All copyrights Rudolf Gantenbrink 1999

How it all began
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The preparation of the first campaign
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Detailed report including related pictures
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Detailed report including many related pictures
363 KB

Detailed report including many related pictures
193 KB

This is a quick read about all 1992 / 1993 campaigns
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My interest in the pyramids of Egypt began in 1987. On my birthday that year, a friend gave me a book – "The Seven Wonders of the World" by Werner Ekschmitt. The last chapter deals with the only remaining wonder, the Cheops pyramid on Egypt's Giza Plateau.

My engineer's curiosity was aroused because there seemed to be so many questions and so few answers. I just couldn't get over the fact that we can fly to the moon and explore the depths of the oceans, but we can't answer so many basic technical questions about the most exhaustively studied historical monument of all times.

The book contained references to the German Archaeological Institute (GAI) and its director, Prof. Dr. Rainer Stadelmann, to whom I soon wrote, expressing my interest. At the same time, I began analyzing the pyramids, as of 1989 by computer – looking for tell-tale signs, the fingerprints always left behind by the designer and builders of any large construction. In the early 90s I began developing a computer-based study focusing on the knowledge of the ancient Egyptians and the means available to them to conduct their work on various monuments.

(In September 1997 I gave a speech on this subject during the "Ordo et Mensura" conference at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, organized by Dr. Dieter Ahrens and Dr. Dr. Rolf Rottländer of the University of Tübingen. The SPEECH, also serves to refute the Pi, Pythagorean and Star-Shaft hypotheses relating to the Cheops pyramid.)

Because of my interest in the technical aspects of archaeological issues, I have supported and initiated a number of projects and studies throughout the 90s, including the Siwa Oracle-Temple computer survey, the UPUAUT PROJECT, the ventilation of the Cheops pyramid and the dating of Nazca geoglyphs in Peru. As a further private initiative, I set up the UPUAUT FOUNDATION, a specialized high tech source for digital conservation and field work improvements.

In connection with those endeavors, I have secured the necessary funding and sponsoring for such projects from companies like Compaq, Gore, Port-Escap, Mäurer & Wirz, Autodesk, Datapath, LTG, Helios and ABC Cam-Tech, to all of whom I remain gratefully indebted.

Above all, since my on-site investigation of Cheops ended in summer 1993, I have continued to conduct extensive computer analyses of the data, to further refine the equipment – especially the robotics – required to advance our exploration of the Great Pyramid, and to actively promote that exploration. I remain convinced that, given the opportunity, we will soon be able to solve the remaining mysteries of Cheops.



In 1990, Prof. Stadelmann of the GAI made a visit to Munich and I finally had an opportunity to show him my work. He seemed both surprised and impressed by how much my computer analysis could tell about the construction of the pyramids, about the possibilities of mathematical visualization, and the inherent potential of the high-tech approach.

Prof. Stadelmann's reaction to my work encouraged me to make a trip to Cairo, which I finally did, only three days before the outbreak of the Gulf War in 1991. My first visit to the Giza Plateau not only made me forget the geo-political implications of the high-tech warfare soon raging not far away, it was to change my life.

As I walked around the plateau I was astonished by the fact that there were bits of evidence strewn everywhere – invaluable clues to how the pyramids had been constructed. I was struck by the wealth of evidence available to the eye of an engineer. I was moved by a feeling of encountering kindred spirits. Oh, nothing otherworldly, mind you. These ancient Egyptians simply seemed to have taken an approach to their tasks with which I felt very much at home.

But I was also shocked because the evidence I perceived was constantly being lost and destroyed – not just by the slow processes of gradual erosion, but swiftly, daily, right before my eyes, by the masses of tourists whose feet, guides and camels were scattering and crushing a wealth of priceless clues and information. From that moment I resolved to do something about it, to try to prevent the ongoing loss and to make a contribution to solving the riddles.

This was also the first time I would encounter the hordes of mystics, spiritualists and esoterics who conduct groups and services in and around the Cheops pyramid. Later such groups were to provide a permanent source of conflict as my work at the site proceeded.

After my visit to Giza in 1991, I managed to meet up with Prof. Stadelmann at the offices of the GAI in Cairo. I suggested conducting an investigation of the so–called "air shafts"   of Cheops. I was convinced that the shafts mark the first construction phase of the pyramid. They constitute basic elements of great importance. Put simply, a stone structure of such magnitude, built up in layers over a period of many years, is a sufficiently gargantuan undertaking to daunt any builder. But adding diagonal shafts through such a structure so complicates the task that it becomes a builder's nightmare. The builders must have ascribed great significance to the shafts, otherwise they would never have let themselves in for such a massive constructional headache. 

