Insight

Reigniting the Cauldron of Conspiracy on Egypt's Most Sacred Ground by Andrew Collins

What has been going on at Giza? Are there clandestine excavations taking place? Are artifacts being spirited away from newly uncovered "treasure chambers" or "record chambers" situated deep beneath the Sphinx? And how do these claims relate to the discovery in 2008 of a previously unrecorded cave complex on the opposite side of the plateau?

These are the pressing questions that are being debated daily now on conspiracy sites and forums. One story or rumour fuels another, which fuels another, and another, until they all swirl around in a burning cauldron of unfathomable paranoia.

So what the hell is going on at Giza? And where did all this scaremongering, unlike anything seen since the 1990s, actually begin? Prior to the millennium several controversies fed the rumour mill. They included Boston geologist Robert Schoch and John Anthony West's "redating" of the Sphinx, Robert Bauval's Orion mystery, Rudolph Ganterbrink's dismissal from Egypt, following his discovery of a small stone door inside the southern air-shaft of the Great Pyramid's Queens Chamber and, finally, Boris Said's exploration of the so-called Osiris Shaft beneath the causeway to the Second Pyramid. Together they created the belief that something even bigger was about to break, and when it didn't, the rumour-mongers assumed that the discoveries were still being made, but that the Egyptian authorities were withholding the truth. Dr Zahi Hawass, then Undersecretary Of State For The Giza Monuments, became the face of this conspiracy, as did the Edgar Cayce Foundation's research branch, the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.). All this led to an all out war of words that flowed into various bestselling books including Robert Bauval's The Secret Chamber, Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince's The Stargate Conspiracy and Ian Lawton and Chris Ogilvie Herald's boldly entitled Giza: The Truth. Everyone, even the other revisionist authors writing rival books, became the focus of close scrutiny, and were judged on the part they had played in this pre-millennial zeitgeist that went away the moment the first bells sounded for the start of the twenty-first century.

So where did this new conspiracy begin? The answer is that it takes its roots in the discovery in 2008 of cave tunnels inside an obscure tomb located on the north side of the plateau at Giza. When this story hit the internet in July 2009 it caused a sensation, and raised the question of whether the entrance to the fabled Hall of Records had at last been found. The Hall of Records, is, of course, the title given to proposed record chambers said to be entered via the Sphinx's right paw by America's sleeping prophet, the great psychic Edgar Cayce (1877-1945).

So the hunt was back on to find the Hall of Records at Giza, and with it has come the return of the great conspiracy. Suddenly, the net is alive with bizarre claims of important Atlantean artefacts being removed from hidden "treasure" chambers uncovered in front of the Sphinx. To back up these claims, several minutes of an almost entirely dark video were posted online. It was said to show the aforementioned artifacts being loaded on to trucks by forklifts overnight on April 28. Those who took this revealing footage were now under threat of death by Zahi Hawass and the Egyptian authorities, who are the perpetrators of this great cover up. I looked at the film footage, posted online by new age archaeologist Bill Brown and British man Richard Gabriel, and wondered, like everyone else, what the hell we were seeing here. Out of the darkness, you can just about make out a forklift truck, and maybe even a low loader, but that is it - several minutes of, well, nothing.

Claims by Brown and Gabriel that a loud bang was heard coming from the plateau that same night were cited as even more evidence of the Conspiracy, the great cover up. Enquiries among the more observant and influential residents of Nazlet el-Samman, the busy village on the eastern edge of the plateau, close to the Sphinx monument, initially produced shrugs of ignorance. Nobody seemed aware of any clandestine activity going on overnight on April 28, and no one heard any loud bangs. One possible explanation offered to John van Auken, the director of Edgar Cayce's A.R.E. organization, after I asked him to see what he could find out, was that the activity related to an upcoming 4 x 4 vehicle race. Yet further enquiries dispelled this solution since the event planned for October is scheduled to take place not at Giza, but 50 miles south in and around the Fayyum Oasis.

Another possibility then presented itself: a leg of the international Red Bull TMX bike championship was to take place at Giza on May 13/14. Large stands, rigging and tracks were being assembled day and night right in front of the Sphinx. This now offered the most likely explanation for the presence of the plant machinery filmed overnight on April 28, and arguably even the loud bang heard around the same time. I ran with this story online, but was lambasted for even suggesting such an explanation. No one in their right mind would have authorized a banal bike race right in front of the most precious ancient monuments in the world, unless, of course, they wanted to use this as a cover for something more sinister.

All this came just as a sequence of photos of apparent excavation work immediately south of the preparations for the Red Bull TMX race were posted online by Brooks Agnew of xsquaredradio.com. These were shown with dramatic captions and even more dramatic music intent on emphasizing the seriousness of the Conspiracy now being exposed.

