Sky/Ground Correlation and the Tower of Babel

Sky/Ground Correlation and the Tower of Babel

Copyright 2011 by Ian Driscoll

The Orion Correlation Theory (OCT) states that the three principal pyramids at Giza (along with other lesser-known edifices) are astronomically aligned to the constellation of Orion in the sky, with the pyramids of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure specifically being aligned to the stars of Al-Nitak, Al-Nilam and Mintaka which make up what?s termed “Orion’s Belt”.


 This theory was first posited by Robert Bauval, author of The Orion Mystery, in 1994. Bauval first stumbled upon the correlation between the stars of Orion?s belt in the sky and the ground plan of Giza on the earth through simple observation. He noticed that, although the Great Pyramid of Khufu and the pyramid of his grandson Khafre were aligned almost exactly on a south-west diagonal, the smaller pyramid of Menkaure was slightly offset to the left (Fig1).

Figure 1 – Giza Layout

That the Egyptians were exceptionally precise in the design and construction of the Giza plateau is an unquestioned fact, so why would Menkaure have broken with the symmetry of the axis line in positioning his pyramid?

Bauval states the question eloquently in describing the reaction of his colleagues and friends upon viewing an overhead photograph of the plateau:

As I had thought, most of those who looked at the photograph made the same observation: the three pyramids were each set along their own meridian (north-south) axes and everyone noticed the south-west diagonal along which the two larger pyramids are set. They agreed that this indicated a unified plan. Then came the confusion I had anticipated: they wondered why the third pyramid was so much smaller than the other two, and, even more puzzling, why was it slightly offset east of the south-west diagonal line which linked the two larger pyramids. All agreed that the size and offset of the Menkaura pyramid had been a deliberate choice by the architect. The question was why?

The constellation of Orion was identified by the ancient Egyptians as their god Osiris, the lord of the underworld, judge of the dead, and the most widely worshiped deity in the Egyptian pantheon. The Pyramid Texts, a group of funerary inscriptions thought to have been composed in and around the fifth and sixth dynasties, speak chiefly of Osiris and the events surrounding his death and rebirth, thus testifying to the prominence which the god enjoyed during the same time period in which the pyramids of Giza are thought to have been built (fourth dynasty). The belt stars of the constellation of Orion/Osiris are arranged in nearly the same positions as are the pyramids of Giza.

Whereas Al-Nitak and Al-Nilam are so arranged that one could draw a diagonal line through the center of them, connecting the two stars, the smaller star of Mintaka is, as in the case of the pyramid of Menkaure, offset slightly to the left (Fig2).

Figure 2 – Orion’s Belt stars

Utilizing many passages in the Pyramid Texts and information from various Egyptological authorities, Bauval convincingly demonstrates in The Orion Mystery the reasons he believes the OCT to be factual. Of course, this theory has been met with fierce opposition from Egyptologists the world over. This is due, in part, to the fact that in his book Bauval radically re-dates the construction of the pyramids at Giza to 10,500 BCE. Bauval bases this re-dating on the fact that the pyramids on the ground are placed at a 45 degree angle to due north-south, and the belt stars of Orion were last seen in a 45 degree angular relationship to the horizon in 10,500 BCE, which Bauval equates with the Egyptian “Zep Tepi” or “First Time”, the time when the gods still roamed the earth according to mythological accounts. Of course, this ruffled the feathers of not a few academics, who protested vehemently against any theory proposing a radical re-dating of the Giza plateau. Bauval?s dates aside, however, what can be agreed upon by anyone with eyes to see is the remarkable similarity between Orion?s belt in the sky and the Giza pyramids on the ground. As the title of this essay indicates, I believe that the mythical tradition of the Tower of Babel is based on this ancient practice of building structures on earth to mirror constellations in heaven, and that the Tower is intimately linked to the three pyramids at Giza.

