Orion Correlation Theory

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By Brian Kufel

The Pyramids of Giza at Sunset [1]

The Orion Correlation Theory is the pseudoarchaeological idea that The Great Pyramid of Giza were intentionally connected to the three stars of the Orion's belt constellation. It makes the claim that the positioning of the pyramids from a bird's eye view matches the layout of the constellation, the relative heights of the pyramids match the relative apparent brightnesses of the stars they correlate with, and most importantly, these correlations prove a concerted effort by the Egyptians to match their pyramids to Orion for spiritual purposes. In order for the astronomical calculations to match, the theory also set the date of construction of the pyramids at around 10,500 BCE, nearly 8,000 years before the broadly accepted archaeological dating. Many proponents also posit that the Sphinx represents the constellation Leo and the Nile represents the Milky Way, making much of Giza an astronomical map. The Orion Correlation Theory was first opined by Robert Bauval in Discussions in Egyptology Volume Thirteen, but it gained more popular interest with the publishing of Bauval's book, The Orion Mystery in 1994. Despite the public appeal, The Orion Correlation Theory is not accepted by academia broadly due to flawed astronomy and archaeology on the part of the theory's claimants. [2] [3]


The Orion Correlation Theory draws its origins from the thoughts and writings of Robert Bauval. It has been said that he came up with this idea while working in Saudi Arabia with a petroleum company. A friend pointed out that Orion's belt is slightly offset from a straight line. Bauval then connected this observation to the layout of the three major Giza pyramids of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure.[3]

From the connection that he had made, Bauval published an article in volume thirteen of Discussions in Egyptology detailing his evidence for an inexplicable connection between the pyramids of Giza and the Orion constellation. Bauval's claims did not reach large audiences until his co-authoring of The Orion Mystery with Adrian Gilbert. Although this book inspired many new pseudoscientific writers to create their own books detailing many different perspectives on the correlation, it is still accepted as a powerful work to this day and is responsible for the popular appeal of the concept. [3]

The next book that majorly boosted the popularity of the Orion Correlation Theory was again written by Bauval, but co-authored by Graham Hancock, a best-selling author, and purveyor of fake archaeological claims. The book The Message of the Sphinx made new claims about the Sphinx and its connection to the constellation Leo. Having a relatively famous co-author helped boost the spread of the Orion Correlation Theory to more readers and Hancock has since spoken favorably on the theory in other interviews.[3]

Major Proponents

Although many esoteric writers have written on The Orion Correlation Theory with many different viewpoints, these two authors have been most influential in shaping the overall narrative of the concept through popularization and the addition of new elements to the theory.

Robert Bauval

Born March 5, 1948, in Alexandria, Egypt to Belgian parents, Bauval did not publish archaeological materials until the early 1990s. Before his publications, he worked as an engineer in Saudi Arabia for a petroleum company. He has never received a formal education in archaeology or astronomy.[3]

As the creator of the Orion Correlation Theory, Robert Bauval has had great control over the trajectory of the idea. His original book, The Orion Mystery, published in 1994, sparked interest in the theory. This book established Bauval as an Egyptologist and spoke of his original evidence for the correlation and established a canon for the Orion Correlation Theory. This included most importantly the correlation of the Pyramids and the stars themselves, but also rectangular shafts that led from the tombs and pointed towards different constellations and the mentionings of Sah, the Egyptian version of the Orion Constellation.[3]

Bauval continued to further his theory by continued writing, blogging, and consulting with film producers. Most notable among his later books is The Message of the Sphinx which was co-authored by Graham Hancock. [2]

Graham Hancock

Graham Hancock is an English author and journalist and a widespread purveyor of alternative archaeology. Although he makes pseudoarchaeological claims on many subjects, his most notable claims are of an advanced continent-spanning super civilization that developed from shamanism, and many of his more minor claims, including those about the Pyramids, are used to support this lost civilization hypothesis. Some of the topics that he covers are Atlantis, The Pyramids, The Olmecs, and Göbekli Tepe. As a best-selling author, Hancock is known for his books, but he also engages in debates, interviews, and podcasts. As a propagator of fake archaeology, he is often concerned with discrediting claims made by archaeologists especially when it concerns his lost civilization hypothesis. More recently, Hancock has been featured on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast where he further spread his alternative archaeological ideas. His contribution to the Orion Correlation Theory in the form of the book The Message of the Sphinx broadened the audience of the hypothesis greatly due to his public image. [4]

