Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/459

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PRECESSION: AND THE PYRAMIDS

astrologic. That they were astronomic constructions they themselves reveal, and the only rational explanation of the power the strangers gained over the mind of the king lies in the astrologic art the Chaldeans are known to have possessed, and which is also known to have been eagerly sought after by all the peoples of the east.

Both without and within they testify to a very heavenly regard on the part of their builders. In the first place their situation is expressive. They stand within a mile of the thirtieth parallel of latitude and undoubtedly were only prevented from standing nearer that astronomic line by the fact that the plateau shelf on which they were erected here falls abruptly to the plain. At this point on the earth the north pole is 30° high, and thirty degrees has this commendation to geometers, which the pyramid builders emphatically were, that a perpendicular from it to the line of sight is at that elevation exactly half as long as the line of sight itself.

In the next place the base of the building is four-square, its sides being oriented to the compass points with surprising accuracy. Just as Christian churches face the east, that is Jerusalem, and Mohammedan ones Mecca, so the pyramids faced the north. Here then we have surmise of both religion and astronomy, to wit astrology, embodied in the mere outward aspect of these constructions.

This is, however, as nothing to what the interior reveals. Upon the north face of the Great Pyramid a passage opens, descending for 350 feet through tiers of stone at first, then through the solid rock. This passage points to the north within 4′ or 5′ in azimuth, is perfectly straight and is inclined to the horizontal at an angle of 26° 26′. The long straight hole suggests that it was used for looking at a star, for down it a bright star might even be seen by day. Its direction, moreover, hints that the pole-star was the one in question. Now the latitude of the pyramid is 29° 58′ 51″. The subterranean tube, therefore, does not look directly at the pole; but when we take refraction into account we find that it would look exactly at a star distant 3° 34′ from the pole when that star was at its lower culmination, that is, passing the meridian directly south of the pole.

Now if in latitude 30°, a man wished to observe the north or south passage of a circumpolar star, in order, for example, to ascertain true north, the best means of doing so would be to dig a subterranean passage-way pointing approximately northward and then mark through it when the star ceased to rise or sink; and since either culmination would suit him he would naturally choose that one in which the slant of his tunnel would be the least, both because he could dig it easier and because he could descend it best. An incline of twenty-six degrees is distinctly preferable to one of thirty-four. Now 645 years before or after the date when Draconis was approximately upon the pole, it