© Ian Lawton and Chris Ogilvie-Herald 2000
[The following paper comprises sections taken from Chapter 15 ("Tunnel Talk") and the Introduction of Giza: The Truth.]
In the autumn of 1998 my co-author, Ian Lawton, and I were in Egypt staying in the village of Nazlet El Samman at the base of the Giza Plateau. Our mission was to complete the research for our forthcoming book Giza: The Truth. Access to the plateau and its monuments was relatively simple but it was imperative that we gained entry to areas 'off limits' to the general public and determine the truth behind rumours, circulating since June 1996, of secret tunnelling in the Great Pyramid. These rumours alleged that a secret tunnel was being excavated from one of the five Relieving Chambers, above the King's Chamber, in the direction of Gantenbrink's 'door' (the discovery of the 'door' is documented on Rudolf Gantenbrink's website), itself concealed high up in the lower southern shaft emanating from the Queen's Chamber. Getting into the Great Pyramid, let alone the Relieving Chambers, was not going to be an easy task as it was closed for restoration work and access was restricted. We were determined to investigate these rumours for ourselves which indeed we did, but how did all this get started in the first place?
Hoagland and Hunter Reveal All
Claims of secret tunnelling were first brought to the attention of the public by Richard Hoagland, who posted a report on his Enterprise Mission website in June 1997, which contained the following extracts:
... a member of the Schor Expedition approached the Enterprise Mission a few weeks ago, and offered to publicly reveal several crucial details of what has been occurring "behind the scenes" on the Plateau. This individual had become convinced, over the increasingly interminable "delays" and "excuses" issuing from key authorities in Egypt, that it was the intent of some members of the Egyptian government NOT to reveal these exciting new archaeological discoveries, brought to light by Schor's investigation-ever-but to "sit on them" ... indefinitely. By offering to make certain details public-including actual video and instrumental readings substantiating these heretofore hidden new discoveries-this individual hoped to inform other members of the government of Egypt of the apparent "agendas" of some ... to create sufficient public political pressure to bring this intolerable situation "to a head"… …revealed in our conversations was the unmistakable possibility of a "hidden excavation" proceeding for the last several months inside the Great Pyramid itself! The time line for this activity -"none" in April, 1996; the initial beginnings of a "clandestine tunnel," above the King's Chamber itself, actually videoed by Schor's party, in November, 1996; and the introduction of a (literally!) "hot" new power cable to these upper chambers, extending upward from the famed "Grand Gallery," in February, 1997-left little doubt that someone was secretly driving a new tunnel deep into the Pyramid. There also seemed only one objective for such elaborate and obviously clandestine tunneling activity: The so-called "Isis Chamber" (so-termed by us)-hidden behind the now-infamous "Gantenbrink Door"… …according to our careful analysis of Schor's on-site witness -"someone" was apparently physically attempting-by digging a clandestine tunnel toward the hidden chamber from above the King's Chamber to do just that-without the rest of the world finding out about it!
The report continues that Hoagland asked Larry Hunter to investigate further-describing him as "a colleague, and independent researcher with almost 20 years of detailed, on-the-ground experience in Egypt". Hunter was due to travel to Giza shortly after the story first broke, and he came back with a series of supposedly "dramatic, highly revealing" photographs which showed evidence of: "fresh snow drifts of highly powered limestone, covering almost all available surfaces within the Pyramid"; "the presence of the new power cable"; "burlap bags of freshly-tunneled limestone rocks-just sitting on the Great Step"; and "a fraying rope-dangling provocatively over the edge of the Davison tunnel far above". In addition, the report indicates that:
Before leaving Cairo… Mr. Hunter deposited copies of this evidence with the appropriate military and civil authorities in Cairo, officially charged with overseeing the archaeological well-being of the Giza Plateau, and its crucial monuments. In particular, Larry left copies of all the photographs displayed with this article with Mr. Mohammed Sherdy-Assistant Managing Editor of "El Wafd" ("The People"), a leading Cairo daily newspaper. Mr. Sherdy, in turn, promised a "full investigation" of this compelling evidence of "clandestine tunneling" inside the Great Pyramid…
These claims were given significant publicity when Hoagland and Hunter appeared together on the "Art Bell Show" in the same month, with Bell himself supporting them vociferously.
