Proposals for Fifth Gen Robotic Exploration of Great Pyramid Unveiled

New Discoveries inside Khufu's Great Pyramid at Giza likely as proposals for Fifth Generation Robotic Exploration Announced


Wednesday’s scoop in the on-line magazine ‘Digital Trends‘ has refocused attention back onto December’s trailblazing discoveries in the field of Muon Imaging Technology: which appear to have located an anomalous void within the Great Pyramid’s structure. At the heart of the story are two French academic research institutions, Inria, the French National Institute for computer science and applied mathematics, and the French National Center for Scientific Research, who are planning to send what has been described as ‘a blimp-like exploration robot‘ into a number of previously unexplored crevices within the Great Pyramid; in the hope of finding out exactly what the earlier survey has picked up. Although last month’s discovery was likened by some to something out of ‘Assassin’s Creed Origins‘, one veteran Egyptologist in particular has poured scorn on what could best be described as some of the more sensationalist claims made by the Franco-Japanese team behind December’s high profile press release.

December’s revelations on the BBC World Service, in the mainstream media and elsewhere, that the discovery of a ‘big void’ inside the Great Pyramid at Giza had left scientists ‘baffled’ sent shock waves around the globe. At the beginning of November it was announced that recent discoveries, using a relatively new technique involving ‘Muon-detecting sensor’ technology, had revealed the existence of a mysterious space deep inside the masonry of the Pyramid. As a result of this seemingly new discovery researchers concluded that they had located a previously unnoticed inner structure, the purpose of which was unclear. Although a single critical voice, in the person of Zahi Hawass, a former Egyptian antiquities minister, has since claimed on websites such as ahramonline that the anomalous void was ‘not a new discovery‘, citing the work of Dieter Arnold, author of ‘Building in Egypt: Pharaonic Stone Masonry’, as his principal point of reference, an article in the journal ‘Nature’ has suggested something altogether different.

However, although the article stated, whether rightly or wrongly, that ‘The void is the first large inner structure discovered within the 4,500-year-old pyramid since the 1800s’, assuming of course that the initial scientific assessments of the discovery are correct, claims on the AntiMedia website and elsewhere that ‘the internal structure of the Great Pyramid has not yielded a significant discovery since the 19th century’ are factually wrong. It is however undisputed fact, and by no means insignificant, that Zahi Hawass was himself directly involved in what was, previous to last month’s announcement, some pioneering work which would ultimately lead to all of the most recently confirmed discoveries of new inner structures within the Great Pyramid during the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries. The origins of this exploratory work began back in the nineteen nineties and was to result in the discovery of a series of secret doors inside the Great Pyramid’s ascending passages.  And, in the light of Wednesday’s story, it is perhaps significant that all of these initial discoveries were made employing the use of earlier pioneering first and second generation robotic technology.

Diagram of the Great Pyramid showing some of the internal features originally explored using First Generation Robotics back in the 1990s.

Given the fact that Robotics and AI are back in the media spotlight, it is also fitting that discoveries in and around the Great Pyramid should be back in the news as well. Especially as the previously mentioned discoveries, which took place during the early nineteen nineties, involved the active participation of the pioneering German robotic engineer Rudolf Gantenbrink. Gantenbrick’s skills and expertise had been drawn to the attention of Zahi Hawass, at that time the Chief Inspector of the Giza Pyramid Plateau, by Rainer Stadelmann, the director of the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo. The primary aim of the work to be undertaken by Gantenbrink involved just part of what was originally intended to be a long term conservation project necessitated by the build up of condensation inside the Pyramid itself as a direct consequence of high pressure tourism; along with other related factors. This involved the closure of the legendary Great Pyramid of Cheops for a full year in 1993, the first time that something like this had ever happened, so that the initial stages of this highly important work could be carried out.

According to Zahi Hawass’s own account of the proceedings, the general idea was to create a situation in which certain key areas within the Pyramid itself could be cleaned under controlled conditions. It was also important to initiate a system whereby a method of permanently lowering the humidity within the Pyramid could also to be simultaneously developed. One set of pioneering proposals that was to be advanced in relation to this involved cleaning the airshafts in the the so-called ‘King’s Chamber’, as a prelude to the installation of machinery inside them with a view to creating a technologically advanced ventilation system; as a means of preventing any further deterioration of the Pyramid’s internal features. Work on this began in 1993, and was to involve extensive exploration of all of the Pyramid’s ventilation shafts using a robot called Webwawat, designed and built by Gantenbrink himself. After investigating the airshafts in the third chamber, or King’s Chamber, to which we have already referred, the device was subsequently inserted into the shafts in the so-called Queen’s Chamber.

