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Bauval was born in Alexandria, Egypt, to parents of Belgian and Maltese origins. He attended the British Boys' School in Alexandria (now El Nasr Boys' School) and the Franciscan College in Buckinghamshire, England. He left Egypt in 1967 just before the Six-Days War during the presidency of Gamal Abdel Nasser. He has spent most of his engineering career living and working in the Middle East and Africa as a construction engineer.
In late 1992 Bauval had been trying to obtain a translation of Hermetica by Walter Scott. He then came across a new edition printed by Solo Press with a foreword by Adrian Gilbert. Bauval contacted Gilbert after being interested in his foreword concerning a link between an Alexandrine school of Hermes Trismegistus and the pyramid builders of the Fourth dynasty of Egypt. They went on to write The Orion Mystery together, which became an international bestseller. BBC Two broadcast a documentary on Bauval's theories around the time of the book's publication. He has also co-authored three books with Graham Hancock.
Bauval is specifically known for the Orion Correlation Theory (OCT). This proposes a relationship between the fourth dynasty Egyptian pyramids of the Giza Plateau and the alignment of certain stars in the constellation of Orion.
One night in 1983, while working in Saudi Arabia, he took his family and a friend's family up into the sand dunes of the Arabian desert for a camping expedition. His friend pointed out Orion, and mentioned that Alnitak, the smaller more easterly of the stars making up Orion's belt was offset slightly from the others. Bauval then made a connection between the layout of the three main stars in Orion's belt and the layout of the three main pyramids in the Giza necropolis.The theory, known as the Orion Correlation Theory or OCT, was first published in Discussions in Egyptology (DE, Volume 13, 1989)
However the Orion Correlation Theory has been challenged within mainstream archaeology and history as a form of pseudoscience. Among his more notable theories is the possible connection with the Giza necropolis and the epoch of 12,500 years ago. Several Egyptologists have however entertained the general idea that some astronomical correlations may have figured in or been represented by certain physical features and orientations in Ancient Egyptian monuments. In particular, the aspects of the OCT which claim there is a link between the Ancient Egyptian structures at Giza and the constellations as they looked some 12,500 years ago are yet to find support from many within the field.
One such expressing an interest in these ideas was a leading authority on the Pyramids of the mid- to latter-20th century, I.E.S. Edwards. In 1983 Edwards stated that Bauval had made a "convincing case" that the Giza pyramids were a representation of Orion's belt. Also in a 1992 statement, Edwards says of Bauval "In my opinion he has made a number of interesting discoveries"; however Bauval himself acknowledges that categorical statements about Edwards' position on the OCT as later developed by Bauval and Hancock in The Keeper of Genesis cannot be made as he did not comment directly on the material. Bauval further acknowledges that "he would have been unlikely to give further support to such controversial ideas linking Giza and 10,500 BC or 11,500 BC".
Further criticism of OCT was leveled by the astronomers, Ed Krupp of Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles and Anthony Fairall, astronomy professor at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Using planetarium equipment, Krupp and Fairall independently investigated the angle between the alignment of Orion's Belt and north during the era cited by Hancock, Bauval, et al. (which differs from the angle seen today or in the 3rd millennium BC, because of the precession of the equinoxes), and found that the angle was somewhat different from the "perfect match" claimed by Bauval and Hancock in the Orion Constellation Theory—47–50 degrees per the planetarium measurements, compared to the 38-degree angle formed by the pyramids.
Krupp also pointed out that the slightly-bent line formed by the three pyramids was deviated towards the north, whereas the slight "kink" in the line of Orion's Belt was deformed to the south, and to match them up one or the other of them had to be turned upside-down. Indeed, this is what was done in the original book by Bauval and Gilbert (The Orion Mystery), which compared images of the pyramids and Orion without revealing that the pyramids’ map had been inverted. Krupp and Fairall find other problems with the claims, including noting that if the Sphinx is meant to represent the constellation of Leo, then it should be on the opposite side of the Nile (the "Milky Way") from the pyramids ("Orion"), that the vernal equinox c. 10,500 BC was in Virgo and not Leo, and that in any case the constellations of the Zodiac originate from Mesopotamia and were completely unknown in Egypt until the much later Graeco-Roman era. Ed Krupp repeated this "upside down" claim in the BBC documentary Atlantis Reborn (1999).