Ever since archaeologists revealed in November 2017 that one of the Great Pyramids of Giza contained a void potentially more than 100 feet long, the question of what exactly lies inside it has tantalized scientists and the public alike. Now, one expert has put forth a hypothesis addressing the mystery: The void could contain a great iron throne referenced in the Pyramid Texts, the oldest known religious texts in the world.
Cheops' Pyramid, sometimes called the Pyramid of Khufu or simply the Great Pyramid, is the largest of the three Giza Pyramids. It's also the oldest, dating back to approximately 2250 B.C. It contains an internal labyrinth of rooms and tunnels, including a funerary chamber, which widens to form the 153-foot-long Grand Gallery above which sits the recently discovered void.
The Pyramid Texts allude to a "throne of iron" on which the pharaoh Cheops (also known as Khufu) would need to sit before he could pass the "gates of the sky" and reach the northern stars, where the ancient Egyptians believed the afterlife existed. Giulio Magli, Director of the Department of Mathematics and Professor of Archaeoastronomy at the Politecnico di Milano, believes the throne could sit at the void's upper end, aligned exactly underneath the pyramid's apex. While there's no proof as yet that the void contains (or doesn't contain) such a throne, certain clues Magli has pursued leave it within the realm of possibility.
The Great Pyramid contains four shafts leading up in the direction of the stars. The East and West shafts lead only into the pyramid's facades, but the North and South lead to doors. Explorations of the South shaft have yielded no results. The North door is still sealed; Magli believes it's possible that it leads to the void.
The void was discovered through a project the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities launched in 2015 called ScanPyramids, which emphasizes non-invasive techniques. Magli explained to Newsweek that the void could also potentially be accessed through "mini-invasive" techniques, such as drilling a small hole in the ceiling of the Great Gallery through which researchers could insert an optic fiber camera.
"The decision as to whether to explore the northern shaft or not fully depends on the Egyptian Minister," Magli told Newsweek via email. "The robotic technology is fully available to explore the shaft properly and see what occurs behind the northern door."
Magli believes the throne itself might bear a resemblance to one linked to Cheops' mother, Queen Hetepheres. This would make it a low chair built from cedar wood, covered with thin iron sheets (Hetepheres's throne was covered in gold and faience, an ancient Egyptian style of ceramics and other objects glazed with various colored minerals and alloys—believed to be magical, according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art).
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The throne itself would likely be built from meteoric iron, meaning iron recovered from fallen meteorites; the Pyramid Texts referenced iron that had fallen from the sky. The material was favored by ancient Egyptians for crafting objects of special value—like King Tutankhamun's dagger, according to Smithsonian.
"As a scientist," Magli said, "I do hope to see the answer to such an interesting riddle."
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