Egyptologists hit bureaucratic brick wall

Two accomplished but amateur Egyptologists have run into a bureaucratic brick wall in their search for what they suspect might be a hidden corridor in the Pyramid of Cheops.

And if there is such a corridor, does it lead to the funerary chambers of the pharaoh who ruled over ancient Egypt 2 500 years before Jesus Christ was born, and who had the largest of all the pyramids built?

These are the questions being asked by Frenchman Gilles Dormion, a 56-year-old draftsman, and countryman Jean-Yves Verd’hurt, a 61-year-old apartment complex manager.

Suggesting professionals are needed, the new secretary general of the Supreme Council of the Antiquities, Zahi Hawas, has withdrawn permission his predecessor gave the two men to let them test their theories.

Though amateurs, the men have already mapped out the design of Cheops, and designed the ventilation system for the monument, in collaboration with Egyptian authorities.

Two years ago they stirred up a sensation at the 8th International Congress of Egyptologists in Cairo.

By dint of cunning and deduction, they discovered in Maydum pyramid, around 80km south of Cairo, two chambers and two rooms, contributing to the knowledge of construction techniques of the great monuments of Egypt.

The same year, the two Egyptologists explained, “the Supreme Council of Antiquities granted us permission to carry out studies in the other pyramids of the 4th dynasty.”

Research they were pursuing in Cheops indicated the “very probable architectural” presence of a corridor, the pair said in a summary of their work that the Egyptology department at College de France, headed by Nicolas Grimal, ran on its website .

The two researchers then used electromagnetic detection techniques, with the help of the French engineering consulting firm Safege, to expose “an anomaly, which in distance, orientation and dimensions, corresponds exactly to the corridor located architecturally.”

The next step in the research consisted of making small holes measuring between 16 and 25mm in diameter to slip through a mini-camera to find the hidden corridor, before moving on to more exciting discoveries.

However, Hawas, whose authority extends over all the monuments in Egypt, is opposed to such investigation, doubting the seriousness of the enterprise.

“There’s no question of doing it,” Hawas said.

“Probes can be done based on evidence and when a scientific institution is behind them, but the researchers concerned are just private citizens who have a friend at College de France,” Hawas said.

Hawas added he had consulted two prominent archaeologists, German Rainer Stadelmann and American Mark Lehner, and all three had “decided we can’t let just anyone make holes in the pyramids” based only on a theory.

But another Egyptologist who asked not to be named said, “We have trouble understanding the reason for the refusal, despite the permission given by Hawas’s predecessor, Gaballa Ali Gaballa, as well as the success already achieved by Dormion and Verd’hurt.”

- AFP

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