of the Tomb of the Birds
Pyramid of Giza is the only surviving wonder of the ancient
world. It is also unique in that, for centuries, it has been
the subject of intense intrigue and speculation, far beyond
the scope of the actual discoveries that have been made in and
around the structure.
The pyramids on the Giza Plateau, just outside the Egyptian
capital Cairo, remained largely unexplored until the 19th century,
when the inner chambers were finally penetrated. Since then,
there have been continuous claims that the Great Pyramid, specifically,
contains still-undiscovered chambers. Indeed, by far the most
prominent series of recent investigations were robotic explorations
of the so-called “air shafts” that run from the
Queen’s Chamber, which revealed a sequence of two tiny
doors. The discovery has reignited the debate about the possible
existence of more chambers, although archaeological work on
this project is particularly slow to progress.
The pyramids on top of the Giza Plateau are so special and intriguing
that the rest of the plateau has received less attention. Still,
it is to be expected that the reason why pyramids were built
here is because the Giza Plateau was already held to be sacred
by the ancient Egyptians. And this means that there is something
on the plateau that would have given it its sacred nature. That
“something” is likely to be the plateau itself and
the network of natural cavities that are a typical trademark
of limestone formations.
Most of the attention when it comes to underground structures
in Giza has gone to one man: Edgar Cayce. In the 1920s, this
American psychic predicted the presence of a Hall of Records
near the Sphinx, which was prophesied to contain information
about the lost civilisation of Atlantis. Since then, dozens
of books have been written about this prophecy alone, but, so
far, no Hall of Records has been discovered. Yet slowly, the
underground of the Giza Plateau is beginning to surrender some
of its secrets...and these suggest that what’s underneath
the plateau might be just as interesting, if not more, than
what is on top.
In 1998, Egyptian authorities revealed the existence of a so-called
Tomb of Osiris on the Giza Plateau. Osiris is the Egyptian Lord
of the Underworld, and this rock-cut, tomb-like structure is
interesting as it shows that the ancient Egyptians drilled deep
into the ground to create sanctuaries for the dead. Unfortunately,
the structure’s lower levels are currently inhibited from
being explored because of underground water, due to the nearby
presence of the River Nile.
However, it is less well known that the Tomb of Osiris was discovered
as early as 1933–34 by Dr Selim Hassan. He reported that
the tomb dates from the Saitic period (26th Dynasty, c. 600
BC), and he labelled it “the most extraordinary example
of this type of hole”. He noted that the first chamber
led to a second, in which there were seven niches, each containing
a basalt sarcophagus, two of which were substantially larger
than the others.
In what has become an unfortunate trend when it comes to official
announcements by some senior Egyptologists, we thus find that
the 1998 revelation is bogus and that also, by that time, just
two sarcophagi survived, with no questions posed as to what
had happened to the five others. As early as 1934, the third
chamber was already under water, but the clear water still allowed
Hassan to see additional sarcophagi. Hassan tried to clear the
chamber, but, after four years of pumping, the water level had
This is but one of several known underground cavities. Less
well known is that one part of the Great Pyramid was built on
top of and incorporated a natural cavity, the so-called Grotto.
This is located off the Well Shaft that connects the Ascending
Passage to the Descending Passage. The Well Shaft’s purpose
remains unclear, and the Grotto’s even more so. Often
described as “an unusual feature” because it is
unique in pyramid design, the Grotto also contains a large granite
block: how it got there or why it was left remains unexplained.
In 2006, a team led by Abbas Mohamed Abbas, of the National
Research Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics, performed extensive
groundpenetrating radar (GPR) scans on various sections of the
Giza Plateau. The team discovered cavities deep within the bedrock,
some down as far as 25 metres, with several tunnels at least
three to five metres wide. In their report, (1) Abbas et al.
speculated that the individual cavities and tunnels might link
up and even connect to still unexplored “precious tombs”:
“The results of the survey support the possibility of
the presence of undisclosed relics, of high value.” Abbas
et al. concluded: “...we can presume the existence of
a momentous diversity of archaeological structures at the Pyramids
plateau which remain, as yet, unexposed.”
