Tunnel Vision – The Mysterious Forced Entry of the Caliph into the Great Pyramid - Part 2
Some very important questions have been posed – why could Ma'mun not see the real entrance to the Great Pyramid, when it was so well known and so close to his own entrance? And if Ma'mun did not know where the real entrance was, then why was his alternative tunnel so accurate? But if the original entrance was known about, then how did Ma'mun discover the ascending passage, which had been carefully concealed when the pyramid was first built? This is a bit of a catch-22.
Having considered this problem, Mark Foster had an idea that Ma’mun already knew about the original entrance and the descending passage. But he had constructed his new forced entry tunnel for another reason entirely – perhaps to get around the granite plug-blocks in the ascending passage, perhaps to get the necessary equipment into the right position to dig around those blocks. But if Ma'mun did not discover the ascending passage while he was creating his new forced tunnel, then how did he know it was there? The ascending passage was, after all, completely secret and unexplored at this time, so how did Ma'mun discover it?
Mark and Ralph both came to the same conclusions on this topic. The key to discovering the ascending passage lies outside the Great Pyramid, just to the east of the base and to the north of the causeway. Here, there lies what Petrie called the ‘trial passage’, which is simply a foreshortened replica of the Great pyramid’s descending passage and the all-important junction with the ascending passage.
As everything on the plateau has a purpose, why is this passageway there? Petrie thought it was a testbed that the architect had used to test out the procedures for laying out the internal passageways in the pyramid. This suggestion is a definite possibility. However, both Mark and myself think that this is not a ‘trial passage’, but instead a ‘guide passage’. What do we mean by 'guide passage'? Well, any interested party looking into this short passage system will clearly see the similarity and symmetry with the real descending passage inside the Great Pyramid; but a little further down this 'guide passage' they will come across a junction with another ascending passageway. The idea might just dawn on someone that the real pyramid passageways just might have exactly the same configuration.
Thus the ascending passage was quite possibly found by Ma'mun’s men entering the original entrance to the pyramid and tap-tapping down the ceiling of the descending passage, searching for that elusive ascending passageway that was hinted at by the ‘guide passageways’ outside. Success at last, the men found a concealed entrance! But as they were not able to penetrate the granite plugs that blocked this ascending shaft, a small tunnel was dug through the softer limestone core-blocks, around the granite plugs, and up into the ascending passage. Ma'mun was at last able to enter the Queen’s and King’s chambers and to plunder the priceless treasures of the Old Kingdom pharaohs. Ma'mun was about to become the richest man in the known world!
Fig 7. The Great Pyramid at Giza. The southern face is on the left, while the eastern face on the right. The entrance is on the north face.
This is all very well as scenarios go, readers might say, but if this is the case then why did Ma'mun go to the trouble of excavating his forced tunnel into the pyramid? Surely the classical explanation is correct, Ma’mun must have come in via this crude excavation into the pyramid. Perhaps, but here is where Ralph’s traditional lateral thinking comes into play. Tunnels are not only useful for getting in, but also for getting out....
It is highly probable that the real reason for constructing the forced tunnel was not to get into the pyramid, but rather to get something out. Whatever it was, though, it must have been small enough to go down the first part of the ascending passage, but it was too long to go around the bend between the descending and ascending passageways. The only alternative for these intrepid but highly destructive explorers, was to dig a tunnel directly outwards from the junction of the two passageways, completely bypassing the internal passageway constriction.
This proposal neatly explains all of the questions posed above. The original entrance had been known about and used. And the reason for the uncanny accuracy of the forced tunnel is now also obvious, because it was started from inside and dug outwards. It could be nothing other than 'accurate'. This may also explain why so much rubble was later found in the bottom of the descending passage, because it came from the forced tunnel’s excavations, which started on the inside rather than the outside.
So what was the long thin treasure that Ma’mun had found and taken from inside the Great Pyramid? Had the King’s chamber been filled with sacred and valuable artifacts, and the long-thin mummy of a great and ancient king? Had Ma'mun discovered a king’s ransom in bullion? Perhaps, but Ralph thinks that the real answer is probably more prosaic and poignant that this.
The Caliph’s tale
Ma'mun laboriously climbed his way up the 41.2 cubits of swaying ladders, to the original entrance of the Great Pyramid, a difficult task for a portly Caliph and a worrying moment for his advisors. After a short slide down the descending passage to the junction with the ascending passage, he entered the small rough shaft that his men had dug around the granite plug blocks, and scrambled into the ascending passage. From there he struggled up the Grand Gallery, his men cautiously pushing his chubby buttocks from behind. Sweating and cursing, he finally crawled on hands and knees into the King’s chamber, a degrading and exhausting experience that no Caliph had endured either before or since.
