by John Anthony West
extracted from The Traveler’s Key to Ancient
Egypt, John Anthony West
Quest Books, 1995 - Appendix 2
Following the Lehner/Gauri work in the early ‘80s, I tried
unsuccessfully to initiate a dialogue with them to discuss their
results as they related to the age of the Sphinx.
interest or involve other independent geologists with expertise in
Egypt or desert weathering also failed.
Eventually, however, in
1989, a contact was made with Dr. Robert M. Schoch, a stratigrapher
and paleontologist at Boston University. Though deeply skeptical,
Schoch was intrigued by the argument and the evidence but could not
give an opinion until he had examined the site personally.
Shoestring financing was obtained and
Schoch traveled to Egypt with
me on an unofficial survey. Though we could not get permission to
enter the Sphinx enclosure to study weathering details close-up, the
weathering on the Sphinx is so extreme and clear-cut that even from
the edges of the enclosure Schoch was able to convince himself that
the weathering was due to water, as the theory postulated.
liberty to walk around the rest of the Giza Plateau, Schoch
provisionally agreed with other crucial supporting arguments within
Only the Sphinx, its enclosure walls (and several other
structures related to the Sphinx architecturally or stylistically,
such as the Mortuary Temple at the end of the Sphinx Causeway)
exhibited these telltale marks of water weathering. Everything else
dating from dynastic Egypt had been weathered by wind and sand.
The typically wind-and-sand weathered structures scattered
around the area were cut from the same layers of bedrock as the
Sphinx itself, and therefore could not date from the same period, as
The Sphinx and Valley temples must have been built in two stages
to account for the weathered massive limestone coreblocks behind the
Though provisionally satisfied with the theory,
Schoch could not
present it to the geological world without having had direct,
officially sanctioned access to the Sphinx and its enclosure, and he
needed to carry out a far more detailed examination of the many
facets of the theory, just to satisfy himself.
to carry out the necessary research proved to be a delicate and
time-consuming process (details of which will be in my forthcoming
book on the Sphinx).
But with the permissions finally in place, the
research team returned to Egypt. It included - on an unofficial
basis - two other geologists, an oceanographer and Thomas L. Dobecki, a highly respected geophysicist, to carry out
investigations in the hope of uncovering further evidence of the
earlier civilization responsible for the Sphinx.
Now, able to study the Sphinx close-up, on the basis of the
weathering profiles on the Sphinx and even more telling, its
enclosure wall, we were able to determine with some precision the
specifics of the water weathering. It had not been high floodwaters
as I had originally surmised. This was a notion I’d never been
comfortable with. I could not imagine weather conditions that would
flood not only the Sphinx, low on the floodplain, but the Mortuary
temple 100 feet higher up on the plateau.
The geological literature I consulted described much wetter
conditions prevailing in Egypt in the distant past - long periods of
heavy rain and immense floods; therefore, I assumed the floods had
to be responsible for the weathering.
But now inside the Sphinx enclosure, it was clear to the geologists
that it had been those heavy rains that had caused the weathering,
Only rain, beating down over long periods of time
and spilling over the edges of the Sphinx in sheets, could be
responsible for the weathering profiles we were observing. (This
also resolved the nagging question of water-weathered profiles up on
the plateau, out of range of Nile floods, no matter how prodigious.)
Dobecki’s seismographs (too complex and technical to explain in
brief here) produced subsurface weathering profiles that
corroborated our earlier dating for the Sphinx. More dramatically,
the seismographs revealed several underground cavities or voids in
the immediate Sphinx area. Their regular shapes and/or their
strategic placing made it difficult to ascribe these to naturally
occurring geological voids (called karst features). Most interesting
was a large rectangular space some 12 x 15 meters in area, and 5
meters below the surface, between the paws of the Sphinx.
Provocative in its own right, this buried chamber provoked
particular excitement in certain New Age circles. The famous
Edgar Cayce, had predicted in trance that
of Records, containing the history of the lost continent of
would be found between the paws of the Sphinx. Needless to say, this
and other trance-inspired readings on ancient Egypt had made little
impression on academic Egyptologists.
