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Vandalism in the Great Pyramid

Redating Egypt’s Most Famous Monument, or Stupid Vandalism?

Last week we posted some interesting/disturbing news about German archaeologists vandalising the Great Pyramid, while also apparently throwing doubt on the age of the famous cartouche of Pharaoh Khufu. That report, and others since, have been vague and sometimes contradictory regarding the individuals concerned – some saying they were students, others that they were aligned with certain academic institutions. As such, many questions have remained about the entire affair.

However posters at the Hall of Ma’at messageboard have been discussing aspects of it since October, and through their information and by following the links they’ve posted as well as recent news stories on the case, we can assemble a bit more of a picture of what happened. The two ‘amateur archaeologists’ are Dominique Görlitz and Stefan Erdmann, who (along with film-maker Frank Höfer) appear to have been granted official permission to access the Great Pyramid on the 17th of April, between the hours 6pm-8pm.

The pair seem not to have been officially affiliated with any institution; rather they are ‘hidden history’ enthusiasts who believe the Great Pyramid is much older than is currently believed. Both seem to be interested in numerous aspects of ‘hidden history’, from ancient aliens to secret societies, and – worryingly – perhaps some right-wing ideas.

Their trip to Egypt was apparently part of documentary-in-progress titled Das Cheops Projekt (‘The Cheops Project’), for which they were seeking financial help through a crowd-funding campaign (which raised just €925 of their €46,000 target):

The research team around Dr. Dominique Goerlitz, Stefan Erdmann and filmmaker Frank Hoefer (NuoViso) is working independently and without and big sponsor in the background. Until now a part of the budget was privately financed. This contains shooting for several days in Egypt as well as examinations of the Great Pyramid and especially the King’s Chamber and the relief chambers. This enabled us to take the samples of the king’s cartridge. Furthermore we stay in contact with a prestigious institute for lab analysis in Germany which shall examine the samples of the cartridge. Many experts and pyramid researchers already have been interviewed or shown their interest.

With the elaborate film shootings and the expensive and the hard to get permissions to film in Egypt we could get the important samples (documented). This was privately pre-financed. More financial resources are necessary to bring the documentary to an end in short period of time. Especially the expensive lab analysis of the samples are only possible with a five digit amount of Euros.

Many of the videos associated with the project have been made private since the controversy broke, but the following trailer for Das Cheops Projekt remains accessible at the time of posting, and actually appears to feature footage of the vandalism occurring (at 1:31):

There’s a couple of things worth noting about the video. Firstly, the chipping off of material in the video seems to not be on the famous cartouche of Khufu, as has been reported, but further to the right (pretty much where Dominique Görlitz is pointing in this image, with the Khufu cartouche at the far left of the picture). I’m not sure if this is the actual act which Egyptian authorities are talking about though – perhaps there were multiple areas chipped away?

Secondly, immediately before the vandalism part of the video, the two ‘amateur archaeologists’ are shown scaling a ladder, but this appears to be in the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid for some reason. The Khufu cartouche can’t be accessed from inside the King’s Chamber, so I’m not sure what they were doing in there, unless it just worked best for the videoing (hopefully no further vandalism in that room!). But beyond that, what is more interesting is that they have a great big ladder in the Great Pyramid – this is not something you can just carry in to the GP at your own leisure, and seems to confirm the report that they were given official permission for their ‘expedition’ (although it’s unlikely they were given permission to take material from the GP!).

So it would seem that though the pair were not aligned with the institutions that were claimed in early news reports, it is likely that they were given permission to access the monuments (and the Great Pyramid after hours). It may be that heads will roll internally for inadequate supervision of the duo during their time in the pyramid.

Regardless, if the above information is correct then I can only condemn the actions of Görlitz, Erdmann and Höfer. It is unlikely the ‘samples’ they took have any kind of scientific validity (from the area sampled, through to their method and the amount they chipped off), but what’s far worse is that they took it upon themselves to damage one of the greatest monuments created by humans, dating back to the beginnings of written history.

I encourage research on these controversial questions, but certainly not by these methods.

Link: Hall of Ma’at Forum Thread

    1. Two issues
      [quote=jmlm]give me a break looking at all the graffity in the pyramid
      idout a little chipping is going to hurt it[/quote]

      There’s two issues involved I think. The first is the difference in certain areas of the pyramid…chip a bit off a block on the 25th course externally and you’re probably doing less damage than the wind and sand will do over the year; but chipping some of the Khufu cartouche off – apparently the one small area of the GP with contemporary inscriptions on it – and you’re damaging a very important part of the structure (archaeologically speaking).

