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Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 07:55 GMT 08:55 UK
Door shuts on pyramid's mysteries
Engineer Gregg Landry from Boston firm iRobot prepares to insert the camera in a specially drilled
A fibre optic camera was inserted inside the door
Hopes of unlocking the secrets of the Pharaohs have hit an obstacle after a robot sent into the heart of Egypt's Great Pyramid in Giza has found its way barred.

Fibre optic camera is shown inching down the shaft
Scientists will study the footage and prepare for another expedition
With audiences watching on live television, the miniature robot - dubbed the Pyramid Rover - crawled about 65 metres (71 yards) up a narrow tunnel to explore a mysterious shaft blocked by a limestone door.

When it got to the door, it drilled a hole and inserted a fibre optic camera to film what lies beyond.

But the crafty pyramid builders have kept their secrets from prying eyes because the chamber was blocked by yet another door - not seen for more than 4,000 years.

The 12-centimetre (five inch) tall robot, may yet return for another crack at the mysteries of the Pharaohs.

'Successful mission'

Zahi Hawass, the director of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), said the next job for researchers was to study the footage and plan for further inspections, which could take up to 12 months.

Mr Hawass's SCA, along with engineers from the Boston firm iRobot and researchers from National Geographic, had spent a year planning Tuesday's event.

"I enjoyed the moment of discovery. We were not disappointed... we were successful in our mission," said Tim Kelly, president of National Geographic's television and film division.

The Great Pyramid of Cheops is the largest of a family of three pyramids on the Giza plateau near Cairo and a "must-see" attraction for every tourist who has ever visited the Egyptian capital.

Deep inside the pyramid, running from the Queen's chamber, is a mysterious 20cm wide tunnel.

In 1993, a German archaeologist sent a small robotic probe into the shaft armed with a fibre-optic camera.

It travelled for about 60 metres before it ran straight into the thick limestone door that has now been pierced.

The BBC's Samantha Simmonds
"A major discovery"
Robert Bauval, author of 'The Great Pyramid'
"It was extremely frustrating for everybody's viewing"

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