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Labyrinth of Egypt

New - 22 September 2008

Reinstituted -- 11 February 2011

in Honor of the Events in Egypt on this Day

When it comes to great works of antiquity, count on the ancient Egyptians to put everyone else in the shade. (And the present day Egyptians are doing a pretty good job of catching the world's attention... again.)

The Pyramids of Giza immediately come to mind in terms of mind-boggling works – perhaps the most notable of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. But consider for a moment a structure that according to one ancient visitor, “surpasses even the pyramids” in its astonishing scope, ambition, and ability to rewrite ancient history.

This latter classic work is the famed (and supposedly lost) Labyrinth of Egypt, a trapezium-shaped platform that is now suspected of measuring 304 meters (997 feet) long by 244 meters (800 ft) wide. That’s roughly three football fields long and two and half wide. The size is such that at one point a Roman Village was founded upon what is now believed to be the structure’s roof. (As such, the Labyrinth would amount to a very impressive basement.)

[1]

Herodotus (ca. 484-430 BCE) in his Histories (Book II, 148) said -- after being allowed to visit the upper story of the two-story structure – wrote:

“For if one should put together and reckon up all the buildings and all the great works produced by the Hellenes, they would prove inferior in labor and expense to this labyrinth.”

“The upper set of chambers we ourselves saw, going through them, and we tell of them having looked upon them with our own eyes; but the chambers under ground we heard about only; for the Egyptians who had charge of them were not willing on any account to show them, saying that here were the sepulchers of the kings who had first built this labyrinth and of the sacred crocodiles.” [2]

“The upper rooms, on the contrary, I did actually see, and it is hard to believe that they are the work of men; the baffling and intricate passages from room to room and from court to court were an endless wonder to me, as we passed from a courtyard into rooms, from rooms into galleries, from galleries into more rooms and thence into yet more courtyards. The roof of every chamber, courtyard, and gallery is, like the walls, of stone. The walls are covered with carved figures, and each court is exquisitely built of white marble and surrounded by a colonnade.”

“It has twelve covered courts — six in a row facing north, six south — the gates of the one range exactly fronting the gates of the other. Inside, the building is of two stories and contains three thousand rooms, of which half are underground, and the other half directly above them.” [3]

It was descriptions of this kind that inspired the creation by of the HORUS Foundation (Herodotus Original Research Using Science), an organization dedicated to assembling experts and state-of-the-art technologies from the aerospace industry to maximize archaeological research in relation to the written record of Herodotus.

The plan was simple enough, obtain permission from the Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, and thereafter use Ground Penetrating Radar to see what might lie under tons of sand.

After scans in February and March of 2008, the results were officially announced by Egyptian authorities on August 11, 2008 to wit: “The Mataha-expedition discovered the lost labyrinth of Egypt at Harawa”… pretty much where Herodotus had suggested, near the place called the City of Crocodiles [2]. There is, of course, the small (Herculean) effort needed to move a great deal of sand, drain the site from groundwater intrusions, and ultimately uncover enough of the site before the more skeptical archaeologist might be willing to admit to an unambiguous “discovery”. Furthermore, this work would be done always with careful and meticulous attention to preserving this astounding heritage from the ancient Egyptian world.

Much of the early funding of the project was done by Louis De Cordier of Belgium, a contemporary artist with a vision of combining art and science to enable research and preserve among other things Egyptian antiquities. The key element was the donation of proceeds from the sale of Cordier’s Golden Sun Disk, the latter incorporating sacred geometry, earth sciences and astronomy, in effect “an archaeological artifact of the future.” In fact, what better means of uncovering and preserving ancient artifacts is there than by creating a future artifact to support the research?

