Andrew Collins, Author of the Month for December 2009
Giza's Cave Underworld Rediscovered - It is the Entrance to the Tomb of Hermes? (cont.)
By Andrew Collins
Danger in the Darkness
We were back in Egypt a month later, again with the support of Edgar Cayce's ARE, and twice more, as Nigel waited with walky-talky in the cave entrance area, Sue and I penetrated the caves. The thick airborne guano stifled the air, while the intense heat caused us to sweat buckets, making the experience less than pleasant. Adding still further to our rising concerns over safety in the caves was the tentative identification of a species of venomous spider commonly known as the white widow (a cousin of the black widow). Putting your hand on one of these was not an option, forcing us to cover up our skin completely when in the caves.
Despite all these problems, on our final two occasions in the caves Sue and I reached a conservative distance of around 300 feet (90 meters), maybe a lot more, before we decided to go no further due to very real safety fears. The air became so thin that we began to experience tell-tale signs of hypoxia - oxygen starvation. These peculiar sensations caused us virtually to ignore what was potentially an even greater threat, which was the presence beyond a long stone tube in front of us of an animal or creature heard displacing dirt and gravel. Whether it was a scavenging hyena, hiding out of the way, or something more exotic, we did not bother to find out.
Fig 14 - Sue Collins inside Giza's cave underworld.
Nigel, Sue and I left the tomb knowing that we had rediscovered something quite extraordinary. Clearly, it was not the Hall of Records, the Tomb of Osiris or the Tomb of Hermes. What we do have here, however, is the first, indisputable proof of a natural cave system extending beneath the plateau that was most likely carved out by the actions of water tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of years ago. It stretches beneath the pyramid field, and very possibly follows the course of local faulting, perhaps reflecting the northwest to southeast orientation of the plateau's underlying geology. Although the caves are entirely natural, here and there in the deepest part of the complex I recorded the presence of incised, parallel lines etched sporadically into the cave walls. Its positioning seemed meaningless, with one set found beneath a curved rock surface. Who carved this, and when, remains a mystery. No hieroglyphic inscriptions, or graffiti of any kind, were noticed, although the limited time in the caves meant that there was much more to search and explore than we could possibly achieve on this visits. The only artefacts noted were mummy remains, including a long cigar-like object that might have contained a small animal. This was observed in the main north-south cave tunnel.
Fig 15 - Two areas of incised parallel chiselling visible in the deepest cave department reached in Giza's cave underworld.
It is possible that the caves might help confirm the connection between the ancient Egyptians' belief in a Duat underworld and Giza's role as Rostau, the "mouth of the passages". Since the caves existed long before the age of the Pharaohs it is likely that they influenced decisions regarding the setting and evolution of the pyramid field. Work done with chartered engineer Rodney Hale highlighted in my book Beneath the Pyramids, demonstrates that the Tomb of the Birds figures in very basic landscape geometry found in connection with the setting of the Giza monuments. As with the geographical placement of the three pyramids, this geometry is locked into astronomical alignments featuring the stars of Cygnus for a date of 2500 BC.
Fig 16 - Based pythagorean geometry at Giza showing the apparent significance of the site of the Tomb of the Birds.
Beyond any of this is the story told to us by a local tomb guardian, whom we encountered in the vicinity of the Tomb of the Birds. He was elderly, spoke no English and is unlikely to have been influenced by new age visitors to the plateau. He knew the tomb, but refuses point blank to enter the caves, for they are the abode, he says, of a gigantic snake called el-Hanash. Apparently, it is "nine meters (30 feet)" long, and anyone attempting to enter el-kahf (Arabic for "the cave") will be squeezed to death within its powerful coils. It is a fable, of course, yet one that echoes the very ancient belief that snakes of great size inhabited the Duat underworld, and that a huge serpent called Agathodaimon, the "good spirit", was in Sabaean tradition believed to repose beneath the Great Pyramid.
Fig 17 - A Local tomb guardian reveals that the caves are haunted by a giant snakes called el-Hanash.
Afterwards, I heard more about the mysterious el-Hanash. A stone craftsman living in Nazlet el-Samman, the village of the Pyramids, told me that el-Hanash protects the "Hall of Records". Apparently, this great snake of legend spits venom in the face and blinds anyone who tries to enter this underground place and steal a great diamond that it protects. Yet one day, when the end times are near, a chosen one will find the entrance to the Hall of Records, and el-Hanash will blind him only in one eye. It will be this person that goes on to learn the secrets that the ancients knew, and in so doing gain great powers, including the ability to hold back the waters.
It is a strange tale, tainted by modern new age thought, although it seems to echo the ancient Egyptian belief that the Underworld of the Soul, or Tomb of Osiris, contains a power object, like a great egg of creation, that emits an unearthly radiance. Clearly, nothing like this was found in the caves by Salt and Caviglia. Yet they left this underground world only partially explored, as we did ourselves, providing hope that one day this mystery may finally be revealed. Until then, its secrets seem safe under the protection of el-Hanash.
Aftermath - December 2009
This is the story of the rediscovery of Giza's cave underworld as recounted in my new book Beneath the Pyramids. However, so much has happened since news of the discovery became public in August that an update is necessary. Dr Zahi Hawass, the Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, was moved by the enormous amount of internet traffic on this subject (it is featured on over 5,000 web pages and sites to date) to make a public statement denying the existence of the cave system. He suggested that we had simply got confused inside a fully recorded rock-cut tomb of 35 meters in length (see http://www.drhawass.com/node/303).
His dismissal of what he calls "Collins' Cave Discovery" was suitably countered by Nigel Skinner Simpson and myself in statements issued afterwards (see http://www.andrewcollins.com/page/news/hawass.htm). I point out that the hundreds of photos and film footage of the caves ably demonstrate that we entered a natural cave system - the first ever recorded at Giza. This we navigated for a distance of at least 300 feet (90 meters), without reaching the end. Moreover, Salt's memoirs of 1817 make it clear that the caves continue on for many hundreds of yards, and eventually connect up with four "spacious" chambers, from which even further cave tunnels exit into the darkness.
Dr Hawass refuses to budge on his position, creating a stalemate whereby the news media has been extremely reticent about pursuing the subject as a potential news story. This is a shame as we now have new evidence that the caves might follow the course of local faulting beneath the plateau's Mokkatam formation. Radar satellite imagery of the Giza plateau created by the TerraSAR-X satellite, launched in 2007 and operated jointly by Astrium GmbH and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), shows a shadow line, running from the proximity of the Tomb of the Birds towards the south-southwest, that corresponds pretty well with the positioning beneath the ground of the caves explored so far.
Fig 18 - The section of the TerraSAR-X radar satellite image of the Giza plateau showing a shadow line corresponding to the course of the cave tunnels explored so far (Picture credit: Astrium GmbH and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR)).
There is nothing visible on the ground in the corresponding Google satellite image taken, coincidentally, around the same time in 2007, making this shadow line a mystery, especially as the the TerraSAR-X satellite programme is promoted as being able to detect underground features.