Throughout my investigations on site, I was never looking specifically for hidden chambers or treasure – as has often been alleged. I was simply determined to apply common sense and solid engineering data to solving the riddles presented by those shafts. What purpose did they originally serve?
(see "Y Mystery" and "Y4 Mystery" at THE MYSTERY page)

At the time of our discussion in Cairo, Prof. Stadelmann was not yet aware that modern technology could make such an investigation possible. As a result, he was immediately taken by the idea and proposed that we embark on a joint venture project.

I returned to Munich and began preparing a project definition, which I soon sent to the GAI. I suggested using a small robot to investigate the so-called "air shafts". I included the initial design and drawings of the robot, as well as specifications of the overall logistics and team which would be necessary. Even at this early stage I anticipated that the steeply inclined (45 degrees) upper southern shaft might be relatively free of debris and thus easily negotiable, but that the upper northern shaft, much less steep (32 degrees), might be badly clogged and thus, that a larger clearing and cleaning operation could become necessary.

I also began refining the robot design, based on my observations in Giza, and started building those parts of the robot which were essential to the task.

While still in Cairo, Prof. Stadelmann and I had agreed on a sensible division of labor: I would handle the technical preparations of the project; the GAI would secure all the necessary permits in Egypt.

Throughout the latter half of 1990 I was surprised not to receive any response to my project proposal from Prof. Stadelmann, but during my next visit to Giza, in January 1992, he did arrange a contact with the Giza Plateau Inspectorate, through which I was granted permission by Director Zahi Hawass to climb the pyramid, accompanied by an inspector.

My objective was to find the outlet of the upper southern shaft  – which had been lost and forgotten since the early 19th century – and to inspect the Caviglia Tunnel, at the bottom of the upper northern shaft.

At last, the big day arrived – I was to climb Cheops for the first time! With the inspector, I ascended via the southwest corner of the pyramid. On the way up, I noticed that the stone was badly eroded, porous and broken, but in many places it seemed to have been worn smooth. The explanation of this little puzzle was quite simple: this has always been the route of ascent favored by unauthorized climbers, because the southwest corner of Cheops can be directly observed neither from the Inspectorate nor from the police station, both of which are located near the north corners of the pyramid.

Based on the extensive computer analysis I had made of Cheops, I was able to find what I was looking for on the first attempt – the "lost" outlet of the upper southern shaft! It was an auspicious beginning.

Later I also investigated the Caviglia Tunnel   at the lower end of the upper northern shaft and made photographs of sand deposits in the shaft, convincing me that, because of bends along its path upward, the shaft was twisted.

Afterwards I discussed these findings with Prof. Stadelmann, who was very excited. But it was also during this meeting that Prof. Stadelmann confided that he had some "headaches" with our project. He said the Egyptian authorities had granted permission for the proposed project, but that he had "inadvertently" offered to include installation of a ventilation system in the upper shafts of the pyramid as part of our project.

I told him that I did not see any great problems in including this in the project definition and offered to take care of planning and organizing such a system. I also promised to find sponsors for the undertaking and secure the necessary material and equipment.

The Giza Inspectorate provided me data they had collected over a two-year period on the humidity and temperature levels within the pyramid, and on the numbers of visitors to it.

Elated with my discoveries and the prospects of a fascinating project, I returned to Germany. I immediately set to work developing and building the first, as yet unnamed robot, based on the design submitted in my project proposal, for exploration of the shafts. Based on my most recent findings in Giza I refined the design and a number of construction elements, many of which were made of heavy-duty plastic.

This model would turn out to be too tall to get through some of the shafts and simply not sturdy enough for the overall task of negotiating numerous obstacles while climbing at a sharp angle. To my chagrin and frustration, I later discovered that I had underestimated the difficulties of the undertaking. In my eagerness to keep costs to a minimum and get started as soon as possible, I neglected to conduct adequate trial runs on mock-ups of the shafts. As a result, I would later have my hopes dashed and my robot stalled.

The first robot, which came to be known as the  "FATHER OF UPUAUT", was relatively inexpensive, as it incorporated a number of pre-fabricated parts. It was a fixed construction, basically unchangeable. Only after the initial attempts to negotiate Cheops' shafts went badly, did I recognize the crucial importance of a highly-specialized, totally-customized, high-tech solution.

