in Different Fields Called in
News Story by Andrew Collins
"We have experts in all fields working with us," he revealed this week. "Archaeologists, geologists, engineers, and architects, to name a few."
Dr Hawass is, however, being tight lipped on exactly why there is so much interest in the tomb, designated "NC2" by American Egyptologist George A. Reisner (although renamed by us the "Tomb of the Birds" due to its ancient, albeit secondary, usage as a bird cemetery - see below).
"I will be posting information about our excavation at Giza on my web site," he told me in a recent email, "and will be publishing the results of our work in due course."
Work at the cave-tomb began quietly in August last year, and has continued ever since, with two new rock-cut shafts and stairways being uncovered to date. These have been found to lead into a maze of underground chambers and galleries never before seen in modern times. Their exact age is unclear, although recently, in an email to the author, Dr Hawass strongly hinted that the tomb in fact dates to the Old kingdom period, its "catacombs", as he calls them, later being reused as a bird and animal necropolis.
Dr Hawass realised the potential significance of Giza's Tomb of the Birds following the rediscovery in its interior of a concealed entrance leading into a natural cave system. This was located by Egyptological researcher Nigel Skinner Simpson and myself in March 2008. A small breach in a stone and mud wall allowed entry into a fantastic cave world full of bats, poisonous spiders, and untouched archaeology.
To find these caves, Nigel and I explored vital clues left in the 200-year memoirs of a British diplomat named Henry Salt (1780-1827), which were published for the first time in 2007.
Despite Dr Hawass admitting that experts are now helping in the investigation of Giza's cave-tomb, the world's most famous Egyptologist will not be drawn into debate on the existence of what he refers to as "Collins' caves".
On a prestigious online Egyptological forum that has been following the story, I recently wrote: "Dr Hawass has said that there are no natural caves at the site, simply a pharaonic tomb later reused as catacombs. This is despite a wealth of evidence, including various published photos, that suggest differently."
The forum, which is subscribed to by some of the world's top Egyptologists, had been debating the topic of the caves, suggesting, quite wrongly, that American Egyptologist Dr Mark Lehner might have been shown exploring them in a documentary entitled "Mysteries of the Pyramids ... Live", first screened in 1988 with Egyptian actor Omar Sharif as narrator. However, after some diligent checking by myself and Nigel Skinner Simpson, it was determined that Lehner is actually shown in a montage of underground locations at Giza, as well as in the so-called Osiris Shaft beneath the Second Pyramid's causeway (even though this sequence was cut from the version of the documentary afterwards put on general release), and even in a tomb at Saqqara (despite the fact that Saqqara fails to get a mention in the documentary). Nowhere is Lehner shown in either the Tomb of the Birds, or its associated cave system.
IS HAWASS'S TEAM DOING AT THE TOMB?
One question that has been put to me is whether or not the tomb's subterranean galleries, first located by Vyse and Perring in 1837, break through into the natural cave system, accessed via a different part of the tomb. The answer seemingly is that the compartments and chambers reached via the shaft and staircase in the tomb's west lobe do penetrate into unhewn areas of the bedrock, which might well allow access to the natural caves. This surmise makes sense as the cave system is located beyond the southwest corner of the tomb, and at a depth comparable to the rock-cut catacombs accessed via the staircase in the tomb's west lobe.
In conclusion, it is now our opinion that Vyse and Perring explored the subterranean galleries of Giza # NC2, our "Tomb of the Birds". On the other hand, there is very little evidence to suggest that Henry Salt and his Italian accomplice Giovanni Caviglia explored the same set of galleries. Salt's memoirs seem to indicate that the two men investigated the cave system only, and this for an estimated distance of "several hundred yards", a much greater distance than the suggested "50 yard" extent of the subterranean galleries. Yet in the same manner, it now appears that Vyse and Perring did NOT explore the natural caves, even though I suspect its opening chamber, located at the southwest corner of the tomb, appears on Perring's more detailed plan, drawn sometime between 1839-42. My colleague Nigel Skinner-Simpson is, however, of the opinion that Perring's plan does NOT show the cave's opening chamber, "the Dome" as we call it. In his opinion the large rectangular chamber is located at the southern end of the underground galleries currently being explored by Hawass and his team, and has no direct connection to the natural caves. We will agree to differ on this point until further information is available to resolve it one way or the other.
Strangely, the preliminary plans of the Tomb of the Birds drawn by Reisner's team in 1939 suggest that he too was unaware of the subterranean galleries, and, for whatever reason, did not record the natural cave system. These are oversights that we can only put down to his list of priorities elsewhere on the plateau as the imminent threat of the World War Two loomed ever nearer.
we are allowed to publish more photos from excursions into the tomb, subterranean
galleries and caves, I shall try and update this article, bringing you the very
latest developments in this fascinating mystery of our times.
Andrew Collins and his team's rediscovery of Giza's cave underworld in 2008 on
YouTube by clicking here