New Scientist is reporting that a robot exploring the enigmatic ‘air shafts’ emanating from the Queen’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid of Giza has found ‘graffiti’ on the back side of the ‘Gantenbrink Door’ (so-named after their discovery by German robotics engineer Rudolf Gantenbrink way back in 1993). Images taken by the new robot also revealed that the metal ‘handles’ originally sighted by Gantenbrink don’t do anything special, but instead are simply looped off on the reverse of the door:
[A] robot designed by engineer Rob Richardson from the University of Leeds, UK, and colleagues, and named Djedi after the magician that Khufu consulted when he planned his tomb, has crawled up the tunnel carrying a bendy “micro snake” camera that can see around corners.
Images sent back by the camera have revealed hieroglyphs written in red paint and lines in the stone that could be marks left by stone masons when the chamber was being carved (Annales Du Service des Antiquités De L’Égypte, vol 84, ISBN: 978-977-704-184-3). “If these hieroglyphs could be deciphered they could help Egyptologists work out why these mysterious shafts were built,” says Richardson.
“Red-painted numbers and graffiti are very common around Giza,” says Peter Der Manuelian, an Egyptologist at Harvard University and director of the Giza Archives at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. “They are often masons’ or work-gangs’ marks, denoting numbers, dates or even the names of the gangs.”
As the camera can see around corners, the back of the stone door has been observed for the first time, scotching the more fanciful theories about the metal pins, says camera-designer Shaun Whitehead of the exploration company Scoutek, based in Melton Mowbray, UK. “Our new pictures from behind the pins show that they end in small, beautifully made loops, indicating that they were more likely ornamental rather than electrical connections.”
The Daily Mail has posted an image taken by the robot, which I’ve reproduced below:
For his part, Zahi Hawass has continued to mention the possibility of a hidden chamber in the pyramid, based on the myth of Djedi (whose name the exploration team have rather provocatively appropriated – see my earlier story “Return of the Djedi” for a little history):
The King’s Chamber may have been a dummy room, since the most important thing in the mind of the ancient Egyptians was to hide the burial chamber. We have a story that the magician Djedi met Khufu, who was searching for the god Thoth so he could find the secret of hiding his pyramid. Based on that maybe there is something hidden in the pyramid.
It will be interesting to see if any further discoveries are made. But while we keep a close eye on the story, never forget that much more credit needs to go to Rudolf Gantenbrink than Zahi Hawass for this exploration. See The Upuaut Project for a detailed history of his exploration, and schematics of the pyramids based on his work. Also, for anyone looking to understand this two-decade-long story a little better, see some of the links below.