Clearly, this video was a response to Brown and Gabriel's earlier claims of the removal of Atlantean artifacts from newly uncovered chambers in front of the Sphinx. Claims that, in my opinion, were not adequately supported by hard evidence in the first place.

I looked at the video, as did my colleagues, and very quickly it became apparent that the stills showed an excavation taking place to the east of the Valley Temple of Khafre. The captions accompanying the video said that a deep shaft leading into "treasure chambers" had been uncovered. Unfortunately, these pictures show nothing of the sort. My enquiries have revealed that a deep shaft, reportedly up to 100 feet deep, has been uncovered. However, it contains not a treasure chamber, but is most likely a shaft tomb belonging to Egypt's Twenty-sixth dynasty, the so-called Saite period, which thrived around 2,500 years ago. What's more, in recent years similar shafts have been found and excavated west of the Sphinx near Campbell's Tomb.

It has been suggested that the shaft might connect with cave tunnels, a possibility that has to be considered. We know that the plateau is most likely hollow, like Swiss cheese, so there is always a chance that a sunken burial shaft might hit natural caves. Whether they connect to hidden record chambers is quite another matter, and it would be foolish to speculate on this matter without further information. It actually transpires that Dr Hawass announced on Egyptian television back in March that these excavations were to take place. It is likely that he has taken the opportunity to conduct excavations following the recent lowering of the water table therebouts.

Test drilling in 2008 revealed that in the vicinity of the Sphinx the ground water was just 15 feet below the surface. There were genuine concerns for the monument, which lies at one of the lowest points on the plateau. Here the water table was so high that it was causing pools of water to rise up from the ground. This was most noticeable in the area where the excavations are currently taking place.

In an attempt to deal with this problem water pumping equipment was installed on the edge of the plateau, and these have been successful in considerably lowering the height of the ground water, enabling the clearance work to begin.

Just to make it clear, the preparations for the Red Bull championship at Giza on May 13/14 had nothing to do with these excavations, or any conspiracy. This two-day event just happened to take place in the same vicinity as the excavations, and thus might have caused some initial confusion on the part of local observers. The real subject of the debate becomes the excavations alone, and these as we can now see are totally legitimate.

All of this makes real sense of the facts, so why should anyone even assume that what is taking place at Giza is part of some grand conspiracy?

The answer is easy. Bill Brown and Richard Gabriel believe that they have determined the exact "geomatrix" of Giza, based on difficult to comprehend landscape geometry and star overlays that highlight locations on the plateau where they now believe underground structures remain to be found. Brown has even used personal ground penetration radar equipment in order to try and confirm that hollows or cavities exist at the spots he now has marked on his map.

Of course, this is nothing new as people have been trying to crack Giza's underlying geometry for the last 150 years. The big difference between Brown and Gabriel and many others currently attempting to prove exactly the same thing is that these two individuals believe that everything that takes place on the plateau is in some manner connected to their own personal agenda. This includes the expected discovery of Giza's hidden record chambers, which they believe contain important Atlantean artifacts that they themselves are destined to find and present to the world.

This blinkered attitude is shown in Brown and Gabriel's reaction to the rediscovery by ourselves of Giza's cave underworld in March 2008. The subject has been big news since it broke online in July 2009, and my book Beneath the Pyramids, released in October that year, tells the full story. In November 2009, Gabriel, in the company of his partner, entered the tomb NC2 within Giza's north cliff and gained access to the caves previously explored by us. He came away with some great photos that have been invaluable in our attempt to better understand the origins and past usage of the caves. Yet seemingly insensitive to anything that has gone before (even though Gabriel attended my inaugural presentation at Avebury in September 2009 revealing the full details of the cave discoveries), he is now claiming in radio interviews that he and Brown knew about the caves all along. As for our own entry inside them, well, we merely stumbled upon them just before he and Brown were due to explore them.

These claims are ridiculous. Our discovery of the caves was the end process of five years of investigation which included archive research in search of previously unpublished works by early explorers to the plateau, work that could not have been done without the many hours put in at academic libraries by my colleague, the Egyptological researcher Nigel Skinner Simpson. His dedication finally paid off following the publication of British diplomat Henry Salt's complete memoir as The Sphinx Revealed in 2007 when for the first time we were able to define exactly where in 1817 he and Italian explorer Giovanni Caviglia entered "catacombs" on the plateau, apparently navigating them for a distance of several hundred yards before coming across four interconnected chambers. The entrance to these catacombs turned out to be in the same vicinity as a tomb with subterranean galleries investigated in 1837 by British explorer Col. Richard Howard Vyse and engineer John Shae Perring, a site that the latter marked on his survey plan as "Excavated tombs and pits of bird mummies." It is for this reason that we came to refer to this site, found to be the entrance to extensive caves overlooked in modern times, as the "Tomb of the Birds," since it is very likely Giza's lost bird and animal necropolis, long known to have existed somewhere on the plateau. Its official designation is NC2, given to it by American Egyptologist George A. Reisner.

