by Pauline Novak-Reich
Not many manmade objects on the planet have fascinated scholars and tourists as did the Great Pyramid of Giza for thousands of years. Yet, the Nileometer, its precursor and one of three of the world’s first measuring instruments, faded into history like an unsung hero. It generated no scientific interest, scant literature and a meagre number of short Internet entries. As far back as 3500 BCE Nileometers were rocks carved with horizontal lines scattered along the Nile to measure the River’s ebb and flow and the time-intervals between them.
Figure 1: Dynastic Egypt’s most important Nileometers were at Elephantine Island. Curtesy of Todd Bolen/BiblePlaces.com
Perched on the eastern bank of the Nile, close to the City’s centre, is where the first Nileometer was placed when in 622 CE record collection resumed. Most modern day inhabitants of Cairo’s Rhoda Island are probably unaware of its existence, or of what that splendid building celebrates. Nor are tourists likely to be offered a trip to the site and told its full story.
In 641 CE, the first temple to house a Nileometer on the Delta replaced the 622 CE water level gauging structure, and in 861 CE, that temple gave way to the magnificent Islamic art temple erected by the Abbasid caliph, al-Muttawakil that stands there today. The opening of the Aswan Dams in 1970 shut the doors of that temple and discontinued the Nile record collection. Nowadays it shares its site with a functioning music school.
The existence of these Nileometers generated the longest uninterrupted record collection that exists today. The Egyptians kept such good flood records that scientists today still use their data to better understand rainfall patterns and the El Niño and La Niña phenomena.
Priests and Scribes
From the earliest days of settlement in Egypt, rulers appointed vast administrative bodies to measure the country’s agricultural land and its potential output based on Nileometer readings. Waters had to reach sixteen cubits on the Nileometer measuring column before taxes were levied. As sixteen cubits was the ideal water level for maximum crops, many viewed the Nileometer as the public’s “mood indicator”. In later years, every Egyptian temple housed a Nileometer, because water symbolised life.
The method the Egyptian priesthood used to predict the arrival of the flood five thousand years ago was a secret shrouded in mysticism. Whoever could read the Nileometer held the knowledge of Egypt’s most sacred treasure. Hi-tech inventions and knowledge were commonly kept in the holy chambers of temples accessible only the priests and kings. One would presume that an important event as the annual flood would have been depicted in much the same way as were other significant images of everyday life, such as those found in tombs, temples and shrines. Indeed, depictions of animal husbandry, offerings to the gods, harvest, military campaigns, burials, and religious festivals survived, while none exists depicting the Egyptians harnessing of the Nile. Even though it is possible that this classified knowledge along with many other of Egypt’s secrets still lies beneath the desert sands, it is more likely that the priests had deliberately destroyed the Square Spiral in 48 BCE before Rome conquered Egypt, in order to prevent this knowledge from falling into Roman hands.
One of the chief duties of Egyptian priests and scribes was to monitor the Nile inundation during the summer months. They were part of the royal court and the only two privileged castes. The priests were in charge of offerings and keeping the gods happy, while the scribes were the only people in Egypt allowed to learn reading and writing hieroglyphic and hieratic texts. Neither the priests nor the scribes had to join the military or pay taxes. And, as social mobility was not impossible for educated boys, the low castes could learn a trade and become artisans, merchants, or scribes. Even trusted slaves were granted freedom in exchange for performing the State’s secretarial and accounting duties. They worked in temples under the supervision of the High Priest, and during the flood season recorded and maintained the inundation records and provided estimates of the amount of arable land. Daily Nileometer readings were a must, no matter whether the river was calm or overflowing. Even when flooding made access to the Nileometers dangerous, or impossible, those in charge of record collection had to risk their lives in order to collect the readings. If caught making erroneous entries in the public books, deleting records from the register, or substituting state documents, their hands were cut off. Nonetheless, when a low Nile flow signalled less arable land and fewer revenues for the State coffers, the pharaohs demanded that the records be manipulated, so that bogus figures might be presented to the farmers as a basis for taxes due.
The Zodiac and the Square Spiral
Figure 2: The Square-spiral, the world’s second measuring instrument was an orderly numbered Square-spiral radiating counterclockwise from the number 1 at the centre
As the zodiac tracked the course of the moon and sun in relation to Earth, Babylonian priests were able to tell the planetary angular position every day of the year. The zodiac generated the calendar which enabled maritime navigation at night, indicated the time of year for sowing and harvesting, and when to celebrate these events.
They observed that the moon’s angular position with Earth regulated the strength of the tides. A full moon aligns at a 180º angle with the sun, a new moon forms a 360º angle with the sun, and when only its first or last quarter is visible, the moon is at a 90 º angle with the Earth. But, as important as the zodiac was to everyday life, it failed to resolve the menace of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers’ annual flood, which year in and year out devastated the people. Forecasting of future 180º and 360º alignment dates with the zodiac was cumbersome and involved elaborate computations. A device embedded with a calendar and protractor that would project future dates corresponding to important planetary angulations was what they needed. Ultimately, the list of zodiac positions became a precursor of a new instrument – a spiral of orderly numbers capable of projecting the angular position of flood stages by mapping the ebb and flow intervals.
