Update: Third "Door" Found in Great Pyramid

National Geographic News
September 23, 2002

View a movie of the newest pyramid shaft discovery >>

Scientists exploring the Great Pyramid in Egypt sent a robot into the northern shaft in the past few days, discovering another blocking stone. The "door" appears to be identical to the one in the southern shaft that was already known. The doors are equidistant (65 meters/208 feet) from the queen's chamber. It is the third such block discovered within the shafts of the pyramid.

The announcement of the discovery was made Monday by Farouk Hosni, Egypt's minister of culture, and Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities and a National Geographic explorer-in-residence.

A specially developed combination of robotics, camera, and lighting technology developed by iRobot of Boston, yielded the new information. Until this discovery, no one knew that the northern shaft extended to the north as far as the southern shaft goes to the south.

Prior explorations of the northern shaft have failed because, unlike the southern shaft, the northern shaft has a number of bends and sharp corners. Hawass suggested that the layout of the northern shaft may have been designed to avoid intersection with the pyramid's grand gallery.

"This find in the northern shaft, coupled with last week's discovery of a second 'door' behind the blocking stone in the southern shaft, represents the first major new information about the Great Pyramid in more than a century. We will now carefully study the data and plan out further investigation of the two shafts in order to accurately map and interpret the find," Hawass said.

The newly discovered northern shaft door appears to be very similar to the one in the southern shaft, including the presence of a pair of copper "pins" or "handles." The southern shaft "door" was discovered in a 1993 investigation conducted under the auspices of the German Archaeological Institute.

On September 17, 2002, a National Geographic robot, specially designed to traverse the southern shaft to the blocking stone, inserted a miniature fiber-optic camera into a three-quarters-of-an-inch hole to reveal the rough-hewn blocking stone lying seven inches beyond the original southern shaft door. That earlier portion of the expedition was broadcast live in an international television event carried on National Geographic Channel and on Fox in the U.S.

"The mystery of the Great Pyramid becomes all the more compelling with each new discovery coming from the queen's chamber and the Supreme Council of Antiquities/National Geographic expedition," Terry Garcia, executive vice president of mission programs at the National Geographic Society said. "This continuation of our century-long involvement in archaeological breakthroughs in Egypt is an exciting extension of the National Geographic mission."

Portions of the northern shaft have been previously explored. In 1872 Waynman Dixon found a small bronze hook and granite ball. In the 1920s a pyramid enthusiast, Morton Edgar, attempted to learn more about the queen's chamber shafts by using flexible metal rods. In the southern shaft he was stopped, presumably by the blocking door. In the northern shaft, which appears to bend and curve around the grand gallery, Edgar's flexible rods broke and remain there to this day. The SCA/NG robot "rover" had to navigate around the metal rods to reach the end of the northern shaft.

In the course of the German Archaeological Institute's 1993 investigation, Rudolf Gantenbrink's robot traversed part of the shaft but only succeeded in covering 19 meters (63.3 feet).

Additional National Geographic News and Other Resources on Ancient Egypt:
Ancient Egyptian Chambers Explored
Pyramid Builders' Village Found in Egypt
Rising Water Table Threatens Egypt's Monuments
Floods Swept Ancient Nile Cities Away, Experts Say
Study Unwraps Ancient "Recipe" for Mummies
Egyptian Archaeologist Named National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence
Ancient Egypt Home Page: Photos, Diagrams, More
Expedition Ancient Egypt: Four Days to Tackle It All
At the Tomb of Tutankhamen
How to Make a Mummy
Kids Book: Mummies of the Pharaohs
Kids: Mummies Unmasked
The Mummy Road Show on the National Geographic Channel
Mummy Quiz
More Golden Mummies Emerge From Egyptian Valley
Mummies Reflect Primal Urge to Extend Human Life
Egyptian Mummies Included Animals

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