The Stretching of the Cord

The orientation of a temple took place when the foundations were laid. This operation had an important symbolic meaning, and coincided with a precise ceremony described and represented in many temples, such as that of Hatshepsut and that of Dendera, for instance. The ceremony was called stretching of the cord, and it is extremely ancient, being quoted for the first time in the Palermo Stone, a list of the kings of the first five dynasties (Belmonte 2001).

In recent years researchers have field tested three methods the ancient Egyptians may have used to find true north, the simultaneous transit method [1], the pole star method [2] and the solar gnomon method. [3] Using any of these methods, the Egyptians could have located the meridian, the line that connects the observer to the North Pole, to within a few minutes of arc using only wood, rope, copper and stone. However, all three methods are incomplete. They do yield two points on the ground in a cardinal direction, but the points are only a few meters apart. How could the Egyptians have extended the line hundreds of meters while preserving its accuracy?

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