The Nile inundation is no longer as regular as it was during the pharaonic era. Perhaps, damming, dredging, overuse of water and possibly even climate change and pollution impacted upon its flow. However, back then, when presented graphically, the Nile inundation records depicted a measurable flood pattern. From the day the inundation began, until the waters peaked, the river advanced in two long stages of growth with one short decline in between. Similarly, when flooding waned, the river retreated in two long stages with one short growth period in between.
Figure 3: Six ebb and flow stages form one inundation cycle
The priests established that any adjacent interval-pair, one of growth and one of decay, mapped onto the Square Spiral at a 360 or 180 degree angle. The stages of incomplete growth/decay cycles formed 180º angles, whereas complete cycles terminated at 360º degrees upon one of the Square Spiral’s axes. If, for example, the river flowed for 77 calendar days (cd) and then retreated for 34 cd, the two stages formed a 180º degree angle upon the Square Spiral’s north and south cardinals indicating an incomplete ebb and flow cycle. If, on the other hand, the river flowed for 77 cd and retreated for 77 cd, the stages formed a 360º co-axial alignment upon Square Spiral’s north cardinal indicating a complete inundation cycle.
Figure 4: A 180º mapping onto the Square-spiral’s north and south cardinals
Between 4800 – 3500 BCE, the Nile inundation was extremely regular. The Nile reached the delta every year on June 21st, the day of the heliacal rising of the Dog Star, Sirius (Sothis), and watered the land for four months, or 122 days (30.5 x 4 =122cd). The priests measured the time it took the river to rise from the lowest reading to the top, and the time it took it to recede noting that the direction of flow reversed when both intervals mapped onto the Square geometrically. More importantly, the time of ebb and the time of flow always corresponded to the numbers encoded onto the Square’s cardinal and diagonal lines.
A graphical presentation of the Nile data from 626 to 689 CE delineating the river’s peaks and troughs shows that ebbs and flows occur according to a fixed pattern and rhythm. When aligned upon the Square Spiral, adjacent intervals align at 360º or 180º angles.
Based upon authentic Nile records, Figure 5 depicts the annual minima (bottom black plot) and maxima (upper red plot) of the Nile’s first six-stage cycle from 626 to 645 CE. The white oscillator delineates higher scale-order stage 1 (626 – 633 CE), stage 2 (633 – 645 CE) and stage 3 (645 – 671 CE), which together form the 626 – 671 and 671 – 689 CE higher scale-order inundation cycle. The sixty three year period of (626 – 689 CE) was followed by another three stage decline of 7, 3 and 8 years.
Figure 5: Nileometer data for 626 – 691CE. No records are available prior to 622 CE, the actual duration of the cycle up to 633 CE is unknown.
- 626–631 CE = 610 cd (5 x 122) = 610 (613 North Cardinal)
- 631–632 CE = 122 cd = North West Diagonal
- 632–633 CE = 122 cd = North West Diagonal = 360º
- 633–638 CE = 610 cd (613 North Cardinal)
- 638–639 CE = 122 cd North West Diagonal = 360º to 631 – 632 CE
- 639–645 CE = 732 cd (6 x 122) = 732 cd (730 North West Diagonal) = 360º to 638 – 639 CE)
Figure 6: Cycle 1 (626 – 645 CE) stage alignments on the Square Spiral
Stage durations were critical in determining the inundation’s health. During years of plenty the River formed two long stages of growth with one short stage of decline. However, when drought and famine were approaching, the two recessive stages became long, while the growth stage in between became short.
Figure 7: Diagram of the Nile flood time spans
When graphically presented, the period of 626 – 633 CE would have alarmed the priests, given that the interval from 632 to 633 CE was only 1 year long. It was as long as the preceding 631 – 632 CE decline stage. More importantly, it terminated at a 360º with stage 2 upon the Square Spiral’s northwest axis signalling a reversal from a period of plenty to famine. And, since the total calendar time of plenty amounted to 654 cd and was considerably shorter than the 1467 cd of time of famine, the 180º angle between the 633 CE peak and the 645 CE trough, upon the Square-spiral’s west and east axes, predicted an incomplete famine cycle and more hardship to come.
Indeed, a graphic presentation of the 626 – 784 CE inundation pattern in Egypt demonstrates that from 633 to 784 CE the Nile’s recessive stages were longer in comparison to the stages of growth.
Figure 7: Higher scale-order cycles showing continued catastrophic drought during the seventh and eighth century CE
As Figure 8 shows, it was not until 784 CE that a 360º angle finally formed between the 633 CE peak of the six years of plenty and the784 CE trough that terminated 151 years of famine in Egypt. The trough of 645 CE was further reinforced by the 360º angle that formed upon the Square Spiral’s northwest axis, between the peak of 639 and the trough of 645 CE.
