Kamouh el Hermel (“the Pyramid of Hermel”) is an ancient pyramid in Baalbek, Lebanon. It is also sometimes known as God’s Pyramid, House of El, the Funnel of Hermel or Needle of Hermel. Due to its similarity to tower tombs of the late Seleucid era at Palmyra in Syria, the pyramid has been dated to the first or second century BC.
The pyramid stands on a hill and is clearly visible from a distance. It is 27 metres (89 ft) high and rests on a base measuring about 1.1 metres (3.6 ft) with three steps made from black basalt. On this base sit two massive limestone blocks weighing between 40 and 50 tonnes (40,000 – 50,000 kg). Each block is around 7 metres (23 ft) high and 9 metres (30 ft) wide, and the structure is crowned by a pyramid 4.5 metres (15 ft) high.
A relief on the north side depicts two deer, possibly caught in a hunting trap. On the east side is a carved image of a boar being attacked by dogs and speared. The relief on the west side shows two wolves attacking a bull and on the south side is an image which may be a bear. The monument was badly damaged in the past and some sections were restored in 1931. It is now surrounded by railings but this has not stopped vandals causing further recent damage and covering the lower parts with graffiti.
It is not known who erected the pyramid or why. In 1859 William McClure Thomson, an American missionary who spent 25 years in the Middle East, published his experiences in The Land and The Book. He suggested that the pyramid might have been of Ancient Greek or Assyrian construction.
This view was shared by Charles William Meredith van de Velde, a Dutch painter, cartographer and missionary, who surveyed and mapped the Holy Land in 1851.
Charles William Meredith van de Velde (1818 – 1898)
C.W.M. van de Velde, born in Leeuwarden, attended the Naval Academy in Medemblik and served as a lieutenant in the Dutch navy. From 1830-1841 he worked at the topographical office in modern-day Jakarta where he eventually became director. He also worked as a missionary and with the Red Cross. For health reasons he had to return to Europe in 1844, and for several years carried out cartographic, geographic and ethnographic work. In 1851 he visited Palestine where he conducted various surveys and produced drawings, paintings and around 100 watercolours for postcards. After his trip, he gave lectures on Palestine and in 1858 published an engraved map of the Holy Land.
Text Alun Harvey