The DesignThere are two air shafts each going out towards the North and the South direction in both King’s and Queen’s chamber. While, the King’s Chamber shafts go all the way to the external surface of the pyramid, out in the open, the Queen’ Chamber shafts are blocked some distance from the external surface. One of the reasons given is that the Queen’s Chamber was initially going to be the where Khufu would be interred but when the plan was changed to move the burial to what is the King’s Chamber, the shafts were blocked and their openings at the Queen’s Chamber were closed and sealed.
Transparent view of Khufu's pyramid from SouthEast. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )The shafts in the Queen’s Chamber have been up for much speculation. In 1992, an exploratory expedition into the shafts of the Queen’s Chamber was conducted by German engineer Rudolf Gatenbrink via a robotic explorer named after the ancient Egyptian god of war “Wepwawet” or alternatively called “Upuaut”. The robotic explorer found a number of artificial items in the Queen’s Chamber northern shaft such as a hexagonal iron rod with threaded end, indicating it was more recent in history, perhaps left behind by discoverers of the shafts Dixon and others. Other items found were a green grappling hook, a small grey green stone ball and a broken off piece of square wooden slat.
Wepwawet giving scepters to Seti I, found at Temple of Seti I. Wepwawet is often depicted as a bluish or grayish haired wolf or jackal to avoid confusion with Anubis. (Roland Unger / CC BY-SA 3.0 )
The MeasurementsThe openings of the shafts in the Queen’s Chamber have the same measurements with regards to height and depth of 21 by 21 centimeters or 8.4 inches by 8.4 inches. Flinders Petrie determined the angles of the northern and the southern shaft, using a goniometer, with northern shaft having a mean angle of 37 ° 28’ and that of the southern shaft having a mean angle 38 ° 28’. The northern shaft runs 190 centimeters or 76 inches horizontally before it turns upwards, similarly the southern shaft runs for 200 centimeters or 80 inches horizontally before turning up. The southern shaft goes up to 208.66 feet and is blocked by a limestone slate fitted with copper handles on both obverse and reverse sides with a confirmed thickness of 60 mm. “The floors of the shafts are made of flat limestone blocks, the thicknesses of which are unknown. The walls and ceilings are formed by sections of inverted u-blocks that resemble upside down gutters. Although it is uncertain what the blocks above and below the shafts look like, the shafts run at a sloping angle through the horizontal layers of the pyramid, so it is believed that the u-blocks and basal blocks rest under and on blocks that are wedge-shaped.”
Opening to the King’s Chamber shaft. Morton Edgar, 1910. ( Public Domain )Almost a decade after the ambitious “Upuaut” rover project, in 2002, the much hyped “Pyramid Rover” sojourn took place. Unlike the Upuaut rover, the Pyramid Rover was equipped with a drill bit and a camera. After a laborious climb of about 45 minutes, the rendezvous between the rover the limestone slab happened. This whole program was being broadcast live across the world with audience sitting in front of their televisions, waiting with bated breath, while the rover drilled a hole in the limestone slab. Once this was done, the camera was inserted and all that was to be seen was a recess blocked by another slab of unknown proportion and thickness. While the audience were disappointed, for the experts, the seemingly uninteresting view was encouraging. The Queen chamber’s northern shaft was also explored for the first time and it was reported “The ‘door’ appears to be identical to the one in the southern shaft that was already known. The doors are equidistant (65 meters/208 feet) from the queen's chamber. It is the third such block discovered within the shafts of the pyramid.”
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Gantenbrink’s Door. ( Image Source )It discovered that the fractures on the roof of the shaft ran above the limestone plate and to the other side behind it. The camera also photographed some quarry marks left behind by workmen, “that have not been seen for 4500 years.”
The PurposeEver since the shafts were cleared of debris and the shafts in the Queen’s Chamber were discovered, claims as to the very nature and purpose of the shafts have remained dubious at best. Unfortunately, no contemporary text or evidence exists from the Khufu’s time that could explain this architectural anomaly. Like many other features in the great pyramid have baffled archaeologists, architects and engineers, the shafts continue mete out the same treatment to anyone who tries to study and interpret their function, symbolism and purpose.
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Then there are hundreds of other theories that make fantastic claims fantastic claims of shafts being conduits of power plant, a nuclear generator or an alien construction, a riddle set in stone. Until we discover an edict, a piece of papyrus that could explain the reason behind the shafts, the all theories about their purpose shall remain valid opinions of the experts and it is quite certain we may never be able to get to know their true purpose.
Top Image: Great Pyramid of Giza in the rays of the sun. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )