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Ancient Egyptian Chambers Explored

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    This post has also been sent to NHNE s News List, so some of you will receive it twice. News, Inspiration, & Consumer Protection for Spiritual Seekers ...
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 18, 2002
      This post has also been sent to NHNE's News List, so some of you will
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      & Consumer Protection
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      NHNE: Ancient Egyptian Chambers Explored
      Wednesday, September 18, 2002
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      By Nancy Gupton
      National Geographic News
      September 17, 2002


      One of the mysteries of Egypt's Great Pyramid deepened early Tuesday when
      archaeologists penetrated a 4,500-year-old blocked shaft only to find
      another stone blocking their way.

      During Pyramids Live: Secret Chambers Revealed, presented by the National
      Geographic Channel, Egyptologist Zahi Hawass used a robot to peer into a
      narrow shaft that opens into the queen's chamber of the Great Pyramid.
      Within the shaft Hawass found another stone block, possibly a door.

      "What we have seen tonight is totally unique within the world of
      Egyptology," Hawass said. "There is nothing to compare it to, as these
      passages are not in any other pyramids, with or without doors. The presence
      of a second door only deepens the intrigue surrounding the Great Pyramid."

      During the live television broadcast, Hawass also opened a sealed
      sarcophagus in a tomb nearby. Inside he found the undisturbed skeleton of a
      top pyramid builders village official.

      "Something Important Is Hidden There"

      The Great Pyramid shaft has been blocked for centuries by a chunk of
      limestone that has copper handles and may have been wedged into the shaft by
      pyramid builders after they used it as a polishing tool.

      Around 5 a.m. Tuesday Egypt time, with Hawass and television viewers
      watching, the robot sent a camera through a small hole drilled in the block
      only to encounter another stone blocking the way.

      Hawass, head of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and a National
      Geographic explorer-in-residence, was excited nonetheless.

      "We can see another sealed door," he said over the shrieks of his team
      members and television crew crowded into the chamber. "It looks to me like
      it is sealing something. It seems that something important is hidden there.

      "This is one of the first major discoveries in the Great Pyramid in some 130
      years, and now what we need is time for further analysis," he said.

      Archaeologists had speculated that the shaft might contain valuable
      artifacts such as papyrus, builders' tools, or perhaps even a statue of
      Pharaoh Khufu, the pyramid's builder. Or, they knew, it might have contained
      nothing at all.

      For Hawass, solving the mystery was important no matter what the
      investigation uncovers. "I would just like to reveal what's behind it," he
      said. "If nothing, it's fine with me."

      Skeleton in Sarcophagus

      During the live broadcast, which premiered in the United States on Monday,
      September 16, on Fox Television, Hawass also visited the recently discovered
      village of the pyramid builders, less than a mile (1.6 kilometers) away from
      the Great Pyramid.

      There, he opened the sealed sarcophagus of a man identified by hieroglyphics
      as Ny Swt Wsrt, believed to be the overseer of the pyramid builders'
      village. Inside they found a skeleton, lying on its side and facing east --
      the direction of the rising sun.

      "The skull is completely preserved," Hawass said in a preliminary
      examination. "This man is resting beautifully."

      During the time of the pyramid builders, mummification was rare and still in
      experimental stages.

      No artifacts were immediately visible in the sarcophagus. The bones will be
      carefully photographed, removed, and x-rayed, providing answers about when
      and how the man died.

      The discovery is important because the skeleton is that of a common man, not
      a king or nobleman. At more than 4,000 years old, Ny Swt Wsrt's coffin is
      also the oldest intact sarcophagus ever found by modern archaeologists.

      "I've been excavating in this cemetery for ten years and I have not found
      anything intact like this," Hawass said. "This man looks to be very
      important because of the construction of the tomb, because of the way that
      they wrote his title -- the overseer of the administrative district or the
      mayor of the city of the pyramid builders."

      The tomb of the overseer is one of many exciting recent finds in the pyramid
      builders' village, south of the Sphinx.

      Archaeologist Mark Lehner, director of the Giza Plateau Mapping Project,
      believes that as many as 20,000 people moved in and out of the village while
      building the pyramids. Dormitory-style buildings appear to have held
      sleeping quarters for as many as 2,000 people. Diggers also have found
      evidence of copper-making and cooking facilities.

      "All the evidence points to a very large lost city of the Pyramids that
      hadn't been known before we started working," said Lehner.

      Mysterious Shaft

      In Khufu's Great Pyramid, Hawass' team set up camp in the erroneously named
      queen's chamber. (The room may never have been used, and its function
      remains unknown.)

      Inside the chamber are two shafts. Scholars aren't sure about the purpose of
      these shafts, which were unique to pyramids built during the Old Kingdom
      period (2575 to 2150 B.C.), but one theory is that they were built as
      passageways for the pharaohs' journey to the afterlife.

      "It's thought that the so-called air shafts are really conduits for the
      king's soul," said Lehner.

      The first modern investigation of the shaft in the queen's chamber occurred
      in the 1990s, when archaeologist Rudolf Gantenbrink sent a robot into the
      passageway. The machine was blocked by the stone after traveling 213 feet
      (65 meters) into the shaft.

      Further hampering the exploration, the interior of the shaft is only 8
      inches by 8 inches (20 centimeters by 20 centimeters) and the shaft bends in
      several places.

      Before the television broadcast, measuring apparatus on the robot, similar
      to those used to search for World Trade Center survivors, found the block
      was only 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) thick, encouraging the suggestion that
      it might in fact have been a door leading to another chamber or hidden

      Did Hawass, Lehner, and the television crew know in advance what they would

      Before the broadcast, executive producer John Bredar said even the research
      and production teams were in the dark. "It's do-or-die that night," he said.
      "We don't know exactly what's going to happen."

      The National Geographic Channel special Pyramids Live: Secret Chambers
      Revealed will air worldwide later in the week under a different title,
      Egypt: Secret Chambers Revealed, on the National Geographic Channel. Check
      local listings for more information.



      Pulling off a live television broadcast from deep inside a 4,500-year-old
      pyramid takes expertise, patience -- and a very long cable.

      For nine months, supervising producer Richard Reisz and his team from
      UK-based TV6 have worked on Pyramids Live: Secret Chambers Revealed.

      The challenges include setting up camp in the cramped queen's chamber of the
      Great Pyramid and snaking an enormous cable through the pyramid and hundreds
      of yards across the Giza sands.

      "It's an enormous challenge. We spent months sourcing equipment we're going
      to need," Reisz said. "We've been working on this all through the summer,
      all through the heat."

      A production corps of 250 people was on site during Monday's broadcast,
      which aired at 3 a.m. Tuesday Egypt time. Teams were dispatched to the
      show's two different live locations, the Great Pyramid and the pyramid
      builders' village.

      Reisz was watching -- and waiting -- from an outside viewing area near the

      "It's going to be a hairy weekend," he said Friday. "What happens on Monday
      night will be fairly easy in comparison to the setup."

      Despite the temptation to sneak a peek behind the blocking stone or inside
      the sarcophagus, Reisz said, a promise is a promise. "We've said we won't
      peek, and integrity matters," he said. "I think the robot group is finding
      it difficult, though."

      Although Reisz and his team tested the pyramid rover robot and tried to
      anticipate any problems, anything could have happened Monday night.

      "Something unexpected could happen. It usually does in live TV. That's what
      makes it so interesting," he said.

      "I've been in television for 25 years, and this is by far the most difficult
      thing I've ever done. It's also one of the most exciting."









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