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Pyramids: Plugging the Deep.

An Article By Alex Whitaker. (2011).


Abstract: Some of the largest and best known pyramids from the ancient world have been shown recently to share a common association with underground chambers and water sources. This combination of themes simultaneously evokes memories of both the 'primal mound' and the underworld, representing the cycles of life and death in the same structures. It is proposed that these similar features between otherwise unconnected pyramids represent the fusion of a set of ancient ideas with newer ones in which the pyramid (primal-mound) becomes a representation of the unification of the underworld (afterlife), cosmology, and the living earth-mother.

It is a curious fact that some of the earliest written descriptions of the Great Pyramid make mention of water in or under it. Pliny said that he believed the Pyramid was attached to the Nile via a 'Well-shaft', and a Herodotus text included a clear reference to underground cavities and water. In it he stated that Khufu, to whom the pyramid is attributed, was buried on an island surrounded by water.

Quote from Herodotus: (Histories 2.124) "For the underground chambers on the heights upon which the pyramids stand, which he [Cheops] caused to made as sepulchral chambers for himself an island, having conducted a channel from the Nile"

Such a sarcophagus has in fact been discovered at Giza, although not underneath the Great Pyramid but rather 90ft beneath the causeway that leads to the central pyramid of Khafre. There seems little doubt, however, that at the time of Herodotus it was known that there were both underground chambers and water beneath the Giza plateau.

Giza was once known as 'The House of Osiris', the god of the afterlife and the underworld and the dead (9). In southern Egypt, Osiris' home was the underground chamber called the 'Osirion' at Abydoss. This is identical in design to the Valley temple at Giza which is still connected to the Nile. As a result the underground chamber contains an island permanently surrounded by water. The theme of a watery underground grotto or 'womb of the earth' is to be found around the ancient world. Perhaps the tradition of Giza as being an entrance to the underworld will one day be shown to have more substance than we currently credit it with.

It is now recognised that the whole Giza plateau is undercut by a network of natural cavities in the limestone. Some of these catacombs were explored by Salt and Caviglia in 1817 and were found to extend for hundreds of metres in the general direction of the central pyramid. The entrance to this system was recently rediscovered (2010) and tentatively explored by Andrew Collins (5), and it now falls to the Egyptian authorities to explore this completely. The Photo (above right) shows a natural underground cavity directly in front of the Great pyramid. The fact that these cavities were covered over with the limestone paving before the pyramid was built demonstrates that the builders were aware of the porous nature of the rock.

It is perhaps worth reminding ourselves that the Great Pyramid and all the large early (2nd-5th) dynastic pyramids were constructed to include long tunnels that descended beneath them into underground chambers. In addition, the Great Pyramid also possesses a natural chamber within it in the shape of the 'Grotto'. This small unsuspecting cavity is often called the 'escape shaft' in today's literature, but there are several features in it that nullify this idea and it is equally possible that this small chamber and shaft may have been the original reason for the pyramids location and arguably its very existence. Even though it is a natural underground cavity, it still sits 25ft higher than the pyramids base and is formed within an area of naturally raised bedrock directly beneath the pyramid. We know for a fact that the grotto existed long before the pyramid and that it was built over. The tunnel walls to the chamber were first bricked around then the whole shaft and passage covered over as the pyramid was being constructed. This supports Borchardt's hypothesis that the pyramid was constructed in two or three distinct stages. The significance of the grotto is further demonstrated by the fact that the original entrance to the chamber sits at the exact junction that connects the lower passages to the upper parts, as well as its being at the junction of the passage leading to the 'Queens' chamber and at a drastic change in internal architectural style. Although it has not been determined why, Lepre (10), also noted that inside the grotto:

 'The ceiling is unusually damp to the point where there is actually a perceptible coating - like a light frost - over the pebbles themselves. This unusual composition naturally tempts one to speculate about the existence of a nearby water source'.

Knowing that the Great Pyramid was built over an existing mound, and one which had a chamber in it, raises several questions in relation to the original function of the grotto, and the reason why such a vast edifice was subsequently raised over it. Although suggestions have been put forward that this grotto may have been the actual burial place of the Pharaoh, these are entirely unsubstantiated, as are those that it may once have been an actual well shaft (it is noted that the grotto lies above a naturally deep fissure in the bedrock), and we are left with the unsatisfying realisation that the exact connection between the grotto and the pyramid may already be lost to us. We are fortunate therefore that similar combinations of architecture and symbolism have been reported at other pyramids around the world and it is to these that we now turn our attention.

