A Reply to Critics by Andrew Collins


The three main Giza pyramids, as viewed from the edge of the Maadi Formation
southwest of the Third Pyramid, taken in May 2005 (Pic credit: Andrew Collins).


When I wrote THE CYGNUS MYSTERY, I knew that among the many incredible claims it would make, one alone would court fierce criticism, and this was the apparent connection between Giza and the Cygnus constellation. Over the years I have seen how other new theories concerning the hidden mysteries of the plateau have been ripped to shreds by detractors, and then dissected piece by piece until nothing is left intact. It started with the theories contained in Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert's seminal classic THE ORION MYSTERY back in 1994, and has continued ever since with any theory that veers even slightly away from the straight and narrow path of orthodoxy Egyptology. Yet strangely, it is not usually the Egyptologists who start the carnage, but other researchers and writers in the fields of either revisionist history or archaeoastronomy, neither of which are accepted as mainstream subjects.

So by suggesting that the three main pyramids at Giza, as well as the plateau as a whole, reflect sight lines targeting the rising and setting of Cygnus, associated by the Ancient Egyptians with the falcon-headed celestial figure dwn-'nwy, was never going to be taken lying down by the critics. Thus when my friend and colleague Rodney Hale rung me excitedly one morning in January 2005 to say that he had superimposed the three 'wing' or 'cross' stars of Cygnus (Gienah, aka epsilon Cygni; Sadr, aka gamma Cygni, and delta Cygni) with the Giza pyramids and it was a perfect match, I knew then that if this were ever to reach publication then it was going to cause a furore that would eclipse anything I had ever written before about Ancient Egypt.

Rodney had decided to compare the stars of Cygnus with the Giza pyramids after the idea came to him in a flash of inspiration as he lay in bed one night unable to sleep. Yet it must also have stemmed from the fact that when THE ORION MYSTERY was first published Rodney, having embracing such new ideas regarding the astronomy of the Ancient Egyptians, became disappointed when in 1995 he attempted to superimpose Orion's 'belt' stars over the Giza pyramids, with the following results:

Relative positions of the three 'belt' stars of Orion as overlaid upon the Giza pyramids as done by Rodney Hale in 1995, using both a photograph of the stars and as they appear in the Skyglobe program 3.5 (Pic credit: Rodney Hale)

They simply do not match, with the star corresponding to the Third Pyramid, Mintaka (delta Orionis), falling towards the southwest edge of the monument. Of course, the whole thing could simply have been a symbolic gesture on the part of the Ancient Egyptians, and thus was not meant to be precise. Yet still, it was a shame that the correlation was not exact. Even more despair came for Rodney, a technical engineer by trade, when he attempted to match the remaining stars of Orion with other pyramid fields, as is proposed by Bauval and Gilbert in THE ORION MYSTERY.

Map of the Orion constellation.

Unfortunately, Saiph ('sword', kappa Orionis), which as Orion's right knee is south of the belt stars, fell short of its predicted target - the ruined pyramid of Djedefre of Abu Rawash, while Bellatrix (gamma Orionis), the left shoulder of Orion, is situated some distance away from its target - the so-called 'Unfinished Pyramid' at Zawiyat al-Aryan. Even more confusing was that Orion's two brightest stars Rigel (beta Orionis) and Betelgeuse (alpha Orionis) do not mark an ancient monument of any kind. Once again, the correlation might not have needed to be precise, but it was a shame that the theory was not as tight as he might have liked it to be. Proposals of this kind need precision for the soul to take them seriously.

Orion superimposed (upside down) on 1927 map of Cairo, showing
the relevant pyramid fields (Pic credit: Rodney Hale).

So now it seemed that for Rodney the 'wing' stars of Cygnus, linked to the plateau through its associations with the cult of Sokar - a falcon-headed god of the dead who presided over Rostau, ancient Giza, and was the earthly counterpart of the celestial sky falcon god dwn-'nwy - could be superimposed over the three main pyramids. Was this simply coincidence? Had it been by grand design, created by the great architect of the Great Pyramid, or was the cosmic joker at work here? The simple answer is that neither of us could be sure. However, I decided to publish these controversial findings in THE CYGNUS MYSTERY. Naturally, there was a certain amount of hesitation, but I wanted for the Cygnus-Giza ground-sky alignment to speak for itself.

