A robot sent into the heart of Egypt's Great
Pyramid in 2002 found its way barred. The miniature robot drilled
a hole into a limestone door which was found to be blocking a shaft,
and inserted a fibre optic camera through it only to find the
chamber blocked by yet another door - one which had not been seen for
more than four thousand years.
Despite the disappointment, several scientists called
the discovery 'very important', believing that 'something amazing' may
be hidden behind the second door. The find promised with some degree
of certainty that there would be a chamber on the other side, according
to Robert Bauvel, expert on ancient Egypt.
Zahi Hawass, director of Egypt's Supreme Council of
Antiquities (SCA) was more phlegmatic, stating that maybe there could
be something belonging to Pharaoh Khufu hidden behind the second door...
and maybe there was nothing. He added that the next job for researchers
was to study the footage and plan for further inspections, which could
take up to twelve months.
Scientists hoped that the twelve centimetre-tall robot
(five inches) - dubbed the 'Pyramid Rover' - may yet be able to return
to have another crack at the mysteries of the pharaohs.
Mr Bauvel, who was also the author of The Great
Pyramid book, expressed hopes that the robot would find another
chamber. He said that it may be 'a room - probably with artefacts -
but mainly with the stature of the king... where [the Egyptians]
imagined that the soul of the king habits the statue'.
He added that such rooms were quite common in tombs,
especially in the Old Kingdom, and they were usually protected by
several sliding doors. 'It has been known for a long time that [the
Egyptians] had stellar alignment... to their stellar destiny in the
sky. My guess is that we probably going to have a statue of the king...
gazing towards the sky and at stars that are relevant. We know that
this shaft is pointed towards Sirius, which is very important to the
The show must go on
Audiences watched live on television as the robot
crawled about sixty-five metres (seventy-one yards) up a narrow tunnel
to explore the shaft. Mr Hawass' SCA, along with engineers from the
Boston firm, iRobot, and researchers from National Geographic, had spent
a year planning the September 2002 event.
For those who may be unaware, the Great Pyramid of
Khufu (translated as Cheops by the ancient Greeks) is the largest of
a family of three pyramids on the Giza plateau near Cairo and is a
'must-see' attraction for every tourist who has ever visited the modern
Deep inside the pyramid, running from the Queen's Chamber,
is a twenty centimetre-wide tunnel. In 1993, a German archaeologist sent
a small robotic probe into the shaft armed with a fibre-optic camera. It
travelled for about sixty metres before it ran straight into the thick
limestone door that has now been pierced. More certainly remains to be
Some details of the innards of the Great Pyramid and of the
'Pyramid Rover' which drilled through the door discovered in
1993 and immediately found another door beyond it