The Shaft, The Subway & The Causeway / 9

Phenomena Magazine - "Tunnel Talk" article

In early 2004, an article written by Nigel Skinner-Simpson appeared in issue 2 (Jan/Feb 2004) of Phenomena Magazine. The text of the annotated version of the article is given below. The published version did not contain the references due to space limitations. The photographs first appeared in "Giza The Truth" by Ian Lawton & Chris Ogilvie-Herald © 1999, used with permission of the authors.

On the night of the 2nd March 1999 as the FOX "Opening The Lost Tombs" TV special drew to a close Dr. Zahi Hawass introduced the world to his latest find - a symbolic "Tomb of Osiris" located deep below the causeway linking the Valley Temple and the pyramid of Khafra. According to Dr. Hawass it is also the place that Herodotus was told about when he visited the Giza plateau 2,500 years ago. Stories had been circulating about it for some time. At the A.R.E [1] conference held at Virginia Beach in August 1998, Dr. Hawass described his new discovery as a shaft over 100 feet deep opening into a pillared hall in the middle of which was a huge sarcophagus submerged in water. This was the first opportunity for the world to actually see what he was talking about.

Chambers In The Sand

The shaft actually consists of three levels. The first level is reached via a 9 metre vertical shaft cutting through the causeway and down through the roof and floor of a subway passing beneath it.[2] The entrance is through an opening cut into the north wall of the shaft, the room being empty and devoid of any decoration. Cut into the floor at the northern end is another shaft descending 14 metres into the rock. It ends on the south side of a large chamber with seven side-chambers; three cut into the west wall, three into the east and one into the north. A large sarcophagus occupies the centre side-chamber in the west wall, and another in the northern-most side chamber in the east wall. Dr. Hawass has dated this level to the time of the twenty sixth dynasty, around 500 B.C., based on the style of the pottery that he found. Cut into the floor of the southern-most side-chamber in the east wall is another shaft descending 10 metres to the third level. An astonishing site greets the eye as the chamber comes into view. In the centre is a rectangular enclosure surrounded by water except for a connection leading to it from the eastern side of the chamber. At each corner the remains of a pillar can be seen. The area inside the enclosure is also full of water beneath which a sarcophagus sits submerged. Dr. Hawass believes this level to be a symbolic "Tomb of Osiris". In the time of the New Kingdom, the Giza Plateau was known as "The House of Osiris, Lord of the Underground Tunnels". Dr. Hawass found evidence of the hieroglyphic sign "Pr" meaning 'place' or 'house' before the pillars to the east of the sarcophagus. The sarcophagus itself represents Osiris resting surrounded by water, the four pillars forming his house or palace. From the size of the sarcophagus and the style of pottery found, Dr. Hawass dated the third level to the New Kingdom.

So is this a new discovery? Dr. Hawass is undoubtedly the first to excavate the third level but as he points out in his lectures on the subject the location has been known about for many years. Professor Selim Hassan excavated in this location during his sixth season at Giza in 1934/35. The Daily Telegraph of 4th March 1935 carried a report of his find much as we know it today, although it describes the third shaft as "ending in a colonnaded hall in which three basalt sarcophagi were found".[3] In "Excavations At Giza" vol. 5 Hassan says of the third shaft, "Through the clear water we can see that it ends in a colonnaded hall, also having side chambers containing sarcophagi".[4] The references in these reports to additional sarcophagi and side chambers no doubt arise from his restricted viewpoint. Hassan tried to pump out the water for four years without success, the flooded third level keeping its secrets for the time being. Later on, the water was pumped to the surface for use in the local vicinity.[5]

Enter Boris And The ARE

central enclosure
Looking towards the west end of the central enclosure.

