(GIZA, EGYPT – September 17, 2002) New discoveries made today by the National Geographic/Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) expedition may shed light on some of the most enduring mysteries of the pyramids. During a two-hour live broadcast from the Giza Plateau entitled Egypt: Secret Chambers Revealed (in the U.S., Pyramids Live: Secret Chambers Revealed), the expedition utilized a specially-designed robot to reveal what lay beyond a blocking stone in the Great Pyramid’s mysterious southern shaft.
Peering into darkness with a miniature fibre-optic camera, National Geographic captured the world’s first glimpse of a ‘second door’ behind the ‘blocking stone’.
“There was a space, a void and then what appears to be another “door” which was quite distinct and showed some chisel marks,” Dr. Zahi Hawass, Head of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, said. “This is one of the first major discoveries in the Great Pyramid in some 130 years and now what we need is time for further analysis.”
“What we have seen tonight is totally unique within the world of Egyptology. There is nothing to compare it to as these passages are not in any other pyramids, with or without doors,” added Hawass. “The presence of a second “door” only deepens the intrigue surrounding the Great Pyramid.”
The expedition also opened Egypt’s oldest intact sarcophagus, revealing a skeleton, possibly male. The sarcophagus contained no artifacts visible on the surface.
“He was resting beautifully, lying on his side facing east looking at the rising sun. I think he’s a man, but only after careful study and documentation will we know for sure,” Dr. Hawass said.
Preliminary scientific analysis of the new finds is pending and some results will be released in the near future by the Supreme Council of Antiquities. Archaeological preservation work by the SCA is already underway. “Tonight we advanced our knowledge of the Great Pyramid and of ancient Egyptian culture and shared the moment of archaeological revelation with the world,” Dr. Hawass said.
“We are happy to be supporting our lead archaeologist on this project, Dr. Hawass and his groundbreaking work at Giza,” Tim Kelly, President of National Geographic Television & Film. “This expedition has been a true partnership, with National Geographic providing technological means and financial support and the Supreme Council of Antiquities providing scientific and archaeological expertise. Together, tonight we brought the thrill of real-time archaeology to television viewers around the world.”
The discoveries were beamed live to an audience of millions of viewers worldwide via the National Geographic Channel and FOX in the United States. Utilizing a state-of-the-art robot nicknamed “Pyramid Rover” designed for National Geographic by Boston, Massachusetts-based iRobot, the Expedition team along with robotic engineers navigated up the steep 40-degree incline of the southern shaft and maneuvered over a nearly 3-inch “step” some 180 feet inside. National Geographic captured the efforts live, as at [4.55am Cairo Time], the Pyramid Rover inserted a miniature fibre-optic camera through a three quarter inch hole in the blocking stone. It was nearly 10 years ago when robotics engineer Rudolf Gantenbrink and a team from the German Archaeological Institute first explored the southern shaft and discovered the mysterious blocking stone.
An international team of 70 persons representing the U.S., Egypt and the U.K. worked on the broadcast, with a total number of 250 people helping to make the expedition and broadcast possible. Hosted live by Jay Schadler and Laura Greene, the program also covered recent discoveries on the Giza plateau by one of the world’s foremost Egyptologists, Dr. Mark Lehner. These excavations, partly funded by National Geographic Society, have uncovered the missing city of the pyramid builders, including dwellings, bakeries, storage warehouses, food production facilities, and workshops, which are changing our notions about the pyramid builders’ urban life.
“National Geographic has a long history of devotion to scientific work and projects in Egypt that spans the past 100 years,” Terry Garcia, Executive Vice President, NGS Mission Programs, said.
“The Great Pyramid is an icon of archaeology, and we hope our work there will continue to add to the body of knowledge about ancient Egypt,” he said. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazine published its first story on Egypt in its November 1901 issue – “Recent Discoveries in Egypt” was a brief summary of the work of William Matthew Flinders-Petrie, the first Edwards Professor of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology at University College London. In subsequent years, the National Geographic Society has sponsored more than 100 research grants for work in Egypt, including discovery and excavation of the Solar Boat at Giza, geologist Farouk El-Baz’s study of the air within chambers of the three pyramids in 1988 and archaeologist Kent Weeks’ excavation of KV5 in 1996. In addition, National Geographic has featured stories on Egypt in countless books, magazine articles, and television programs.
Egypt: Secret Chambers Revealed (in the U.S., Pyramids Live: Secret Chambers Revealed) was produced for National Geographic Channel (internationally) and Fox in the U.S.) by National Geographic Television & Film and TV6, London. For National Geographic Television & Film, Senior Executive Producer is Michael Rosenfeld, Executive Producers are John Bredar and Lisa Truitt and Producer, Robotics Unit, is Chris Sondreal. For TV6, Supervising Producer is Richard Reisz and Producer is Cynthia Page. Live Director is Stuart MacDonald. For National Geographic Channel, Executive Producer is Bryan Smith.