Besides Herodotus, there has also been several other notable visitors[2]:

Diodorus Siculus (1 st Century BCE) in his History, (Book I 61.1-2 and 66.3-6): The labyrinth was built by Mendes alias Marros. “It is even said by some that Daedalus crossed over to Egypt and, in wonder at the skill shown in the building, built for Minos, King of Crete, a labyrinth like that in Egypt, in which, so the tales go, the creature called the Minotaur was kept. Be that as it may, the Cretan Labyrinth has completely disappeared; either through the destruction wrought by some ruler or through the ravages of time; but the Egyptian Labyrinth remains absolutely perfect in its entire construction down to my time. And seized with enthusiasm for this enterprise they strove eagerly to surpass all their predecessors in the size of their building. For they chose a site beside the channel leading into Lake Moeris in Libya and there constructed their tomb of the finest stone, laying down an oblong as the shape and stade as the size of each side, while in respect of carving and other works of craftsmanship they left no room for their successors to surpass them. For, when one had entered the sacred enclosure, one found a temple surrounded by columns, 40 on each side, and this building had a roof made of a single stone, carved with panels and richly adorned with excellent paintings. It contained memorials of the homeland of each of the kings as well as of the temples and sacrifices carried out in it.”

Strabo (ca. 64 BCE – CE 19) in three passages in his Geography (Book 17, I, 3, 37, and 42): “Before the entrances there lie what might be called hidden chambers which are long and many in number and have paths running through one another which twist and turn, so that no one can enter or leave any court without a guide. And the wonder of it is the roofs of each chambers are made of single stones and the width of the hidden chambers is spanned in the same way by monolithic beams of outstanding size; for nowhere is wood or any other material included.” Strabo goes on to describe “a great plain of stone”, and a palace for assembling, speaking justice and bringing offerings for the Nomes of Egypt.

Pliny the Elder (CE 23-79) in one passage in his Natural History (Book 36, 84-89): “There still exists even now in Egypt in the Heracleopolite Nome the one which was built first, according to tradition 3,600 years ago by king Petesuchis or Titholis, through Herodotus ascribes the whole work to Twelve Kings and Psammetichus, the latest of them.” “The majority of writers take the view that it was built as a temple to the Sun.” “Daedalus used this as the model for the labyrinth which he built in Crete is beyond doubt, but it is equally clear that he imitated only 100th part of it.” “There are also lofty upper rooms reached by ramps and porticoes from which one descends on stairways which have 90 steps each; inside are columns of imperial porphyry, images of the gods, statues of kings and representations of monsters. Certain of the halls are arranged in such way that as one throws open the door there arises within a fearful noise of thunder; moreover one passes through most of them in darkness. There are again other massive buildings outside the wall of the Labyrinth; they call them ‘the Wing’. Then there are other subterranean chambers made by excavating galleries in the soil.”

Archaeological finds show that the site was continuously occupied up to the 7th century CE.

Arthanasius Kircher (1602-1680 CE)…. One of the first pictorial reconstructions, mainly based on the account in Herodotus [2]. [Note Astrological symbolism in upper right.]

William Flinders Petrie (1889) believed what he had uncovered was the foundation of a great temple, measuring 304 meters (997 feet) long and 244 meters (800 ft) wide. This makes it large enough to hold the great temples of Karnak and Luxor.

The urgency now is that the groundwater is likely increased in its severity since the building of the Aswan series of dams in the twentieth century. It is entirely possible that the groundwater has in this time protected the Labyrinth from thieves, but the possible deterioration of the structure due to the salt content in the groundwater makes the preservation of the site a matter of world wide importance.

Accordingly, there is currently a major effort by a large consortium of individuals and groups dedicated to bring this treasure to the modern world. As Shakespeare wrote [4]:

"There comes a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to fortune, omitted, all the voyage of their lives is bound in shallows and miseries."

 

_________________________

References:

[1] http://www.world-mysteries.com/newgw/gw_pgeryl_hawara.htm

[2] http://www.mataha.org/

also: http://www.mataha.org/downloads/printversion_mataha-expedition.pdf

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labyrinth#Herodotus.27_Egyptian_labyrinth
 

[4] William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act IV, Scene III.

The Mother of All Family Trees (See in particular, Tohwait's Tree)

Egyptian Prehistory         Ages in Chaos

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