Strangely, Adriano Forgione the editor of Italy's HERA magazine told me that a while back a young reader had written to the letters' page asking whether it was possible that the stars of Cygnus created a better ground-sky match than those of Orion's belt. Why exactly this person should have suggested this is unclear, and Adriano is unable now to find his name. Still, it was a sign that I was doing something right.

Ground-sky overlay using the stars of Cygnus
on a modern map of the Giza plateau. The Cygnus stars are in red, with those of Orion's belt in green. Actual photograph of the stars were used for this purpose (Pic credit: Rodney Hale).

What was also more attractive about the Cygnus-Giza correlation is that because the constellation's 'wing' stars are wider apart than those of Orion's belt, it means that, pro-rata, all its other main stars superimpose nicely on the plateau, highlighting other potentially interesting features. For instance, Albireo (beta Cygni), the 'beak' star falls in the area of Gebel Ghibli (Arabic for 'southern hill'), a curious rock formation a few hundred metres to the south of the Great Sphinx. Robert Bauval and Simon Cox in the former's book THE SECRET CHAMBER (1999) proposed that Gebel Ghibli might have acted as a physical representation of a mythological primeval hill, or Mound of Creation. Cox had already investigated this strange hillock, after it had been highlighted as significant in the remarkable landscape geometry of David Ritchie. Cox sensed that it held the key to locating the lost Shetayet shrine of Sokar, said to have been somewhere in the area. Ritchie had felt that it was a 'gateway' into Giza's hidden dimensions.

The previous year, 1998, in my own book GODS OF EDEN, I had suggested that just such a Mound, or Island, of Creation once existed on or close to the plateau, since one is mentioned in the enigmatic Edfu Building Texts, which describe a primordial world that thrived in the vicinity of Memphis/Giza in pre-dynastic times. Since these texts also referred to a well-like structure as being on the 'Island', which led down into an underworld-duat realm (whether real or symbolic), I predicted that a significant well would also be found on this symbolic Mound of creation.

Just such a well structure was discovered by myself in May 2005 amid the modern Islamic cemetery just north of Gebel Ghibli. Known as Beer el-Samman, it is protected by sacred sycamore fig trees - descendants of those mentioned in the Inventory Stela and in the Ancient Egyptian story of Sinuhe. It is dedicated to a holy man named Hammad el-Samman, said to have once occupied the well in some bygone age. According to a little known tradition still held by the village elders of Nazlet el-Samman (named after the saint), Hammad el-Samman guarded the entrance to an underground city or palace located beneath Nazlet el-Samman, which is due east of the Great Sphinx (where Edgar Cayce predicted that the Egyptians Hall of Records would be found). Thus to find that the Cygnus star Albireo, the mouth or gullet or the celestial bird, fell nearby, albeit beyond the long linear stone structure known as the Wall of Crows (see below), was interesting indeed, and worthy of further investigation.

THE CYGNUS MYSTERY was published, finally, in November 2006, and instantly the furore began. Hundreds of postings on phorums such as The Hall of Maat and the Graham Hancock website fueled the Cygnus vs Orion debate beyond anything I could ever have imagined. Strangely, most posts were fairly positive, especially after able researchers went away and did their own Cygnus-Giza overlay, and saw that it was accurate. Others, however, would not even accept that Cygnus was known to the Ancient Egyptians, never mind it being linked with the plateau.

One question which did crop up was: What on the plateau mark's Deneb (alpha Cygni), the brightest star in Cygnus? The answer is that it falls northwest of the Second Pyramid on the edge of the so-called Western Cemetery, which lies west of the Great Pyramid. This is made up of dozens of mastaba tombs from the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Dynasties, which belong to those nobles and their families connected with the royal royal dynasties. They were built for priests, priestesses, prophets, tradesmen and arguably even the architect of the Great Pyramid. The Deneb spot covers a fairly large mastaba designated LG14, after the numbering of German Egyptologist Carl Richard Lepsius (1810-1884), who surveyed the plateau, and produced an impressive map dated 1842 (see below).

The Lepsius map of 1842 showing the Cygnus stars overlaid in red. Note the Deneb spot obscuring mastaba LG14 on the edge of the Western Cemetery (Pic credit: Nigel Skinner Simpson, with overlay courtesy of Rodney Hale).

