New mystery door in pyramid

2002-09-24 08:34

Cairo - A mysterious door has been found in a previously unexplored shaft inside Egypt's biggest pyramid, only days after a similar stone slab was found in another shaft, antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said on Monday.

Last week, in front of television cameras, a specially designed robot climbed about 65 metres up one of two narrow passages stretching from a chamber inside the pyramid of Cheops to peer through a hole drilled into a stone door, only to find another door behind it.

Away from the cameras, the robot was sent up the second shaft, only partially examined in the past. It found another door, which had copper handles like the one in the first shaft and was at the same distance of 65 metres, Hawass said.

"I think we'll find another door behind it," Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Antiquities Council, told reporters.

Both shafts emanate from a room below the pyramid's main chamber - the burial crypt of the Pharaoh Cheops, who presided over the world's most advanced civilisation 4 500 years ago.

His mummy has never been found, adding to the mystery of the great pyramid - one of the seven wonders of the ancient world whose construction secrets have defied experts to this day.

The pyramid, which sits on the Giza plateau overlooking Cairo, has not yielded treasures like those found in other tombs. Theories on what could lie behind the strange doors include statues, workers' tools or ancient scrolls.

Careful look

Hawass told the news conference a team of Egyptologists would need time to study the new finds before proceeding.

"Everything now needs a careful look. We will ask the National Geographic Society to co-operate to reveal more mysteries," Hawass said. The US group helped sponsor the expedition shown live on television last week.

Hawass said the passage had bends and turns in an apparent attempt by builders to avoid the main chamber. This could indicate the unexplained passageways were built after the pyramids were completed and were not part of the original design.

Hawass speculated the passages could be connected to an attempt by Cheops to promote himself as Egypt's sun god. Belief at the time said kings became the god in death.

Hawass believes the shafts, which have been chiselled out of the pyramid's stone structure, are "passages the king will face before he travels to the afterlife".

Recent excavations at Dakhla oasis in Egypt's Western Desert have shown Cheops may have reigned longer than the previously thought 23 years.

Two larger passages also emanate from Cheop's burial chamber, but unlike the shafts recently explored, they open out on to the surface of the huge 145-metre edifice.