August 2009, British author Andrew Collins and researcher Nigel
Skinner-Simpson announced that they had made a fortuitous discovery
on the Giza Plateau: a cave system explored by Henry Salt and
Giovanni Caviglia in 1817, entered through a rock-cut tomb.
Salt, the British Consul-General to Egypt, working alongside
the Italian explorer and sea captain Caviglia, had entered unknown
“catacombs” at Giza, somewhere west of the pyramid
field. However, the existence of these caves was subsequently
Colonel Howard Vyse, who conducted excavations on the Giza Plateau
in 1837, wrote about the tomb in his 1840 book. (2) The site
turned out to contain several mummies of birds, which Vyse and
engineer John Shae Perring apparently removed. Collins relocated
the lost tomb in January 2007 in the company of his wife, Sue.
They found little, other than further evidence of a local bird
cult practised within this structure.
When Salt’s memoirs (3) were finally published in 2007,
Collins and Skinner-Simpson realised that they contained a detailed
account of the exploration of the catacombs. The explorers had
apparently penetrated “several hundred yards” into
this structure before coming upon a spacious chamber that connected
with three others of equal size, from which went labyrinthine
passages. Caviglia later pursued one of these passages for a
distance of “300 feet further” before giving up,
the two men being put off by the fact that they had not found
anything of value—no gold, no treasure, the primary obsession
of these early pyramid explorers.
On 3 March 2008, Sue and Andy Collins, together with Nigel Skinner-Simpson,
went back to the newly baptised Tomb of the Birds, having gained
sponsorship from the Association for Research and Enlightenment
(ARE) in Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA. After some searching,
they found a small crack in the rock face that led into a huge
natural cave chamber which connected with other cave compartments
and a long cave passage. In short, the trio realised that their
structure coincided with the caves discovered in 1817.
At present, no-one knows the total extent of the caves. As mentioned,
Salt and Caviglia never reached the end, and so far Collins
has been unsuccessful in interesting the Egyptian authorities
in this discovery. Were the caves to continue beyond the farthest
point reached, they would most likely head off in the direction
of the Second Pyramid (the Pyramid of Khafre), whose southwestern
corner is only 480 metres southwest from the entrance to the
Tomb of the Birds.
Collins did learn from a guardian living in the vicinity that
the cave system went on for many kilometres. The guardian added
that it was haunted by a giant snake called el-Hanash—the
reason why he would not go down there himself. As such, his
claim is hearsay and not based on factual exploration. Still,
there is a tradition that existed through to mediaeval times
that either the Great Pyramid or the Second Pyramid was the
Tomb of Agathodaimon, the “good spirit”, a Gnostic
god in the form of a serpent which was said to “repose”,
or rest, beneath the plateau.
In his typically arrogant demeanour, the leader of the Supreme
Council of Antiquities, Dr Zahi Hawass, when confronted with
news of Collins’s discovery, claimed that the structure
had “recently” been explored by Egyptologists. He
commented: “This story shows how people who do not have
a background in archaeology use the media and the Internet to
make headlines... When I saw this Internet story about a new
discovery at Giza, I knew it was misleading. The article reports
that a huge system of tunnels and caves has been found; however,
I can say that there is no underground cave
complex at this site.” (4)
Collins has challenged Hawass to produce the scientific report
proving that the structure has indeed been fully explored in
recent years. He notes: “Our caves are the only natural
caves recorded on the plateau so far (despite the multitude
of rumours). Our caves, even if proved to be isolated (which
we hope is not the case), prove that Giza’s geology does
include a natural cave system, which is arguably what Abbas
could have been detecting on the east side of the plateau in
2006. Salt records that the caves go for ‘several hundred
yards’, then link with chambers and passages, one of which
Caviglia explored for ‘300 feet further’. Note the
word ‘further’. I say this as people might try and
say that what we found is all there is to find, i.e., approximately
300 feet (90 metres) of caves, and no more. We did not reach
the end, and neither did Salt and Caviglia. We reckon that the
caves extend to beneath the Second Pyramid. Chambers were detected
under the Second Pyramid by the SRI [Stanford Research Institute]
team when they performed their scans of the structure in 1977.”