Lepsius found the tomb to be devoid of any artefacts or inscriptions, and thus it was simply catalogued and forgotten about. Nothing more is currently known about LG14, and there is every chance that, if not pillaged in ancient times, it was built but never used. As such, no further light can be thrown on the Deneb spot, as we refer to it. Perhaps what we are looking for here is underground, or it is simply the position of a sight line overlooking the rest of the plateau. Either way, the Cygnus-Giza correlation should not be dismissed simply because Deneb does not hit anything obviously important, especially since Orion's own brightest stars, Rigel and Betelgeuse, fail themselves to mark any ancient monument.

The John Perring's 1837 map of the Giza plateau. The Cygnus stars are in red. Note also the 'well' (Beer el-Samman) and 'sycamores' marked between the Great Sphinx and Gebel Ghibli. Note also the proximity of the 'beak star' Albireo (beta Cygni). Pic credit: Nigel Skinner Simpson with the overlay courtesy of Rodney Hale).


One serious criticism of the Cygnus-Giza correlation related to the idea of a star's proper motion. This is the slow drift of extra-galactic stars against the background of other stars caused either by its movement in relation to its own galaxy, or because of earlier near collisions with other stars or stellar objects.
It was a valid point, and so a check on the proper motion of Cygnus's key stars produced the following slow movements in any one year against the stellar background:

Alpha Cygni
RA: 0.003 arcsec/a or mas/yr
DEC: 0.002

Beta Cygni
RA: 0.002
DEC: -0.002

Delta Cygni
RA: 0.053
DEC: 0.047

Gamma Cygni
RA: 0,004
DEC: 0

Epsilon Cygni
RA: 356.16
DEC: 330.28

When this data is translated on to a map of the Cygnus constellation, the following takes place over the 4,000 year period from 2000 BC to AD 2000:

The proper motion of the principal stars of Cygnus over a period of 4,000 years,
from 2000 AD back to 2000 BC, using the Home Planet program (Pic credit: Rodney Hale).

Now all this might look confusing, but what it says is that, as Robert Bauval and Graham Hancock have said in connection with the 'belt' stars of Orion, there is no significant shift in the relative positions of the stars over this time. Only one star in Cygnus is moving faster than the rest, and this is Gienah (epsilon Cygni), which does shift slightly with respect to the Cygnus-Giza overlay, as is shown below.


The relative shift of the star Gienah (epsilon Cygni) with respect to its position in relation to the Third Pyramid over a period of 4,000 years (pic credit: Rodney Hale).

As is plain to see, the shift is minimal, and does in no way change anything regarding the original proposal of the Cygnus-Giza correlation. The other two Cygnus 'wing' stars, delta Cygni, corresponding with the Great Pyramid, and Sadr (gamma Cygni), corresponding with the Second Pyramid, move so little that it is unnoticeable on a small scale map of the pyramid field. We are, however, not leaving the matter here. Rodney Hale and I shall continue to examine other astronomical programs that provide the proper motion of stars, and check to see whether they correspond with the shifts in position offered here.

Another criticism of the Cygnus-Giza correlation was the suggestion that Rodney Hale and I had not used an accurate map of the plateau when creating the superimposition. In order to counter this argument, Rodney superimposed the 'wing' stars of Cygnus and the 'belt' stars of Orion over four different maps of the plateau, and then brought them together in one diagram (seen below). This shows the width of variations of pyramid positions relative to the stars of both Cygnus and Orion.

The variations of pyramid positions relative to the stars of both Cygnus (in red) and Orion (in green) using four different maps (Pic credit: Rodney Hale).

As we can see, there is very little difference in the positions of the pyramids from one map to the next, making no difference whatsoever to the relative positions of either the Cygnus or Orion stars when superimposed on the plateau. Without any question, the Cygnus stars align much better than those of Orion. Once again, such ground-sky correlations, if meaningful, might be symbolic alone, and not need to be actual, allowing still for the possibility that the three pyramids represent Orion and not Cygnus. However, visually Cygnus wins hands down. Rodney Hale and I will continue to consider other maps or photographs of the plateau with regards to the Cygnus-Giza correlation.

The final criticism of the Cygnus-Giza correlation among the posts on the various online phorums was that the holy well Beer el-Samman never existed, or that it was irrelevant to the debate. These are quite clearly ridiculous observations. Not only does the well appear on the Perring map of 1837, which shows its location prior to the siting of the modern Islamic cemetery, but it also appears on the Lepsius map of 1842 (see below):

The well Beer el-Samman marked as a dot between two palm trees and two sycamore fig trees. On the left (south) we see the rock outcrop Gebel Ghibli (Arabic for 'southern hill'), and on the right the Great Sphinx. At the left-hand base is the end of the linear feature known as the Wall of the Crow (pic credit: Nigel Skinner Simpson).

