A robot has ventured inside the Great Pyramid of Giza to reveal what’s inside.
The robot effectively opened a window on an ancient civilization by going further into the Great Pyramid than is humanly possible.
The Great Pyramid is the largest Egyptian pyramid.
Located on the outskirts of Cairo, it served as the tomb of pharaoh Khufu, who ruled during the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom.
It was built in the early 26th century BC – around 4,500 years ago – over a period of about 27 years.
The oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it’s the only one to remain largely intact.
Various archaeological digs have explored the Great Pyramid of Giza, reaching the Queen’s Chamber.
Those missions, found a narrow shaft hidden behind a false wall.
The narrow passageway climbs upwards at a 40-degree angle into the pyramid.
However nobody had been able to reach where that shaft led – and multiple attempts at exploration had damaged it.
But Rob Richardson, Professor of Robotics at Leeds, and his small team accepted the challenge in 2010.
The gauntlet was thrown down by by Hong Kong dentist and inventor, Dr. Tze Chuen Ng.
He wanted someone to design and build a robot to navigate the shaft and reach the pyramid beyond.
And while it took the UK-based scientist almost five years – they managed it.
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“This design was certainly challenging,” said Professor Richardson. “The robot had to be extremely lightweight – and in the end, we got it down to 5kg.”
“Because it was so light, it did not require a lot of power – in the end, the challenges started to become opportunities.
“We developed a system that moved the robot very gently through the passageway.”
The shaft is just 20 cm by 20 cm and a full 60 m (197 ft) in length.
It then had to film what was at the end – without causing any further damage.
The exclusive footage reveals a small, hidden chamber with markings in intricate colors on the floor.
The film that the camera from the robot sent back revealed a second blocking stone.
While it was unable to get past it – that knowledge itself is valuable.
“No one knows the purpose of the shaft: there has been speculation that it could be an air vent or perhaps access to a burial tomb,” Professor Richardson explained.
“About 50 meters along the shaft – several meters before what we think is the end, there is a stone put in place to block further access.
“We do not know what that stone is blocking access to. We were able to get a camera past the stone – it revealed a small chamber with intricate symbols painted on the floor.”
He continued: “Given the artwork, it is likely the shaft served a bigger purpose than act as an air vent – but what that bigger purpose remained a mystery.”
Independent filmmaker, William Westaway, made a film about the historic project.
“This is a fascinating story: one that sheds light on aspects of ancient civilization but in a twist, reveals how the latest thinking in robotic design and engineering has opened that window on the past,” Westaway said.
This film was posted to the Ancient Architects YouTube channel in two parts.