The Egyptian pyramids do not cease to keep unveiling their secrets. Following the release of the documentary Unearthed on the American television channel Science, Egyptologist Mark Lehner has agreed to speak about his latest study.
In the show, Mark Lehner describes a series of grooves identified in the 19th century on the Great Pyramid of Giza. The monument, also known as the pyramid of Cheops, is believed to have housed the tomb of the eponymous Pharaoh who ruled around 2551 and 2549 BCE.
A primitive anti-theft system
Near what is meant to be his burial chamber, which archaeologists discovered a few years ago, a series of invisible blocks and slits were found hidden in the walls of the pyramid. According to experts, this was a basic defence system designed to protect the king's tomb from possible looters.
Mark Lehner took a closer look at the device and even constructed computer animations with the film crew to explain how it works. In the documentary, he explains that ‘these grooves are not decorative, they are part of a very primitive machine.’
Primitive certainly, but extremely sophisticated for the time. Thanks to these notches, the ancient Egyptians could slide enormous granite slabs up to the tomb. Once the king's burial was complete, the slabs could be released to completely block access to the various passages and to the entrance to the burial chamber.
Ingenious but not foolproof
As ingenious as it is, this system has unfortunately not been able to protect the tomb of Cheops forever. Today, all that remains of it is a red granite sarcophagus, the rest having disappeared. According to Mark Lehner, the burial site was probably looted during the collapse of the Ancient Egyptian Empire around 2200 BCE.
Some a little more extravagant theories, however, suggest that this chamber of the great pyramid of Giza was only a decoy and that the real tomb of the pharaoh still remains to be discovered. The decoy sarcophagus having been discovered, as well as the three chambers identified so far, would have served to suggest to the looters that others had passed before them.
In 2013, Egyptologist and former Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Zahi Hawass explained to LiveScience that ‘I really think that Cheops' room has not yet been discovered, and that the three rooms were there just to fool thieves, and that the treasures of Cheops are still hidden inside the Great Pyramid.’ Looks like it's not just the Chinese pyramids that are revealing their secrets...