Tablets and Hidden Temples
Collins in the Giza cave system in April 2008
discovery is therefore part of a slowly emerging picture that
shows that the Giza underground holds several more secrets.
Indeed, Hawass himself, while drilling down in front of the
Sphinx temple in 1980, struck red granite at a depth of 15 metres.
Red granite is not native to the Giza Plateau; the only source
is Aswan, hundreds of miles to the south. The very presence
of red granite proves that there is a man-made structure underneath
Collins writes in his newly released book Beneath the Pyramids
(6) that he has also identified another possible entrance to
the Giza underground, in a well in a cemetery near the village
of Nazlet el-Samman at Gebel Ghibli. The cemetery is largely
off-limits and is obviously on sacred ground, which will make
any scientific excavations virtually impossible.
The well is dedicated to the holy man Hamid el-Samman, and Collins
suspects that el-Samman, about which nothing is written, may
be linked with the life of a Sufi master, Dhu’l-Nun al-Misri
(759–859 AD), who is known to have died at Giza. Born
in Akhmin in middle Egypt, he was also an hermeticist who would
have taken a great interest in the knowledge that Hermes Trismegistus,
the legendary founder of the hermetic tradition, was said to
have been buried somewhere in the vicinity of either the Great
Pyramid or the Second Pyramid. Interestingly, Hermes Trismegistus—equated
with the Egyptian god Thoth—has been linked with the so-called
Emerald Tablets, a series of artefacts said to contain all the
knowledge in the world and which was referred to in ancient
Egypt as The Book of Thoth.
The Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung identified one of the Emerald
Tablets with a table made of green stone, which he encountered
in a series of dreams and visions beginning at the end of 1912
and climaxing in his writing Seven Sermons to the Dead in 1916.
One of the Emerald Tablets is linked with memory—as in
the Hall of Records about which Edgar Cayce spoke?
For his new book, Collins also investigated “the Sleeping
Prophet”—Cayce—and his case for the Hall of
Records. He argues that Cayce, in his visions, sometimes confused
physical with immaterial—other-dimensional—Halls
of Records. At the same time, he has uncovered the fact that
Cayce did not make claims about a physical Hall of Records on
the Giza Plateau in a void.
In 1913, the American Sunday edition of the Times of India carried
a feature on the excavations of American archaeologist George
A. Reisner (1867–1942), who was at the time working in
the vicinity of the Sphinx. The article, which had previously
appeared in the British magazine The Sphere, speculated on the
alleged discovery by Reisner of “hidden temples within
the natural rock of which the Sphinx is formed”. It went
on to say: “Not only is the head of the Sphinx occupied
by two small chambers, one superimposed above the other, but
the actual body of the Sphinx is also occupied
by a larger pillar-lined temple with passages leading off in
several directions. The actual tomb of Menes, the great but
mysterious founder of remote Egypt, is also supposed to be within
the Sphinx.” (7)
Then, in 1938, Cayce went to the same library-style Hall of
Records to gain a sitter’s past-life reading and, while
there, was “given a book that was very large (tall and
wide), beautifully bound but quite thin” (8)—perhaps
the very Book of Thoth, of which the ancient Egyptians spoke?
In Beneath the Pyramids, Collins states: “...these accounts,
which are rarely published, demonstrate that Cayce’s sleep
hypnosis enabled him to enter what he believed was some kind
of astral hall of records. Thus it is possible that Cayce’s
vision of an Egyptian Hall of Records...was thought of initially
as a physical counterpart to the astral hall of records accessed
during sleep states.” (9)
millennia before the Great Pyramid was constructed, caves were
seen as veritable wombs of Mother Earth, in which religious
ceremonies occurred and intricate rock paintings were created.
Indeed, when looking at the interior of pyramids, with their
narrow entrances and long narrow corridors giving way to small
chambers, are we not
confronted with man-made, highly artistic representations of
cave systems? The very name of the area in ancient times provides
links with a subterranean realm: Rostau, meaning “mouth
of the passages” and “entrance to the winding passages”.
It should therefore not come as a surprise that Dr Selim Hassan
concluded that a physical representation of the Duat, the Egyptian
Underworld, existed underneath the Giza Plateau.
