Cygnus versus Orion Debate Continues: Cygnus Wins First Round

By Dr. Greg Little

Past articles in Alternate Perceptions have briefly outlined science writer Andrew Collins’ idea that the Constellation of Cygnus was the central component of a worldwide ancient star worship culture. Cultures all over the world apparently venerated Cygnus, located in the northern sky near the pole star, as the entrance and exit point for the soul’s journey to and from the sky world. Cygnus was universally viewed as a bird that carried the soul through the “River of Souls,” the Milky Way, eventually finding its way to Cygnus. The symbolic form of the bird taken in each culture depended upon the particular species of migrating birds within a given region. The swan was a common symbol for Cygnus, as was the vulture and other smaller birds.

Cygnus, located at the Great Rift of the Milky Way, forms a large cross that essentially rotates around the north pole—the axis point where stars appear to move around a fixed, unmoving point. The three center stars of Cygnus forming the crossbar are the major focus of debate.

Veneration of Cygnus extends back in time to when Cygnus’ brightest star, Deneb, was itself the pole star, around 17,000 B.C. Evidence for the belief has been uncovered in Native American lore, locations in Turkey and Asia, and in Europe at some of the most impressive archaeological sites in the world. Collins has related that the only continent where the Cygnus belief does not have evidence is Australia, but Cygnus would be too low in the sky for that southern continent.

Perhaps the most stunning facts that are related in The Cygnus Mystery are those that show human evolution may well have been caused by cosmic rays spewing from relativistic jets from one of the binary stars of Cygnus. But surprisingly, the most controversy has emerged from the idea that the Cygnus may have been very important in ancient Egypt.

Since the publication of The Orion Mystery in 1994 (by Robert Bauval & Adrian Gilbert), the idea that the three largest pyramids at Giza were built to represent the three stars of Orion’s Belt has been widely accepted but also widely criticized. Acceptance of the idea by a vast number of people fascinated with ancient mysteries is explained by one easily grasped factor. The photo of Orion’s Belt published in the 1994 book certainly looked like it fit perfectly over the three pyramids as they were shown in the book. But the photo of Orion was a time-lapse one that greatly increased the size of the stars. More importantly, a key element in the argument for Orion was inexplicable by its absence. This was pointed out by skeptics.

The face value correspondence between the three stars of Orion and the three pyramids appeared obvious to many people who were impressed by the photos—except to some detractors who immediately noticed a problem. In a 2000 documentary on BBC, astronomer Dr. Ed Krupp related, “In the back of my head I knew that something was wrong with these pictures …To make the map of the pyramids on the ground match the stars of Orion in the sky you have to turn Egypt upside down and if you don't want to do that then you've got to turn the sky upside down.”

Curiously, in the book this fact wasn’t mentioned, but on the same BBC documentary Graham Hancock related, “If you're extremely pedantic and believe that the Ancient Egyptians' priesthood was a group of narrow-minded bureaucrats determined to follow procedure above all else then it's true that the northern most star is depicted in the southern most place on the ground and the southern most star in the northern most place on the ground and this is what Ed Krupp is getting at, but if you regard it as a work of symbolic and religious art meant to copy on the ground what the observer sees in the sky then there's just no other way you can make it than the way it is made.”

Krupp countered, “The Egyptians were perfectly capable of drawing the pyramids right if they wanted to. If they wanted Orion's belt to look like Orion's belt on the ground and match up with the north and south sides of the pyramid they could have done that.”

Since the 1994 publication of The Orion Mystery, Bauval concedes that the three stars of Orion’s Belt don’t match the pyramids perfectly. But does that really matter? And the idea that either the stars of Orion have to be turned upside down or Giza has to be turned upside down to make them sort of match hasn’t really been adequately addressed. But the idea or Orion had mass appeal and few people ever took the time to really look at the details of it. But then along came The Cygnus Mystery, not only threatening the idea that the three stars of Orion’s Belt were the basis of the pyramids, but threatening the validity of the entire series of books touting the Orion idea turned out by Bauval and Hancock. It’s become serious stuff.

