Egypt will send a robot up narrow shafts in the Great Pyramid to try to solve one of the mysteries of the 4,500-year-old pharaonic mausoleum, Egypt's top archaeologist said on Monday. Zahi Hawass told Reuters he would this week inspect a robot designed to climb the two narrow shafts which might lead to an undiscovered burial chamber in the pyramid of Cheops at Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo.
Hawass said the shafts and stone panels which block them could mark the location of the burial chamber of Cheops, also known as Khufu. That would mean none of the chambers already discovered in the pyramid were the pharaoh's real tomb.
The shafts were last probed in September 2002, when a robot drilled a hole through one of the stone panels to reveal a small empty space at the end of which lay another panel, which appeared cracked and fragile.
The new robot, designed by a university in Singapore over two years, would drill through that panel and the stone slab blocking the second shaft.
"It's very important to reveal the mystery of the pyramid. Science in archaeology is very important. People all over the world are waiting to solve this mystery," Hawass said.
"I believe that these doors are hiding something... It could be, and this is a theory, that maybe Khufu's chamber is still hidden in the pyramid," he said.
The two shafts, which rise from an unfinished chamber in the pyramid, have puzzled archaeologists since they were first discovered in 1872.
Some Egyptologists had said the shafts, which measure 20 cm by 20 cm (eight by eight inches) were built as vents. Others said they were passages for the king's soul to ascend to the afterlife.
"I hope that we will do this work and in a few months from now we will really know what's behind them," Hawass said.
The Cheops pyramid, which is 145 meters (480 feet) high, is the biggest of the pyramids on the Giza plateau on the western edge of the Egyptian capital.