written 1997 by 'Sphinx'
An exasperated Zahi Hawass met the Foreign Press Association on May 7th in Cairo to vent his frustration with a group of pseudo-scientists whose personal attack, through television and other media, has recently escalated to the point where it has become threatening. He is worried that a NBC interview, slated to be released in the next few days, will support and publicise their ideas, which he suggests are purely for personal gain .
"I want to talk about things that do not make any sense, " said the Director of the Pyramids Plateau, whose broad gestures expressed his increased frustration with what is commonly known as "pyramidiots" - those with views greatly at variance with the established scientific community. "They are saying secret excavations connected with Atlantis are going on around the Sphinx are not being revealed. This is definitely not so."
"I was silent for a year, but it [the pressure] increased and increased," said Hawass, who was finally forced to name his antagonists: Graham Hancock, John Anthony West and Robert Ufall, authors of, the Orion Mystery, A Message from the Sphinx, and Fingerprints of God. "I was laughing at their views two years ago," he added, but now it has apparently become a threat. Pressure groups have circulated petitions and sent them to authorities in Egypt. and the InterNet has been used to his adversaries' advantage.
One of the most popular views they are adhering to is that there is a room in the front of the Sphinx, and that it contains metals. "Years ago Anthony West somehow got permission to investigate," said Hawass; " I came upon him one day tapping all around the Sphinx and I stopped the work." Since then West has engaged Hawass and Mark Lehner, who has been working with Hawass on excavations in the Pyramids area for a number of years, in more or less constant debate about the age of the Sphinx. Hawass points out that a number of years ago Sanford University scientists drilled in the area they are claiming contains a room and found nothing.
Hawass reported pressure has also come from groups who want the "door" in the Cheops pyramid opened. An enigmatic device was pin-pointed by a robot 65 meters up in one of the air vents in the pyramid by an engineer working for the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo a couple of years ago. Although its existence has never been confirmed, the inference is that Hawass, again, is hiding something. "We are not like Indiana Jones," he insisted, "we are scientists, and do everything carefully."
Hawass said he was forced into a two-hour long debate with the trio on Italian Television on April 16th which ended up as a personal attack. Hawass, who is probably the greatest living expert on the pyramids, has been trying to counter the views of the "fringe element" by giving talks on the scientific exploration of the area surrounding the Sphinx and pyramids to European and North American Audiences, but, as one member of the Press suggested, the cauldron brewing against established authority, may be allowing the "fringies" to bubble to the top.
Hawass' emphasized that the main goal of the SCA is to conserve the pyramids, not exploit them, and cited recent plans to improve the pyramids environment, including moving the stables for horses and camels, the tourist busses and a picnic area out in the desert near the pyramids. "It costs us LE 100,000 a year to clean up after the animals," he added, noting that the LE 3 million entrance fees from the Great Pyramid (Cheops) are not enough to do the necessary conservation work. "To restore one side of the pyramid costs about $50,000.00" he said. Blocks on the side of the second pyramid (Chephren) are deteriorating and need to be repaired, and the third pyramid - that of Mycerinus - was closed three days ago to manage the cracks that have developed and to remove tourists' graffiti. The SCA's attempt to open Abu Sir as a tourist area has been stalled, but Hawass contends it will be open by the end of the year. He also cited efforts to remove new houses on the Giza Plateau. "Houses are site pollution," he asserted, mentioning the recent decision by the Giza Governate to relocate Nazlett es Simman residents to a new 3 square-mile city near the Fayum Road where tourist trades could be plied in a craft-centre environment.
"If I am in charge of antiquities," he stated, adding quickly "- and I hope I am not - I would stop all excavating in Upper Egypt for ten years; plenty needs to be done in conservation, epigraphy and survey, particularly on pharaonic sites. We should concentrate on excavations in the Delta." Hawass' own clearance work around the pyramids suggested 1920s excavators Hermann Junker and Reisner were not very thorough; he found 65 tombs that they had missed.