Bauval Enters the Cygnus Debate—Starts by saying that the Cygnus idea is “flawed,” then claims he's unbiased.

On February 22, 2007, Robert Bauval began a discussion thread on Graham Hancock’s Message Board regarding the Orion versus Cygnus debate on the Giza Pyramids. Andrew Collins, author of The Cygnus Mystery, who first presented the idea that the three pyramids at Giza may well have been built to represent the three cross stars of the constellation of Cygnus, joined the debate on February 25. By March 3, the first thread had over 270 messages and several more Cygnus threads had emerged. Nearly 400 responses to the debate have occurred on the various threads confined to the Cygnus debate in just over one week. Curiously, another person had independently discovered that Cygnus fit the three pyramids better than Orion and entered the debate by releasing his illustration of Cygnus as it fit the pyramids. A host of others who clearly had embraced the Orion idea also began posting.

Bauval actually began his response to the Cygnus claim by expressing sympathy for the author of the new theory and then asserting that the Cygnus-Giza correspondence was flawed—wrong. On February 22nd, Bauval wrote: “It's not easy to be the initiator of a new theory on the Giza pyramids. Believe me, I know. This is why I very much sympathise with Andrew Collins. I know Andy fairly well, and I know how is a sincere person and a dilligent and meticulous researcher. His claim, however, that three stars in the Cygnus constellation are represented by the three Giza pyramids is based on interesting but flawed arguments.”

Then, on the next day, Bauval related, “There are, too, several other objections. Still, a closer and more detailed look at all this is needed, to be fair to Andrew. So I propose to look at some of these issues here calmly and unbiasedly.”

Is it really possible for Bauval to be “unbiased” in evaluating a theory that directly confronts and essentially collapses the key argument for his much-expanded idea of Orion? Is it possible to claim lack of bias just one day after discounting the Cygnus theory? Bauval has written a string of books on the Orion idea, with his most recent being The Egypt Code, which is almost completely based on Orion. He has appeared in many documentaries touting the Orion idea and attempting to refute the scientific community that has scoffed at the idea. Could anyone expect him to say he’s wrong or that his entire series of books should be discounted?

Bias means to have prejudgment. In his first day remark regarding The Cygnus Mystery, Bauval stated that the idea that Cygnus might have been what the Egyptians had in mind when they built the pyramids was based on “flawed arguments.” The next day he said he’d look at it “unbiasedly.”

The idea that either side in the debate might be unbiased is na´ve and perhaps a bit childish. Collins hasn’t claimed lack of bias. What makes it even more interesting is how several Bauval supporters have attacked the Cygnus theory relentlessly while admitting they actually “haven’t read the book.” Their criticisms certainly reflect this fact. Students of psychology should be urged to examine the debate, as there are numerous textbook examples of psychological processes and defense mechanisms at work. There is somewhat humorous saying that perhaps reflects what Bauval and his supporters intended to do with this debate, as evidenced by his written claim to be unbiased preceded by the written judgment that Collins’ ideas were flawed: “We’ll give you a fair trial and then we’ll hang you.”

The Real Issues Of The Debate

Bauval outlined the criteria he would employ in the “debate” and that is certainly his prerogative on his message thread. Those interested in reading a series of complex mathematical computations on the movements of the stars of Orion and Cygnus will enjoy many of the complicated and detailed messages. Plus, they’ll enjoy the series of mathematical and computational mistakes that other readers of the debate found. Also interesting is how the Orion supporters have now asserted that no map, photo, survey, or illustration of the Giza complex is accurate and that only precise mathematical calculations of the relevant stars can be used. Nor is any computer astronomical program really accurate.

Which Constellation Actually Fits The Pyramids—Orion or Cygnus?

The first important issue in the debate is this: Does either Orion’s Belt or the three cross stars of Cygnus actually fit onto the pyramids? From the various calculations, illustrations, and computer simulations that a host of people have now made and placed online, this question is now completely answered. In fact, since the Orion proponents argue that there exists no accurate map, survey, illustration, or satellite photo of Giza, computations on how well Cygnus and Orion fit the pyramids have been made using every available map, survey, illustration, and satellite photo. In addition, nearly every astronomy computer program has been used. The same essential results have occurred with each simulation and calculation made by a host of different people.

