The Search for Hidden Chambers on the Giza Plateau, Part I

The Search for Hidden Chambers On the Giza Plateau, Part I

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Alan Winston

>>Pyramid Index / Giza

The Pyramid of Khafre, foreground, the subject of one of the first nondestructive investigations for hidden chambers

Not infrequently, the term "Hidden or Secret Chamber" is invoked by someone referring to one monument or another on the Giza Plateau just outside of Cairo, Egypt. This term of course implies something very mysterious and excites the general public's imagination which is, of course, the reason why more than a few wish to visit Egypt.

Actually, any chamber inside most Royal Egyptian tombs, whether with a pyramid superstructure or not, were meant to be hidden. Egyptian Kings learned very early on that there were always going to be unscrupulous people who were ready, willing and resourceful tomb robbers. After all, Pharaohs and other royalty usually took considerable wealth to their graves. Rarely have any royal tombs managed to hold their secrets from ancient robbers.

In fact, at one point or another, all the chambers of all the great pyramids at Giza were hidden to the general public and early explorers. These early explorers tunneled and sometimes even blasted their way into the pyramids in order to discover what lay within, and eventually discovered the inner structures we now ascribe to the Giza Pyramids.

The known, internal and substructure of The Pyramid of Khafre

Even though most of the chambers inside pyramids and tombs, and elsewhere on the Giza Plateau, have rarely given up great wealth, having been robbed in antiquity, there is also always the suggestion of great knowledge or riches. In the early part of the 20th Century, Edgar Cayce is well known for his reference to "The Hall of Records" of Atlantis, which was supposed to contain a library of mankind's early knowledge: In position this lies - as the sun rises from the waters - as the line of the shadows (or light) falls between the paws of the Sphinx, that was set later as the sentinel or guard and which may not be entered from the connecting chambers from the Sphinx's right paw until the time has been fulfilled when the changes must be active in this sphere of man's experience. Then [it lies] between the Sphinx and the river.

Internal structure of the Great Pyramid of Khufu

Hence, all the New Age thinkers wanted to dig all about the Great Sphinx to find this prize. Now, in 2004, we have several French researchers who claim they have located the real, hidden burial chamber in the Great Pyramid of Khufu, which will hold all of his undisturbed burial equipment, if only they could drill a few holes to verify their claims. The search for hidden chambers continues, and will probably do so for some time in the future. Eventually, the mystery in and around known monuments will almost certainly play out, particularly as non-intrusive investigation methods become more and more advanced. Prior to the mid-1960's it was impossible to mount a search for undiscovered chambers without physically assaulting a monument. In fact, the use of nondestructive techniques will and in fact is creating somewhat of a renaissance in archaeological investigation, even though this new science has yet to reach maturity.

Some of the members of the Joint Pyramid Project, consisting of, from left to right, Luis Alvarez, A. Fawzi, George Aziz, Amr Goneid, Jerry Anderson, Jim Burkhard, Fred Kreiss, Buck Buckingham and Lauren Yazalino

The Joint Pyramid Project

One of the earliest uses of nondestructive investigation was a joint US and Egyptian project to uncover chambers in the Second Pyramid at Giza belonging to Khafre. In 1965, a scientific proposal was submitted to a group of Egyptian physicists and archaeologists using cosmic-ray detectors (nuons technology). The American team, led by Dr. Luis Alvarez, suggested that, since there were two chambers in the superstructure of Khufu's Great Pyramid, and also two in the pyramid of his father, Sneferu, there should also be chambers located in the superstructure of Khafre's pyramid, who was Khufu's son.

This experiment was no minor effort, nor was it the work of New Age thinkers. The Joint Pyramid Project was established on June 14, 1966 as a collaborative effort between physicists from the Ain Shams University of Cairo, the University of California and archaeologists from the Egyptian Antiquities Organization. Furthermore, it had the support of the US Atomic Energy Commission, who helped design the detection equipment, the Smithsonian Institute, the IBM corporation, Hewlett-Packard, the National Geographic Society and the Egyptian Surveying Department.Finally, Dr. Alvarez himself was a giant of physics himself, who flew aboard the Enola Gay when it dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, but who was horrified at what he saw. Later, he helped developed the theory of a giant asteroid as the reason dinosaurs were killed of 65 million years ago, and he even worked with the Warren Commission that investigated the assassination of President Kennedy.

Nobel Prize Winner Luiz Alvarez

Cosmic rays originate in space, and have the ability to penetrate dense materials such as rock, but along the way, they lose some of their energy. The denser the material they must pass through, the more energy they lose. The idea behind the project was to use cosmic-ray detectors in the known chamber of the pyramid to detect the density of the structure above it. The information collected from the detectors would be recorded on magnetic tapes and analyzed by computer. These rays would pass through an average of about 100 meters of limestone blocks and, theoretically, should they pass through a void in the structure of the pyramid, the collection device would record a slightly larger energy value than would otherwise be indicated when passing through solid core construction. If such a reading was indicated, the researchers planned to drill a borehole through the limestone and use optical equipment to see what lay within.