The next major development happened in November 1996 when a documentary filmmaker named Boris Said visited the location. Said was working with a team headed by Dr. Joseph Schor of The Schor Foundation. Schor had obtained an annually renewable five-year licence to conduct acoustic and radar surveys on the Giza plateau under the direction of Florida State University. Said had entered into a joint-venture with Schor to film the work for a new documentary. On a previous visit in 1992, Said found the third level full of water but now the water had dropped by as much as five metres. The sight he saw was very different to the one shown to the world on the FOX TV Special. A pile of muddy debris extended from the eastern side of the room and tapered off at the sides into the water. Towards the centre the partially buried enclosure also full of water broke through the debris. Said's crew scraped away at the dirt on the chamber's eastern side to clear a flat area for the camera tripod. It quickly became apparent that a smooth hard surface was becoming exposed. As more was revealed, a dark sarcophagus lid came into view.

The way Said tells it[6] nothing more happened until February 1997 when team member Dr. Thomas Dobecki investigated the find using ground-penetrating radar. This indicated the lid to be around thirty inches thick. Two and a half metres below the lid it detected a two and a half metre wide anomaly with what looked like a domed ceiling. The anomaly descended at a twenty five degree angle and headed in the direction of the Sphinx. This was exciting news because in April/May 1996 Dobecki's radar detected a possible tunnel approximately two metres wide and three metres below the surface emerging from beneath the rump of the Sphinx and heading in a westerly direction under the causeway towards Khafra's pyramid. According to Said, he rushed off to tell the Egyptian inspector about the findings only to be told that the team had no right to operate the radar equipment because his permit only gave the right to film. Furthermore, Said says he only then found out that Schor's permit had been revoked at the end of 1996. Schor and Said parted company with Schor eventually taking out a lawsuit against Said for breach of confidentiality. It is worth noting that Schor's permit was not actually revoked and that Said's recollection of events was not always consistent.[7] Would the subsequent excavation by Dr. Hawass have taken place had it not been for the above events? Dr. Hawass simply states that he decided to excavate the location because he found out that the water level had fallen.[8]

The House Of Osiris?

Is this a symbolic Tomb of Osiris? The attribution seems to depend on finding evidence of the hieroglyphic sign "pr" meaning "house" or "palace" and the central enclosure being surrounded by water suggesting the primeval mound of creation. The New Kingdom dating - the time when Giza was known as the "House of Osiris, Lord of the Underground Tunnels" - is based on the size of the sarcophagus and the style of pottery found inside the shaft.[9]

Regarding the sign "pr", Dr. Hawass writes "We found the hieroglyphic sign which means house or palace on the ground to the east of the sarcophagus",[10] and in an interview with Andrew Bayuk, webmaster of "Guardian's Egypt" and Hawass' own website, Dr. Hawass points between the two eastern pillars on a model and states "there is evidence at the beginning before these two pillars of the hieroglyphic sign "Pr" which means "place".[11] This suggests that the sign is physically carved in the rock to the east but an Archaeology magazine article reports him saying it is formed by the shape of the pool surrounding the pillars.[12]

undercut tunnel
Going nowhere inside the tunnel rumoured to lead to the Great Pyramid.

The same report also mentions that the pool could well be the result of a rise in the water table rather than being an original feature.[13] Chris Ogilvie-Herald, co-author of "Giza: The Truth also doubts that the chamber intentionally contains water. He points to the rough excavation or tunnel said to have been cut in the northwest corner in the late period[14] as the original culprit and thinks it is either a natural fissure or an underground watercourse that broke through the wall some time after the chamber's construction. He cites the undercutting of the sides of the tunnel as clear evidence of water erosion.[15] The Giza plateau is known to have been subject to rainfall in ancient times.[16] Could some of this water have entered the underground water courses and faults riddling the Giza plateau subsurface and ended up in the third level? In 1999, Dr. Hawass investigated the tunnel and found that it ends after four metres.[17] Unfortunately, we do not know how it ends in the rock or if there was ever some way for water to get through. The presence or absence of tool marks would help to confirm the tunnel's origin one way or another.

Another element of the New Kingdom dating is the size of the sarcophagus. In his book "Death In Ancient Egypt", A. J. Spencer describes how some sarcophagi of the twenty sixth dynasty were similar in style to the royal sarcophagi of the New Kingdom, being a rectangular chest with the head end rounded and sides that converge slightly towards the foot. Could the sarcophagus actually be a copy of the New Kingdom style as illustrated by Spencer?[18] There is also a striking similarity between the sarcophagus lid and one shown in Spencer's book under the caption "Plans and sections of the lids of Late Period stone sarcophagi" where he is again dealing with the question of late copies of New Kingdom sarcophagi.[19]

Deeper Shafts

submerged sarcophagus
Submerged sarcophagus in the central enclosure.

Dr. Hawass is quite certain about the third level's New Kingdom dating even though the only access is via the second level which he dates to the much later time of 500 B.C. In his interview with Andrew Bayuk, he says about the second level, "I dated this level to 26th Dynasty, 500 BC. based on the pottery style and that this second shaft was cut later." When questioned about bones being found in the third level, Dr. Hawass explains, "Because they used this in the Late Period also for burials". Andrew asks, "So then you believe this third level to be originally from the New Kingdom and then later used for burial in the Late Period?" to which Dr. Hawass replies "Yes".[20] However, the cutting of the second level at a later period has been questioned because the shaft to the third level is cut into the floor of one of the second level's sidechambers.[21]

From the issues raised above, could the third level be something other than a symbolic New Kingdom "Tomb of Osiris" - perhaps a 26th Dynasty tomb for a high-ranking official? What about the artefacts that Dr. Hawass found and dated to the New Kingdom? One final question - In the television documentary "Mysteries of the Pyramids - Live!" broadcast in 1988, Dr. Mark Lehner visits the third level and throws a pebble into the water, saying that the point of impact marks the spot where two more shafts go deeper still.[22] Have the shafts finally been investigated? Maybe there is more to be told…

List of References...

[1] Association for Research and Enlightenment

[2] The subway was originally constructed to connect the necropolis of Khufu with that of Khafra and a similar subway can be found cut in Khufu's causeway.

[3] See for article

[4] "Excavations At Giza Vol. 5 1933-1934" by Selim Hassan with the collaboration of Mahmoud Darwish, Cairo Government Press, Bulaq 1944, p193, see for text.

[5] J. J. Hurtak stated on the Laura Lee Radio Show in March 1999, that the ladders and pumping equipment were installed in 1947.

[6] "Behind The Scenes With The Magical Eye Team On The Giza Plateau" video account. Note that this disagrees with other accounts - see note 7 below.

[7] In an interview on the Art Bell Radio Show, Said said that the discovery of the sarcophagus lid and the radar investigation both took place in February 1997, This has been confirmed to me as the correct date by a team member who was present when the lid was uncovered.

[8] See Guardian's Spotlight Interview 2000 at

[9] See Guardian's Spotlight Interview 2000 at

[10] Egyptair Horus magazine July/September 2000 p16.

[11] See Guardian's Spotlight Interview 2000 at

[12] Archaeology Sept/Oct 2000 edition p31.

[13] Archaeology Sept/Oct 2000 edition p33.

[14] Egyptair Horus magazine July/September 2000 p16.

[15] See Giza: The Truth by Ian Lawton & Chris Ogilvie-Herald, plate 49.

[16] Although rare, this has persisted into the modern era. See "Discoveries in Egypt, Ethiopia and the peninsula of Sinai in the years 1842-1845…" by Richard Lepsius, p27 for an account of a flash flood at Giza on 2nd January 1843. (BL shelfmark RB.23.A.5430)

[17] Arqueologia magazine interview with Dr. Hawass (in spanish).

[18] "Death In Ancient Egypt" by A. J. Spencer p187, see also fig.74 p188.

[19] "Death In Ancient Egypt" by A. J. Spencer p191.

[20] See Guardian's Spotlight Interview 2000 at

[21] Second level east side, southernmost sidechamber, see Archaeology Sept/Oct 2000 edition p33.

[22] Atlantis Rising issue 15 "The Search for the Giza Hall of Records" p56.

The Shaft, The Subway & The Causeway - Contents

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