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Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Pharaoh puzzle persists
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
Researchers may be planning new attempts to unlock the secrets of the Pharaohs, after a robot sent into the heart of Egypt's Great Pyramid found its way barred.


My guess is that we probably going to have a statue of the king... gazing towards the sky and stars

Robert Bauvel, Egyptologist
The miniature robot drilled a hole in a limestone door blocking a shaft and inserted a fibre optic camera through it only to find the chamber blocked by yet another door - not seen for more than 4,000 years.

Despite the disappointment, several scientists called the discovery "very important", believing that "something amazing" may be hidden behind the second door.

"The finding... promises almost with certainty that there is a chamber on the other side," Robert Bauvel, expert on ancient Egypt, told the BBC.

"Maybe something belonging to [pharaoh] Khufu is hidden behind the second one. Maybe there is nothing," Zahi Hawass, director of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), said.

Mr Hawass said the next job for researchers was to study the footage and plan for further inspections, which could take up to 12 months.

Scientists hope that the 12-centimetre (five inch) tall robot - dubbed the Pyramid Rover - may yet return for another crack at the mysteries of the Pharaohs.

Stellar afterlife

Mr Bauvel, who is also the author of The Great Pyramid book, expressed hopes that the robot would find another chamber.

Fibre optic camera is shown inching down the shaft
Scientists will study the footage and prepare for another expedition

He said that it may be "a room - probably with artefacts - but mainly with the stature of the king... where [the Egyptians] imagined that the soul of the king habits the statue."

Mr Bauvel said such rooms were quite common in tombs, especially in the Old Kingdom, and they were usually protected by several sliding doors.

"It has been known for a long time that they [the Egyptians] had stellar alignment...to their stellar destiny in the sky.

"My guess is that we probably going to have a statue of the king... gazing towards the sky and stars that are relevant."

"We know that this shaft is pointed towards Sirius, which is very important to the Egyptians."

Show must go on

Earlier on Tuesday, audiences watched live on television, as the robot crawled about 65 metres (71 yards) up a narrow tunnel to explore the shaft.

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.

The Great Pyramid of Cheops [Khufu] 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 20-cm-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.

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

Test your knowledge of ancient Egypt with the CBBC Newsround Online quizEgypt quiz
Know your pyramid and mummy facts?
See also:

17 Sep 02 | Middle East
05 May 02 | Middle East
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