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Professor David Lomas
"There's evidence of building on Orkney back to 8,000BC
 real 28k

Monday, 13 November, 2000, 14:51 GMT
Island brains behind pyramids?
Pyramids
The skills are said to have been exported
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 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.

Maes Howe
Going underground at Maes Howe
"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 around 3000BC - 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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See also:

03 Apr 00 | Sci/Tech
Queen's pyramid discovered
28 Mar 00 | Middle East
Egypt's treasures in danger
17 Feb 00 | Middle East
Ancient sarcophagus discovered
14 Oct 99 | Middle East
Egypt unearths world's oldest stables
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