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March 6th – 28th, 1993
copyrights Rudolf Gantenbrink 1999
PREPARING THE THIRD CHEOPS CAMPAIGN
In the late spring of 1992 I'm obsessed with two burning questions: first, where do those lower shafts end? And, of course, what's at the end of them? In fact, it's only the hope of finding answers to these questions that helps me forget the disappointing end to the otherwise very successful second campaign.
So in June I plunge into preparations for the next step. The original project definition foresees investigation of all four shafts, but so far, we have explored only the upper two. We now know the lower ones are not simply "implied", as conventional Egyptology maintains. After all, we've traveled almost 12 meters into both of them, and both obviously continue.
One thing is eminently clear to me at this point – I need a much improved robot!
I begin working out my ideas for "Upuaut-2", and by July I'm completing the computer plans and construction design. In September, actual construction begins, not just on Upuaut-2, but also on the support robot, designed to measure the angle of ascent of the lower shafts, down to one-tenth of a degree. Its clamp gears allow it to ascend by pulling itself upwards along "Upuaut-2's" power cable, so it comes to be known as the "Rope Climber".
Many of the elements
I need, especially for Upuaut-2, are very complicated, customized constructions.
The gearing, for instance eventually comes from Switzerland.
I learn from my mistake on the first campaign: this time I also build scale models of the shafts so I can conduct extensive trial runs with the new robots. By December 1992 the basic robot Upuaut-2 is completed. The Egyptian Antiquities Organization, the predecessor of today's Supreme Council of Egyptian Antiquities, had asked me to inspect and document the situation of the tomb of Sethos I in the Valley of Kings.
and I performing the traction test in December 1992, inside the
While in Cairo I also show the new robot and slides taken during the second campaign to Dr. Hawass and Prof. Stadelmann. The latter says it's a great pity we have no video documentation of the earlier efforts. I suggest bringing along a small documentary camera team for the upcoming third campaign and Prof. Stadelmann wholeheartedly agrees.
In January 1993 I return to Germany to complete work on Upuaut-2 and the Rope Climber, and to finalize preparations for our third campaign.
THE THIRD CHEOPS CAMPAIGN (March 6th – 28th, 1993)
Because of the difficulties encountered on the last campaign – not being able to get through the shafts which in one of two places are only 11 cm high, I cut down the height of Upuaut-2 as much as I could. Now I discover I have been slightly too thorough. Right after the start of the lower southern shaft , we run into one block which turns out to be highest in the entire pyramid. Upuaut-2's upper carriage barely reaches the shaft ceiling at this point, so it has insufficient traction! We try to push it past the block, but don't have a rod or pole long enough to reach into the shaft that far.
crawling for the first time into the horizontal
I initiate my practice of making daily progress reports by telephone to Prof. Stadelmann to keep him informed of what's going on. We spend the rest of the day constructing long push-slats to move the robot past the block with the high ceiling.
But before long the
Rope Climber's main v-belt, which is made of plastic, begins to melt, due
We also discover that we have a problem with our video equipment, which is highly susceptible to dust – and there's no lack of that. In playback mode we're experiencing some pretty serious dropouts.
At Cheops we re-survey the exterior of the pyramid to pinpoint the potential outlet of the lower southern shaft. Based on the angle measurements we made yesterday, we know that if the shaft does penetrate to the outside, it should do so exactly at the 90th layer. But as in the year before there is no sign of any possible outlet.
We finally attach the guide rods to the robot, then realize they're probably too long. We remove them, cut down the rods and refit them. I also repair the rear winch by inserting a tension spring to reduce slack.
lateral displacement at 30 meters.
On the "horizon"
ahead of us we notice a change in the appearance of the shaft. (This is
visible only on the original video material.) I decide to stop at this
point and prepare the Rope Climber to ascend and measure the exact angle
up to this point.
Today I have to put my foot down. At the start, we were accompanied in the small Queen's Chamber by one inspector. As we penetrate ever farther into the hidden recesses of the pyramid, the excitement and suspense are growing, so we are soon joined by two inspectors, then three, then by their wives and friends. Today the chamber is jammed with visitors and my team can hardly move. I announce that the number of visitors must be limited to six per day.
I pass by the Inspectorate and show a tape of our progress to Dr. Hawass, who is fascinated.