      The second issue is one of numbers. One person chipping some off, no huge problem (unless, as I said, it’s a crucial area). If everyone that goes in the Great Pyramid chipped some off and took it home with them, then you’ve got real problems. So there’s a certain need to enforce any infringements of that rule to ensure that it doesn’t become a free-for-all.

  1. Vandalism Since Before Khufu’s Time
    I submit that vandalism has been ongoing since the creation of the Great Pyramid itself. Consider:

    — In order to build the GP, the original builders had to terrace an existing hilltop while leaving the remains of a sacred spring intact. While creating the massive GP was a milestone in human achievement, there may have been many humans at that time that would have seen the desecration of the sacred spring in the same way we now see a Walmart plopped down on top of a valuable wetlands.

    — At some point soon after the GP was built, the builders realized that a powerful earthquake may have damaged the interior, especially the King’s Chamber and its granite blocks in the Relieving Chambers above. So they reentered the pyramid, dug a hole into the wall of the Descending Passageway, then used the existing pathway of the spring upwards to enter the Ascending Passageway (and bypassing the granite stones that blocked that corridor lower down). They had to cut open one of the stones in the passageway to exit the spring, then cut another opening to get into the Relieving Chambers, to assure themselves that the granite blocks, though cracked, had not succumbed to the earthquake and caved in.

    — The intrusion of Caliph al-Mah’mun’s men around 820 AD was itself a most colossal vandalism: in order to make a new entrance past the granite blocking stones, they blasted their way through the softer limestone by heating the limestone with bonfires, then dousing the hot stone with vinegar. They they dug their way dozens of feet into the interior until they reached the Ascending Passageway.

    — Of course, the greatest vandalism has been the ruinous effect of removing nearly the entire outer layer of pure white casing stones, stolen to remake mosques and fortifications after another earthquake struck the area in 1356. Before this destruction, the GP was the first building ever constructed that did not cast a shadow; rather, it threw a reflection of light like a great bow into the sky, and likely was visible from space. Polished to an optician’s care (as exhibited by the few remaining casing stones near the pyramid’s base), what we see now is like looking at a Lamborghini with all its exterior sheet metal and fiberglass removed. It was also recorded by Herodotus and later visitors that the casing stones were covered by millions of strange characters: in AD 1179 the Arab historian Abd el Latif recorded that these inscriptions were so numerous that they could have filled “more than ten thousand written pages.” (from

    — Since the intrusion of “modern” tourists into the interior of the GP, many other acts of vandalism have been ongoing, from chipping away bits of the basalt sarcophagus in the King’s Chamber, to the actual repositioning of the sarcophagus itself (it used to be centered in the KC, now it’s farther off to the western end), to the removal of perhaps the only accessible carbon date-able material, a measuring rod and a wooden embalming tool, both found in the small “air shaft” leading north from the Queen’s Chamber, and which now lie buried beneath an obelisk brought from Cleopatra-era Egypt and re-erected in a London park.

    — However, the most infamous damage may have been the painted inscriptions “discovered” by Howard Vyse in the Relieving Chambers, which he entered only after blasting holes with gunpowder up and into them. The fact that they were done in red paint, and contain the only markings of any kind in the GP (prior to modern graffiti), as well as the only indication of the name Khufu connected with the GP, all while containing grammatical errors in hieroglyphics which were duplicated in the same research books Vyse himself had onsite, and were discovered only on the last day before his funding was to run out, cast serious doubt with many people that these are authentic.

    To say that the removal of a half-a-finger’s width of stone is “damaging” the pyramid is somewhat laughable, compared to all the damage that has been done through the millennia to this most unique of all human structures.

    To be honest, I believe the greatest injustice done to the Great Pyramid is to continue to associate it with some late-arriving Pharaoh who likely did little more than have his servants clean off the sand between the Sphinx’s paws.

    1. Great post
      [quote=TemplarScribe]I submit that vandalism has been ongoing since the creation of the Great Pyramid itself. Consider:

      Great post, and largely agree with your thoughts. Funny how one generation’s stupid vandalism becomes historical heritage within about two or three generations…

    2. re: Vandalism Since Before Khufu’s Time #1
      [quote=TemplarScribe]I submit that vandalism has been ongoing since the creation of the Great Pyramid itself. [/quote]

      Yes. That was my point. Although I’m stating that vandalism is a regular part of archaeology.

      The thing is that most of it isn’t vandalism in the colloquial sense – that of destroying something out of spite. It’s often taking a sample so that it can be studied and analyzed.