The Tower of Babel first appears in the book of Genesis, immediately following the flood narrative. In chapter ten of said book, the descendants of Noah are listed, and some of their activities and migrations are documented. The following chapter begins thusly:

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city,with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

This is the Tower of Babel, situated in the ancient kingdom of Shinar (Babylonia), and looked upon by most Christian theologians as an allegorical warning against the dangers of pride. It is described as a “tower that reaches to the heavens”, and portrayed as a monumental construction – an undertaking of the entire human race. After familiarizing myself with Bauval?s OCT, however, I began to entertain the thought that rather than towering above the lands with its top in the clouds, it may have simply been designed to mirror the sky, bringing the heavens down to earth, and that the original tale may have become corrupted through successive retellings prior to its being recorded by the authors of Genesis.

Unfortunately, the above is as much information as the Bible can provide on the subject. However, there do exist supplementary myths surrounding the Tower which have been preserved in extra-biblical sources. In his extremely valuable book Hebrew Myths, Robert Graves records some of these traditions. One prevalent belief is that an early ruler named Nimrod erected the Tower. Nimrod (according to the book of Genesis, chapter 10) was the descendant of Cush, the grandson of Noah. The Bible records that he was “a mighty warrior” (his very name means “mighty hunter”), and that the “first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Erech, Akkad and Calneh, in Shinar.” He is also reported to be the builder of Nineveh, one of the most infamous of biblical cities. Graves writes of Nimrod’s motives:

Nimrod and his people raised the Tower of Babel in rebellion against God; for he said: “I will be revenged on him for the drowning of my ancestors. Should he send another flood, my tower will rise even above Ararat, and keep me safe.”1

We see then that Nimrod?s aim was twofold: to spite God for the murder of his ancestors, and to construct an edifice which would preserve him in the face of yet another cataclysm. So Nimrod constructed it, but what did it look like? Graves records another tradition which speaks to the Tower?s possible appearance:

Others say that Nimrod, a famous hunter in God?s service, raised the Tower of Babel; but that it was not his first foundation. Having won dominion over all Noah?s descendants, he had already built a fortress upon a round rock, setting a great throne of cedarwood upon it to support a second great throne, made of iron; this, in turn, supported a great copper throne, with a silver throne above the copper, and a golden throne above the silver. At the summit of this pyramid, Nimrod placed a gigantic gem, from which, sitting in divine state, he exacted universal homage.

If we can use the above as a basis for a probable description, the mythical Tower of Babel may have originally been conceived of as a pyramidal structure, made up of numerous (perhaps five) levels or steps that rested upon a round rock, and which were crowned at the summit by an enormous jewel or gem. This cannot help but bring to mind the image of the Great Pyramid at Giza, which is founded upon a rounded desert mound and, according to many Egyptologists, was once crowned by a brilliant, gleaming capstone.

Certainly this was interesting information, but still rather flimsy and subjective. Turning to what historical information I could find on the subject, I focused on the one building which was generally viewed as being the most probable candidate for the Tower of Babel, that being the tower of Babylon, the Etemenanki, the “house of the foundation of heaven and earth”. The tower was described as a ziggurat, being depicted in the earliest periods as possessing five stories (though later it was described as seven stories in height), and crowned with a temple to the god Marduk at the summit. Herodotus describes it in the following way:

In the middle of the sanctuary [to Zeus as Bel] has been built a solid tower, a stade long and the same in width, which supports another tower, which in turn supports another, and so on: there are eight towers in all. A stairway has been constructed to wind its way up the outside of all the towers; halfway up the stairway there is a shelter with benches to rest on, where people making the ascent can sit and catch their breath.
The common assumption is that the mythical Tower of Babel is based upon the tower of Babylon, the Etemenanki. But I believe that this stems from a corruption in the transmission of the myth predating the composition of the book of Genesis. Rather than an ancient sky-scraper as the Old Testament describes, I believe that the Tower mirrored the heavens in such a way that it brought the sky down to earth. In this context, what interested me more than the Etemenanki itself was its close association to the temple of Marduk, the Esagila or “house of the raising of the head”, which stood next to the Etemenanki in Babylon (Fig3).

