Attempt to explore the secret of the Great Pyramid ends in another mystery

It was a tense moment: the tiny robot had crawled for two hours along an 8ins-wide shaft inside the Great Pyramid of Cheops and drilled a hole in the door at the end. As Egyptologists and television producers held their breath, the live international TV audience saw the camera push through the hole, and reveal another door.

Though the anticlimax might have seemed worthy of Homer Simpson, the researchers insisted they were not disappointed, and the discovery of a door beyond a door was "very important".

Tim Kelly, president of National Geographic's television and film division, said: "I enjoyed the moment of discovery. We were not disappointed. We were successful in our mission." The Pyramid Rover, as it was named, had inched 65 metres up one of two passages stretching from a chamber inside the pyramid, also known as Khufu, to peer through a hole in the door which some thought (or perhaps more accurately, hoped) might hide secret chambers, statues of the pharoah or scrolls dating back 4,500 years.

"We found a space, another sealed chamber," the head of Egypt's Supreme Antiquities Council, Zahi Hawass, said. The tiny camera on the $250,000 robot, built by the Boston firm iRobot, revealed a vertical, sheer stone surface beyond the drilled hole. "That door looks fragile because it has cracks all over," Mr Hawass said. "Maybe something belonging to Khufu is hidden behind the second one. Maybe there is nothing."

The dead end came after a year planning the event, organised by Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, researchers from National Geographic and iRobot.

Archaeologists have been puzzled by the shafts since they were discovered in 1872. Some Egyptologists think the shafts, which rise from an unfinished chamber, were built as vents. Others say they were passages for the dead king's soul to ascend to the afterlife.

The researchers expect to take up to a year of investigation before trying to take any look beyond the second door. It is not yet known whether the US Fox TV network and the National Geographic Channel, which both broadcast the footage live, would again carry the search live.

Initially, it had looked promising as the robot – which uses the same technology as that used to search for survivors at the World Trade Centre – inched towards the limestone door and its two brass handles. In 1993, a German team had managed to send a robot as far as the door, but been unable to get past it.

The Great Pyramid, built 4,500 years ago by Khufu, a ruler also known as Cheops, has four narrow shafts. It is the most magnificent of all Egypt's pyramids, formed by 2.3 million stone blocks, and has lost little of its original height of 481ft (146m) and width of 756ft (230m).

Mr Hawass said the shafts may have had symbolic roles in Khufu's religious philosophy. He proclaimed himself Sun God during his life (pharaohs before him believed they became sun gods only after death) and he may have tried to reflect his ideas in the design of his pyramid. It did not yield the treasures associated with pharaohs, perhaps because it was plundered thousands of years ago.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?