by WILLIAM P. EIGLES

In April, Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities granted a one-year renewable license to a team of U.S. researchers to carry out surveys at Giza and around the Sphinx using seismographs and ground-penetrating radar. Their ultimate purpose is to locate the “Hall of Records,” the chamber described by American mystic Edgar Cayce beginning in 1935 as containing the historical records and wisdom of the fabled lost civilization of Atlantis. Cayce suggested that this records chamber would be found under the Sphinx sometime before the end of the 20th century, most likely between 1996 and 1998.

According to an article by best-selling authors Graham Hancock (Fingerprints of the Gods, The Message of the Sphinx) and Robert Bauval (The Orion Mystery, The Message of the Sphinx) published in London’s Daily Mail newspaper in early May, the team is financed by the Schor Foundation of New York and sponsored academically by Florida State University. Its work will be the subject of a documentary by Boris Said, producer of the controversial 1993 NBC and BBC documentary Mystery of the Sphinx that re-examined the antiquity of the Sphinx based on geological evidence.

The new surveys will follow on the heels of a geological survey conducted in the early nineties (presented in the 1993 NBC/BBC documentary) which produced compelling evidence that the Sphinx could be significantly older than Egyptologists believe-not just 4,500 years old as is generally thought, but possibly as much as 12,500 years old. The documentary also mentioned the discovery of what appeared to be a rectangular chamber under the Sphinx’s paw, approximately 9m x 12m in size and buried less than 5m in depth, possibly the site of the Hall of Records.

Sophisticated archaeological equipment picked up numerous other indications of anomalies and cavities in the bedrock between the paws and along the sides of the Sphinx. However, before any further research could be done, the Egyptian authorities intervened and expelled the team from the Sphinx enclosure, supposedly because of the unscientific, “propagandistic” nature of its work. In 1994, Dr. Zahi Hawass, the Egyptian director of antiquities for the Giza monuments, publicly accused the members of the Sphinx project of “trying to spread doubt on the makers of the Egyptian civilization” and trying to “steal the Sphinx” from its true owners, the Egyptians.

The granting of the new survey license now appears to be shrouded in some mystery of its own, with something akin to a reversal of roles having recently occurred. Dr. Joseph Schor, whose foundation is underwriting much of the expense of the research, has claimed that the major purpose of the expedition is to aid in the preservation and restoration of the Pyramids and the Sphinx, and to survey the underground of the Giza Plateau to find faults and chasms that might collapse, endangering tourists. However, on April 14, Hawass gave a different account, announcing the existence of “hidden tunnels around the Pyramids and the Sphinx.” He made no mention of public safety, but hinted that excavation of the tunnels would reveal “many clues regarding the establishment of the Giza pyramids.”

There is evidence of intrigue surrounding the granting of the license. A short video, Secret Chamber, has recently been written and produced by Boris Said and financed by Schor, in which Hawass took part. In it, Hawass is shown scrambling into a tunnel under the Sphinx. When he reaches the bottom, he turns to whisper to the viewer: “Even Indiana Jones will never dream to be here. Can you believe it? We are now inside the Sphinx in this tunnel. This tunnel has never been opened before. No one really knows what’s inside this tunnel but we are going to open it for the first time.” The narrator of the video tantalizes the viewer still further: “Edgar Cayce, America’s famous ‘Sleeping Prophet’, predicted that a chamber would be discovered beneath the Sphinx-a chamber containing the recorded history of human civilization.

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For the first time ever, we’ll show you what lies beneath this great statue-a chamber which will be opened tonight, live, for our television cameras ….” Given that the video and Hawass’s scene were shot in 1995 and produced in early 1996, questions arise as to who was working with Hawass on his trundle down the tunnel and under what authority they were working prior to the grant of the new team’s survey license in April. What is certain is that Hawass is a senior official of the same Supreme Council of Antiquities that granted the license to Schor and his team to continue the seismic and radar research at Giza and around the Sphinx. This team includes Boris Said and seismologist Thomas Dobecki, both of whom participated in the earlier-banned-project.

Surprisingly, however, the team does not include John Anthony West, the well-known independent Egyptologist whose vision of a much-older Sphinx and persistent efforts to validate this claim scientifically, resulted in the 1993 NBC/BBC documentary. West and Said were partners in that venture, with West in charge of the science and scholarship and Said overseeing the production of the program. When their partnership was still in debt after payments for the program had been received from NBC, West discovered that significant money had been spent by Said for which there were no receipts. West ultimately filed a lawsuit against Said in early 1994 in an effort to seek an accounting for possibly $200,000 in funds misappropriated to finance various unrelated enterprises such as an off-off-Broadway play and a fashion show.

The outcome of the suit is still pending. Perhaps because of this brouhaha, West, despite his renowned scholarship and prominence as an Egyptological upstart, has been shut out from participating in the latest survey on the Giza Plateau. Indeed, his own application in 1995 to the Egyptian authorities to resume his research with Professor Robert Schoch, the Boston University geologist featured in the 1993 documentary, was ignored.

Still, there is Schor to consider. In addition to his foundation serving as the major underwriter of the new survey, Schor is a long-standing member of the Association for Research and Development (A.R.E.), the organization founded by Edgar Cayce in 1931 that has compiled, coordinated, and publicized Cayce’s more than 14,000 readings and which today also engages in research related to his pronouncements. Schor would very much like to prove correct Cayce’s claims for the existence and location of the Hall of Records under the Sphinx, and doubtless would like to be the person who does the proving. The inclusion of John West in the survey team would likely result in Schor at least having to share that honor, if not being eclipsed entirely by West’s reputation and better-known name.

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Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval are another stories. They were initially invited to participate in the new survey team by Schor, and their names appear in the credits of the Schor-Said video, Secret Chamber. Neither author has been involved in the ongoing dispute between West and Said, and both have attempted to maintain contact with both sides throughout their battle. In March, however, Said indicated that Hancock’s and Bauval’s participation in the new survey would be conditioned on their issuing a letter condemning West and on their willingness to agree to not reveal to the public any discoveries made as a result of the survey.

Both authors refused the requests, stating in a letter to Said that John West, given his extraordinary past efforts, should be involved in any new survey as a matter of fairness and morality. The authors also stated their own firm intention to continue to fully disclose to the public all that they are able to learn about the Sphinx and the other Giza monuments. This provoked an angry written response from Schor on April 11, in which he threatened the two authors with a lawsuit for libel because of their characterization of Secret Chamber as a “promotional video.”

He claimed that the video was not a promotional venture aimed at luring a major U.S. television network to televise a live opening of a chamber under the Sphinx. Instead, he insisted that it was made “to test script and equipment” and was made in November 1995, “many months before we received approval for our expedition.” Its use, he declared further, had been “abandoned.” Ironically, Hancock’s and Bauval’s reference to the video as being “promotional” was based on representations to that effect made by Boris Said at the time he sent a copy of the video to the two authors. In any event, as a result of this altercation, Hancock and Bauval have also been excluded from any further involvement in the survey project.

There the matter rests, at this writing in late June. It appears that the latest search for the Hall of Records in the bedrock beneath the Sphinx will be conducted by an expedition whose commitment to full public disclosure of what it finds, without regard for private gain or interest, is in serious doubt. Politics and personal issues, rather than an altruistic desire to widely share what could be the biggest archaeological discovery of all time, may indeed be reigning paramount at this time. At the very least, the circumstances surrounding the new grant of authority to continue the explorations of the Sphinx seem almost as mysterious as what may lie beneath the monument itself.

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