Danley Fills In The Gaps
Along with many others we decided that this was strong stuff, and managed to establish that the anonymous Schor team member was Thomas Danley, who had been conducting acoustic experiments in the Great Pyramid. In August 1997 we contacted him for more details, and he replied as follows; (note that his account is slightly confusing in that he numbers the chambers with the King's as one, Davison's as two, etc., etc.) [i]
Perhaps I can shed a little light on the tunneling, at least based on what I saw when I was there… While placing the [acoustic] sensor in the second level [Davison's Chamber], I noticed the entrance to a tunnel into the wall to the left of the entrance which if I recall correctly was identified… as one of several old "robbers tunnels". While waiting for the film crew to setup, I turned on my head lamp and crawled into it. It was small, just big enough to crawl into on your hands and knees, it immediately turned right and followed along the granite wall… After about 8-10 feet, I reached the point where the original work stopped, and after crossing a very small "room" it continued and looked like new work. This went for perhaps another 25-30 feet in the same direction (parallel to and just outside of the granite wall of the second chamber). The digging was being done by hand, using the typical pointed chisel hammers that are commonly used there to work limestone. The conditions the people, whoever they were, worked in were terrible, just crawling on one's hands and knees once, raises a major cloud of dust and made my miner's cap light seem like a laser beam in the darkness.
In the third chamber [Wellington's], there were many burlap bags of stone chips (from the work on the second chamber), all heaped against the wall just around the corner of the entrance. Also a large number of plastic water bottles were in the pile of trash next to the bags of stone. There was no sign of any recent work being done on any of the other chambers although I thought I saw a "room" through a large crack in the wall of the fifth chamber [presumably Lady Arbuthnot's if he is being consistent] but when the film crew sent the fiber optic camera in, it was just a long row (more than 40 feet, the length of the fiber optic) of big stones with the lower corners broken off.
Regarding the digging, I mentioned the tunnel and bags of tailings to our "escort", an inspector at Giza and he asked for a map, which I drew for him. The next day he went up to see for himself and then reported it to his boss (which he had said he was a little reluctant to do)…
While we did have to run several cables into the upper chambers, none were "power" and none were permanent. There is a … handhold rope that is anchored to the floor about 1.5 feet inside the tunnel in the wall … you grab this rope to help climb over the end of the ladder and into the tunnel…
... I wish I could tell more about what I saw and did and discovered in the Pyramid, but right now I can't due to a non disclosure agreement.
At this point we should note that the excavation Danley describes as an old robbers tunnel was in fact dug in the early 1800's by Giovanni Battista Caviglia. Like many of his predecessors Caviglia was convinced that other chambers existed in the Great Pyramid. His aim was to trace the course of the upper southern shaft emanating from the King's Chamber after having theorised that this would lead him to a concealed chamber. His excavation begun at the south-east corner of Davison's Chamber, and after about 10 feet-enough to get behind the hard granite blocks which lined the southern wall-it turned sharp right and ran through the limestone blocks behind the southern wall for a little less than half its length, or something like 15 feet-a sufficient distance to meet the upper southern shaft if it had risen vertically. Of course we now know that it does not, but rises at an angle, so Caviglia encountered neither the shaft, nor any other chamber with which it communicated. But what Danley was suggesting was that Caviglia's original tunnel off Davison's Chamber was being secretly extended. (See Figure 1)
Figure 1: Perring's Maps of Caviglia's Tunnel [ii]
Hoagland and Hunter's "careful analysis" had then interpreted this extension as heading to the "Isis" chamber which they postulated lay behind Gantenbrink's "door". But anyone who takes the trouble to examine proper reports or diagrams of Caviglia's original tunnel, would realise what Danley himself indicated to us-that after the right-hand turn the tunnel runs along behind and parallel to the south wall of Davison's Chamber. Since Danley also makes it clear that the supposed "extension" continues in the "same direction", it is clearly heading west-not to the south where it would need to head if it were going to meet up with the end of the southern Queen's Chamber shaft. In fact Hoagland and Hunter are clearly aware of this while they are speaking on the "Art Bell Show", but the observation is passed off with "it would be easy to branch off to the south". Meanwhile the logic of quite why the "tunnellers" would spend so much time taking the tunnel a total of 60 feet-as they suggest in this interview-in the wrong direction when they still had of the order of 100 feet to travel south is quite beyond us.
We Go In!
Notwithstanding this, we still felt the issue needed to be resolved once and for all. We wanted to see this extension with our own eyes and devised a plan to enter the Great Pyramid. The following is an extract from the introduction to our book Giza: The Truth and reveals how we managed to discover the truth behind the allegations of secret tunnelling in the Great Pyramid.
