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No. 116: Mar-Apr 1998

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Those Ancient Greek Pyramids

That's right. Greek pyramids! On Greek soil, at Hellenikon and Ligourio west of Athens in the Argolid region, are two limestone pyramids that are stylistically very much like those at Giza near Cairo. The big difference is size; the Greek pyramids are only the size of a large room compared to the Great Pyramid's height (with capstone) of almost 500 feet.

When excavations were made around the Greek pyramids in the early 1900s, pottery fragments from the Fourth Century B.C. were found, and it was presumed that the pyramids were also constructed then; that is, about the time of Alexander the Great. Recent dating of crystals from internal surfaces of the limestone blocks using thermoluminescence puts the construction times back two millennia. The Hellenikon pyramid dates to 2730 B.C.; the Ligourio, to 2260 B.C. This means that the Greek pyramids were built in roughly the same time frame as the Egyptian pyramids.

Why would the ancient Greeks want to build miniature pyramids? The classical scholar Pausanias wrote in the Second Century A.D. that the Hellenikon pyramid was a cenotaph for the dead fallen in a fratricidal battle 4,000 years ago. Nobody believed his story until now.

(Hammond, Norman; "Did the Early Greeks Simply Copy the Pyramids of Egypt?" London Times, August 1, 1997. Cr. A.C.A. Silk. Also: Barnett, Adrian; "Written in Stone," New Scientist, p. 11, October 4, 1997.)

From Science Frontiers #116, MAR-APR 1998. � 1998-2000 William R. Corliss