But the seismographs do not
operate in trance, and here was a substantial, apparently artificial
void or chamber under the paws of the Sphinx - exactly as Cayce
predicted. What does the chamber contain? We still don’t know. As
this is written, our request for permission to carry our researches
through the next stage is on hold.
With the geophysical results in, and our official examination of the
area complete, Schoch was prepared to support the theory
unconditionally. While it was still impossible to provide a
definitive date for the original carving of the Sphinx, the fact -
indisputable in Schoch’s eyes - that the deep weathering was
precipitation-induced could only mean the Sphinx was much older than
it was supposed to be.
Extensive paleoclimatological studies (paleoclimatology is the study
of ancient weather patterns) agreed that Egypt only became desert
around 10,000 B.C. Prior to 15,000 B.C., it and the rest of northern
Africa was fertile savannah, something like modern-day Kenya. But
coincident with the breakup of the last Ice Age, Egypt experienced a
long, unsettled period of heavy rains.
When the worst of the rains
stopped around 10,000 B.C., Egypt had become desert, and it has been
desert ever since-though enjoying several extended periods of
rainfall when areas that are now barren desert were green. Between
10,000 and 4000 B.C. Egypt grew increasingly arid. By 4000 B.C.,
Egypt had become the desert of today. Around an inch of rain a year
falls in the Giza area. Under no circumstances could this produce
the weathering we observe on the Sphinx.
Taking the most conservative estimate permitted by the combined
data, Schoch put the minimum date for the carving of the Sphinx
between 5000 and 7000 B.C., but acknowledged that this was a
minimum. For a variety of complex art-historical and archaeological
reasons, I felt that the date was more likely earlier. The known
Neolithic cultures flourishing in the 5000-7000 B.C. range did not
seem to have the kind of technology needed to carve the Sphinx and
erect the amazing temples in front of it.
The notion of an Atlantean civilization is of course derided and
ignored by the modern academic establishment. But while derision may
silence and suppress good evidence, it does nothing to negate it.
There is mounting evidence from a number of fields to support the
widespread ancient belief that there had indeed been such a lost,
high civilization-wherever it may have been located geographically.
(See Graham Hancock,
Fingerprints of the Gods, 1995, and
& Rose Flem-Ath,
When the Sky Fell, 1995/6.)
evidence also supports the ancient contention that this civilization
vanished quickly under catastrophic conditions. The extreme,
unsettled weather patterns following the breakup of the last Ice Age
are a matter of record.
There are still more pieces missing to this
vast puzzle than there are in place, but it is now possible to get
at least a rough and tentative idea of what the finished picture
must look like. I think it extremely likely that sooner or later it
will become apparent that the Sphinx is a part of that puzzle and
that it was carved at least ten thousand years ago. At the least,
the Sphinx cannot be made to fit into the accepted historical
On successive investigations in Egypt with Schoch, we were able to
support the theory from several other angles.
The mudbrick tombs of the earliest kings of dynastic Egypt are found
in Saqqara, ten miles to the south of Giza. The mud bricks of these
tombs are still in recognizable and stable condition. The tombs were
erected around 3000 B.C., some five hundred years before the Sphinx
was supposedly carved by Chephren. If, as some Egyptologists were
now claiming to preserve the Sphinx dating, sufficient rain actually
fell to weather the Sphinx into its present condition immediately
following its construction, then it would seem to follow that the
same rains would have fallen in nearby Saqqara.
Since even soft
limestone is far more durable than mudbrick, it would seem to follow
logically that these mudbrick tombs would have effectively dissolved
under such conditions. But they are there to this day, plainly
visible, and showing little or no signs of having been affected by
Visiting in Abydos, Schoch confirmed that the crumbly bedrock
surrounding the mysterious Oseirion was not bedrock at all, but
packed Nile silt from ancient floods.
These silts, at a level far
above the level reached by floods during the dynastic era and up to
today, must have been laid down at a time when weather conditions
were much wetter than they have been in historical times. The
simplest explanation would be that these floods occurred during that
extended rainy period following the breakup of the last Ice Age.
