Herodotus Returns

Robot will plumb great pyramid at Giza
August 12, 2010, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Egypt | Tags: , , , ,

University of Leeds has embarked on a project to send a robot down two unexplored shafts in the Queen’s chamber in the Great Pyramid of Giza.

No one knows what the shafts are for. In 1992, a camera sent up the shaft leading from the south wall of the Queen’s Chamber discovered it was blocked after 60 metres by a limestone door with two copper handles. In 2002, a further expedition drilled through this door and revealed, 20 centimetres behind it, a second door.

“The second door is unlike the first. It looks as if it is screening or covering something,” said Dr Zahi Hawass, the head of the Supreme Council who is in charge of the expedition. The north shaft bends by 45 degrees after 18 metres but, after 60 metres, is also blocked by a limestone door.

Now technicians at Leeds University are putting the finishing touches to a robot which, they hope, will follow the shaft to its end. Known as the Djedi project, after the magician whom Khufu consulted when planning the pyramid, the robot will be able to drill through the second set of doors to see what lies beyond.

More on the robot project at Giza.


Tombs in Giza suggest pyramids were not built by slaves
January 11, 2010, 9:43 am
Filed under: Egypt, Tombs | Tags: , , ,

A set of tombs recently uncovered near the great pyramids of Giza show that free workers, rather than slaves, were enlisted to build the pyramids. While this theory has already been prominent among Egyptologists for some time, it nonetheless remains difficult to imagine hundreds of thousands of people dragging 2.3 million stone blocks (the largest of which weighed 80 tons) for any other reason than slavery. Perhaps these recently found tombs were supervisors of legions of slaves. Ultimately, it depends on the leader. The pharaoh Khufu may have been powerful and beloved enough that his people would have gone to any length to erect this monument in his name. This level of power, though, is difficult for the modern world to grasp.

“These tombs were built beside the king’s pyramid, which indicates that these people were not by any means slaves,” Zahi Hawass, the chief archaeologist heading the Egyptian excavation team, said in a statement.

“If they were slaves, they would not have been able to build their tombs beside their king’s.”

He said the collection of workers’ tombs, some of which were found in the 1990s, were among the most significant finds in the 20th and 21st centuries.

They belonged to workers who built the pyramids of Khufu and Khafre.

Mr Hawass had earlier found graffiti on the walls from workers calling themselves “friends of Khufu” – another sign that they were not slaves.

More on the new tombs at Giza.