Figure 3 – The Etemenanki is depicted on the right and the Esagil on the left

According to Mesopotamian mythology, Marduk founded the temple of Esagil after defeating the dragon Tiamat, the embodiment of chaos and disorder. He modeled the temple after Apsu, the primeval abysmal waters, which also made up the sky. The Enuma Elish (the Mesopotamian story of creation) records the construction of Esagila in this way:

[Marduk] leveled Apsu, dwelling of Nudimmud. The Lord measured the dimensions of Apsu and the large temple (Eshgalla), which he built in its image, was Esharra: In the great shrine Esharra, which he had created as the sky, he founded cult centers for Anu, Ellil, and Ea.

Put plainly, what we have in the Enuma Elish is the earliest documented example of an edifice being purposefully constructed to mirror the sky. The problem is, the historical Esagil which stood in Babylon had no astronomical correlations whatsoever, as far as we can tell. So what can we make of this? I would suggest that the Esagil which stood in Babylon was simply a commemoration of the original edifice, retaining the name but not the physical properties of the first temple which was said to have been founded by Marduk himself. We can only guess at the meaning of “the house of the raising of the head”, but in light of its creation it seems to imply that the temple?s function was as some sort of observatory.

To recap, the Hebrew traditions state that the Tower of Babel was constructed in pyramidal style by Nimrod, a king who wished to defy God by building a place of refuge lest the Lord produce another worldwide cataclysm. Mesopotamian mythology tells the story of the foundation of the temple of Marduk, which was said to have originally mirrored the sky. But what connected these two traditions to the Giza pyramids?
The belt stars of Orion stand out vividly against the background of the night sky. One of the most easily recognizable constellations, Orion plays a role in nearly every mythological system the world over. In Australia, the constellation is said to be the home of the rainbow serpent deity; in ancient Mayan mythology, three prominent stars of Orion are said to represent the sacred hearthstones upon which the existence of the Mayan family and society hinged; in Greece, the constellation is envisioned as a giant hunter who is slain by Artemis; in ancient Egypt, Orion was associated with the great god Osiris, the focus of nearly all of the Egyptian religious literature still in existence. The identification of Osiris with the constellation of Orion constitutes, in my opinion, the missing link. The etymology of the name Osiris remains a mystery to Egyptologists. There are many theories, but no universal agreement. The earliest hieroglyphic representation is simple enough: a throne set atop an eye, which phonetically reads as ASAR in ancient Egyptian, the Greek “Osiris” being a later corruption. The name ASAR is extremely close to the word ASARI, which is one of Marduk?s many names. E.A. Wallis Budge states in his From Fetish to God in Ancient Egypt:

We may now compare the cuneiform characters for ASARI, i.e. MARDUK, and the transcription of them into hieroglyphs. The group of wedges which we read ASARI is -=I(I-I and it is composed of two distinct characters, viz. -=II and (I-. (The „cuneiform? letters are here depicted using the standard typewriter characters that most closely approximate the wedge-like characters of the cuneiform text) The first has the well known meaning of „tent?, or „dwelling?, or „resting place?, and the second has the meaning of „eye? and is placed inside the sign for „tent?. The two signs by which these are transcribed in Egyptian are…a seat or throne, and…an eye. Now the sign -=I is followed in the text by two other cuneiform characters…these form a title of ASARI and are read in Sumerian LU DUG, and they mean „good man or being?. Thus we have „ASARI, the good being?. But we find in the Egyptian texts that one of the principal titles of Osiris is UN-NEFER…i.e. the „Good Being?, and it seems clear that this title is the Egyptian translation of the cuneiform [characters meaning „good man or being?]. Thus there is little doubt that the Egyptian AS-AR is the equivalent of the Babylonian ASARI.

So the constellation of Orion was associated with Osiris who was in turn intimately associated with Marduk, the founder of the first temple which mirrored the sky on the earth. It takes little work from there to discern just which section of the sky the original Esagil may have been modeled after. This was good evidence to link the sky/ground dualism described in the Enuma Elish to the Orion Correlation Theory and Giza. But what of the information regarding Nimrod?