But in the early spring of 1992, I was still unaware of the headaches to come. For our coming venture to clear debris from the upper outlets of the shafts I bought the alpine climbing equipment we required. Prof. Stadelmann had cautioned against accidents, which might give critics an opportunity to claim that once again the "Curse of the Pharaoh" was at work. The last thing we needed was more grist for the esoterics. I also purchased surveying instruments to measure precisely the bending shaft sequence inside the Caviglia Tunnel.

And I succeeded in gaining the collaboration of the Lufttechnische GmbH (LTG) to do the ventilation system calculations, based on the data I had brought back with me from Giza. Through LTG I also secured the support of the Helios Ventilator company, which furnished the materials we needed.

Finally, my preparations were concluded and all of the material and equipment was sent via the German embassy to the GAI in Cairo.



In 1991 Prof. Stadelmann of the GAI in Cairo and I agreed to conduct a joint venture aimed at investigating the so–called "air shafts" of Cheops.   As part of my preliminary efforts, I climbed the pyramid for the first time in January 1992 and immediately found the outlet of the upper southern shaft – which had been "lost" and forgotten since the early 19th century.

The First Cheops Campaign, March 1992

Assisted by Ulrich Kapp of the GAI and two Egyptian inspectors, I embarked on a two-week campaign to carry out a video inspection of the tiny shafts of Cheops, using the first of my specially-constructed robots, which came to be known as the "FATHER OF UPUAUT". But almost immediately the robot got stuck – after all my careful preparatory work and expense, an immensely frustrating turn of events. Nonetheless, we did manage to push the robot and its video camera a distance of just over 9 meters into both lower shafts,   disproving the conventional view that they were only token or "insinuated" constructions.

Unable to accomplish much more with the tiny vehicle, I returned to Germany and spent the next four weeks completing the second robot, UPUAUT-1, as a towing sledge. It was fitted with the video camera from its predecessor and with a front-mounted laser-rod to measure the height and width of the upper shafts as we progressed through them.

The Second Cheops Campaign, May 1992

At the start of our second campaign we first had to clear out the upper northern shaft,   which was clogged with debris. Finally, we managed to send Upuaut all the way through the shaft, measuring the block joints along the way. We then accomplished the same task in the upper southern shaft. In doing so we established that both upper shafts have bends in their North-South axis.

The final week was spent installing a ventilation system to improve conditions within the pyramid. The system quickly reduced the temperature and brought down the humidity to the outside atmospheric level - operating at only 30% of capacity - helping to save Cheops from further climatic damage.

Back in Germany I spent the rest of 1992 completing the design and construction of the much-improved robot "UPUAUT-2",and of the support vehicle, which came to be known as the "ROPE CLIMBER".

The Third Cheops Campaign, March 1993

This time accompanied by a video team, we first sent Upuaut-2 about 19 meters up the lower northern shaft,   reaching a long metal rod left behind by the 19th century Waynman Dixon expedition. Then we tackled the lower southern shaft, which presented an endless series of obstacles to progress. Day-by-day we penetrated further up the shaft. We also sent the "Rope Climber" up the shaft to measure the exact angle of ascent.

We also re-surveyed the exterior of Cheops to pinpoint the potential outlet of the lower southern shaft,   which – if it does penetrate to the outside – should do so at the 90th layer. We proved that it doesn't.

After making a number of modifications to Upuaut-2, to improve its performance and surmount frustrating obstacles, we finally progressed all the way up to 53 meters in the southern shaft,   where we encountered a 6 cm "step" in the floor. For a robot less than 11 cm tall, it was like running into the Great Wall of China.

It took days to solve all the problems involved, but finally, on 22nd March, Upuaut-2 climbed over the step and proceeded. Following the robot's progress via the video monitor, we could clearly see that the next six meters of the shaft display a gradual improvement in the quality of workmanship.

And then, at 11:05 a.m., Upuaut-2 presented us with a breathtaking vision – the shaft was blocked by a smooth stone slab! Closer inspection showed that it even features two copper fittings. What the true function of that slab may be remains a mystery, but it has come to be known in popular literature as "The Door." This popular name of course implies that the slab actually serves the function of a door, leading to – well, who knows what? But until we can peer behind it, or perhaps even open it, we will never know for sure what it really is and what it meant to the builders of Cheops. So for the time being, it might be more appropriate to refer to it simply as the "USO" – the Unidentified Stone Object.