Pseudoarchaeological Narrative and Evidence

Pyramid Correlation

The most basic tenet of the Orion Correlation Theory is that the layout of the Great Pyramids of Giza correlates with the stars of Orion's belt. This dates back to the first book published by Bauval, The Orion Mystery. Most often this argument is made visually with the Orion constellation map overlaid on top of a map of The Pyramids of Giza. Perhaps the most convincing of the claims made by proponents of this hypothesis, the relative ease at which it seems that the two maps overlap is quite persuasive. Later statistical analysis of the correlation has yielded good results for this theory when given the optimal orientation and sizing. [5]

All of the pyramids of Giza face north and south. As Egyptians had not recognized north by magnetism in 2,500 BCE, these measurements must have been aligned using stars. The claim unique to the Orion Correlation Theory is that the angle of the line of pyramids with respect to North is 38 degrees which is a match to the angle of the line of Orion's belt with respect to North. This "perfect match" is used to support the idea that the Pyramids were laid out in order to mimic that constellation. [6]

Additionally, many pseudoarchaeologists claim that the relative height of each pyramid correlates with the apparent brightness of each of the stars. Although many metrics have been measured including area, base length, and volume, the height of the pyramids best correlate with the relative brightness of the stars that map to the pyramids. The conclusion drawn from this is that not only is the layout of the Pyramids emblematic of planning, but the dimensions of the pyramids themselves were planned in order to signify the stars of Orion. [7]

Ancient Egyptian Astronomy and Culture

One major piece of evidence pointed to by theorists is the many references to Sah in the Pyramids themselves. Sah was a god and the constellation of the Egyptians at the time period of pyramid construction, not Orion of course which comes from Greece. The references serve as a primary source in this case as it shows that Sah and the stars therein were at least understood by the creators of the pyramids, and at most their frequency can be used to make an argument that Sah was a reason for construction in the first place. Although no mathematical verification can be used with this evidence, the acknowledgment and writings of Sah create an impression of a cultural context that is supportive of the concept of the stars of Orion inspiring the creation of the pyramids. [3]

Another aspect of Khufu's Pyramid that signifies a cultural context that cared about the stars on Orion's belt is the four rectangular shafts that pointed from the tombs out to significant stars. It is believed that these shafts were meant to direct the ka or spirit of the pharaohs to significant stars. One of the shafts did point to Orion at the time of construction though they are now no longer in line with the intended stars. In the context of the hypothesis, the importance given to Orion by that shaft implies that other aspects of the pyramid may have been shaped around Orion as well. [6]

Overall, the culture as dictated by contemporary archaeology is dismissed as the Orion Correlation Theory dictates that the creation of the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx was in 10,500 BCE, not 2,500 BCE. This time period was determined by Robert Schoch and others using the weathering on the walls near the Sphinx. They said that the erosion could not have been done in 4,500 years by water and therefore the Sphinx must be 12,500 years old. Bauval and Hancock used this research in their book The Message of the Sphinx and that dating has been accepted by most Orion Correlation Theory writers and readers since. [2]

The Sphinx and The Nile

The idea of the Sphinx representing Leo originated in The Messages of the Sphinx by Bauval and Hancock. The book, having already contested the age of the Sphinx and placed the construction at 10,500 BCE, posited that that time period was the "Age of the Lion" due to Leo's prominence during the Vernal Equinox. This re-supports the dating and creates a greater purpose for the Sphinx. [3]

Some authors have gone on to speculate that the Nile represents the Milky Way which makes Giza a large astronomical map. The idea of the entirety of Giza having been planned to be a star map requires a much broader scope of inquiry and relies more upon an artistic understanding of Giza rather than the mathematical correlations that support other claims of the Orion Correlation Theory. That makes this claim much more dependent on the acceptance of previous claims as it only makes sense within that framework. [8]

Other authors have even brought up the possibility of distant pyramids and temples working into the map of Giza through angular relationships with the Nile, Sphinx, or Pyramids. These more comprehensive maps are more esoteric but do play a role in the future theorizing for the Orion Correlation Theory. [8]

Archaeological Explanations

Pyramid Correlation

The first piece of evidence used to challenge the narrative of the Orion Correlation Theory is the fact that in order for the maps of the stars and pyramids to line up, one of them must be inverted. In fact, in The Orion Mystery the image with the projected star and Giza maps did invert one of them. Basically, the northern direction of one of the maps must be turned to the southern direction, or the middle pyramid and middle star will be on opposite sides of the line between the first and third stars or pyramids. This means that the precise measurements of the pyramids only line up given an entirely arbitrary change in the constellation. Bauval and Hancock have argued that there should be room for artistic license, but that constitutes a change from their original position that the accuracy of the correlation proved intent. With the accuracy replaced with artistic license, intent cannot be easily proven. They have also said that one can simply "look south", but this requires a difference in mapping between geography and astronomy since if both the pyramids and the constellation are mapped using the south instead, the same problem occurs. [8]

