Andrew Collins Reports
Dr Hawass made his claim after a team sent by him to investigate the tomb - designated NC 2 (north cliff 2) by George Reisner's team in 1939, and called by us the Tomb of the Birds - had seemingly failed to find the cave entrance, located in an obscure position at the rear of the rock-cut structure (indeed, we ourselves missed it on our first visit to the site in January 2007).
Unprepared to accept the word of amateurs on the subject, Dr Hawass dismissed the cave discoveries as internet sensationalism, despite the fact that in April 2009 I had personally delivered to him a report of the discovery of the caves, complete with pictures and all background historical information and references.
Nigel Skinner-Simpson and I countered Hawass's official cave dismissal, and since
then the matter has been discussed on literally hundreds of internet sites.
At least two UK based TV production companies, working on behalf of international TV channels, have shown an interest in putting together documentaries featuring the Giza cave discoveries. However, the stalemate has caused them to hold back on proceeding further, since they fear that making a documentary that challenges the official Hawass/Supreme Council of Antiquities viewpoint would mean that they might never be welcomed again in Egypt.
All of this is quite sad and ironic really, for I now have it on good authority that Dr Hawass knows very well that the Giza caves exist, and is actually quite intrigued by what they might reveal. However, he still refuses to admit to their existence publicly.
I can only hope that at some point in the future Dr Hawass has a change of heart, and acknowledges not only the existence of the caves, but also the potential significance of the Tomb of the Birds. This I suspect will reveal archaeological clues that could throw better light on how exactly the ancient Egyptians, Graeco-Romans and medieval Arabs might have interpreted the presence of the natural cave system.
In 1977 a geophyiscal research team headed jointly by the Stanford Research Institute and the Ain Shams University, Cairo, used state of the art GPR (ground penetration research) to detect underground chambers deep beneath the Second Pyramid. However, their final report warned that heavy localized faulting was also detected on the north side of the pyramid, and that the hollows might well be related in some manner.
completely with these findings, and suggest that it was in chambers beneath the
Second Pyramid that British explorer and diplomat Henry Salt and Italian sea-captain
and explorer Giovanni Caviglia reached during their exploration of the caves in
According to medieval Arab sources, the Second Pyramid, attributed to the pharaoh Khafre (the Greek Cephren), was seen by the Sabaeans of Harran, guardians of the Hermetic philosophy following the fall of Egypt to the Arabs in the mid seventh century, as marking the location of the fabled Tomb of Hermes. Its neighbour, the Great Pyramid, was seen as marking the underground tomb of Hermes' father, Seth, or Agathodaimon, a demuirge in the form of a serpent, while the "colored" pyramid, i.e. the Third Pyramid was thought to be the tomb of Hermes' son Saba, from whom the Sabaeans gained their name. Sabaeans would come to Giza on pilgrimages from Harran in order to venerate these divine ancestors of theirs. It is possible that the Sabaeans were aware of traditions connected with the Giza Pyramids that had been passed to them along with the hermetic corpus and theology to which they based their religion, which honored the sun, moon, planets and stars (they also saw the north as the direction of the primal cause, God himself).
Although some accounts of the discovery of the Emerald Tablet suggest that it was found in Hebron, Palestine, by Sarah, the wife of the patriarch Abraham (who tarried in Harran, before going down into Egypt), others suggest that Hermes cave-tomb was in Egypt, and more specifically somewhere in the vicinity of the Giza Pyramids.
Evidence that the Tomb of the Birds might have been seen to mark the entrance to the Tomb of Hermes might well come from a thorough clearance of the enigmatic rock-cut sepulchre. We know from British engineer John Shae Perring's plans of the plateau done c. 1840 that he labeled the site as "excavated tombs and pits of bird mummies". Yet only one account exists of a specific removal of a bird mummy, and this comes from Perring's working partner, Col. Richard Howard Vyse. In his diary report for May 5th, 1837, Vyse records how his team carefully removed from the sepulchre the mummy of a "large bird". There is no indication of what type of bird this was, but should it turn out to have been an ibis, then it probably indicates that at the time of burial the tomb was connected with the cult of Thoth-Hermes, whose avian form was the ibis. If ibises were indeed interred in the Tomb of the Birds, and presumably in the adjoining sections of the caves, then there has to be a possibility that the site was seen as marking the entrance to the Tomb of Hermes. This would be similar to the manner in which mummified ibises were interred in one or more of the bird catacombs at Saqqara, since it was believed in Graeco-Roman times that the tomb of Imhotep, whose cult became synonymous with that of Thoth-Hermes, was thought to exist somewhere in the vicinity.
is my intuition that even before Salt and Caviglia's entry into the caves in 1817,
Europeans, Italians in particular using the thriving Adriatic sea-port of Venice,
came to Giza in search of the Tomb of Hermes. It is possible that they entered
the caves, and perhaps even removed objects that they saw as connected with Hermes
in some manner, perhaps even a Green Stone fragment thought to have come from
the original Emerald Tablet.
if this is not the case, the idea that the caves entered via the Tomb of the Birds
lead eventually to the Tomb of Hermes is a fascinating possibility. What exactly
was the original Emerald Tablet, or Tablets? One high profile Egyptologist known
to me believes that the Emerald Tablet is the distorted memory of a chamber beneath
the plateau that bears green stone walls, inscribed during Khufu's age with the
secrets of creation. It is there to be found, he considers, and just maybe it
awaits discovery in the vicinity of the Second Pyramid. We wait patiently for
more information in this fascinating saga.
This material is strictly copyright Andrew Collins, 2009.
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