The Osiris Shaft
Dr. Zahi Hawass
Director of the Giza
Pyramids and Saqqara
This shaft was
unveiled to the world on the recent FOX TV special.
Here is more detailed
information about this amazing find.
level of the Osirion at Giza showing a granite
sarcophagus inside a niche
Osiris Shaft is located under the causeway of
Khafre, and it is about 25 feet deep. In
ancient times people used the water-filled shaft as a
swimming-hole, and even to the present day many people,
including archaeologists, have entered the shaft. For
centuries, however, the meaning of the Osiris
Shaft has escaped even the most learned
"water shaft" is already the stuff of legend and
Internet rumor. It opens in the causeway linking the
Sphinx to the second pyramid, and it descends in several
places to a depth of nearly 100 feet below the plateau.
The shaft received its
name from the crystal-clear water that fills its bottom chamber.
This unfinished water-filled cavern is entered from a higher chamber
that contains niches filled with granite stone coffins. One of the
empty niches contains a shaft in its floor that leads to a flooded
corridor. Wading into the darkness, one can hear the echoes of
ground water dripping from the rock walls.
level of the Osirion
I decided to
investigate this shaft last year. Excavation of the
second level revealed six rooms cut into the rock; the
rooms contained two granite sarcophagi, pottery, and
bones. Analysis of the pottery and bones dated this
level to 500 BC.
The last level we excavated was about 25m underground,
and it was completely filled with water. We stayed for
two months draining the water from the shaft and working
inside it, and I felt I might and up blind and deaf from
all of the dust, mud, and noise of the water! This was
the most difficult excavation I was ever involved with.
Expedition directed by Zahi Hawass during the excavation
of the third level.
excavation, I looked down into the water and saw the
remains of four pillars surrounded by a wall. Inside
them was part of a large, granite sarcophagus with the
lid thrown off. This discovery reflected the words of
Herodotus when he said that Cheops was
buried inside a granite sarcophagus and there was water
near Cheops pyramid. People have always
wondered about these words, but no one ever discovered
the exact location. Even Herodotus admitted that
he never saw the burial with his own eyes, because he
would never be able to go down into the shaft. He must
have based his writing on the words of guides.
I made my second
discovery from this excavation after moving the lid of the
sarcophagus. I found inscribed in the ground the hieroglyphic word
"pr", meaning "house." It is known that
the Giza plateau was called "pr wsir nb rstaw", or "the
house of Osiris, Lord of Rastaw." "Rastaw" refers to
the underground tunnels, and most likely the name of the plateau
reflects the tunnels inside the Osiris Shaft.
final chamber we found was most likely a symbolic tomb for
the god Osiris; he was believed to control the
underground tunnels and tombs of the kings.
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In the Late period, the
Egyptians cut a tunnel about 6m long on the west wall of the shaft.
We sent a boy through the tunnel, only to find that it is closed of
and does not lead to any more chambers. To derive the date of the
shaft, a boy was lowered into the water-filler tomb on a rope to
From the objects retrieved, we dated the shaft to
the New Kingdom, 1550 BC.