Even the editors of Salt's memoirs, published for the first time in 2007, misidentified the site of Salt's catacombs. So to have our discoveries claimed in this manner is an unexpected surprise, as is Gabriel's naming of the caves. In radio interviews and online he now refers to them as the "Caverns of the Bats", as if he has been given the sole right to name and dedicate them.

In Beneath the Pyramids, and in lectures and articles, I have proposed that the cave system be known as the Cave of the Snake (the Arab Egyptian Kahf el-Hanash). This honors a folk tradition related to me by a local tomb guardian who in March 2008 explained how this kahf, the Arabic for "cave" or "caves," was the haunt of a great snake named el-Hanash, the reason why he would never go inside them himself.

Yet all of this work and effort is almost entirely ignored by Brown and Gabriel, which is frustrating indeed, particularly after all the effort that Nigel Skinner Simpson, Sue Collins and myself went through to investigate these caves and bring them to the public's attention.

Brown and Gabriel's claims to have been on to the caves, entered via the tomb NC2, prior to our discovery of them in 2008 are completely groundless. This we can be certain of for since the discovery of the caves was broadcast across the internet in July 2009, no one has come forward to say that they were aware of them beforehand, or that any published records existed showing that they were there. They simply weren't on the map.

All this overzealousness on the part of Brown and Gabriel might be put down to a unerring conviction that they have been chosen to find and unlock the mysteries of the record chambers existing in front of the Sphinx. There is nothing wrong with personal belief, which should never be taken away from anyone (I myself have some very interesting ideas about what might await discovery beneath the bedrock at Giza). Yet in the minds of Brown and Gabriel the excavations now taking place in front of the Sphinx are personal, part of a conspiracy to undermine their own future destiny with respect to the discovery of the hidden record chambers.

Despite attempts by myself to quell Brown and Gabriel's talk of conspiracy, they have ignited a debate that is now getting out of hand. In an e-newsletter entitled "The Big Lie" sent out to friends and colleagues by Bill Brown on May 5, he writes: "Dr Hawass is lying [big] time, A.R.E. is lying [big] time, each covering each other while they both attempt to recover what we know they know about!"

Zahi Hawass is not going to be flustered by such accusations, but accusing Edgar Cayce's A.R.E. of fostering the Big Conspiracy is senseless, and simply regurgitates similar false claims voiced in the 1990s. The A.R.E. have for the past 35 years worked to fund bonafide exploration work at Giza and elsewhere in Egypt. As I describe in Beneath the Pyramids, they are silent partners behind some of the most pioneering work that has taken place on the plateau, and this continues today. So false accusations like those being thrown around by Brown are really not helpful, especially when he makes statements like these in the same e-newsletter: "A.R.E. is publishing disinformation about the dig. They are telling the public nothing is going on. Their source is lying to them. The Red Bull Event work is clearly NOT part of this dig. They are making millions of dollars in selling antiquities. If there is technology coming out of there, the amount could be hundreds of millions of dollars."

The reputation of a nation (albeit young) at stake. The Egyptians didn't build GIZA. That much is well known now (The Big Lie, May 5, 2010). What is so ironic is that after I notified John van Auken, the director of the A.R.E., of Brown and Gabriel's claims of clandestine activity occurring on the plateau he went out of his way to speak to people on the ground at Giza in the hope of finding some meaningful solutions. The A.R.E. have only ever been helpful in trying to get to the bottom of this affair, and their contacts include some of the most respected and well known figures in the local community; they if anyone would know what was going on out on the plateau. So to accuse the A.R.E. of being part of the Conspiracy is, I feel, both unjust and unproductive, something I have voiced to Brown in recent correspondence.

I don't see a Conspiracy at Giza. In fact, I don't see the Egyptians doing anything different to what they do on a daily basis. Sometimes, by their sheer nature, the Egyptian way of life might come across as secretive, evasive and even elusive. The problem is that many people see this as having sinister motive, which is strictly unnecessary, and highly disrespectful to Egyptian culture.

People might not like the way Zahi Hawass does things. But there is no question that he is attempting as best as possible to preserve the legacy of Egypt's past, especially at Giza where unchecked urban development is threatening its very future. Without someone strong, ruthless even, to hold back the advancement of Cairo, and preserve this sacred landscape for future generations, there is a very real possibility that its scenic beauty and spiritual ambience will be lost forever.

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