DISAGREEMENT has broken out among Egyptologists following the revelation in the Independent that a scientific team had discovered what may be the entrance to a secret chamber inside the Great Pyramid, writes David Keys.
The team sent a miniature robot camera up a tiny 65-metre-long passage and found a little stone door with copper handles at the end. Some evidence suggests a chamber containing the burial treasures of the Pharaoh Cheops may lie beyond, in particular fine black dust on the passage floor, probably from rotting wood or other organic material, seeping through a gap at the side of the door. A new camera will try to probe past the door later this year.
A former keeper of Egyptian antiquities at the British Museum, Dr Ivan Edwards, yesterday hailed the discovery of the door in the 4,500-year-old pyramid as being of great importance. 'The presence of the door - complete with its copper handles - suggests that something important must lie behind it. 'The shaft leading to the door was there for the king's soul to go to the stars. Behind the door there could be a small statue of him gazing out towards the heavens. Alternatively there might be a protective religious charm or emblem inside some sort of small chamber.'
The director of the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo, Dr Rainer Stadelmann, under whose auspices the exploration is being carried out, said he believed that no chamber lay beyond the door. But he also said he was unaware of the discovery of the dust evidence, which was gathered only recently.
However, Rudolf Gantenbrink, the head of the scientific team at the pyramid, said that 'the information we have gathered so far does not exclude a chamber . . . It is indeed a possibility'.