There has recently been a lot of discussion about the existence or
otherwise of a network of tunnels and chambers in the vicinity of the
Sphinx at Giza. On one side, it is said that tunnels and chambers
have been discovered and opened, and that for some reason, the findings
have been suppressed. On the other side it is said that there aren't any
chambers and tunnels in the vicinity, rather that such "chambers" as
have been detected are natural underground cavities. It is also said
that one of the main sources of mis-information about secret tunnels and
chambers connected with the Sphinx is the internet itself.
The following was posted on the NOVA website on February 10th, 1997 (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/).
I requested permission to reproduce the article. Unfortunately, I was
unable to get past the automated response "thank you" message presumably
sent to all correspondents. The copyright of the article remains the
property of the Nova website. When reading the article below, it will
help to know that Zahi Hawass is in charge of all archaeological
and conservation work connected with the monuments at Giza.
Question from Guy Stokes, Fruitvale, B.C:
"Could the Sphinx have
chambers inside it? How do you know that it doesn't have chambers?
Have you tried x-raying it? And finally, does it have chambers
underground? I hope you will be able to answer my questions."
Response by Zahi Hawass:
'The work-in-progress at
the Sphinx is concerned with the conservation and restoration of the
Sphinx. At present, we are working on the north side. We have not
found any chambers inside or outside the Sphinx, except for a
passage in the northwest corner of the rump.
In 1980 I opened, in collaboration with Mark Lehner, a
passage that opens at floor level on the northwest hind part of the
Sphinx. This was reported to us by Mohammed Abd al-Mawgud Fayed, who
had worked as a boy with the 1926 clearing of the Sphinx by Emile
Baraize, engineer for the Antiquities Service. Mohammed went on
to work for 40 years as an Overseer of workmen and guards for the
Antiquities Service. Baraize found patches here and there where the
ancient layers of repair masonry had fallen away from the lower part
of the body, exposing the natural rock from which the statue was
carved. One such patch was at the northwest corner, along the great
curve of the base of the Sphinx rump. He remembered that the passage
descended to the water table.
I had one brick-sized stone removed in order to check the story.
Nearly half a century after he saw it, Mohammed picked just the
right stone, for there was the passage. We documented it in maps,
architectural profiles, and elevations, and these records have been
published. One part of the passage winds down under the Sphinx
before it comes to a dead end about 4.5 meters below floor level.
The other part would be a open trench in the upward curve of the
rump except that it is covered by the layers of ancient restoration
stones. In 1980-81, we found that the lower part did indeed come to
the water table, and just above this point the debris contained
modern items - glass, cement, tin foil - evidence that Baraize
had cleared and refilled the bottom of the passage before he sealed
the opening by his restoration of the outer layer of masonry "skin".
The passage is crudely cut, its sides are not straight, but there
are cup-shaped foot-holds along the sides. It looks like an
For our Sphinx studies, the Centre Wladimir Golenischeff in
Paris kindly lent us a series of some 226 photographs that were
taken of Baraize's Sphinx excavation which went largely unpublished.
A series of three photographs on the Sphinx's middle north flank
show what could be a recess or grotto inside another place where
Baraize found the overlying masonry fallen away. In these
photographs, a workman seems to stand inside this recess - or
overhang to the bedrock - just inside the masonry gap, with the
floor level of the Sphinx coming about to his waist. Another workman
stands outside on what appears to be floor level. Here, again,
Baraize replaced the fallen limestone covering slabs using his
tell-tale gray cement. This recess may be nothing more than the
over-hanging natural rock which erodes into great recesses and
projecting layers. Mohammed Abd al-Mawgud does not remember
seeing another passage here. If we reopen the overlying masonry
layers of this area, it will be in the course of the on-going
restoration work and not to look for secret tunnels.
Florida State University, on behalf of the Schor Expedition,
carried out a remote sensing survey around the Sphinx and elsewhere
on the plateau for three weeks in April 1996. They claimed to have
found "rooms and tunnels" in front of the Sphinx and running from
the rear of the Sphinx. Several other projects have made similar
SRI International did an electrical resistivity and
acoustical survey in 1977-78.
In 1987 a Japanese team from Waseda University (Tokyo), under
the direction of Sakuji Yoshimura carried out an
electromagnetic sounding survey of the Khufu Pyramid and Sphinx.
They reported evidence of a tunnel oriented north-south under the
Sphinx, a water pocket 2.5 to 3 m below surface near the south hind
paw, and another cavity near the north hind paw.
In 1991 a team consisting of geologist Robert Schoch (Boston
University), Thomas Dobecki, and John Anthony West
carried out a survey of the Sphinx using seismic refraction,
refraction tomography, and seismic reflection. The investigators
interpreted their data to indicate shallower subsurface weathering
patterns toward the back and deeper weathering toward the front,
which they take to indicate that the back of the Sphinx and its
ditch were carved by Khafre later than the front. They interpret
their data to likewise indicate subsurface cavities in front of the
front left paw, and from the left paw back along the south flank.
In 1992 Imam Marzouk and Ali Gharib from the
Egyptian National Research Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics
carried out a study of the ground below the Sphinx using shallow
seismic refraction. Their evidence indicated the subsurface rock is
composed of four layers and no faulting. They report no evidence of
The techniques such projects use do not directly reveal chambers and
passages. They only show "anomalies," that must be interpreted as
chambers and passages. Faults and other natural features can also
produce anomalies. We cannot give permission to dig into the natural
rock of the Sphinx, or to drill into the Sphinx on the basis of
anomalies, especially now that our highest priority is to conserve
the Sphinx. Remote sensing programs should anyway be carried out
elsewhere to test the techniques, and to demonstrate that it works
before it is used to make sensational claims of secret rooms in the
Meanwhile, we struggle in our department to save the Sphinx and many
other sites and monuments for future generations. We work hard to
organize the site for tourism, so all can enjoy our monuments, and
we try to balance tourism with conservation. If we found evidence of
a civilization older than that of the dynastic Egyptians, we would
not, and could not, keep it from the public. Nor do we try to stop
reasonable research. The list of remote sensing surveys at the
Sphinx proves that we have not prevented this kind of research - and
the list is even longer for those who have probed the pyramids. But
now other priorities are far more urgent, and we cannot allow
digging and drilling into the Sphinx on the off-chance that somehow
we have missed the only evidence of a lost civilization!"