical in relation to the eastwest line, he adjusted the ceremonial causeway of the third pyramid along this line.

Naturally, one would think that if the two great pyramid complexes really were designed together, then Khufu's Valley Temple must be linked to a solar phenomenon that is symmetrical to the one the Valley Temple of the second pyramid is linked to (the summer solstice)—that is, the winter solstice (Magli 2008b,c). With this idea in mind, I searched carefully through existing archaeological studies on this temple, which is buried under the modern village that has sprung up at the base of the pyramid. These studies relate to probe digs carried out over the years by the Egyptologists Messiya, Goyon, and Hawass. It can be concluded with reasonable certainty that a monumental building, probably the temple itself, or at least a ceremonial palace associated with the pyramid complex, was situated in an area where the causeway and the ideal extension of the north side of the pyramid intersect, and thus in a special position analogous to the corresponding connection point of the second pyramid's causeway. From this position one could see (and still can) the sun at the equinoxes setting in line with the north side of the first pyramid. Moreover, tracing a line pointing to the sunset during the winter solstice, one sees that this line passes through the center of the funerary temple opposite the second pyramid; therefore, on that day the sun sets, if observed from the same point, behind the second pyramid (this hierophany could perhaps allude to another hieroglyph, ,-f,, the "disk with rays").

It would seem, therefore, that the astronomical alignments of the first pyramid complex mirror that of the second pyramid complex; the symmetry in the astronomical references enables the sun's cycle to be followed throughout the year with eight specific days: the two solstices, the two equinoxes, and the four days at which the sun sets halfway between the equinoxes and the solstices.

Admittedly, we are shortening the odds of all this being part of a unified master plan. It is not uncommon today for outstanding architectural works to be given a name that sums up its contents, and I believe that the same occurred 4500 years ago: Akhet Khufu was the original name given to this master plan—the largest architectural project that humanity has ever conceived.

Traffic Master Plan Diagram
Figure 19.3: The solar alignments of the valley temples with respect to the two main pyramids

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