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Episode 34: The Giza Pyramid / Orion Correlation

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Recap: Robert Bauval originated "The Orion Correlation Theory" in the late 1980s that claims the three main stars in the belt of the Orion constellation align with the three main Giza necropolis pyramids. This has been criticized by some, praised by others -- what's the real story?

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Claim: The Orion Correlation Theory - which is actually a misnomer since the word should be Hypothesis - was created in the 1980s by Egyptian-born Robert Bauval and has been fleshed out over the years by others, such as self-proclaimed maverick archaeologist Graham Hancock. The very basic idea of it is that the three main pyramids at Giza exactly mirror the three belt stars of the constellation Orion. And then this means stuff.

Development of the Idea

The way Bauval tells it, and I listened to him tell it five times as I did research for this episode which included listening to over 6 hours of Coast to Coast AM interviews, he came up with this idea while staring up at the sky, late at night, in the middle of the desert in the 1980s. In 1982, he had been in the Cairo museum and had seen a rare aerial photo of the pyramids and noticed that there were two large ones that were in a line, and then a small one offset from that line. He says he noticed this in particular because he's a former architectural engineer, and it bothered him that the three were not in a straight line.

And so he was out in the desert one night and it was winterish, so the constellation Orion was up. A friend of his who was a navigator started to tell the group that Orion is a very recognizable constellation and that people used to use the three belt stars to find the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, which they used for navigation.

It was when Bauval looked at these three belt stars that, as he tells it, everything clicked: He saw two bright stars and then a third, offset from the other two, that was a little fainter. And thus the Orion Correlation ... HYPOTHESIS ... was born.

It was first published in 1989 in the journal, "Discussions in Egyptology," and then he came out with his first book on the subject in 1994 with Adrian Gilbert, the book being called "The Orion Mystery."

Later, in working with Graham Hancock, they developed the idea that some of the correlations only work if the pyramids were built in 10,000 B.C., instead of the archaeological acceptance of the date of around 2550 B.C.

There are add-ons to the idea that the Sphynx represents the constellation Leo, which means supposedly that it had to be built in 10,500 B.C. which just so happens to correspond with a mega-intelligent civilization that Hancock believes existed at that time. Or that the pyramids form an angle with the Nile River that represents the Milky Way.

I'm not going to get into that stuff -- the purpose of this episode is JUST to focus on the question of whether the three main pyramids in Giza correspond to Orion's belt. I should note that my analysis is based on my own work, but that many other people, including astronomers and archaeologists, have done their own critiques of this idea, so I'm not the only one out there who reached the conclusion you'll hear in about five minutes.

Orion and Orion's Belt

The constellation that most of us know today as Orion is one of the most prominent constellations in the sky. While most constellations were different throughout the ancient world, the general shape of Orion was used in many cultures, including ancient Egypt where it was identified as a pharaoh.

It is easily found in the winter in the northern hemisphere, though it's below the horizon if you're too far into the southern hemisphere. At a very basic level, it looks like an hourglass with four corner stars including two very bright stars - Betelgeuse in the upper left corner and Rigel in the lower right corner. The waist of the hourglass has the three belt stars. From left-to-right, they're called Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka.

In astronomy short-hand, they're known as zeta, epsilon, and delta Ori. Usually these are the order of brightest to faintest, where the brightest star in a constellation is alpha, second-brightest is beta, and so on to gamma, delta, epsilon, zeta, and the others. But with Orion, they're a little out of order, for the center one, Alnilam is the brightest of the three, then the left one, Alnitak is second-brightest, and Mintaka is the third-brightest.

The reason I'm going through this in bloody detail is the "creation" story for Bauval's idea is that you have two large pyramids that form a line, and then a third, smaller one that's offset. So the third, fainter star in the belt needs to be offset, which is what we see, and the brightest star in the belt is the center one, just like the largest of the three pyramids is the center one. So that DOES check out for Bauval.

But, that's about it.


First off, we have a problem when someone claims that two points form a line with a third point offset. By definition, two points form a line between them. Saying that a third point is offset just means you chose to draw your line through the other two instead of through the third point and one of the others. So I have a bit of a problem with his basic premise.

Though that is somewhat mitigated by the diagonals of the two largest pyramids at the Giza necropolis: You CAN draw a straight line that connects two corner points of the two largest pyramids --- so if you're looking at a map with North up, start at the upper right corner of the upper right pyramid, draw a line through to the opposite corner, and you can continue that line through the opposite corner of the Great Pyramid.

From that line, the third pyramid is offset. But you have to have those corners to make the line.

And for the stars, you don't have corners, but he still claims: [Coast to Coast AM clip from April 19, 2011, Hour 3, starting at 30:33]

Does it Line Up?

That last point is interesting -- "It's exactly the image that you have on the ground with the pyramids." He then went on to agree with the statement that the alignment is perfect.

In this day and age, it's really not hard to test this. It took me two minutes with planetarium software, Google Earth, and Photoshop. I'll have my collage posted on the shownotes for the episode.

What I did was I went into Starry Night Pro, though you can use any astronomy software or any of the photographs online of Orion's belt, and I took a screenshot of the belt region. I then went to Google and found the Giza pyramids, and I took a screenshot. I then brought both of them into Photoshop.

In order to align the two largest pyramids with the two brightest belt stars, I had to rotate the pyramids by 151° counter-clockwise. This is interesting because it's also something that is never mentioned by Bauval, and in fact his work has gotten a fair amount of criticism because it leaves this point out - that the pattern is almost the exact OPPOSITE of what you see in the belt stars rather than it being identical.