This in turn strongly suggested that the striking and inexplicable
anomaly of a dynastic Egyptian temple, cut into a hollow in the
ground, was not an anomaly at all. But rather that the temple was
initially built in the very distant past, before those high level
floods, and the floods then subsequently covered the temple,
producing the present-day anomalous effect. While not conclusive in
and of itself, the evidence at Saqqara and at Abydos fits in neatly
with the accumulated evidence at Giza.
Meanwhile, it became
necessary to challenge the attribution of the Sphinx to Chephren
from still another direction. It was an article of faith among
Egyptologists that the ravaged face of the Sphinx was meant to
represent the face of the Pharaoh Chephren-even though to the naked
eye, there was no detectable resemblance between the two.
1989, in a National Geographic article, archaeologist Mark Lehner
described his attempt to reconstruct the damaged face of the Sphinx
with a computer. The reconstructed face closely resembled that of a
statue of the Pharaoh Chephren.
But in order to produce his reconstruction, Lehner had fed Chephren
data from one of the Chephren statues into the computer, which then,
predictably reproduced the face of Chephren. This was then
superimposed upon the Sphinx, “proving” that the face of the Sphinx
was that of Chephren. Using an identical method, it would be equally
possible to “prove” that the Sphinx was really Elvis Presley.
Nevertheless, Lehner’s results were widely accepted as valid and
reported in the press.
To challenge these results, we sought help from an expert on the
reconstruction and comparison of faces, Detective Frank Domingo,
senior forensic artist for the New York Police Department. Domingo
traveled to Egypt, and, using standard police procedures, reproduced
the face of the Sphinx and of Chephren and compared them.
concluded that these two faces were dramatically different and could
never have been intended to portray the same individual. Since all
other evidence used to attribute the Sphinx to Chephren was
circumstantial, it was clear the attribution could persist only as
an article of faith. It could not be supported by science.
Convinced that our own accumulated evidence was now compelling, Schoch submitted his results to the Geological Society of America
and was invited to present his work at the GSA annual meeting in San
Diego in October, 1991.
At this convention, our evidence was examined by hundreds of
geologists with various specialties within the field. None was able
to fault the theory; many offered to help with the ongoing research.
The GSA called a press conference, attended by science reporters
from many national and international newspapers and science
magazines. Impressed both by the evidence and the general approval
of the geological community, the theory was given major press
coverage, much of it devoted to the unusual interdisciplinary
conflict that pitted geologists against Egyptologists and
At the onset of the project, we realized that we could expect little
cooperation and no funding from the disciplines whose very
foundation the theory threatened. To fund the work and to let the
public know about it, we had intended to produce a scientific
television documentary which, if successful, might be shown on PBS
or Cable Television. But the volume of press coverage and the
intense world- wide interest generated by the story now convinced
NBC that a much larger public audience existed than the one we had
originally set out to reach.
With Charlton Heston as host, and a network budget to work with, the
Sphinx theory was explored in a one hour documentary, “The Mystery
of the Sphinx”, first aired on prime time in November, 1993. The
show was widely viewed, and the high ratings proved that a
science-based show could in fact draw the kind of big audiences
network television requires.
The Mystery of the Sphinx won an Emmy
for Best Research and was also nominated for Best Documentary
Program. Subsequently, the BBC did its own version of the show,
broadcast in September, 1994, again drawing high ratings and
inciting widespread interest.
A proposal to carry out further geological and geophysical work on
the Giza Plateau and to explore, at least with fiber-optic cameras,
the mysterious cavity or chamber between the paws of the Sphinx has
been submitted but so far has not been approved.
The standard explanation of the pyramids as tombs, and tombs only,
has never been universally accepted outside of Egyptological
circles. The principal alternative theories are described in the
chapter devoted to the pyramids.
