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"The Turning Sky"



Ten years ago I undertook to translate the earliest extensive religious text, the original version of the Pyramid Texts in the Pyramid of Unis. This complex body of minute hieroglyphic writing, deliberately sealed away over four thousand years ago, was brought to light when European archaeologists opened the small Old Kingdom pyramids at Saqqâra in the winter of 1880. Great minds over the ages, among them Plato and Newton, believed that hidden within the pyramids was a treasured body of knowledge, long sought for the scientific and philosophical insight it contained. Yet the actual discovery of the Pyramid Texts made barely a cultural ripple in the world. In the intellectual climate of imperial Europe, the newly created academic discipline of Egyptology dismissed the hieroglyphic text as a disconnected collection of magic spells about snakes mixed into an incoherent myth involving the dead pharaoh with various animals and gods. The translations made no sense at all, and it is obvious that the original had not been understood. The problem of interpretation did not end in the nineteenth century.

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