Figure 8: The 151 year Grand Cycle of 633 – 784 CE.
The Biblical Connection
We know of the Square Spiral’s existence from the legend of Noah, who built the Ark well ahead of the flood. Some early warming mechanism must have alerted him to the forthcoming flood and the devastation it would bring. The story of biblical Abraham, Noah’s tenth descendant, makes Noah’s legend even more credible. For Abraham and his wife, Sarah, migrated to Egypt, where amid deception and trickery they gained access to the royal court. Sarah married the king and Abraham became rich, most certainly from selling knowledge of the Square Spiral to a Pharaoh beleaguered by drought. We know that from about 3000 BCE, the beginning of the biblical era, Nile levels went into decline. Over the first two hundred years, the River dropped, from twenty feet above river bed level to ten, and stayed there for several centuries. Widespread unrest and depopulation in Nubia around 2800 BCE was triggered by the drying of Lake Fayoum, which ultimately ended the Old Kingdom’s Golden Age.
The invention of the Square Spiral was celebrated in Babylon by erecting ziggurats with tiers laid out in a spiral, and soon after this knowledge had reached Egypt, the pharaoh began building pyramids. Indeed, when pulled from the number 1 at the centre, the Square Spiral morphs into a pyramid, suggesting that the arrangement of blocks upon each pyramidal tier was laid in a Spiral.
Abraham and Sarah may have been metaphors used by the narrator to describe, and personify, a Babylonian migratory wave of skilled priests who, during the late fourth and early third Millenniums BCE, profiteered from selling Chaldean climate related knowledge to Egypt. They most likely brought with them the zodiac and the Square Spiral, and possibly even the Nileometer, and had then taught the pharaohs, and Egypt’s neighbouring kings, how to collect data and how to employ it in predicting the Nile’s flood stages.
This Spiral’s left to right spin mimics the direction of the Milky Way. The number 1 at the centre symbolises the sun, while the numbers 2–9, the numbers of the spiral’s first ring, represent the eight planets revolving around it. Nowadays it is called “The Square-of-9” and is widely used among technical analysts to forecast the ups and downs of financial markets.
In addition to becoming the blueprint of the Great Pyramid and of other likewise structures around the world, the Square Spiral gave impetus to the economies of Babylon, Egypt and to all the other cultures that discovered it.
As the legend of biblical Joseph relates, the Square Spiral led the pharaoh to introduce silos, to store food during good times, and to ration it during famine. Ultimately, this spiral turned the pharaohs into gods in the eyes of their people, while the pharaohs themselves came to believe that upon passing the Square Spiral would propel them to the afterlife.
The Nileometer’s special contribution to Egypt’s economy made it a popular celebration site. In medieval times the ruler would descend from the citadel in a multi-day procession and celebration along the Al Khalij al Masri — a canal with sixteen bridges over it. In a plentiful flood year, the gates at Magra al Uyoon would be opened allowing surplus water to run through the city. At the end of the procession that culminated at the Nileometer, the ruler, accompanied by judges, would take the measurement of the water level and determine the taxation for that year. He would then personally wash the column with scented water, while flowers and incense filled the space and Quranic verses relating to water were recited.
The Square Spiral is the key to understanding time — the fourth dimension of the universe that rules our lives. It is the foundation of intelligent design and the heart of sacred knowledge. One could say that measuring stage durations, and graphing the pattern that they form, pioneered the art of charting in Babylon, Egypt and all around the ancient world. All that remains for us today are the ziggurats and the pyramids, two mathematical papyri — the Rind and the Moscow — and the 622 to 1970 CE series of Nile inundation records collected from the Nileometer readings.
- Burke John, Kaj Halberg, Seed of Knowledge Stone of Plenty – Understanding the Lost Technology of the Ancient Megalith Builders, Council Oak Books, 2005
- Smith B. Craig, How the Great Pyramid was Built, Smithsonian Books, 2004
- Cline H. Eric, Rubalcaba Jill, The Ancient Egyptian World, Oxford University Press, 2005
- McLeish John, Number, Bloomsbury, 1991
- Novak-Reich Pauline, Mystifying square, Divine Proportions – Nature’s Black Box, Pauline Novak-Reich, 2014
- Pharaonic Egypt, Slavery: http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/timelines/topics/slavery.htm
Pauline Novak-Reich is the former manager research at the ANZ’s (Australian & New Zealand Banking Corp.) dealing room from 1980 -1993.
In 2005 she authored The Bell Does Ring (John Wiley, Australia), and this article is an excerpt from her recent book, Mystifying Square, Divine Proportions — Nature’s Black Box.
She can be reached at:
Copyright 2015 by Pauline Novak-Reich