October 10, 2005

Egypt prepares new probe of mystery pyramid shafts

By Tom Perry

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt will send a robot up narrow shafts
in the Great Pyramid to try to solve one of the mysteries of
the 4,500-year-old pharaonic mausoleum, Egypt's top
archaeologist said on Monday.

Zahi Hawass told Reuters he would this week inspect a robot
designed to climb the two narrow shafts which might lead to an
undiscovered burial chamber in the pyramid of Cheops at Giza,
on the outskirts of Cairo.

Hawass said the shafts and stone panels which block them
could mark the location of the burial chamber of Cheops, also
known as Khufu. That would mean none of the chambers already
discovered in the pyramid were the pharaoh's real tomb.

The shafts were last probed in September 2002, when a robot
drilled a hole through one of the stone panels to reveal a
small empty space at the end of which lay another panel, which
appeared cracked and fragile.

The new robot, designed by a university in Singapore over
two years, would drill through that panel and the stone slab
blocking the second shaft.

"It's very important to reveal the mystery of the pyramid.
Science in archaeology is very important. People all over the
world are waiting to solve this mystery," Hawass said.

"I believe that these doors are hiding something... It
could be, and this is a theory, that maybe Khufu's chamber is
still hidden in the pyramid," he said.

The two shafts, which rise from an unfinished chamber in
the pyramid, have puzzled archaeologists since they were first
discovered in 1872.

Some Egyptologists had said the shafts, which measure 20 cm
by 20 cm (eight by eight inches) were built as vents. Others
said they were passages for the king's soul to ascend to the

"I hope that we will do this work and in a few months from
now we will really know what's behind them," Hawass said.

The Cheops pyramid, which is 145 metres (480 feet) high, is
the biggest of the pyramids on the Giza plateau on the western
edge of the Egyptian capital.