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Hawass hits the spot, in more ways than one
(Fortean Times, December 2005, Noel Rooney)
A recent announcement from the apparently genial geezer who runs Giza has sent a surge of excitement through the egyptological community.  Zahi Hawass, Egypt's top archaeologist, and the public face of the Great Pyramid, told the press that a new robot was almost ready to travel up the mysterious shafts emanating from the Queen's Chamber (a chamber whose name has more to do with the gender politics of early archaeologists than anything actually discovered there); finally, perhaps, the two narrow shafts, first discovered in 1872 by Waynman Dixon and Bill Grundy, and the subject of much speculation since, may give up their secrets.

This may be a critical moment for a number of alternative theorists of the great pyramid, and for Egyptology in general.  Many of the unorthodox theories have speculated on the function, and contents, of the shafts; if the robot completes its mission, many of these theories will be either vindicated or laid to rest for good.  Many of the orthodox theories rely on the shafts having no, or little, purpose beyond some mundane function like lapidary air-conditioning; should anything interesting be discovered, some pompous words may be garnished and served with relish in the near future.

Two previous explorations (Rudolf Gantenbrink's "ŒUpuaut 2" and the Pyramid Rover, designed by iRobot of Boston and partly funded by National Geographic) revealed first an enigmatic door, and then behind that a further stone panel.  The new robot, designed by a university in Singapore, will drill through the stone panel revealed on live television in 2002, and also through the stone door in the second shaft.  The two previous attempts have had limited success, and the obstacles to exploring a 20cm shaft in the middle of several million tons of solid stone are formidable.  Nonetheless, the anticipation is palpable, and any effort to add to our knowledge of the pyramids is welcome.

For the alternative Egyptologists, however, the devil was definitely in Dr Hawass' detail.  Asked why the new project was so exciting, 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".  The implications of Hawass' statement are a clarion call for those who believe that the Great Pyramid has yet to give up its real secrets; an admission by the top dog in the bone business that orthodox theories about Giza may not be the truth after all.

The mere suggestion that the King's Chamber, with its renowned granite sarcophagus, is not the burial place of Khufu, is like the wart on a witch ­ a sure sign of heresy.  Dr Hawass may have to endure an embarrassing period of solidarity with some pretty left-field thinkers.  Many may see this as the first real chink in the establishment's armour, and the pressure on orthodox theory is likely to grow as a consequence.  The accumulating catalogue of anomalies which haunts the entire field of archaeology could ­ and probably should - be highlighted by this admission.  There will certainly be a few people working to make it happen.

Did the good doctor realise he may have been dropping a terminal clanger? Or was he spicing up the ante for a project which may yet reveal nothing more than another stone panel?  Either way, experts from outside the establishment, like Alan Alford, whose recently published 'Pyramid of Secrets' proposes a more intriguing ­ and somewhat more likely ­ location for Khufu's tomb, will sense an opportunity.  And prior to the actual exploration, we can expect a good crop of predictions of precisely what lies in wait for the chimerical queen's next little shafter.

The speculation really started after the Upuaut 2 attempt, and has continued since, but this announcement is bound to bring some old and new theories into focus.  Gantenbrink, on his website, suggests that we will find the tomb of Khufu's mother. Others, like Larry Orcutt, of Catchpenny Mysteries, think there will be nothing but limestone; after all, the ends of the shafts as we now know them are only a few metres from the outside of the pyramid. In a few months, we may all know the answer.  On the other hand, Dr Hawass' inadvertent admission may cause such an unholy row that we may end up waiting a very long time for enlightenment at the end of these particular tunnels.
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The Mother of the Pyramid
The Hidden Tomb of Hetepheres

By Vincent Brown
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Alan Alford's website
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