In South America, the pyramid building cultures also incorporated cave and tunnel systems into their structures. These include a strong suggestion of water through the associated arts. At Teotihuacan in Mexico, one of the most conspicuous pre-Columbian capital cities, named 'The Place where men became gods', both tunnel and cave systems have been found under more than one pyramid. The largest, the 'Pyramid of the Sun' which has been known since the 1970's to have a cave shaped like a 'flower with petals' and a tunnel system under it, was recently re-opened and was found to have had offerings placed at the end of it as 'part of the construction process' (2). The cove area which lies directly under the pyramid was naturally formed from a flow of volcanic lava, a process which produces bubble-shaped caves which 'often serve as outlets for springs' (4) This would certainly have been known about when the pyramid was constructed. In addition, the smaller nearby pyramid of Quetzalcoatl, which is covered with images of Conches, scallops and other sea shells between the protruding carvings, has been found to have a long sealed tunnel leading to a series of galleries and a tomb chamber directly under it and filled with thousands of objects of stone, jade, shell and pottery'. Researchers believe that the tunnel was deliberately closed off, between A.D. 200 and 250 and was a central element around which the rest of the ceremonial complex was built. This makes it 'the most sacred aspect of the ruins'. (3) Cave tunnels were also built into an earlier Puebla pyramid at Totimehuacan ante-dating the pyramid of the sun and its cave by hundreds of years. Frogs ornamenting the sides of a stone basin inside the chamber at the end of the tunnel refer generally to watery imagery (1). The remains at Tiahuanaco suggest that the complex was intimately integrated with water. There are still conduits and drainage pipes at the bottom of what was once the great pyramid there, and although their function remains unknown, it is apparent that at both the pyramid itself and the complex in general water played an integral role perhaps similar to the temple complex at Ankor Wat.

Other Pre-Columbian discoveries testify to the strong link between water and the underworld. There have been several recent discoveries of cave systems with temples built underwater in the caves themselves. This has greatly enhanced our understanding of the Mayan concept of the underworld. In 2008 in one cave, researchers discovered a nearly 300-foot (90-meter) road that led down to a column standing in front of a body of water. "We have this pattern now of finding temples close to the water�or under the water" (11). The Chitzen Itza complex was built beside two water filled 'cenotes', now considered the very reason for the location of the temple complex itself. The numerous discoveries of worship, sacrifice, blessings and incense at cenotes leave little doubt as to their having been considered as entrances to the underworld (12). Entering the underworld by crossing water, or passing through it is a common ancient theme in human cultures. In Greece, one had to cross the River Styx to enter the Greek underworld and in Egypt the dead crossed over to their underworld in a 'sun-boat. In both the Egyptian and Mexican mythologies, these waters are typified by the Milky way in their cosmologies which was the path one followed after death in order to reach the underworld. The same theme is repeated in Babylonian myth where the matriarchal Goddess Tiamat was the goddess of Babylon before Marduk. Her image was watery, in the mixture of two currents, and there is reason to believe that 'the two currents were actually in the sky: the two sides of the Milky Way'.  (13)

The 'watery chaos' from which a 'world-mountain' or 'primal-mound' first emerged is described in several mythologies. In Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and Sumerian mythologies, 'Mount Meru' was considered a world axis and was said to extend as far below into the nether regions as above. (6) In Europe, the Primal Mound was architecturally represented by structures known as 'Passage Mounds' or 'Goddess mounds', which although smaller than the pyramids of Egypt, share several similarities in having passages and chambers, celestial orientations and a strong association with the afterlife. Certain European passage mounds also share a close association with water, such as the Boyne Valley Mounds in Ireland, Maes Howe on the Orkneys, and Gavrinis in France, all being effectively surrounding by water, while the Spanish passage mound 'Cueva de Menga' has an actual well shaft in the central chamber. There are also various reports from dowsers and earth energy groups that megaliths (especially passage mounds) were built over blind-springs, a statement which remains to be satisfactorily proven.

In terms of pyramid structures in Europe, the largest and best known is that of Silbury Hill, which perfectly typifies the representation of the 'Primal mound' on the Prehistoric British landscape. Silbury Hill, which is unique in prehistoric British architecture was built in the same way as the 7-stepped-pyramids or ziggurats of the middle east, its roundness being simply a reflection for the preference for 'circular' design in prehistoric British cultures. It is a fact that no burials have been determined from under it, and as yet, there is no definitive explanation for its existence. The most recent survey of the structure (2007) revealed that the pyramid structure was built over a pre-existing 'turf mound' (14) and we know that it was almost certainly designed so as to be surrounded by water from underground springs. This curious piece of architecture takes on a completely different aspect when confronted with the evidence of pyramid building in other cultures, especially in relation to the underworld. It should be remembered that Silbury is but a single component of a larger 'ceremonial' landscape that was closely linked with death and the afterlife as represented by the several long-barrows, 'tumuli' and numerous important funerary remains that scatter the landscape between Avebury and Stonehenge. Silbury Hill, it should also be remembered, lies along the path of the St. Michael's Leyline, which itself is composed of a series of natural and man-made 'primal-mounds' (not least of all Glastonbury Tor, which was itself historically surrounded by water) and having an orientation which suggests a solar connection. In Britain one doesn't have to go far to find the same theme repeated in one shape or form. Wulaud's Bank, a Henge which also lies along the St. Michael's Leyline, was also built around the source of several underground springs.

