By ROB WAUGH
The secret gates at the heart of the Great Pyramid may be opened for the first time in 2012, a British robot company believes – solving a mystery that has puzzled archaeologists since 1872.
Scoutek UK had already begun exploring behind the gates earlier this year – and produced the first-ever images from behind the gates using a ‘micro snake’ robot. But the exploration was halted by the recent unrest in Egypt.
Expedition leader Shaun Whitehead said, ‘I’m very confident we can resume work in 2012.’ Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities stopped granting permits for research such as the Djedi robotic exploration of the Great Pyramid.
But it has recently started granting permits again. ‘We’re still waiting for permission to return to the pyramid,’ Whitehead told Mail Online today. ‘In the meantime, we have been working on enhancing the robot.’
‘The main plan is to carefully survey and document the shafts, to gather as much information as possible to allow archaeologists to determine their purpose. We also still plan to look beyond the blocking stones at the ends of the shafts, if it is safe and practical to do so.’
The expedition is named Djedi after the magician who Khufu consulted while building the pyramid. It is a joint project founded by Dr Ng from Hong Kong University, and Scoutek UK, in cooperation with the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Egypt, Dassault Systèmes in France and the University of Leeds.
The four narrow shafts deep inside the 4,500-year-old Great Pyramid have puzzled archaeologists ever since they were first found in 1872. The shafts are just eight inches across – and thus can’t be explored by human explorers. Many experts believe that the shaft was designed to provide an ‘exit’ for the Pharaoh’s spirit into.
The pyramid is the last of the seven wonders of the ancient world still standing, and is thought to have been built as a tomb for Pharoah Khufu, who ruled in the Fourth Egyptian Dynasty and died in 2566 BC. Khufu had the Great Pyramid of Giza built as a monumental tomb, inside of which are tomb chambers, ante-rooms, chambers, ventilation shafts and access tunnels.
There are three main chambers: The King’s Chamber, the Queen’s Chamber and the Grand Gallery. The King’s Chamber has two shafts connected to outside, but two tunnels from the Queen’s Chamber deep inside the widest part of the pyramid have two stone doors.
Some experts now believe this may indicate a secret chamber, further still within the pyramid. It is not the first time robots have been used within the pyramid to gather evidence about the inner depths of the structure.
In 1993 a robot discovered a small door set with metal pins, the first time any metal had been found inside the pyramid, igniting speculation that the pins were keys or door handles. In 2002 a different robot filmed a small chamber blocked by a stone after managing to drill through the first stone block.
The latest robot, built by UK company Scoutek, is a ‘micro-snake’ armed with a camera, designed to explore small spaces.