Another point of contention is the angle of the line of pyramids with respect to North. Bauval has claimed that that measure was exactly equal to the angle of the line the three stars on Orion's belt make with respect to North. Those measurements are simply incorrect. The angle at which the line created by the two outermost pyramids connects with North is 38 degrees while that same measurement for the constellation is around 50 degrees. This means that the projection of the constellation must also be rotated over ten degrees to match the pyramids. This again brings doubt to the accuracy of Bauval's measurements. [6]

Ancient Egyptian Astronomy and Culture

One fact that possibly disproves the Orion Correlation Theory is that the three pyramids were likely not planned at once. The Pyramid of Menkaure, the smallest of the three, was likely an afterthought. This means that it is impossible for the pyramids to be intentionally correlated with anything since there was no planning. [9]

Also, some have theorized that the bent line formation of the pyramids was created so that the last and smallest of the three pyramids, Menkaure, could be expanded in the future. If true, this would challenge the claim of the intent of the formation by the Orion Correlation Theory. [6]

It is true that Sah was important to Egypt and the four rectangular shafts pointed towards symbolic stars may in fact hold religious value. This was found and theorized even before The Orion Mystery by egyptologists in 1960. Furthermore, modern explorations of the shafts have found carvings that imply religious significance. These findings are interesting, but do not prove that the Pyramids of Giza were entirely committed to Sah. [9]

The Sphinx and The Nile

The idea that the Sphinx represents the constellation Leo while the Nile represents the Milky Way is assuredly incorrect for a few reasons. Firstly, if they both represent those astral bodies, then the Sphinx should be on the opposite side of the Nile. Put very simply, Leo is separated from Orion's belt by the Milky Way, but in Giza, the Sphinx lies between the Pyramids and the Nile. Some could claim that this is an artistic interpretation on the part of the Ancient Egyptians, but since the Orion Correlation Theory relies on its precision to make claims about the necessity of design, the appeal to artistic license devalues the argument greatly [8].

An additional point is that although proponents of correlation claim that the year 10,500 BCE was the "Age of the Lion" due to Leo's position during the vernal equinox, the vernal equinox of that year lies in what we today call Virgo. The positioning of Leo is close to vernal, but again the measurement is imperfect. [6]

The most damning piece of evidence is that the Ancient Egyptians did not recognize the constellation Leo. The zodiac, with Mesopotamia origins, had not been transferred into Ancient Egyptian culture by the time of the Pyramids' construction. The Egyptians did have a constellation based on the lion, but this constellation was decidedly not the one we recognize today. This along with the claim that the Pyramids were built 8,000 years prior to 2,500 BCE make it impossible to claim that the Sphinx was based on a constellation that Egyptians did not recognize. [8]


  1. Samir, TEC (photographer), "Giza pyramids sunset," Ancient World Image Bank (New York: Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, 2009-) <https://www.flickr.com/photos/122393652@N04/14034507650/>, used under terms of a Creative Commons Attribution license.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Hancock, Graham; Bauval, Robert (1996). The Message of the Sphinx: A Quest for the Hidden Legacy of Mankind. New York: Crown Publishers. ISBN 9780614968170. OCLC 34887732
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Collins, A. (n.d.). O R I O N: THE ETERNAL RISE OF THE SKY HUNTER. Academia. https://www.academia.edu/8436197/Orion_Eternal_Rise_of_the_Sky_Hunter
  4. Rogan, Joe (Host)."Episode # 1284". The Joe Rogan Experience. 22 Apr. 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rxmw9eizOAo
  5. Orofino, V., & Bernardini, P. (2016). Archaeoastronomical Study of the Main Pyramids of Giza, Egypt: Possible Correlations with the Stars? Archaeological Discovery, 04(01), 1. https://doi.org/10.4236/ad.2016.41001
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Fairall, A. (1999). "Precession and the layout of the ancient Egyptian pyramids". Astronomy & Geophysics. 40 (3): 3.4. doi:10.1093/astrog/
  7. Orofino, V., & Bernardini, P. (2016). Archaeoastronomical Study of the Main Pyramids of Giza, Egypt: Possible Correlations with the Stars? Archaeological Discovery, 04(01), 1. https://doi.org/10.4236/ad.2016.41001
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Krump, E. C. (2001, October 16). Astronomical Integrity at Giza. HallofMaat. https://www.hallofmaat.com/orioncorrelation/astronomical-integrity-at-giza/
  9. 9.0 9.1 Friday, E. B. (2021). Are the Egyptian pyramids aligned with the stars? Astronomy.Com. Retrieved November 9, 2021, from https://astronomy.com/news/2021/02/are-the-egyptian-pyramids-aligned-with-the-stars