First, it should be noted that with any 3 stars, no matter which three stars you choose from the sky, by systematically and uniformly (proportionally) increasing or decreasing the relative distance between them, two of the stars can always be made to fit perfectly onto the apex points of any two adjacent pyramids. It is only the third star that matters. The third star is the only one that determines if the three star pattern “fits.”

The results from all the analyses consistently show that the third (smallest) star of the upside down Orion actually does not fit onto the third pyramid at Giza—missing it entirely. In the simplest of terms: Orion’s Belt does not match the Giza pyramids.

On the other hand, results consistently show that the third star of Cygnus fits on the third pyramid, not perfectly, but only slightly off center—in 2600 B.C. Presently, Cygnus is a perfect fit. Cygnus clearly wins this issue.

Bauval has countered this find by strangely arguing that the ancient Egyptians did not have the capability to accurately measure the angles between the stars—that explains why the third pyramid was not placed properly to mimic the third star of Orion. Taking this argument to its logical extension leads to two illogical conclusions: In essence, the new argument is that the very fact Orion does not fit the pyramids of Egypt proves that Orion was what they were built to mimic. Thus, the argument implies that the fact that Cygnus is near perfect fit proves that it wasn’t the intended target; because the Egyptians did not have the ability to get it that close.

Conversely, Bauval also argues that the ancient Egyptians had the incredible technological ability to measure and perfectly target specific stars of Orion and other stars with the small shafts within the Great Pyramid. This is a contradiction (the ancient Egyptians were both primitive and advanced technologically) that has not gone unnoticed on the message board. However, the outcome of this portion of the debate is resolved: Cygnus actually fits onto all three pyramids, Orion simply does not.

Is The Size of the Pyramids Explained?

After Cygnus was clearly shown to fit the pyramids' layout, while Orion was not, Bauval raised the issue of how Collins accounts for the difference in size of the three pyramids. Bauval has earlier claimed that the “size” of the three pyramids reflects the relative visible size or brightness of each star of Orion’s Belt, but this proposal had already been shown by astronomers to be badly flawed. What Bauval means by “size” has also been questioned by skeptics: is it height, volume, diameter, or all of these? Still, Collins responded to this challenge by releasing a startling new discovery he made while examining various alignments at Giza. Collins discovered a three star asterism at Giza involving the stars of Cygnus and the three pyramids. In brief, the three cross band stars of Cygnus were seen to set to the NW of Giza. But when this setting is viewed from the SE of the pyramids, the three Cygnus stars actually appear at the apex (top center) of each of the three pyramids. It is an astounding find that rather neatly explains the actual height, diameter, and volume of each pyramid. Cygnus also wins this round.

Do Ancient Egyptian Beliefs Fit Orion or Cygnus?

The remaining important question is whether Cygnus somehow fits into ancient Egyptian beliefs. Collins goes into great detail on this in his book, but because so few people taking part in the debate have actually read it, this portion of the debate remains to play out. Collins links Cygnus to Egyptian astronomy throught the Egyptian figures of Dwn-nwy and Sokar. It remains to be seen if the debate will resolve this issue. In truth, ancient Egyptian texts do not actually link the pyramids to Orion. Bauval, however, has admitted, “I am aware, of course, of the identification that some researchers such as Wainwright, Zaba and Stecchini have attempted to make with a northern sky figure called Dwn-nwy, a falcon-headed upright man, and also how the stick or spear or pole held by Dwn-nwy which extends to the 'bull's thigh' constellation of Mesekhtiu may represent the 'meridian'… Even so, assuming that Cygnus is Dwn-nwy, it is a very long shot from here to associate Dwn-nwy to Sokar (as Andrew does), and an evert longer shot to correlate three minor stars of Cygnus to the Giza pyramids.”