Even within orthodox circles, there
is a persistent hope that the pyramids,
the Great Pyramid in
particular, may still conceal hidden chambers somewhere within its
ROBERT BAUVAL’S WORK
In 1980, Robert Bauval, an Egyptian-born, Belgian structural
engineer became interested in the astronomical enigmas presented by
the pyramids and the general emphasis placed upon star-lore by the
ancient Egyptians. This was not entirely virgin territory.
Though most Egyptologists were content to ascribe the emphasis
placed upon the sun, stars and constellations to superstitious solar
or stellar cults, at least a few looked for a rationale behind what
otherwise seemed a curious obsession. In a country as sunny as
Egypt, a preoccupation with the sun, and a form of sun worship might
seem an obvious development.
But what was responsible for the
extraordinary attention paid to the constellations, Orion in
particular, and the star Sirius?
These are cited in innumerable
funerary texts. After death, the Pharaoh’s soul was said to become a
star, to join with Orion in the sky (a belief that found its way
quite unaccidentally into the Walt Disney animated film “The Lion
King”). In the texts, Orion is commonly associated with the god
Osiris and Sirius with the goddess Isis.
Intuitively Bauval felt there was a connection between the positions
of the constellations in the sky and the overall layout of the
Egyptian pyramids. He thought it possible that the positions of the
pyramids-specifically, that unique series of Fourth Dynasty pyramids
at Giza and at Dahshur-formed a kind of star map on the ground.
When he began his own work, Bauval was unaware that others had
already explored areas within this astronomical territory. Several
Egyptologists had suggested that the peculiar air channels or
ventilation shafts in the Great pyramid were not air channels at
all, but rather served some symbolic purpose connected with the
destiny of the King.
These peculiar little passageways are cut into the individual core
blocks, stone by stone, on an angle. They lead from the King’s and
Queen’s chambers to the exterior of the pyramid, a distance of some
200 feet (65 meters). If intended as ventilation shafts, a simple
horizontal slot leading to the outside would have been more
efficient and vastly simpler to build. It was also difficult to see
why the deceased king would need a supply of fresh air.
Pursuing the question of a symbolic meaning, Egyptologist/architect
Alexander Badawy thought these channels might be designed to point
at certain stars.
Enlisting the expertise of astronomer
Trimble, he determined that the channels of the King’s chamber were
indeed focused on stellar positions prevailing around 2600 B.C.; the
northern shaft pointed to the Pole Star and the southern shaft to
the stars making up the belt of Orion.
Though their results were published in a German Egyptological
journal in 1964, they aroused no Egyptological interest and only
came to Bauval’s attention after he had been obliged to explore much
of the same territory on his own. Bauval arrived at similar, though
not quite identical, conclusions and slightly different dating (2450
B.C. for the construction and alignments as opposed to 2600 B.C.).
It took Robert Bauval some ten years to back up his original
intuition with the kind of scientific data that would stand up under
rigorous scrutiny. Perhaps because he was able to frame his data
within a more comprehensive overall plan, and perhaps because the
times had changed, his work provoked intense and immediate
attention, especially outside the confines of academic Egyptology.
His book The Orion Mystery became a bestseller, and a BBC
documentary of the same name was viewed by a considerable audience.
The development and implementation of Bauval’s theory is technical
and impossible to summarize in a few paragraphs.
But the main
results can be stated simply enough.
Even though the shafts of the
Queen’s Chamber do not extend to
the exterior of the pyramid, they are nevertheless star-aligned to
positions that prevailed in 2450 B.C.- the northern shaft to Orion
and the southern shaft to Sirius. The date 2450 B.C. closely
corresponds to the period Egyptologists propose for the building of
the Great pyramid.
The curious pattern formed by the three pyramids on the Giza
Plateau also corresponds to the line-up of the stars forming the
belt of Orion. The pyramids themselves also seemed intended to
represent the actual physical appearance of the three stars making
up the belt of the constellation as well.
The belt features two very
bright stars, lined up with each other, and a fainter third star
skewed off to the left. This is how the three pyramids look. The
huge structures of Cheops and Chephren lined up rigorously along the
same axis, and the inexplicably smaller (but expensively
granite-clad) pyramid of Mycerinus off center to the left: this,
thinks Bauval, is the belt of Orion reproduced on the ground.