There seems little question that this holy well would have played a function in Ancient Egyptian geomythics, especially since it falls inside the plateau, being placed as it is on the northside of the so-called Wall of the Crow, a linear stone feature made of cyclopean blocks which dates to the late Fourth Dynasty and is thought to be part of the plateau's southern boundary wall.

I consider it possible that Beer el-Samman is the structure referred to in the Edfu Building Texts as bw-hmn, which the Egyptologist EAE Reymond interpreted as 'place of the well' (THE ORIGINS OF THE EGYPTIAN TEMPLE, 181,200). I suspect it was in magical rites associated with Hathor, possibly a female patron of the plateau, and possibly Nut, the sky-goddess, whom Dr Robin Wells identifies with the Milky Way. It might equally have some connection with the cult of Sokar, who was guardian of underworld realms, which were forever in darkness.

Beer el-Samman corresponds with the Ain Shams (Eye of the Sun) holy spring that lies beneath an ancient sycamore fig at El Matariyeh, which once formed part of the ancient city of Heliopolis. This particular spring in Coptic Christian tradition is said to have sprung up miraculously when the Holy Family stopped here in need of water during the Flight through Egypt. However, it is more likely to date back to dynastic times, particularly as its accompanying sycamore is perhaps a descendent of one said to have existed in Heliopolis. It was sacred to the goddess Nut, who was occasionally shown in Ancient Egyptian art as standing in a sycamore tree pouring either water or wine from a jar on to a human-headed bird, representing the ba, or soul, of a deceased person. At its base was depicted just such a holy well, or spring. Often Hathor replaced Nut in this scene, showing the relationship between the two goddesses, who have much in common.

The dual placement of the two holy springs, one at Giza and the other at Heliopolis, one dedicated most probably to Hathor and the other to Nut, provides credence to the belief that a sight line existed between these two places. Between 3000-2500 BC this Giza-Matariyeh sight line targeted the rising of Deneb, the brightest star in Cygnus, which would have become visible on the northeast horizon somewhere between azimuth 46.5-47.5 degrees.

As to the present day existence of Beer el-Samman, this is proved by one of a number of photographs Sue Collins and I took of it in May 2005, after risking our freedom to enter the Islamic cemetery, which is strictly out of bounds to non-Muslims. As you can see it is a regular artesian well, stone lined, which taps into the water table beneath the plateau. I doubt very much whether it leads directly to a lost underworld domain, although it is interesting that the lowest level of the so-called 'Tomb of Osiris', discovered in the 1920s beneath the causeway to the Second Pyramid by Egyptologist Salim Hassan, possesses a pit thought to lead into an unexplored tunnel now beneath the present water table, this being high enough to fill the existing chamber to a depth of at least 1.5 metres. Could the story of the holy man Hamman el-Samman guarding the entrance to an underground palace or city be the memory of real passages that permeate the living rock beneath the plateau's water line?


Beer el-Samman as it appears today in the Islamic cemetery, shaded by a sycamore fig tree.
Its proximity to Gebel Ghibli should be noted (pic credit: Andrew Collins)

One one question remains: does the Cygnus-Giza correlation work? In the knowledge that Dr Robin Wells, following an examination of the astronomical orientation of the causeway of Sahure's sun temple at Abu Ghourab, south of the Giza plateau, concluded that this king, who opened the Fifth Dynasty, singled out Deneb, Cygnus's brightest star, as in some way special, then I think the answer is going to be 'yes'. Yes, in that such superimpositions, whether involving the stars of Orion or Cygnus, put into perspective the hidden dimensions of places such as the Giza plateau. Part of me wants to dismiss the Cygnus-Giza correlation as the actions of the wily Cosmic Joker having his fun. Thus in conclusion, I consider that the Cygnus-Giza correlation has not hindered my investigations on the plateau in the least. In fact, it has given it an entirely new dimension that I now intend exploring to its fullest.

My thanks go out to Rodney Hale, Nigel Skinner Simpson, and Sue Collins who helped in the preparation of this article.

All Notes and References appertaining to this article are to be found in THE CYGNUS MYSTERY by Andrew Collins, which can be obtained by clicking here.