      Of course, as mentioned by Greg, when numerous people start taking samples it becomes problematic.

  2. perhaps C14
    [quote=Greg] the two ‘amateur archaeologists’ are shown scaling a ladder, but this appears to be in the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid for some reason. The Khufu cartouche can’t be accessed from inside the King’s Chamber, so I’m not sure what they were doing in there, unless it just worked best for the videoing (hopefully no further vandalism in that room!). [/quote]

    i read that 3 locations were of focus.
    1. tomb of birds NC2 (North Cliff 2)
    2. King Chamber in the Great Pyramid.
    3. Campbell Chamber in the Great Pyramid.

    so 2 locations in the Great Pyramid,
    we can see them focusing on the south side.
    south wall of the king chamber, and also south side in campbell chamber (thats directly above that king chamber).

    perhaps, they had a reason for focusing on the southern side.
    basically it would be a good pick because the southern side of the great pyramid, settled down about 1 inch during its construction. perhaps they are looking for mortar there for C-14 dating. mortar sometimes has embedded organic material in ancient egypt eg like charcoal which probably used from the fire that they used to heat the gypsum in order to make the mortar.

    the germans seem to be changing their story.

    its now known they didnt have permits to the chambers above
    the kings chamber in great pyramid.

    apparently dr hawass did not give them permits in 2006
    for going into chambers above king chamber in 2006.
    apparently some egyptian claim dr hawass was responible for
    giving them access in 2006. apparently since the germans claim
    they took cartouche i guess they wonder when.

    in fact they were doing some work in 2002, and reporting is
    not clear but one can one wonder, when and what they took read 1st link below.

    on another matter, who knows what other people were involved earlier, and at what locations, perhaps some other locations.

    here is quote from link above

    “The Great Pyramid of Khufu on the Giza Plateau is the oldest and largest pyramid in Egypt and the only surviving monument of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. However, it seems that it has now been subjected to damage by two amateur German archaeologists from Dresden University, who according to a press release from the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) stole samples of a cartouche of Khufu from a small room on top of the king’s burial chamber inside the Great Pyramid.

    The ministry has imposed penalties and taken legal action against both archaeologists, Dominique Goerlitz and author Stefan Erdmann, as well as against Dresden University. It has also suspended scientific cooperation with the university as well as with the German laboratory that analysed the stolen items from Khufu’s Pyramid.

    Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim told Al-Ahram Weekly that the ministry’s permanent committee had imposed a number of penalties against the Germans, their university and the tourism agency that had taken them on a tour around the plateau. He described the secret trip that the men had taken inside the Pyramid as a “silly trick” and asserted that the Great Pyramid was “not a quarry” from which amateur researchers could take a few crumbs.

    Ibrahim has also sent the case to the prosecutor-general for investigation and notified Interpol to put the German archaeologists on Egypt’s airport watch list.

    Mohamed Abdel-Maksoud, head of the ancient Egyptian department at the ministry, said that members of the MSA who had helped the men had been identified, but that their names would not be announced until the completion of the investigations.

    A large-scale change of Giza Plateau inspectors will be implemented within two days, he said, in order to know with certainty who had helped the two Germans. “This occurrence has ruined the scientific reputation of all German archaeologists,” he said, asking the German government to take legal procedures against both amateur archaeologists.

    Abdel-Maksoud said that the incident constituted damage to a very significant monument on the UNESCO World Heritage List and that both Egypt and Germany were members of the UN organisation’s World Heritage Committee. Egypt, he went on, had documents implicating the two Germans in damaging the World Heritage Monument and stealing and smuggling part of it.

    The German embassy in Cairo responded in a press release by denouncing what the German researchers had done in accessing the room in the Great Pyramid and taking the samples for analysis without permission from the MSA. It announced that the researchers were not affiliated with the German embassy in Cairo or the German Archaeological Institute or any official mission from Germany to Egypt.

    In a statement, the embassy confirmed that investigations would be carried out in Egypt where the incident was committed, but said that the embassy was not yet in contact with the Egyptian government concerning the case. It confirmed its full support for the Egyptian government in its role as the protector of the country’s ancient monuments.

    The statement highlighted the strong relationship between Egypt and Germany in the archaeological field. The German Archaeological Institute denounced the incident and described it as “a fraud” that had been committed in order to obtain the samples of Khufu’s cartouche. Both the German embassy and the Archaeological Institute would supply the Egyptian government with any needed information, it said.

    “It is an act of destruction and a break with all norms and international conventions,” said Ahmed Said, a professor of ancient Egyptian civilisation at Cairo University. He added that Egyptian inspectors may have been involved in the incident, since the German researchers could not have accessed the Pyramid without their help.

