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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

Great Pyramid of Giza Known to the ancients as Khuit, meaning “horizon.” Believed to be the intended tomb of Pharaoh Cheops (Khufu, circa 3000 B.C.) this is the largest of all the Egyptian pyramids, located at Giza, five miles from Cairo. A remarkable engineering feat consisting of over fifteen million tons of limestone, it is evidence of the superb skills of the ancient architects and engineers.

The Great Pyramid of Giza, near Cairo, in a nineteenth century stereopticon card photo.

      Some mystics like Erich von Däniken have chosen to claim that the early Egyptians were incapable of building this structure without extraterrestrial assistance. The methods of constructing the pyramid are well known and understood, and though an enormous amount of labor and skill was expended in the task, it was by no means beyond the ancients. One reason given to prove that the task was impossible is that the limestone used in the building had to be brought from a great distance away. Recent discoveries have shown that not only was the stone quarried locally (some three hundred yards from the base of the pyramid!), but that an entire small city, with all necessary amenities, existed there to support the large crew of workers who worked on the monument. The rubble from the ramps that were built to convey the stones into position as the structure rose in height was used to fill in the vast hole in the quarry at the conclusion of the project.
      What makes the Great Pyramid seem much more of a riddle is that the mystics indicate certain aspects that they say make the Pyramid a secret record of the world's history——past, present and future. This all began in 1864 when a Scottish astronomer named Charles Piazzi Smyth, an otherwise competent scientist, seized upon the notion developed by an English publisher, John Taylor——who had adopted it from one Robert Menzies——that there was a cosmic message concealed in the measurements of the Pyramid. When the Royal Society of London refused to consider Smyth's passionate promotion of this absurdity, Smyth resigned his valued membership in a grand snit.
      Aficionados of pyramid prophecy point out all manner of relationships in their chosen measurements of the edifice. For example, they say that by multiplying the height of the Pyramid by one billion, figure is obtained that is close to the mean distance between the Earth and the Sun. That figure is quite close, 98.5 percent of the actual distance. Also, the figure pi (3.14159..., the ratio between the diameter of a circle and the circumference) shows up in an apparently mysterious fashion. The Earth to Sun figure showing up is no surprise, since with enough tries anyone can discover many such relationships. If, however, the width or height of a pyramid side is used, or the edge of the edifice, or the diagonal of the base, figures are obtained that are of no significance at all. The figure pi showing up is no mystery, and has been shown to be simply an artifact of the type of measuring tools and methods used by the designers and builders.
      As author Martin Gardner has shown, relationships between obviously unconnected events and structures can always be found, as when he demonstrated that there were just as remarkable coincidences to be found when correlating the measurements of the Washington Monument and events in current history.
      The claims of astounding accuracy of alignment of the Great Pyramid, long pointed to by the mystics as evidence of its extraterrestrial or divine origin, have been shown to be the result of overenthusiastic reports by amateurs. There is, as would be expected, the usual lack of precision, though this in no way detracts from the accomplishments of the builders and designers of this quite remarkable monument. The Great Pyramid of Giza does not represent a monument to wishful thinking; it is a monument to our species and to our ancestors.

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