References in the enigmatic Egyptian texts suggested to
Egypt regarded the Nile as an analog of the Milky Way.
followed, if this was to be taken literally, that astronomical
alignments of structures to stars and constellations should place
them in relation to the Milky Way at a given point in time. But
calculating the position of the Giza pyramids, he did not get a
correlation for 2450 B.C. as expected, given the date written into
the star shafts. Rather he got a date of 10,500 B.C.
This was puzzling. Bauval knew from his research that the Egyptians
themselves claimed their civilization extended far back into the
past, beyond the era of dynastic Egypt. But he did not become aware
of our geological work on the Sphinx until after his own book and
video were completed and so did not speculate on the significance of
that anomalous early date. He could not imagine why gigantic
structures built with such precision and at such immense cost around
2450 B.C., should be calling astronomical attention to 10,500 B.C.
But once he found out about our complementary inquiry, producing
roughly the same date, suddenly the astronomy seemed to be
validating the geology and vice versa.
Now that peculiar two-stage construction we see in the Chephren
pyramid fell into place. The lower courses and the blocks of its
surrounding floor paving are formed of the same kind of gigantic
masonry as the Sphinx and Valley temples. Applying normal art
historical standards, this would date them from the same ancient
It was not that the Egyptians of 2450 were inexplicably hearkening
back to that earlier time; rather two very separate eras of
construction were indicated. Bauval’s 10,500 B.C. astronomical
pattern showed that while the present pyramids do indeed date from
dynastic Egypt as Egyptologists have long insisted, they must
replace, or-in the case of the Chephren pyramid-be superimposed upon
earlier structures whose siting corresponded to that earlier date.
Since no one has ever examined the pyramids looking for this kind of
evidence, it’s impossible at this point to say if further support
for the theory will be found.
Bauval also derived further insights into the astronomical
alignments from the work of Egyptologist Jane B. Sellers who
explored Egyptian star lore in her 1992 book The Death of Gods in
Ancient Egypt. In particular, Sellers called attention to an ancient
astronomical preoccupation that has been receiving attention over
the past few decades, but whose significance is still not
understood. This is the importance attached by the ancients to the
phenomenon called precession-of the stars and constellations in
general and the equinoxes, and (Bauval thinks) the solstices in
Due to a very gradual wobble of the earth around its own polar axis,
the earth gradually changes its relationship to the signs of the
zodiac. Over the course of some 25,920 years, the rising sun
gradually precesses or moves backwards through the entire zodiacal
circle. This is called the “Great” or “Platonic Year.”
It is the precession that gives rise to the well-known so-called
Ages: the Age of Aries, the Age of Pisces and soon, the Age of
Aquarius and so on around the zodiac. Astronomically, it simply
means that for the duration of an Age, at the spring equinox the sun
will rise against the backdrop of one constellation, gradually
moving through that sign in 2160 years.
One-twelfth of 25,920 years
equals 2160 years. One degree within the circle of the Great Year
equals 72 years. In other words, it takes one year for the equinox
to move or precess one degree. Sellers determined that Egypt placed
great importance upon these critical precessional numbers 72, 2160
and 25,920-as did other ancient civilizations. Multiples, factors
and powers of these numbers also appear time and again.
Long considered a discovery of the Greek astronomer Hipparchus (2000
B.C.), it is now becoming clear that knowledge of the precession
extends far back into prehistory and is alluded to metaphorically in
many ancient myths and legends-even the myths and legends of peoples
who today know nothing about scientific astronomy. (See
Knowledge of the precession presupposes an advanced astronomy,
extending over long periods of time. It takes long, systematic
observation to establish knowledge of this exceedingly slow
Sellers, in her book, discusses the importance ascribed by
the Egyptians to the precession, which they and other pre-Greek
civilizations were not supposed to know anything about.
But now for the big question:
WHY was this phenomenon so important
to ancient civilizations?
And why was it so scrupulously Written
into their legends and mythology and incorporated in subtle but
demonstrable fashion into their architecture?