So I lined up the two large pyramids with Alnitak and Alnilam, and I found that Mintaka didn't fit. Mintaka was both too far - as in the smaller pyramid would need to be moved by a few hundred meters - and it was at the wrong angle. Yeah, it was kinda sorta close, but it was FAR from exact.

I then thought it might be an issue with the perspective since the imagery that Google currently has on its maps site is from an airplane or something closer to the ground rather than a satellite. You can tell this because it's a perspective because the lines of the edges do not form a nice cross. So I looked around and found a real satellite image from nearly directly overhead, did the same thing, and Mintaka was off again.

You might be thinking, "Well, doesn't close count?" My answer would normally be "yes," but in this case, it's "no," for three reasons.

First Bauval stated that the alignment was exact. It is not. If he were a legitimate researcher he would have said the alignment is very close but there is some small offset. Saying it is exact is easily demonstrably wrong.

Second, on Bauval's website, he rants against someone on a BBC program who called him out on this. He says that the third belt star is within 5° as opposed to being exact, and, quote: "Even were it feasible to get an accuracy of less than +/- 5 degrees, this is really academic, for visually such a variation is almost impossible to discern for the small apparent length as Orion's belt as it appears to the naked eye."

This bleeds into the third reason I reject the argument that "close counts:" The ancient Egyptians were much better surveyors than to be off by 5°. They were able to align the pyramids to within 3 minutes of true North-South, which is 3/60ths of a degree. For them to be that accurate with the walls of the pyramids but then to be literally 100x less accurate for the very basic placement of the pyramids is something that I, personally, find much more difficult to believe.

Bright Stars

Another argument against this, though I think it's a bit weaker, is that the three belt stars are not the brightest stars in Orion. I mentioned they were the delta, epsilon, and zeta stars, meaning that the alpha, beta, and gamma stars aren't in there, though again these are slightly out of order for historical purposes.

The brightest star in Orion is Rigel, the right foot. Second-brightest is Betelgeuse, the left shoulder. Third-brightest is Bellatrix who was killed by Molly Weasly but forms the right shoulder. And Saiph, the left foot, is brighter than the faintest belt star, Mintaka.

So the argument here is that if you want the pyramids to be Orion, and recognizable as Orion, you should be building pyramids that represent these outer stars, too, since they're much more prominent -- Rigel being almost 10x brighter than Mintaka.

Three belt stars do not the constellation Orion make.

Finally, you get to the basic question of, can you choose three point-like objects and find a correlation in the sky? The answer is a resounding "Yes." For example, when I was searching for images of this on Google, one popped up showing a pretty good alignment with three of the former World Trade Center buildings.

Provide Your Comments:

Comments to date: 9. Page 1 of 1. Average Rating:

Stuart   Lyons, CO, USA

11:16am on Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

You didn't read my analysis, and yet you criticize the work. Case closed.

Tin Borgman   Location unknown

6:28pm on Monday, October 27th, 2014 

If you are going to leave out technical data from your opponent's viewpoint, you should leave out your own technical data as well. So, I skipped over your technical data and read your proposed results instead. I don't know which would be correct, since it is quite possible that dating techniques may be incorrect with regard to when the pyramids were originally started and just how long it really took to finish them. And I find this the only valid argument: That the only way the pyramids line up is if they were built thousands of years before the current analysis. This takes no technical data to put forth the argument, and leads me to the others. The fact that it is the belt stars in the "HYPOTHESIS" instead of the brightest stars or the framing stars is irrelevant. We cannot possibly know why the belt stars would have been used, since we do not know why it would have been done at all. Also, the fact that other objects can be correlated with stars is irrelevant to a degree. It doesn't d... read more »

Stuart   Boulder, CO

12:42am on Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

I have no comment with regards to conspiracy theories of "dark elite brotherhoods." That is not in my real of investigation nor does it have anything to do with the very specific claim that the three main Giza pyramids are exact replicas on the ground of the belt stars of Orion.

blindmonkey   antartica

9:16am on Monday, October 29th, 2012

No response to the other multitude of connections to Orion?

blindmonkey   antartica

4:24am on Sunday, October 14th, 2012

That might be, and I agree it is odd that it does not line up perfectly. However, if you dig a little deeper when it comes to the pyramids connections to the situation we find ourselves in today, one finds the Orion connections/symbology rife and very alive. Orion, and the stars found within, are highly venerated by the dark elite brotherhoods, who control the world today. So, one would assume the Giza connections are part of this long running plan. In addition there are other pyramids complexes that seemingly point to Orion too, i.e. in China and Mexico.

Stuart   Boulder, CO, USA

9:56am on Saturday, October 13th, 2012

I never said that they didn't at all overlap the pyramids, but Bauval stated the alignment is perfect with the pyramids. The point is that it is not.

blindmonkey   antartica

4:23am on Saturday, October 13th, 2012 

Hi, I agree with you that the proponents of the Orion-Giza connection use highly questionable research. However, I've tried 2 Orion over lays, and I must say they are quite spot on. If anything, the errors are from me not lining it up perfectly. All 3 stars fall with the perimeters of the pyramids, and 2 stars are SPOT on! Could you show your errors in a video?

Stuart   Boulder, CO, USA

2:30pm on Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

You are correct that I should have included stellar proper motion, but that doesn't help you much at all, even going back 5000 years. The proper motion is measured in milliarcseconds per year (0.000000278). I've posted a revised image ("Version 2") that shows what the positions were in 2500 B.C. There's still no match, not even close.

GoneToPlaid   USA

6:00am on Wednesday, May 9th, 2012 

I haven't investigated the Orion pyramid theory, but to do so one would have to use an astronomy program such as TheSky in order to view the Orion's belt stars at various dates in the past. Why? Because one must roll back the proper motion of the stars to a given date in the past in order to see where the belt stars were in the sky relative to one another.

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