    Said said that even when they had entered the room within the Great Pyramid they would have needed a ladder to reach the cartouche, which was carved at the top of an inside wall. Said said that any Egyptians who had been involved in the theft were “traitors” who had shown themselves to be disloyal to their country and its heritage.

    The story came to light earlier this week when a documentary entitled The Cheops Project was put on YouTube. The documentary showed researcher Dominique Goerlitz and author Stefan Erdmann during their secret trip inside Khufu’s Pyramid and the difficulty they faced in reaching the cartouche. The aim of the documentary, according to the researchers, was to reveal the secrets of the Pyramid’s construction and its date.

    The documentary related the discovery of the hieroglyphs and the cartouche of Cheops (Khufu) in the interior of the Great Pyramid in 1837 by the British researcher Howard Vyse. The authenticity of this cartouche has long been questioned, and though Egyptologists are confident of the authenticity of the cartouche, Vyse himself came under suspicion of having faked it.

    If this could be proven, it would open up speculation about the builders of the Giza Pyramids. In the past, only the correct spelling of the Pharaoh’s name was at issue, but Goerlitz and Erdmann had wanted to determine the cartouche’s authenticity by using new examination and dating methods. A sample of the cartouche was taken during an expedition with a camera crew and is now in the hands of a well-known institute for laboratory analysis in Germany.

    Said criticised the two Germans’ working methods and their claim that the Pyramid had been built before the reign of the Fourth Dynasty Pharaoh, saying that this was “nonsense”. The cartouche could be dated to an era after the reign of Khufu himself, Said said, adding that inspections carried out many years ago had revealed that the cartouche had been written after the Pyramid’s completion because it contained the Pharaoh’s short name and not his official name and was written in script.

    He said that the cartouche had been written during the Middle Kingdom, which could be shown by the style of writing used. He said that graffiti left by visitors in antiquity on the walls of monuments had helped Egyptologists to know the short names of several kings, among them Djoser.

    New Kingdom graffiti left on the walls of the monuments at Saqqara had revealed that king Nesri-Khet was in fact Djoser, he said. “If we had not found this graffiti on the wall, we would not have known that king Nesri-Khet was Djoser and that this was his short name,” Said added.

    Meanwhile the German magazine Der Spiegel said in its online edition that permission to enter the Pyramid had been given, but that Erdmann and Goerlitz had gone much further than what this permission had allowed by scraping traces from the painted ceiling of the king’s chamber.

    Erdmann told the Spiegel that “we have the royal cartouche, of course, which is not affected, and we have written a letter of apology.” Erdmann had then taken the samples from Egypt to the Fresenius Institute in Dresden to be examined.

    However, anyone wanting to research a monument or archaeological site in Egypt needs prior approval from the MSA. This is only given following an official request and checks on the researcher’s credentials and qualifications. Only if tests cannot be carried out within Egypt can samples be taken for testing abroad, and then only under the strictest controls.

    The Fresenius Institute where the samples are being examined expressed its surprise at the controversy. “We are currently conducting mineralogical investigations of the samples that Erdmann brought us. Where they come from we do not know,” a spokesman told Der Spiegel.

    Meanwhile, the offending YouTube video has now been taken down from the site.”

    end quote ——

    here is quote from above link

    “Monuments Minister Mohamed Ibrahim has said suspects involved in the robbery of King Cheops’s cartouche will not be disclosed until further investigations that started on Thursday with all officials at the Pyramids are over.

    Ibrahim revealed that date on which the German archaeologists entered the Pyramids was identified, which then led to reaching the suspects. He refused to give more details on the date.

    The minister added that new evidence on the suspects were found and that it will be attached to the report submitted to the public prosecutor.

    The ministry issued a statement on reaching new evidence that will help investigation authorities get decision to arrest the Germans who smuggled artifacts illegally.

    The statement added that it whoever took part in the incidents was referred to prosecution. It also said that a harsh penalty will be imposed on anyone proved to be involved.

    Three members of a German archaeological mission that worked in Egypt in 2002 were allegedly smuggling stealing a cartouche of King Cheops from a room above his burial chamber.”

    —- end quote —-

    cayce mentioned about ancient egypt being alot older than thought and talks of atlantis, science seems to confirm the earth being hitted during the timeframe he gave.

    people have long suggested some pyramids were build on earlier sites .

    i for one love the great pyramid, and thus bauval and all these others trying to make some weird claims will not change what khufu incoded in that structure.

    ciao clemente

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