Once again the v-belt of the Rope Climber goes soft from overheating. I back Upuaut up 11 meters, then extract the Rope Climber, all of which consumes a lot of time. Finally I send Upuaut back up to 53 meters and spend the rest of the day trying to maneuver it over the "step" in the floor. I leave the robot in place and retire to the hotel, plotting a way over this maddening obstacle. I realize that I need more traction on the upper carriage.
During my daily telephone report to Prof. Stadelmann I receive shocking news – because of internal problems at the EAO, Dr. Hawass resigned from his post yesterday evening! The rumors are flying, but for the moment no one seems to know what the consequences may be. (The same problems would lead to dissolution of the EAO and its replacement by the SCA. After the restructuring, Dr. Hawass would later return to his post as director.)
At 11.05 a.m., at 59 meters, Upuaut-2 approaches a stone slab, which blocks the shaft!
This explains the odd change in appearance we noted back on the 18th, as we advanced to the step. What we were seeing was a reflection of this slab.
In our video inspection of all four shafts so far, a total of about 180 meters, we have seen only blocks made of local limestone. But the final block before the slab is definitely carved from lighter-colored limestone, probably originating from the Mocatam Mountains about 30 km from the Giza Plateau, on the other side of the Nile. This was the material the builders used for the higher-quality casing stones of the pyramid's exterior, and for the chamber systems. The workmanship of the last block in front of the slab is also much higher than anything we have seen in any of the shafts so far.
As we approach the slab, we can see two dark streaks on it, which upon closer inspection turn out to be copper fittings. And there is something else. The face of the inspector sitting next to me at the monitor has become chalk white. He draws my attention to two round, white marks on the copper fittings.
two round, white marks on the copper fittings in close up.
"These are seals, these are seals!" he exclaims, visibly shaken. "We must stop work immediately and inform our chairman."
The excitement in the Queen's Chamber is palpable. For a variety of reasons, we know we have discovered something of great significance. But I have no choice. I leave Upuaut-2 parked in front of the slab, and we retire to our hotel in Cairo. I call Prof. Stadelmann to give him the news.
"Are these really seals? he asks. I simply repeat what the inspector said, adding that I myself have no idea what Old Kingdom seals look like. Within an hour, both Prof. Stadelmann and Dr. Hawass arrive at the hotel.
Together we view the video of the day's discoveries. About the seals, Prof. Stadelmann is quite adamant. He says no such round seals were ever used in the Old Kingdom. But much later, together with a German Egyptologist, I was to investigate this issue more thoroughly and discover that this is not necessarily true. The usual practice in the Old Kingdom was to roll a cylindrical stamp over a piece of clay to create a so-called roll seal.
But not always. Although
very little is actually known about the appearance of Old Kingdom seals,
it appears that some were indeed made of white gypsum. And careful scrutiny
of our video images from the shaft reveals several bits of gypsum in the
sand some 15 to 20 meters below the stone slab.
This has become a popular custom with everyone present, so today, there is a true chorus of good mornings. Unfortunately, no one representing the GAI is present, but there are representatives of the Inspectorate.
Today we make a more thorough video inspection of that marvelous slab. Subsequently it has come to be known, perhaps unfortunately, as "The Door". This popular name of course implies that the slab actually serves the function of a door, leading to – well, who knows what? But until we can peer behind it, or perhaps even open it, we will never know for sure what it really is and what it meant to the builders of Cheops. So for the time being, it might be more appropriate to refer to it simply as the "USO" – the Unidentified Stone Object.
I back Upuaut out
of the shaft and we use the rest of the day to continue our investigation
of the lower northern shaft
. I send the robot up to the metal rod we have seen before, then farther
along the rod until we reach a sharp bend at 18 meters. I leave it at that
and extract the robot from the shaft.
I extract both robots, we do a thoroughly clean-up of the Queen's Chamber, pack up all our equipment and leave Cheops. During my daily telephone to report to Prof. Stadelmann, I notice that he seems nervous and worried. And he wants yet another version of our press statement.
UPUAUT STORY THE
FIRST 1992 CAMPAIGN THE
SECOND 1992 CAMPAIGN
DISCOVER THE UNKNOWN III CULTURE BY TABAC