No one can say with
assurance. It may be that the ancients possessed valid knowledge
that we at the close of the twentieth century do not possess. And
it’s just possible that great storehouse of mysteries, the Great
pyramid, may hold some of the clues.
metrologist Livio Stecchini determined that the Great pyramids
had been designed as a precise scale model of the earth; the
northern hemisphere projected onto its circumscribed
half-octohedron, or pyramid, on a scale of 1:43,200. Since there are
86,400 seconds in a day, Stecchini concluded that the dimensions of
the pyramid could only have been chosen deliberately in order to
make the pyramid time-commensurable as well as a physical scale
model of the earth.
But WHY go to all that trouble to do either of
We don’t know.
Now the precessional question enters. The number 432 turns up again
and again in myth and legend around the world. It represents a
double precessional age (2 x 2160) or a sixth of the Great Year of
25,920 years. Because there is a formal mathematical relationship
between the numbers involved in the diurnal and the precessional
cycles, choosing the scale of 1 :43,200 automatically invokes the
precession as well as the day.
It does not seem likely that the precessional correspondence is
merely an artifact of the 1 :43,200 ratio. Bauval’s research, along
with that of Sellers, De Santillana and von Dechend,
Badawy, makes it clear that the long-term cycles of the heavens was
a matter of paramount importance to ancient Egypt.
In some real and
physical sense, at least one function of the Great pyramid was to
serve as a gigantic chronometer or time-keeping device. This of
itself answers nothing. It magnifies the WHY. Why write the
precession into the pyramid? Or the number of seconds in the day?
All that can be said with certainty is that the Egyptians and their
predecessors of 10,500
B.C. had this knowledge and enshrined it in their architecture.
With that knowledge, it becomes possible to at least start asking
intelligent questions of these enigmatic structures. When
intelligent questions are asked, answers are often not far behind.
As this is written, promising leads are showing up. In
Fingerprints of the Gods, author Graham Hancock explores the voluminous
evidence, both physical and textual, referring back to vanished high
civilizations and a universal Deluge/cataclysm in the distant past,
with a date of around 10,000 B.C. emerging out of the welter of
Researchers Rand and Rose Flem-Ath, in When the Sky Fell, concentrate on the physical evidence for the cataclysm and
its likely cause or causes. The Flem-Aths update and implement the
brilliant but ignored work of Charles Hapgood, initially published
in 1958 (The Earth’s Shifting Crust) with an enthusiastic foreword
by Albert Einstein, no less, but ignored by the scientific and
With a volume of new evidence, drawn from
geology, paleoclimatology, ancient cartography, astronomy and
comparative mythology to support Hapgood’s original thesis, the
Flem-Aths argue that the site of Plato’s Atlantis is not the middle
of the Atlantic Ocean, but rather, under the frozen wastes of
Antarctica, which prior to shifting of the earth’s crust, was
situated much further north.
Improbable as this may sound, many well-known anomalies and enigmas
are resolved through this theory: the otherwise inexplicable sudden
extinction of mammoths, sabre tooth tigers, and other mammals large
and small, all over the world around 10,000 B.C.; the drastic rise
in sea levels; and other solidly established dramatic earth changes
taking place around that time.
The Flem-Aths and Hancock speculate that the phenomenon of the
precession plays some kind of central, causative, physical role in
this immense tableau. This role, somehow recognized and acknowledged
by the ancients, was written into their mythology, and in physical
fashion into their prodigious monuments through measure and precise,
tell-tale astronomical alignments.
Perhaps it now behooves us, as we
ourselves move from one precessional age (Pisces) to another
(Aquarius), to try to reacquire that lost knowledge that was for the
ancients so very important.
MORE PYRAMID MYSTERIES
In Search of Hidden Chambers
The search for hidden chambers may yet yield fruit.
investigations have turned up some leads. A team of French engineers
in the late 1980s found a mysterious cavity or void behind the
masonry of the corridor leading to the Queen’s Chamber. There was no
entrance hidden or otherwise to this space, so that it was clear it
was not intended to be used.
