Hongkonger sheds light on mystery pyramid numbers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 June, 2011, 12:00am


Mysterious red hieroglyphs painted in a shaft in the Great Pyramid of Giza are likely to be engineering measurements for the building of a secret chamber, according to the Hong Kong founder of an international team exploring the shaft.

Ng Tze-chuen, 58, said the suspected measurements - not seen for thousands of years - would have been used to guide workers to build the shaft to precise measurements and pointed to the existence of something important in a secret chamber behind a door at the end of the shaft his 10-strong team aimed to probe.

'The workers needed the signs because they didn't want to just stop the shaft at a random length. They measured the length precisely so that something could be put behind the second door. Must be something intriguing,' the Causeway Bay dentist said.

Ng's view came after a researcher explained the markings.

The secret chamber has been described by Zahi Hawass, Egypt's minister of state for antiquities affairs, as the last great mystery of the pyramid. Independent researcher Luca Miatello, an expert on ancient Egyptian mathematics, said the markings were numerical signs meaning 1, 20 and 100 from left to right that add up to 121 cubits, or 63.4 metres, the length of the shaft to the first door. The royal cubit, the ancient Egyptian unit of measurement used to build the pyramid, was 52.4cm long, equal to seven human palms of four digits.

Miatello based his interpretations on rare images from a snake camera sent into the shaft by Ng's team - named Djedi after an ancient magician who, legend says, was asked to play a part in designing the pyramid.

The images of signs unseen by human eyes since the construction of the mausoleum 4,500 years ago were published in the first report of Djedi's exploration in the Annales du Service Des Antiquities de l'Egypte in May.

Hawass has said something might be hidden in the pyramid, based on a story that the emperor Khufu, also known as Cheops, sought out the magician when he was designing the pyramid that many archaeologists believe became his burial place.

Kufu wanted to know about the secret chambers of the god Thoth, on which Djedi was an expert but the magician refused to help, the story goes.

Egyptology professor Dr Poo Mu-chou, of the Chinese University's history department, said he agreed with the experts that the three red signs could be numbers.

'The first sign to the left is the easiest to recognise: it is a simple short vertical stroke representing 'one,' Poo, who made a television programme for the National Geographic channel on the secret chamber in 2005, said.

The one in the middle could be loosely interpreted as the composite sign for '20' because 'we can allow slipperiness in handwriting'.

But the sign for '100' was difficult to recognise as it was not very clear, he said. It should be a coil of rope with the tail extending to the left but there was little sign of any extension to the left.

'The vertical stroke to the right of the sign ends with a sharp bend to the left, which could be the outer circle of the coiled rope, yet the puzzling thing is, why was it not written with a round stroke but an angular shape? Was this only the style of individual writing?'

Workers often painted numbers and graffiti around Giza, for example in the upper roof of the gallery dubbed the King's Chamber but they were mostly names of the work gangs.

'Assuming that the reading of 121 is correct, and assuming it is the length of 121 cubits, approximately the length of the shaft, we are still in the dark as to the function of the shaft and what, if anything, could have been hidden behind the second block,' he said.

Djedi's next task, scheduled for September, is to check whether the second door is a solid block of stone by bouncing balls off the wall. Its thickness will be calculated from the frequencies of sound given off by the impacts, which will help gauge how long the drill has to be to penetrate the door.

The Great Pyramid is the largest of three pyramids on the Giza plateau on the outskirts of Cairo and has long been rumoured to have hidden passageways leading to secret chambers.