Unless you’ve been in something dangerously close to cryogenic suspension for the last year, you’ll know that these have been troubled times in Egypt – but you may not have heard that these have also been troubled times for Egyptology. Adding to 2011’s regime-changing brouhaha, Zahi Hawass, the Egyptian government’s 64-year-old ministry-level head of Ancient Egyptian stuff (and owner of a hat that practically has its own Discovery channel), has been fired/resigned then reinstated then fired/resigned again.
It’s a tricky one to balance: though tourists love him, I think it’s fair to say that Egyptologists basically don’t – it has often been alleged that to work for him has been to sign any chance of historical research glory over to him (oh, and to his TV channel partners too). Is he charismatic, thoughtful and generous, or egotistical, controlling and bullying? Or perhaps some combination of the above? If you track this area, you probably have your own opinion… I certainly have mine.
From an alt.history perspective, one of Ancient Egypt’s splendidly enduring unexplained mysteries is the internal structure of the Great Pyramid – in particular, the function of the four narrow shafts leading upwards from two chambers. The upper (“King’s”) Chamber has two shafts leading off right to the exterior of the pyramid: but the lower (“Queen’s”) Chamber’s two concealed shafts (only discovered in 1872 through a mixture of intuition and persistance) do not apparently reach the outside of the pyramid. So… where do they go to?
Countless theories have been devised to try to explain these curious shafts, frankly none of which I believe for a moment. Yet the shafts’ first proper unveiling moment came in 1993, when German engineer Rudolf Gantenbrink’s “Upuaut-2” robot at last crawled right to the top of the lower southern shaft, where its newly-installed video equipment discovered… “a finely-worked slab of special limestone, of a kind otherwise used only for the pyramid’s exterior sheathing and its interior chambers. And that slab is adorned with two copper fittings.”
Of course, the question on everyone’s lips suddenly became “what’s behind that slab?” However, because Hawass (so the story goes) took some kind of dislike to Gantenbrink, these efforts of 1992-1993 were only followed up by a second (different) team’s robot crawler in 2002, which again crawled right up to the top, drilled through to the other side, poked a tiny camera through, discovering… another block just beyond the first one, with a cavity between the two.
Then in 2011, yet another robot from yet another team crawled its way to the top and peered through the previously drilled-out hole with a bendy camera, to try to get a proper look at the cavity: this revealed (arguably) a cipher mystery aspect to all this. For on the floor in the cavity there is a set of unidentified red markings. What do they mean? What could they mean?
Of course, I have really no idea – it has been noted that other red measuring marks (presumably put down by Egyptian masons) have been seen elsewhere, so this could very plausibly be what we’re looking at here. But that’s basically as much as we can sensibly say for the moment.
Perhaps 2012 will see yet another team with yet another robot crawler, perhaps this time with a super-duper-mega-drill. Could it be that Rudolf Gantenbrink will finally be drawn back to the Great Pyramid, with his Upuaut robot now expanded with something like a miniaturized Thunderbirds “Pod 5” Mole? We shall see! 🙂