History Files


Prehistoric Britain

Island Brains behind Pyramids?

BBC News, 13 November 2000



The pyramids of Egypt may have been inspired by a group of builders on the Scottish island of Orkney, according to an academic.

Dr Robert Lomas, of the University of Bradford, believes that complex construction techniques were developed on Orkney more than 1,000 years before the Egyptians used similar ideas.

He said skills used on the islands from 3800 BC were extremely sophisticated.

The Egyptians heard of the ideas and copied their techniques after they spread across Europe.

Astronomer priests

Dr Lomas said: "These people seem to have been led by a group of astronomer priests who passed on their knowledge to pilgrims all over Britain.

"Unfortunately, although they were intelligent, they had not developed any type of writing that we are able to read so their discoveries have been forgotten.

"We can see what they did but have to experiment to find out how they did it."

At Maes Howe on the Orkney islands - a chambered tomb built in around 3000 BC - the builders devised a standard unit of length by taking detailed readings from the movement of sun and stars.


Dr Lomas believes this measurement - the megalithic yard - proves the islanders knew the earth was round.

They also understood that it moved around the sun centuries before it was generally accepted by the rest of the world.

Seafaring theory

The measurement was used to build state-of-the-art monuments, he said.

In the book Uriel's Machine: The Ancient Origins Of Science, Dr Lomas and co-author Christopher Knight argue that the megalithic yard - which measures 82.966cm - could easily have been taken by seafarers to Brittany and beyond.

The megalithic yard was first discovered in 1967 by Professor Alexander Thom, of Oxford University, who analysed more than 400 sites around the British Isles and Northern France.



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