The Great Pyramid looms large before us in the darkness, seeming even more vast than usual. We thread our way through the never-ending back streets of the village of Nazlet el-Samman. The locals sleep mainly in the day, but they have seen us around here many times in the last week. We have made sure of that. We wave to them nonchalantly, greet them quietly with 'salam alekuum', and no-one bothers us.
We reach the edge of the plateau. It is a quick climb up the rocky escarpment, but steep, and at the top we stop to catch our breath. We are lucky. The night is relatively murky. We stop to slip on the local galabayas, which we hope will blend in with the meditation group we intend to tag onto. Underneath we have waistcoats whose pockets bulge with torches, cameras, notebooks, and other essential equipment.
We trust that in the darkness we will just look as if we have feasted on too much shish kebab. It is now 2am. We are nervous but calm. If the gods are on our side, all will be well. And if we believe in our hearts that what we are doing is for the general good, not just for our own selfish ends, then the gods will be on our side. We hope.
Right on cue, the group arrive from their sumptuous hotel in their air-conditioned coach. How the other half live! But we have no time to ponder the inequalities of life, and the apparent benefits money can bring. We have work to do.
Again luck is on our side. No guards yet. We run quickly towards the rear of the coach, then slow our pace. Our timing is perfect. We join the back of the line of white-robed innocents, and blend in perfectly. No-one suspects. Now we need our next piece of luck. As we climb the steps up to the entrance, we pray that there will not be a headcount. The guards welcome us nonchalantly, for we are just another group who bring in money, but not much to them. We are in!
Slowly we climb the ascending passage, bent double under the low ceiling. Our hearts beat faster as we wait to see if the final piece of luck is on our side. We emerge into the Grand Gallery, and crane our necks to the top. Yes! The ladder up to the Relieving Chambers is there, and in place against the wall! Someone is definitely looking after us.
At the top, we all creep down the passage into the King's Chamber. The guide chats for a few minutes about what will happen. Then the guard leaves. In a few minutes we are plunged into darkness. Gradually the group enters its state of karma. We are at the back, by the passage. Quietly and slowly we creep out. Back down the passage. Back to the base of the ladder.
The guard has retired to the entrance. We are alone in the Grand Gallery. All systems are go. We remove our galabayas, because we know from experience that they do not make ideal garments for exploration. Quietly and slowly we climb up, one rung at a time. At the top we stop briefly to don our head torches. We are high above the floor, nearly 30 feet up. Thankfully the ladder is tied to the wall, for it is steeply inclined. In perhaps the scariest part of the operation we lever ourselves off the ladder and into the passage, and begin the crawl towards our goal. The loose stones on the floor scrape at our exposed knees, but we hardly notice.
At the end of the passage, we come out into a small chamber in which we can stand. We see that a succession of short ladders lead up to the higher chambers, but we must ignore these for the moment. Our target lies ahead. We have to lie on our sides to squeeze through the narrow slit which gives access to the first chamber, Davison's. And as we pick ourselves up, our torches reveal a long low room matching the size of the King's Chamber beneath it. There is some rubble in the far corner, and the unevenness of the floor blocks is in stark contrast to the smoothness of the monolithic ceiling blocks. But as our heads turn to the corner nearest us, our torches reveal what we have come to explore. A passage leading off to the side. (See Figure 2)
We hurry towards it, excitement mounting. Crawling inside, we can see that after about 10 feet it turns sharp right to follow the south wall of the chamber, heading west. Faster now... we must get to the corner to see where it leads. Scrambling around it, we see the passage extends for a further 15 feet. By the time we are halfway along, we can already see what lies ahead. We have waited for so long for this moment. Now we know the truth… The passage ends in a blank wall! (See Figure 3)
Figure 2: The Start of Caviglia's Tunnel off Davidson's Chamber
(Photo copyright Ian Lawton and Chris Ogilvie-Herald 1998)
Figure 3: Caviglia's Tunnel off Davidson's Chamber ends in a blank wall!
(Photo copyright Ian Lawton and Chris Ogilvie-Herald 1998)
What we found revealed that the reports put about with such self-importance by Hoagland and Hunter and the many others who followed their lead, were not just a trifle misleading. Two and two had been put together to make considerably in excess of four, but so certain were they of their "careful analysis" that the following vitriol directed at the Egyptian authorities, and Dr Zahi Hawass in particular, was enough to make even those who think that he is not exactly perfect wince and feel sorry for him. So what is the real truth?