The theme of a world mountain rising from the 'watery chaos' is represented in flood mythologies throughout the world. In Europe, we are taught the biblical flood myth of Noah and the Ark. But this same myth  re-occurs, with specific details around the ancient world. The earliest known written version is in Sumerian, where Noah is represented by Ziususdra (Utnapishtim).  In each case, following the flood, a 'primal-mound' is represented as the landing place for the Ark. The two commonly mentioned primal-mounds in Middle-eastern/Mediterranean mythologies following the great deluge are the Greek Mt. Parnassus (by Dodona), and the Turkish Mt. Ararat. Both of these lie on the same latitude as each other, and both of which are equidistant from Karnak in Egypt. The reason we know this curious fact is that Livvio Stecchini (7), has already researched a connection in terms of the geodetic relationship between oracle centres and geodesy, and in doing so offers several examples to support the association between navel-stones and �the flood� by referring to their function as �plugs�; an idea typified by the following phrase �The opening of the navel brings the deluge�. The same subject has also been approached in Santillano's �Hamlet�s Mill� (8) through the medium of mythology. The following is from Hamlets Mill:

In the Sumerian myth of Utnapishtim (Noah), we are told that the first ark was �a cube measuring 60x60x60 fathoms�, which represents the unit in sexagesimal system (where 60 is written as 1 or 1� ). In one version, we are told that �there is no ark, just a cubic stone, which rests on a pillar which reaches from earth to heaven�. In the Old Testament, these elements are repeated, when we learn that Noah�s ark was also a cube, whose landing symbolised the end of the great flood. In Jewish legends, it is said that �since the ark disappeared there was a stone in its place�which was called the foundation stone��and it is said to lie above the waters that are below the Holy of Holies. In Mecca, the navel of the Islam faith, there stands the Holy stone of the Ka�aba, which is also a cube, and we are told that even Christ is compared to �a cube shaped mountain�. But why a cube?

Apart from the obvious fact that a cube represents a single unit (the unit 1), it is recalled that the cube  was also the shape designated for the planet Saturn, in accordance with the Platonic solids, the Harmony of the spheres, and as illustrated in Keplers �Mysterium Cosmographicum�. To support this idea Santillana reminds us that in this group of stories, the figure (power) who warns �Noah� of the impending flood, (and suggests the dimensions of the Ark), is ��Saturn, as Jehovah, as Enki, as Tane, etc��. The antiquity of these traditions is shown by the fact that In pre-Islamic days, before the Ka�aba was constructed, there was a well on the site, which had a statue of the �God�� Hubal, across the opening �to prevent the waters from rising�. Hildegard Levy points out that, in pre-Islamic days, the god Hubal was Saturn, and that the Holy stone of the Ka�aba served the same symbolic function (8).

In conclusion, the association with pyramids and water would appear to suggest a relationship to the cycle of life and death, being both a metaphor for the amniotic waters of the earth-mother and the celestial waters of the deep that lead the dead to the underworld (the Milky way and the mystical bridge to planet earth). The pyramid surrounded is likened to the primal mound upon which all life originally sprang into creation, and/or the mound from which the world was repopulated following the great mythological flood. In many cases these mounds of creation are physically revitalised each year by the suns rays, which penetrate into the inner chamber for a few moments reminding us that both life and death are irrevocably connected through the same cycle. For people living in the mythological age of prehistory such ideas were tangibly real, as demonstrated by the development of preparation for the afterlife in funerary rites and associated rituals.  In addition, French caves with Palaeolithic art in them have recently been shown to have a preference for entrances with an orientation to extreme moments of the solar cycle, such as the solstices (15) when the  suns rays on the longest day, would have come in and left its stamp for a moment on a wall. Perhaps it is only through this early realisation of the annual penetration into the already sacred living-earth-mother (from which we ourselves pass from and back into) that we can begin to understand the origin of such ideas of birth, death and rebirth.


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1). Esther Pasztory. Teotihuacan: an experiment in Living. 1997. Oklahoma Press.
4). D. Heyden. An interpretation of the Cave Underneath the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan, Mexico. 1975. American Antiquity: Vol 40, No 2.
5). Andrew Collins. Beneth the Pyramids. 2009. 4th Dimension Press.
7). Livio Stecchini, "Notes on the Relation of Ancient Measures to the Great Pyramid" in Appendix of Peter Tomkins, Secrets of the Great Pyramid (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1978)
8). Giorgio de Santillana, H. Von Dechend. Hamlets Mill. 1977. David R. Godine Publ.
10). Alan. F. Alford. Pyramid of Secrets. The Architecture of the Great Pyramid Reconsidered. 2003. Eridu Books.
13). Geoffrey Cornelius and Paul Devereaux, The Secret Language of the Stars and Planets, 1996

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