A fiber-optic camera was inserted and
showed the cavity empty of treasure but half full of sand, which
upon testing proved to be radioactive! These finds were disclosed at
an Egyptological meeting in Kansas, but thereafter, as far as I can
determine, never published. All subsequent attempts to get more
detailed information from the relevant authorities have been met
with evasion and/or claims that I had been misinformed in the first
place. Conspiracy theorists see a cover-up in progress.
cover-up is hardly out of the question, but for the moment it must
remain just one of a number of possibilities. The cavity or void is
acknowledged to exist but is considered a structural anomaly of no
interest or importance.
More interesting, and better documented is the much-publicized
exploration of the so-called air shaft (really “star shaft”) of the
Over the course of two centuries of pyramid exploration, every known
aperture, cavity and shaft of the pyramids has been systematically
excavated and explored. The Great pyramid in particular has been
called the “most carefully studied monument on earth.” Its
passageways, chambers and it exterior have been measured time and
again with increasing precision and sophistication, in part to try
to prove or disprove the various pyramid theories.
Only two known
shafts had never been explored; the so-called air channels of the
These shafts, only eight inches square, lead from the Queen’s
chamber, up through some 60 meters of masonry toward the pyramid’s
exterior. But unlike the similar channels in the King’s Chamber, it
was discovered that the Queen’s Chamber shafts do not extend all the
way through. Either they were blocked or for some reason were never
cut all the way to the exterior.
Early attempts to insert a series
of rods up the length of the channels were thwarted when it was
discovered the shafts did not go in straight line up and in, but
were kinked after an initial straight run. The rods could not be
forced past the corners, foiling further exploration. The original
attempt produced three small, unglamorous relics (probably parts of
ancient tools) which were put away in the British Museum stores and
There, for over a century, the matter rested.
Then in 1992, while
working on the new ventilation system within the Great pyramid,
Rudolf Gantenbrink, a German engineer and robotics expert, took an
interest in these unexplored shafts. Gantrenbrink proposed building
a tiny, state-of-the-art remote controlled robot capable of
traversing the constricted passageway and exploring the length of
the shafts. He was given permission to proceed, found private
financing and in due course the robot was ready.
Named UPUAT (after
the ancient Egyptian Opener of the Way, a form of Anubis) the tiny
robot with its cameras and onboard lighting made its slow way over a
number of minor obstacles, negotiated the bends in the shaft and
traversed its 200 foot length sending back detailed photographs.
Roughly three-quarters of the way to the exterior of the pyramid, UPUAT’s passage was halted, not by rubble blocking an open shaft,
nor by a dead end, but by a limestone block fitted with what
appeared to be corroded copper handles.
The apparent handles suggested to Gantenbrink, and to others, that
the block was something more than just another core block, filling
up the interior of the pyramid. Handles suggested that this block
had been an afterthought of some sort, slid into place after the
rest of the surrounding areas had been completed.
Or perhaps that
particular block was supposed be removable?
A sliding block is a
kind of a door. Except in surrealist paintings, doors normally
represent transitional states; doors separate one function from
another; doors lead somewhere. Gantenbrink speculated that a chamber
of some sort could lie behind the sliding block. This southern shaft
was directed at Orion, associated with Osiris by the ancient
Could there be a statue of Osiris behind the sliding
block? Or other sacred, religious objects associated with the
principle of renewal and resurrection?
Why go to all the trouble of constructing these little channels
through 200 feet of masonry in the first place, only to seal them
off? What, if anything, lay beyond the block?
The block did not rest
entirely flush on the floor below it. There was a small aperture
left at one of the corners. Gantenbrink was certain he could fit
UPUAT with a tiny fiber-optic camera like those used in microsurgery
and get through the aperture to photograph behind the wall.
A new pyramid mystery had been added to all the others.
Gantenbrink’s discovery made headline news around the world.
Egyptologists alone were unimpressed. Secure in their conviction
that no pyramid mysteries remain, they downplayed and dismissed the
As this is written, Gantenbrink has been unable to
get permission to put his fiber optic camera behind the block.