The Duat was the ancient Egyptian equivalent of the Greek Hades
or the Christian Purgatory, a realm through which the soul of
the deceased had to pass before it could join God. Hassan argued
that it was specifically a description of the fourth and fifth
hours of the night that would have been portrayed at Giza, if
only because they relate to the kingdom of Sokar in Rostau.
Collins concludes that the Tomb of the Birds which he found,
and which is known to have been a bird cemetery, likely honoured
a bird deity such as the falcon god Horus the Elder or the falcon-headed
Sokar, the latter especially linked with Giza.
Collins states that, based on the work of astronomer Dr Ronald
Wells and Egyptologist Dr Amanda-Alice Maravelia, the ancient
Egyptians of the Pyramid Age saw the stars of Cygnus as the
cosmic womb of the sky goddess Nut, who was personified as the
Milky Way. They argue that the Duat physically symbolised Nuit’s
body. The caves of Giza are therefore indeed likely to be cosmic
Within this framework, Deneb, Cygnus’s brightest star,
marked the entrance into, or exit from, the Duat. In the sky,
this is represented by the part of the Milky Way that we know
today as the Cygnus Rift. Collins argues that this entrance
would also be located on the Giza Plateau and would potentially
form the principal entrance into the subterranean complex.
Also on the Giza Plateau is Campbell’s Tomb. This enigmatic
shaft sunk into the plateau is often left unmentioned because
its purpose is obscure at best. Recently, the structure did
get some attention as its sides display erosion patterns that
are similar to those of the Sphinx enclosure. According to some
observers like geologist Dr Robert Schoch, these erosion patterns
suggest that the Sphinx is much older than the c. 2500 BC date
which it is currently given.
As French journalist Antoine Gigal has pointed out, the Belgian
researchers Guy Mouny and Guy Gruais posit that the grooves
of the structure look very mechanical and might have been used
to raise or lower a platform that was linked with a subterranean
canal system underneath the plateau. This would suggest that
the ancient Egyptians had advanced understanding of hydraulics.
This also should not come as a major surprise, considering that
extensive and advanced hydraulic engineering was carried out
under Pharaoh Amenemhat (1991–1962 BC) in the Fayum Oasis.
Belgian researcher Gerd Vandecruys has noted that the erosion
patterns in Campbell’s Tomb appear to be from standing
water inside the structure and not from rainwater erosion—as
is suggested for the Sphinx enclosure.
Knowing that the ancient Egyptians believed that travel in the
Duat occurred by boat, and that depictions in The Book of the
Dead show boats moving on canals in the Underworld, if the Egyptians
physically represented the Duat underneath the Giza Plateau
then they must have incorporated an underground canal system.
Campbell’s Tomb might be one enigmatic structure that
could thus easily be explained within this new framework: that
what we see above ground might not be nearly as exciting as
what is waiting to be discovered underneath the Giza Plateau.
Collins should therefore be applauded for having brought the
underground network of Giza to the attention of an international
audience. But the attitude of the Egyptian authorities remains
remarkable, to say the least, seeing that they themselves have
official reports that show that something exciting might be
waiting to be discovered in the Giza underground.
All images Andrew Collins
Abbas Mohamed, EI-said A. El-Sayed, Fathy A. Shaaban and Tarek
Abdel-Hafez, “Uncovering the Pyramids Plateau–Giza
Plateau–in a Search for Archaeological Relics by Utilizing
Ground Penetrating Radar”, NRIAG Journal of Geophysics,
2006 Special Issue, pp. 2, 12
2. Vyse, Col. R. W. Howard, Operations Carried on at the Pyramids
of Gizeh in 1837, James Fraser, London, 1840 (3 vols)
3. Salt, Henry, The Sphinx Revealed: A Forgotten Record of Pioneering
Excavations (Patricia Usick and Deborah Manley, editors), British
Museum Press, London, 2007
5. Personal email from Andrew Collins
6. Collins, Andrew, Beneath the Pyramids: Egypt’s Greatest
Secret Uncovered, 4th Dimension Press, Virginia Beach, USA,
7. Quoted in Collins, ibid.
8. Collins, op. cit.
9. Collins, op. cit.
article appeared in Nexus Magazine 17.1 (December 2009-January