The Great Pyramid is probably the greatest repository of mathematical and geometric wisdom from the ancients that we have. The work of polymaths Robert Grant (Instagram: @robertedwardgrant) and Alan Greene (YouTube channel) even seems to argue in the direction that the Silent Sage harbors more mathematical and physical wisdom (from the past) than we have understanding of today! But to make claims like this, we must have very accurate measures of the Great Pyramid’s lengths and angle measures.
So who has measured the Great Pyramid, and who’s measures are right? Are there modern measurements taking advantage of laser precision? The battle over measuring the Great Pyramid probably climaxed in the competing measurements of Scotland’s Royal Astronomer C. Piazzi Smyth, and Sir William Flinders Petrie. Smyth first became interested in the measures and meaning of the Great Pyramid by reading John Taylor’s book, “The Great Pyramid: Why Was it Built and Who Built it?” Smyth was drawn to the connections Taylor made between the proportionality of the size of the Pyramid compared to the size of the earth, and the implication that this knowledge was a revelation from the Creator. Smyth thought the Pyramid’s design must have a connection with the biblical patriarchs, rather than the polytheistic Egyptians, because of their closer affinity to Adam and the God who created him. So when Smyth diligently measured the Pyramid, he was trying to confirm Taylor’s claims that the Pyramid had knowledge of the size of the earth’s circumference. And Smyth also believed that the Creator placed time prophecies in the Pyramid at the scale of one inch for one year. Smyth used the best instruments available to take a comprehensive set of Great Pyramid measurements. Smyth drew from his own resources in the year he spent measuring the Pyramid in 1865, living in a tomb in the eastern cemetery of the Great Pyramid.
The father of Flinders Petrie was an avid follower of C. Piazzi Smyth, so when the younger Petrie undertook his survey of the Great Pyramid 16 years later, it was partly to check the measurements of Smyth. Petrie followed in Smyth’s path by choosing a tomb in the eastern cemetery as a home from which to pursue his measurements. The measurements of the Great Pyramid by Smyth and Petrie were now competing for center attention in a world increasingly interested in the news coming out of this mysterious place called Egypt. Petrie at one time, unbeknownst to the many who consider his measurements as nearly impeccable, judged the veracity of claims of measure and chronology by on a literal reading of the Bible. But when he went to Giza he was making his turn to agnostic rationality, from which stance he is now considered the father of modern Egyptology. The ensuing story line is that Petrie’s measurements, discovered errors in Smyth, which Petrie claimed debunked Smyth’s religious interpretations. Some of the discrepancy was that Smyth was not able to get accurate measurements of the Pyramid’s foundation because of rock, sand and debris that was removed for Petrie. Though Smyth argued back in a slim publication named for and aimed at Petrie, entitled “New Measures of the Great Pyramid By a New Measurer: Described and Tested by C. Piazzi Smyth, Astronomer-Royal for Scotland.” (1) it was ignored by most. Petrie had boldly proclaimed the errors of Smyth, and never answered Smyth’s little work New Measures. It was a bellwether in the turn that popular culture would take, not unlike that of the Scopes trial in the next generation. In that famous “monkey trial” the eloquence of rational agnostic Clarence Darrow ended up charming the national audience, that, going in the trial, had been firmly on the side of William Jennings Bryan, the “great commoner,” who defended a literal reading of the Bible against the evil doctrine of evolution.
Like Bryan, Smyth was a fundamentalist who believed that the English system of measures was descended from God through Noah and the biblical patriarchs, and that the Metric system was the invention of non-believing infidels who placed the measures of man above the measures of God. In one real sense it was Smyth’s enthusiastic campaign on this front that kept the metric system from being accepted initially in the United Kingdom and the United States, when the rest of Europe was embracing it.
Petrie’s victory over Smyth had the related effect of discrediting a branch of researchers who had gained a somewhat respectable foothold in a culture that was characterized by Christian assumptions. “Pyramidologists” as Taylor, Smyth and others with religious views of the Pyramid were called, were now called into question. If Smyth’s measurements were mistaken, how could his religious theories be trusted? In an uncharacteristic ad hominem display, Petrie coined the term “pyramidiot” to refer to those who, like Smyth, tried to place fanciful Christian theories on the Pyramid. (2) Famed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass uses the term to this day, to dismiss theories he does not like.
Petrie’s measurements of the Great Pyramid, largely recorded in his classic 1883 work, The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh (3), are still considered by many Egyptologists and laymen alike as the most accurate and reliable Pyramid source. The one other source mentioned with near equal respect is the 1925 survey commissioned by the Egyptian government, done by JH Cole. But Cole uses some of Petrie’s data in his published work, so Petrie’s is still the premier set of measures. (4). Here is a sketch from Cole’s survey data which combines his measurements with those of Petrie:
Piazzi Smyth and Petrie set the standard for measuring the Great Pyramid be each investing in the leading measuring equipment available in their day, and spending long periods of time in residence at Giza while during their surveys and measurements. Several other authors should be mentioned in a listing of Great Pyramid measures, because of the depth of their dedication in pursuing the physical essence of that Mighty Structure. Adam Rutherford dedicated years of study to the Great Pyramid and spent long periods of residence at Giza. His 4 volume set on his work there is entitled Pyramidology (I, II, III. and IV).(5) Rutherford, like Smyth, believed the Great Pyramid was a revelation from God and its inner passage systems symbolized the elements of the Christian faith. One well known work on the Great Pyramid, Peter Lemesurier’s Decoding the Great Pyramid, uses the measures of Rutherford. Lemesurier looks at all the major measurements before choosing to largely use Rutherford’s measures. This is surprising because Lemesurier does not share Rutherford’s Christian viewpoint, but he chooses Rutherford because he says Rutherford is the most comprehensive, “by far the most convincing, as well as the most readable…” (6). In his “Acknowledgements” at the beginning of his book Lemesurier writes: “The late Dr. Rutherford’s factual advice and help – generously given despite his vigorous disagreement with many of my working methods and conclusions- has been invaluable throughout, and his meticulous research has been the basis for virtually everything that is valid…in the Pyramid-based sections of the book.”(7)
Two other works by pyramidologists that are still referenced, even by mainstream scholars, because of the depth of their research are The Great Pyramid Passages and Chambers by John and Morton Edgar (9) and The Great Pyramid by David Davidson and H. Aldersmith (10). Peter Tompkin’s book Secrets of the Great Pyramid (11)could also be mentioned for its broad history of scholarship on the Pyramid and its major esoteric and conventional contributors.
- Published by Robert Banks, March 1884.
- Jimmy Dunn, at http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/pyramidinch.htm, accessed May 17, 2020.
- Flinders Petrie, The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh, 1883, available for download at http://giza.fas.harvard.edu/pubdocs/551/full/
- The 1925 survey data of JH Cole is published on Robert Birdsall’s website at: http://www.ronaldbirdsall.com/gizeh/errata/Cole%20Survey.pdf
- Adam Rutherford, Pyramidology Volumes I, II, III, IV. Published by the Institute of Pyramidology. Now sold by Artisan Publishers.
- Peter Lemesurier, Decoding the Great Pyramid, Element Books, Australia, 1999.
- Ibid., p 26.
- Ibid., Acknowledgements.
- John and Morton Edgar, The Great Pyramid Passages and Chambers by John and Morton Edgar. Portland Area Bible Students, 1976.
- David Davidson, The Great Pyramid: Its Divine Message, Kessinger Publishing Company, 1925.
- Peter Tompkins, Secrets of the Great Pyramid. Gallahad Books, 1971.