The experiment actually had to be delayed because of the outbreak of the Six Day War, but by the end of September, 1968, enough data was collected to analyze on the Ain Shams university computer, while additional data was later examined by the Berkeley Laboratories.

At first, the experiment seems to have resulted a pyramid mystery. A report in the London Times, at least as quoted by Peter Tompkins, states that:

"As Dr. Lauren Yazolino, Alverez's assistant, returned to the United States to analyze the tapes ont he most up to date computer at Berkeley, a correspondent from the London Times visited Cairo to check on the results locally. At Ein [Ain] Shams University, John Tunstall found an up to date 1130 IBM computer surrounded by hundreds of tins of recordings.

'It defies all known laws of physics,' Tunstall quoted Dr. Amr Goneid, who had been left in charge of the pyramid project since the return to America of Dr. Yazolino. According to Tunstall's report, each time Dr. Goneid ran the tapes through the computer a different patter would appear and the salient points which should have been repeated on each tape were absent. 'This is scientifically impossible,' Tunstall quoted Goneid, explaining that the earlier recordings which had raised hopes of a great discovery were now found to be a jumbled mass of meaningless symbols with no guiding pattern whatever.

Tunstall asked Goneid; 'Has all this scientific know-how been rendered useless by some force beyond man's comprehension?' To which Goneid is reported to have answered: 'Either the geometry of the pyramid is in substantial error, which would affect our readings, or there is a mystery which is beyond explanation - call it what you will, occultism, the curse of the pharaohs, sorcery, or magic; there is some force that defies the laws of science at work in the pyramid.'"

Actually, the report was apparently accurate, though as it turns out, there was no mystery. The geometry was wrong. As the team members revealed in an article in Science magazine, the computer program relied upon extremely accurate measurements of the pyramid's geometry, as well as the exact positioning of the data collection devices. However, there were problems with some of these measurements which apparently resulted in anomalies. Later, when adjustments were made to the data, it revealed nothing but solid core material. However, because of the initial confusing results, the conspiracy theorists, who seem to believe that the scientific community is always hiding amazing finds, soon stepped in. Erich von Daniken in his Return of the Gods said of the experiment:

"The very expensive experiment, in which several American institutes, IBM and Cairo's Ain Shams University were involved, ended without any clear results. The head of the archaeological research at the time, Dr. Amr Gohed [Goneid], told journalists that the findings were 'scientifically impossible': he added that either the 'structure of the pyramids is chaotic' or there is 'some mystery here that we have not explained'. The archaeologists generally ignored these baffling results."

Of course, the information reported by von Daniken was inaccurate, but it is just this sort of thing that, ever since, causes the Egyptian Antiquities people to flinch whenever secret chambers are mentioned.

By 1970, the Joint Pyramid Project had explored only 19 percent of the total volume of the Second Pyramid, but this amounted to an area 35 degrees from the vertical. Hence, the team reported that:

"If the Second Pyramid architects had placed a Grand Gallery, King's Chamber and a Queen's Chamber in the same location as they did in Cheops' {Khufu's) Pyramid, the signals from each of these three cavities would have been enormous. We therefore conclude that no chambers of the size seen in the four large pyramids of the Fourth Dynasty are in our 'field of view' above the Belzoni Chamber.

We can say with confidence that no chambers with volumes similar to the four known chambers in Cheops' and Sneferu's pyramids exist in the mass of limestone investigated by cosmic ray absorption."

Thus, the first of many nondestructive investigations came to a close, and not to an unsuccessful conclusion as some might suppose. To professional Egyptologists, all information is important, including the lack of chambers in this pyramid. However, more such research would soon follow, and today, it is being used to make important new discoveries which will undoubtedly advance our knowledge of ancient Egypt.The science has moved on to new and improved technologies that, while not perhaps completely perfected, are today becoming a mainstream tool in many archaeological excavations inside and outside of Egypt.

See also:

See Also (Recent News Reports)






Reference Number

Complete Pyramids, The (Solving the Ancient Mysteries)

Lehner, Mark


Thames and Hudson, Ltd

ISBN 0-500-05084-8

Excavating in Egypt: The Egypt Exploration Society 1882-1982

James, T. G. H.


University of Chicago Press, The

ISBN 0-226-39192-2

Giza The Truth

Lawton, Ian; Ogilvie-Herald, Chris


Virgin Publishing Ltd.

ISBN 0-7535-0412-x

Treasures of the Pyramids, The

Hawass, Zahi


American University in Cairo Press, The

ISBN 977 424 798 1


Last Updated: June 13th, 2011