Missed in these words is the fact that a great deal of speculative theorizing has also taken place in the Orion theory. That is to say that a many “long-shots” have been taken with the Orion theory. What is perhaps the best conclusion by an interested observer is that the speculation on both sides is intriguing.

Perhaps the greatest unintentional support for Cygnus as an important part of ancient Egyptian lore comes from astronomer Ed Krupp. In an article titled, “The Antiquity of Man,” Krupp related, “Magical incantations inscribed on the interior walls of some Egyptian pyramids pinpoint the destiny of the pharaohs once buried within them. These prayers are known as the Pyramid Texts, and they tell us that the final destination of a dead king's soul was the sky. In particular, the pharaoh flew to the circumpolar stars. Neither rising nor setting, these stars migrate around the north celestial pole without ever slipping into the underworld below the horizon. To the Egyptians they were the ‘undying’ stars, and their immortality would naturally attract a soul in search of everlasting life. In ancient Egyptian belief these stars advanced as a celestial army, parading eternally around the hub of heaven and keeping the cosmos on course with the daily rotation of the sky.”

Orion, of course, is not a northern constellation. But the Egyptian idea in the soul moving to the northern heavens fits Cygnus perfectly and matches the layout of the pyramids. Cygnus was a circumpolar constellation in ancient times, with Deneb, the brightest star in Cygnus, actually once the pole star it had several other key elements matching Egyptian astronomical concepts. It was close to the pole star and located at the Great Rift of the Milky Way. Posters on the Hancock message board have just taken up this idea.

Hancock’s Prophetic Words

In the 2000 BBC documentary, Hancock stated, “We are looking at the vestiges of an ancient world-wide religious system, a sky ground religion. The essential thing that it had to do was to build architectural copies of groups of stars in the sky and we're looking at the vestiges of that system spread out around the world.” While Hancock was referring to the Orion link to Giza and the temple of Angkor, the same theme is present in The Cygnus Mystery, but to an even greater extent—in far mor locations around the world— than Orion. As to why there was so much mainstream resistance to the Orion idea, Hancock related, “It can't simply be accepted by a historian that the whole burden of his work over many, many years is wrong.”

Collins’ Cygnus Mystery has laid the groundwork for a completely new understanding of the sky religion of the past, a religion that nearly covered the entire world—paralleling what Hancock stated in the documentary. Finally, paraphrasing Hancock, it’s not surprising that the Orion-theorists can’t accept “that the whole burden of [their] work over many, many years is wrong.” But perhaps it's more likely that only portions of the Orion theory are wrong.

The 10,450 BC Link At Giza—Are Both the Cygnus & Orion Theories Valid?

Another of the major reasons that the Orion Mystery was embraced by so many people was because the book proposed the date of 10,450 BC as the "First Time" of Osiris. The date is related to Edgar Cayce's story of Atlantis and the start of the construction of the Great Pyramid. Cayce's story of Atlantis is integrally related to the construction of the Great Pyramid. According to Bauval and Hancock, the upper southern shaft of the Great Pyramid is thought to target the star Al-nitak in Orion around 2500 B.C. The 10,500 B.C. date comes from the fact that only then would the Giza Pyramids layout in relation to the Nile match the sky, close to when it reaches a perfect upright position when crossing the meridian. But the 45 degree angle of the upper southern shaft probably targets an area between the Orion stars Al-nitak and Alnilam, the middle belt star.

Before this issue is briefy addressed, it's important to note that Collins' Cygnus Mystery is tied to the dates virtually all mainstream Egyptologists accept. Collins does not speculate on Egyptian alignments before this date, thus, this section would be considered by him to be highly speculative. According to conventional dating, the Great Pyramid was constructed around 2600 B.C. The question here is, could the actual construction of the three main pyramids (around 2600 B.C.) have been designed to mimic the three stars of Cygnus, which represent the eventual destiny of souls, while also incorporating Orion as a specific gateway to the sky for the Pharoah as well as pinpointing the First Time of Osiris? Some on the Hancock board have embraced this idea, and it might actually tie the two theories together.