A stellar name for the Pyramid of Cheops
by Robert G. Bauval
In Discussions in Egyptology No. 13, it was argued that the three Giza pyramids were constructed to a unified plan, and that the religious motive of the plan was to represent the central region of the sky-Duat, the starry kingdom of Osiris-Orion defined by the three stars of Orion’s Belt.1 Support for this was found in the Pyramid Texts, where the soul of the departed king was said to join Osiris-Orion in the sky,2 and in the fact that the southern shaft of the King’s Chamber was directed to the lower star in Orion’s Belt, Al Nitak, at the epoch when the pyramid was constructed.3
Link Between the Southern and Northern Shafts
In a recent article,4 I have shown that the northern shaft of the King’s Chamber was directed to the star Alpha Draconis in c. 2450BC, and that the northern shaft of the Queen’s Chamber was directed to a star in Ursa Minor (Kochab) at its meridian culmination which corresponded to the tip of the celestial ‘Adze of Upuaut’, which the Pyramid Texts describe as being used by Horus of Letopolis during the ceremony of the opening of the mouth.5 It was also mentioned that when this specific star in Ursa Minor struck the meridian, so the star Al Nitak (believed to represent Cheops’s pyramid) would rise. In the stellar rituals found in the Pyramid Texts we are told that this describes the precise moment of rebirth or rising of the Osiris-king: ‘… Behold, he has come as Orion, behold Osiris has come as Orion … O king, the sky conceives you with Orion, the Duat bears you with Orion, you will regularly ascend with Orion from the eastern side of the sky …’ [PT 820–822].
Furthermore, the actual monument (the pyramid construction) is identified with ‘Osiris’: ‘… this pyramid of the king is Osiris, this construction of his is Osiris …’ [PT Utt. 600].
The Name of Cheops’s Pyramid
It has been shown by Badawy that the names given to pyramids by the Ancient Egyptians bore strong stellar connotations; Badawy wrote, ‘the names of the pyramids of Sneferu, Khufu, Dedefret, Nebre indicate clearly a stellar connotation while those of Sahure, Neferirkare and Neferefre describe the stellar destiny of the ba’.6 Two such names ‘Djedefra is a Sehed star’ and ‘Nebka is a star’ make this certain. Other pyramids have (soul) names; the souls, as many will agree, were thought to be stars.7 The question, therefore, is whether the name given to Cheops’s pyramid could bear a star name, and could this star be identified with Al Nitak, the lower star in Orion’s Belt?
There are many variations of the way the name of the Cheops (Khufu) pyramid should be read. The best is given by Edwards as ‘Khufu is one belonging to the horizon’.8 In hieroglyphics, the name appears as
[from Wallis-Budge, An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, vol.I, p.25a; Dover edition 1978].
This means ‘The Horizon of Khufu’, a name which allows the original hieroglyphic text to speak for itself. We have seen that this pyramid has a likely correlation to Al Nitak, the lower (and larger) star in Orion’s Belt; the southern shaft of the King’s Chamber was also directed to this specific star when it culminates at the meridian.9 It also had an adze-shaped shaft,10 the northern one of the Queen’s Chamber, directed to Ursa Minor as it culminates at the meridian when Al Nitak is rising on the horizon. In the Westcar Papyrus, the pyramid is actually called horizon,11 and in the light of the stellar connotations of such names, it is a ‘star in the horizon’. The main stars of the Osirian rebirth were those of Orion, and the evidence is compelling that Al Nitak, poised on the horizon when the cosmic adze strikes the meridian and aligns itself with the northern shaft of the Queen’s Chamber, is ‘the Horizon of Khufu’ (see diagram on p.223).