Ma'mun was flustered, even angry, but also elated. Although he had been briefed that the King’s chamber was basically empty, what it did possess was an untouched, enigmatic and completely sealed sarcophagus! This was the prize that justified these privations. Caliph al-Ma'mun was going to be at the opening of this sarcophagus at whatever cost – he was not about to let his chief vizier run of with the treasures of the Old Kingdom pharaohs of Egypt, or perhaps even the secrets of the gods themselves!
A disorganised rabble of workmen arrived and prised at the coffer lid with crow-bars. They cursed, swore and shouted, but the lid just would not budge. Finally, in a state of ecstatic anticipation, Ma'mun pushed the rabble aside and ordered the coffer to be smashed with sledge-hammers. The chief gaffir aimed a few heavy blows and with a great crash, one corner of the sarcophagus flew off; and the result of his endeavours are still visible to this day.
Ma'mun ordered the workers away, yelled for silence, grabbed a flickering lamp from a soldier and approached the hole in trepidation. Then, the significance of the moment struck him. He was standing inside the greatest of all the world’s ancient monuments, a structure rumoured to have been constructed by the gods themselves. Here at the very heart of this sacred monument lay a simple, unadorned, solitary black-granite coffer that had been sealed for thousands of years; and he, Caliph al-Ma'mun, was going to be the first to see inside. His hand began to tremble at the thought and he quickly steadied it with the other, least the workers see him as apprehensive. He carefully thrust the lamp inside the sarcophagus, but the flame on the lamp flickered and it was difficult to see. But at last the flame steadied and he saw for himself that the sarcophagus was ....... empty!
Caliph Al Ma'mun was absolutely livid. Suspecting, perhaps, that one of his workers had manufactured this little rouse, he flew into a violent rage and vented his anger on a few unfortunate victims of summary justice. However, there was no way that Ma'mun was going to go back to his palace from this escapade empty handed, after all he had been through. But the chamber only contained the sarcophagus and it was quite obvious that it was bigger than the entrance to the chamber. As a consolation prize, they found that the lid of the sarcophagus could be turned diagonally and just about squeeze through the King’s Chamber’s tough granite entrance blocks. Ma'mun was going to have it as a memento at all costs.
Fig 8.The broken sarcophagus inside the King's Chamber. Was this damage the work of Caliph al-Ma'mun's men? And where is the lid of this sarcophagus?
Unfortunately for the workers, however, after sliding the great block of stone down the Grand Gallery, they found that the lid was not going to squeeze around the plug blocks and into the descending passage. Besides, the lid must have weighed a tonne, and if it ever got into the descending passage, nobody could think of a way of preventing it from plunging all the way down to the bottom of the pyramid. In addition, the original entrance stone was far too small to get the lid through. It was all becoming a bit of a nightmare.
Spurred on by an enraged Caliph the chief of engineering eventually came up with an answer. The only practical solution to this problem was to force a new tunnel from the junction of the descending and ascending passageways, horizontally through the core blocks of the pyramid and into the open air. THIS is Ma'mun’s forced tunnel - it started inside and made its way outwards, and this is why it appears to be so accurate in its trajectory.
The Black Stone
Fig 9. The Hajar al-Aswad, the Black Stone(s) of Mecca.
So where did the lid from the King's Chamber eventually go? Ralph and Mark have sometimes been accused of layering speculation upon speculation, but this one is too obvious not to mention in passing. The Caliph was, quite obviously, a Muslim. At the center of the sacred Islamic city of Mecca lies a plaza that draws the faithful from all over the world during the Hajj. In the middle of this plaza lies a simple cubic building or chamber, the Ka'ba. On one corner of the Ka'ba lies the holiest relic in the Muslim world, the Hajar al-Aswad: the Black Stone. This relic is simply six fragments of black granite of unknown origin, stuck together and placed in a Vesica Piscis shroud.
The article ‘Tunnel Vision’ has been extracted with permission from ‘Thoth, Architect of the Universe’ by Ralph Ellis and ‘K2, Quest of the Gods’ by Ralph Ellis, available from edfu-books.com.
Note: Many people continue to be critical of the 'absurd' idea that the Great pyramid chambers were designed and constructed to be perfectly empty, as it seems to be counter intuitive. Why would the greatest monument on Earth be designed in this strange fashion? Yet all the evidence seems to point towards the Great pyramid’s sarcophagus being empty - just as the sealed sarcophagus of Sekhemkhet was found to be empty in recent excavations. But this seeming anomaly is not as strange as it may at first seem. The truth of the matter is that a billion or so Christians continue to base their entire philosophy on exactly this very same concept – the empty tomb.
Featured image: The tunnel of Ma’mun. Source: Wikipedia
By Ralph Ellis