The Shaft, The Subway & The Causeway / 5

"Opening The Lost Tombs" - The Tomb Of Osiris

On the 2nd of March 1999, the FOX Television Network broadcast a programme entitled 'Opening The Lost Tombs: Live From Egypt.' The closing section of the programme dealt with the 'Tomb of Osiris', the location described in these pages. Here was an opportunity for the man in charge of the excavations to end the speculation about what lies beneath Khafre's causeway.

Contents Of This Section...

(Please note that 'The Underground Layout' and 'The Broadcast' are presented on additional pages to keep page sizes manageable. Click Back or follow the links provided to return here after viewing them.)

The Main Points...

The following is a summary of the main points raised by this section of the programme. Attributions are given to indicate if a point arises from statements made by the FOX presenters (FOX) or from Doctor Hawass himself (ZH). Statements in italics are explanatory notes added by Towers On-Line.

  1. Doctor Hawass has discovered a subterranean chamber that lies at the bottom of a long shaft not far from the Sphinx. (FOX)
  2. Doctor Hawass discovered the chamber about a year ago and refers to it as his greatest adventure ever. (FOX)
  3. The chamber is the one talked about by Herodotus. (ZH) ("...underground sepulchral chambers on the hill where the pyramids stand; a cut was made from the Nile, so that the water from it turned the site of these into an island." - The Histories Book 2, s 124)
  4. Doctor Hawass has established that the chamber is the 'Tomb of Osiris'. (ZH)
  5. The second level chamber was obscured with dirt and sand. Doctor Hawass and his men cleared it to find a burial chamber with six rooms cut in the rock. (FOX)
  6. Doctor Hawass found two red granite sarcophagi, pottery and bones. (ZH)
  7. Doctor Hawass dates the pottery to 500 B.C., 2,500 years ago. (ZH)
  8. Doctor Hawass found the shaft leading to the third level. (My interpretation, based on Suzy Kolber (FOX): "And what made you think that there was anything beyond this?" ZH: "You have to look for the other level. This is the adventure.")
  9. When Doctor Hawass found the third level, it was submerged. (FOX)
  10. To lower the sarcophagus into the chamber, the shaft was filled with sand and the sarcophagus was placed on top. The sand was removed via side-shafts cut for the purpose. As the level of the sand dropped, the sarcophagus was lowered down the shaft. (ZH)
  11. Archaeologists agree that a network of tunnels lies below the Giza plateau. (FOX)
  12. Doctor Hawass believes that Edgar Cayce's references to a lost civilisation are a legend, a myth. (ZH)
  13. Doctor Hawass stood in the entrance to what he said was an unexcavated tunnel. (ZH) (The entrance is located in the northwest corner of the chamber.)

Matters Arising...

This section highlights some discrepancies between the discovery of this location as reported in the television programme and other historical reports. It also suggests why Herodotus was told that this location - if indeed it is the same one - was Khufu's burial chamber, and for comparative purposes gives examples of other locations also called the 'Tomb of Osiris'.

From points 1 and 2 above, Doctor Hawass discovered the subterranean chamber in 1998, however it is clear from the Excavations At Giza excerpt reproduced on page 1 and the London Daily Telegraph article of the 4th March 1935 reproduced on page 3 that the location was known about many years ago.

From points 5, 6 and 8 above, on clearing the second level chamber Doctor Hawass found six sidechambers cut into the rock and the shaft descending to the third level chamber. Two of the sidechambers contained red granite sarcophagi, Again, it is clear from the reports cited above that Doctor Selim Hassan was fully aware of the layout of the second chamber with its sidechambers and also of the shaft to the third level, although he believed the two monolithic sarcophagi to be of basalt rather than granite.

From points 3 and 4, we are told that this is the chamber talked about by Herodotus as being the burial place of Khufu, and furthermore that it is the 'Tomb of Osiris'. Herodotus is thought to have visited Egypt in the middle of the fifth century B.C. (i.e. around 450 B.C.), this being approximately seventy five years after the end of the 26th (Saite) dynasty which started with Necho, King of Sais around 666 B.C. and ended with the demise of Psamtik III around 525 B.C. It was during this time that there was a resurgence of interest in the Old Kingdom. A 26th dynasty stela found in the Temple of Isis (which was constructed in the eastern cemetry at Gizeh in the 21st Dynasty) tells how Khufu made repairs to the temple and repaired the headdress of the Sphinx (see Lehner, The Complete Pyramids, p39) so it is clear that at least some of the stories being told at the time were being somewhat economical with the truth. From point 7, Doctor Hawass dates the pottery found in the second level chamber to around 500 B.C., i.e. close to the end of the Saite period. On the assumption that the chambers were constructed in this period, they could only have been about two hundred years old at most at the time of Herodotus's visit. This might explain why Herodotus was told that the 'underground sepulchral chambers' were associated with Khufu, the story being a remnant of the resurgence of interest in the Old Kingdom.

It was not made clear in the programme whether Doctor Hawass was dating the entire complex to around 500 B.C. or referring specifically to the second level although it soon became apparent in his lectures on the subject that he dates the second level to the Saite period and the third level - the symbolic "Tomb of Osiris" - to the New Kingdom. This raises the situation whereby according to Dr Hawass, the third (deepest) level was constructed hundreds of years before the second (intermediate) level. This is even more curious when you consider that one has to cross the second level chamber to reach the shaft to the third level, the shaft being cut into the floor of what might have been another sidechamber.

Although Doctor Hawass stated that he believed the location to be a symbolic "Tomb of Osiris", he did not explain why, possibly because of the limited time available. In his lectures, he explains how at the time of the New Kingdom, the Giza plateau was known as the "House of Osiris, Lord of the Underground Tunnels". His attribution is based on finding the hieroglyphic sign "pr" meaning "house" cut in the ground to the east of the sarcophagus and finding a number of wood, pottery and bone artifacts from which he dated the location to the time of the New Kingdom. In his opinion, the empty sarcophagus represents the symbolic burial of the god Osiris. Dr Hawass has also mentioned that the "Tomb of Osiris" has similarities in layout with the 'Tomb of Osiris' at Abydos. For those unfamiliar with this location, a fine account of its discovery and excavation can be found in an Illustrated London News article entitled "Strabo's Well" and Tomb of Osiris taken from the 30th May, 1914 edition.

Another 'Tomb of Osiris' is mentioned by Labib Habichi in his essay "Sais And Its Monuments", (see Annales Du Service Des Antiquites De L'Egypte vol. 42, p371):

Herodotus, who visited it (Sais) in the middle of the fifth century B.C., not long after the fall of this (26th) dynasty, gives us a detailed description of its buildings...Concerning the tombs of its kings, he says that the sepulchre of Apries lies within the temenos wall of Neith. "This wall encloses the tomb of Amasis as well as that of Apries and his family." (Histories, Book 2, s 169) "It encloses also the tomb of Osiris which stands behind the temple, large stone obelisks and a lake built with stones on which the Egyptians represent the sufferings of Osiris." (Histories Book 2, s 170-171)

Now Continue With The Other Parts...

The Shaft, The Subway & The Causeway - Contents

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