History Files


Prehistoric Britain

Island Brains behind Pyramids?

Edited from 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 who publicised the idea in the year 2000.

Dr Robert Lomas of the University of Bradford was of the opinion that complex construction techniques were developed on Orkney more than a thousand years 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 had spread across Europe. (To offset this theory, the Neolithic farmer migrations into the British Isles from around 4000 BC would have seen the arrival of people with an Anatolian heritage who had spent two thousand years in Iberia following their journey along the northern edge of the Mediterranean. It is much more likely that they brought with them some form of shared knowledge which eventually led to pyramid building both in Egypt and the Orkneys.)

Astronomer priests

The people of Orkney 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 which we are able to read so their discoveries have been forgotten. It can be seen what they did but scientists and scholars have to experiment to find out how they did it.

At Maes Howe on the Orkney islands - a chambered tomb built 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 that the islanders knew the earth was round. They also understood that it moved around the sun centuries before this concept was generally accepted by the rest of the world.

Seafaring theory

The measurement was used to build state-of-the-art monuments, according to Dr Lomas. In the book Uriel's Machine: The Ancient Origins Of Science, Dr Lomas and co-author Christopher Knight argued 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 four hundred sites around the British Isles and northern France.

Skara Brae
The rediscovery of the apparently primitive community on Skara Brae following a severe storm in 1850 uncovered a wealth of data on Neolithic dwellings, with this proving to be one of the most vibrant and prosperous of cultures of its day



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