While reading through Graves? Hebrew Myths, I came upon a compelling side note to the tales of Nimrod. Graves reports that in the seventh century Byzantine document entitled “Chronicon Paschale”, it is recorded that the Persians referred to the constellation of Orion as “Nimrod”!

To summarize, for the sake of clarity, according to the myths of the Hebrews, Orion (Nimrod) built a great pyramidal edifice for the purposes of revenging himself against God and preserving his life should the Creator decide to send another catastrophe his way. According to the Enuma Elish, Orion (Marduk / Osiris) constructed an image of the sky on the ground, an edifice which may have originally served as an observatory. It all seems to fit, but there’s more.
In the Nimrod tale, he was said to have constructed the Tower for two reasons, one of which was to act as a safe-house, which would preserve Nimrod?s life in the face of a second deluge or some other such cataclysm. This also relates to the Giza plateau. As Andrew Collins points out in From the Ashes of Angels, an Arabic author of the tenth century AD named Al Masoudi penned an historical record entitled Fields of Gold – Mines of Gems. In it, Masoudi tells the story of King Saurid Ibn Salhouk, a ruler of Egypt supposed to have lived three hundred years before the flood. Collins paraphrases the story in the flowing narrative that follows:

When the earth was a little younger, Saurid Ibn Salhouk, the king of Egypt – who lived three hundred years before the Great Flood – found that his slumber was constantly being disturbed by terrible nightmares. He saw that “the whole earth was turned over”, its inhabitants too. He saw men and women falling upon their faces and „stars falling down and striking one another with a terrible noise?. As a consequence, “all mankind took refuge in terror”.
These nightmares continued to trouble the good king, but for some time he concealed them, without telling another soul what he had seen. Finally, after one further night of misery, he summoned his chief priests, who came from all the provinces of Egypt. No less than 130 of them stood before him, the chief among them being the learned Almamon, or Aclimon.
King Saurid related every detail of his curious nightmare, and before they offered their own opinions concerning this strange portent, each one consulted the altitude of the stars. Upon returning they unanimously announced to the worried king that his nightmare foretold that first a great flood would cover the earth. Then a great fire „would come from the direction of the constellation Leo?. They assured him, however, that after these disasters „the firmament would return to its former site?.
„Will it come to our country?? the king asked.
They answered him honestly. „Yes,? they said, „and it will destroy it.?
Having accepted the future fate of his kingdom, Saurid decided that he would command the building of three wondrous pyramids as well as a very strong vault. All these were to be filled with „the knowledge of the secret sciences?, which included everything they had learned of astronomy, mathematics and geometry. All this knowledge would remain concealed for those who would one day come and find these secret places.

© Ian Driscoll 2011

About the Author

Ian Driscoll became interested in mythology at a young age, and has spent numerous years studying ancient history, religion, and philosophy. His readings alerted him to a wide range of similarities between many peoples and cultures, from Plato’s Atlantis myth to Egyptian mythology, to Christian mysticism to Alchemy. He has come to believe that an accurate understanding of history and myth is integral to mankind’s development and progression. Ian lives in upstate New York in a cottage in the woods with his girlfriend and a black cat named Phobos.

Book by the Author

The myth of Atlantis has puzzled researchers for decades. The debate over its meaning has raged for more than two millenia. Was it an historical island-nation, a political metaphor, a spiritual allegory, or none of the above? In this work, the authors explore the Egyptian roots of Plato’s famous narrative, and examine the strange similarities between Atlantis and worldwide creation mythologies. A fresh and unique look at an ancient enigma, the book is essential reading for anyone interested in the mystery of Atlantis, layman and scholar alike. With an appendix on Egyptian mythology and its connection to Plato’s Atlantis by renowned musicologist Ernest G. McClain.

Atlantis: Egyptian Genesis

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  1. says

    I have seen on history chanel the story of one real big pyramid that from the inside look new and drawings, no dirt on it’s a tomb, with out a body, infact there was never a body…someone mention it was more like a place to save things, the large square brigs was to tight that no water would ever go through or anything else. if this king had a dream it must have been heaven sent, like so many after him…a warning of what is to come..he decided to save all litterture..but no one knows what happen to it..or no one is talking…

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