During the course of the latter investigation some interesting and intriguing finds were made in the room’s two shafts. Finds that were to involve the discovery of a number of new inner structures that could only have been revealed as a direct result of the cutting edge scientific developments in the field of Robotics previously described. Developments which, at the time, were every bit as revolutionary as the present day advances in high-energy particle physics that have made the recent finds documented in the journal ‘Nature’ earlier in the year possible in our own present century. In the southern shaft inside the Queen’s Chamber Webwawat was stopped 208 feet along the sloping angle of the shaft in front of what Zahi Hawass was later to describe as ‘a door or small stone with two copper handles.’ The northern shaft on the other hand was seemingly blocked after approximately 27 feet and no further progress could be made until another, specially commissioned, robot had been deployed courtesy of a team of contractors from National Geographic.

Gantenbrink’s initial discovery in the southern shaft inside the Queen’s Chamber, which took place on 22nd March 1993, appeared to consist of what was later to be described as a ‘portcullis slab’ in a BBC documentary entitled ‘The Great Pyramid Gateway to the Stars’; which was broadcast the following year. Essentially what is being referred to here is a particular type of stone slab which sits in grooves and is lowered into the passageway from the ceiling. A subsequent investigation using Ultrasonic technology was followed by the drilling of a small hole in the ‘portcullis slab’ through which a tiny camera was later inserted. This in turn revealed another mysterious slab, in which there were visible cracks, directly behind the first one. At the time the exact method by which these slabs had been placed in the ascending passageway was still something of a mystery. The position in which they lie and the subsequent investigations in the northern shaft of the Queen’s Chamber by the team from National Geographic, which also revealed another series of slabs, in addition to a turn in the shaft itself which had impeded any further exploration by the robot built by Gantenbrink, give the impression that some sort of outside access to the shafts was available, via other possible but hitherto undiscovered chambers or passageways, to those who had positioned them there in the first place.

A series of later investigations by two later generations of robots, the first in 2002 and the second in 2011, were to reveal, among other things, the presence of what appeared to be hieroglyphs written in red paint which could be anything up to 4,500-year-old. Also found were what appeared to be carvings in related stonework that could have been made by the original stone masons involved in the building of the Great Pyramid at the very time of the monument’s construction. What the new French ‘blimp-like exploration robot’, which is apparently ‘designed to squeeze through a tiny 1.5-inch hole, before unfolding and inflating itself to look around’ may well reveal is whether or not there is a connection between the recently discovered anomalous space, referred to in last month’s press reports, and the previous discoveries within the shafts of the so-called ‘Queen’s Chamber’.


Rupert Ferguson is presently engaged in editing his own and soon to be published book on the Mysteries of the Great Pyramid and their influence on Western Civilization.


Picture Credits: Great Pyramid of Cheops by Nina Aldin ThuneCreative Commons License.

Diagram of Great Pyramid: Wikimedia Commons

Rupert Ferguson
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Rupert Ferguson

Journalist at Distract The Media
Rupert Ferguson is a published author, journalist and radical film maker with specialist interests in local government, politics, environmental issues and Traditional English and Scottish Folk Music. His academic work has been endorsed by the likes of Sir Melvyn Bragg, the late Sir James Watt KBE and the former head of Humanities at Bingley College in Yorkshire, England; James Reed.

Having begun his career as a junior researcher at Thames Television in London, he has written for a wide range of publications including 'The Brighton Reporter', 'Durham Town and Country', 'The Brighton and Hove People' and 'The New Celtic Review'. As an exhibited film maker he has been a regular contributor and award nominee at the Portobello Film Festival in London; and has seen his work shown at the annual London Film Makers' Convention at the prestigious Round House Theatre.

As well as receiving enthusiastic reviews from BBC Radio 4 and others for his book on Sir Walter Scott, his pioneering work as an Underground Film Maker on the fledgeling Goa Trance Scene has set him in a field of his own amongst many of his contemporaries; both in the UK, where he presently resides, and elsewhere. Current projects presently in hand include a book centred on his 'Legendary London' series of documentary films, which have stimulated an enthusiastic response from the likes of Glenda Jackson and others; and a novel set in France and Edinburgh during the eighteenth century Scottish Enlightenment.

For more about Rupert, his endorsements and points of contact please follow the link to his linked-in profile:
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