First, we compared the tunnelling we saw with diagrams of Caviglia's original tunnel made by John Perring in his own study called The Pyramids of Gizeh (see Figure 1). It is quite clear to us that they are one and the same. Danley suggests that after the right-hand turn in the tunnel, which takes it round behind the granite blocks of the south wall, he crawled for something like 10 feet (3 metres) before reaching what he describes as a "very small room". This is more or less correct, except the "room" is an area where the tunnel, which is only about 3 feet 6 inches (1 metre) in diameter, has been suddenly extended downwards and upwards, so it is possible to stand up. It has also been extended for several feet to the left, i.e., the south, and again in front, i.e., to the west. In fact this front extension is in two parts-a lower section and an upper section. But what it does not do is extend forwards for anything more than a few feet.
Quite how Danley thought that it had been recently extended for another 25 to 30 feet (8 to 9 metres) is quite beyond us. All we can suggest is that it is extremely hot and claustrophobic in the tunnel, making a prolonged stay unpleasant-we ourselves were limited for time anyway, but spent 10 to 15 minutes each taking photographs and making notes which we could then compare-there was far too little room for both of us to be in there at the same time, even if we had not both been overweight! In any case it was uncomfortable work which would leave the fittest person sweating profusely, let alone us. Furthermore, if at that time there was a great deal of dust in the passage as Danley describes, which when disturbed made his miner's light "like a laser beam in the darkness", this cannot have helped his view. When we were in there there was no dust, and our powerful torches allowed a detailed close-up examination of the walls at the end of the passage-which not only revealed that they did not extend any further than a few feet, but also that the chiselled surfaces did not look fresh, and had no "inconsistencies" which could have concealed a new extension. As for the extra 20 to 25 feet (6 to 8 metres) added by Hoagland and Hunter-well, clearly they felt in need of a bit of extra length.
Second, the burlap bags seen by Danley in Wellington's Chamber were still there when we examined it. We think it is highly likely that both these, and those observed by Hunter on the Great Step, contained debris from Howard Vyse's original blasting in the 1830's to access the upper Relieving Chambers, which the authorities had presumably at last decided to clear up. That in Wellington's Chamber would have been accumulated from therein and the chambers above it, the rest cleared out completely. It is also appropriate to ask why on earth the "tunnellers" would take the trouble to carry bags of chippings up to the next chamber, when it would be easier to leave them in Davison's or take them right outside. Meanwhile, since both Danley and Hunter report extensive dust everywhere, we can only assume that this clearing up operation was being carried out in 1996-7, and that by the time of our exploration in late-1998 it had all been cleared away or settled.
Third, the "power" cables mentioned were almost certainly used to light the Relieving Chambers; this would have been required both for the debris-clearing operation just described, and also for the detailed photographic study of the "quarry marks" carried out by Hawass, which we have tied down to a date of November or December 1996. In any case, we are tempted to ask why power cables would be required for anything other than lighting if, as Danley suggests, the "tunnellers" were using only chisel-hammers.
Fourth, although rather irrelevant, it is amusing that Hoagland and Hunter describe the "dangling rope" hanging into the Grand Gallery as the method by which the bags were lowered, yet Danley clearly indicates that the purpose of this short and frayed rope was to assist the awkward process of entering the access tunnel to Davison's Chamber. It had "frayed" away completely by the time we entered the passage, which made our attempts to negotiate the step off the unstable ladder and into the narrow passage rather scary at 30 feet above the unforgiving blocks of the Grand Gallery floor-although at the same time comical, each of us suggesting that the other looked like a "beached whale" trying to wriggle back into the water!
We also went into the three remaining Relieving Chambers above Wellington's, aided by a series of rickety iron or wood ladders which certainly help rather than hinder. They were all free of debris, and nothing untoward was to be seen. It is also worth noting that everywhere in the main chambers and passages of the Great Pyramid was evidence that genuine restoration work was in progress, including the re-mortaring of joints, filling in of cracks, and treatment of the limestone blocks. All this pointed to the fact that the edifice had been closed to the public for over a year for exactly the reason Hawass claimed-for much need repairs, and to give it a rest from the relentless onslaught of tourists. Yet again another Internet rumour turned out to be just that - a rumour.
[i] In an email from Danley dated 12th August 1997.
[ii] After Perring, The Pyramids of Gizeh, London, 1839-42, Figures 1 to 3.