THE GREAT PYRAMID “CARTOUCHE SCANDAL”: The full (ongoing) story

 

THE GREAT PYRAMID “CARTOUCHE SCANDAL”

 

The ‘scandal’ breaks out in the International Media

Early in November 2013, an Egyptian scholar, Ossama Karar, saw a Youtube on the Internet that totally shocked him: two Germans removing part of the ancient graffiti from one of the so-called Relief Chambers of the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops). He assumed, wrongly, that they were stealing the famous ‘cartouche’ that contains the name of king Khufu  –the only proof within the Pyramid, according to Egyptologists, that categorically connects the Great Pyramid to this king of the 4th Dynasty (c. 2500 BC). Ossama, a genuine lover of ancient Egypt and its monuments, immediately contacted the Egyptian media, and an article signed by him appeared on the 8th November 2013 in the Arab news Blog ‘VETO’ bearing the following title:

“VIDEO SHOWS CUTTING OF THE ‘CARTOUCHE’ OF KING KHUFU”

  • Osama Karrar , from the Archaeological Exhibitions Company, reported that the German archaeologist Dr Dominique Gorlitz infiltrated into the Great Pyramid and  cutting off part of the ‘cartouche’ of King Khufu, builder of the Great Pyramid, that is in the 5th Relief Chamber inside the pyramid. He pointed out that the German archaeologist had cut part of the cartridge of King Khufu with a chisel and put it inside his bag and then came out of the pyramid without being hampered by anyone. Karrar, in a special statement, said that that the German archaeologist tried to prove that the Pharaohs are not the builders of the pyramids but that it was built by the Jews, ‘ the children of Israel’ as found in a book called ‘lie of King Khufu’ which says that ‘The Egyptians carved the name of King Khufu lying on the pyramid and not Pharaoh Khufu himself.’ Karar also said ‘I informed of this subject matter to the Ministry of State for Antiquities so that they punish all those responsible for this negligence in the protection of monument.’

Within days of this article in VETO, the news of this ‘scandal’ spread like wildfire on the Internet and in the international media. Hundreds of Website and Blogs reported the news, as well as dozens of major newspapers and TV news around the world. The major Arab newspapers Al Ahram (English edition) ran a impassioned piece by Nevine el Aref, a long-time admirer of Zahi Hawass:

Playing with Egypt’s heritage:

  • Egypt’s ancient heritage has been put at risk by a pair of amateur German archaeologists,..The Great Pyramid of Khufu on the Giza Plateau is the oldest and largest pyramid in Egypt and the only surviving monument of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. However, it seems that it has now been subjected to damage by two amateur German archaeologists from Dresden University, who according to a press release from the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) stole samples of a cartouche of Khufu from a small room on top of the king’s burial chamber inside the Great Pyramid. The ministry has imposed penalties and taken legal action against both archaeologists, Dominique Gorlitz and author Stefan Erdmann, as well as against Dresden University. It has also suspended scientific cooperation with the university as well as with the German laboratory that analysed the stolen items from Khufu’s Pyramid. Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim told Al-Ahram Weekly that the ministry’s permanent committee had imposed a number of penalties against the Germans, their university and the tourism agency that had taken them on a tour around the plateau… Ibrahim has also sent the case to the prosecutor-general for investigation and notified Interpol to put the German archaeologists on Egypt’s airport watch list. Mohamed Abdel-Maksoud, head of the ancient Egyptian department at the ministry, said that members of the MSA who had helped the men had been identified, but that their names would not be announced until the completion of the investigations…“This occurrence has ruined the scientific reputation of all German archaeologists,” he said, asking the German government to take legal procedures against both amateur archaeologists….[AL AHRAM, 25 November 2013, by Nevine El-Aref]

The news of the ‘damaged’ and/or ‘stolen’ Cartouche of Khufu broke out in the European media on 29th November 2013. On that day it so happened that I was travelling from my home in Malaga to Milan with British Egyptologist David Rohl on our way to a conference in Trieste. We first heard the news at the conference the next day. When asked by someone in the audience what I thought of this news, I naturally said I was angered at this act of vandalism committed by the Germans. The Cartouche, even though part of graffiti that cover several of the Relief Chamber in the Great Pyramid, was of immense historical significance as it was the proof that the monument was built during the reign of Khufu. It was, in a sense, the Holy Grail of Egyptology, and stealing or even just damaging it was a heinous act that must be severely punished with the full force of international law. The vandalism by the two Germans was repugnant to all who loved Egypt and its ancient legacy.

On the 10th December 2013 I received an e-mail marked ‘very urgent message’ from my good friend in Cairo, the tourist guide and Egyptologist Hesham el Haddad. He had sent me an article from the newspaper Al Masry Al Youm. It was an interview by Zahi Hawass. When I saw the title, my eyes nearly popped out!

Germans working for an Egyptian Jew in Belgium stole Khufu cartouche in April 2013:

  • Dr Zahi Hawass, ex Minister of State for Antiquities, revealed that the robberies of King Khufu’s cartouche was done on behalf of, Robert Bauval, an Egyptian Jew working in Belgium, who has been trying by every means to prove that the pyramid is ‘a Jewish and not Egyptian product’. Hawass said in a special statements that Muhamed Ibrahim, the Minister of Antiquities has said in one of his media interviews that Khufu’s cartouche had was stolen in 2006, which is not true, as the inspecting agencies and the police have proved that the robbery took place in 2013, and the passports of the Germans showed that they entered Egypt last April. Hawass wondered ‘how the theft could have taken place in 2006 while the investigations were conducted with current officials and not those responsible for the pyramid area at the time? While the investigation result came to confirm my words, and all those responsible for the crime have been removed from the pyramid area after their involvement, one way or the other, has been proven’. He added: “I would like to make it clear that the foreign vandals are led by an Egyptian Jew living in Belgium, who had previously sent more than one person, who were all forbidden completely, and with whom I have had many battles, and he wrote a book before trying to prove that the pyramid was not Egyptian”. Hawass confirmed that “it was not permitted to enter the pyramid except through tourist companies in order to make control, which is the opposite of what is happing now; which allowed the samples to be smuggled”. He (Hawass) pointed that “the German laboratories attempted to demonstrate, through the red colour found in the rooms, that the pyramid dates to 15 thousand years (ago), which means that this was the time it was built, but the fact which is confirmed by both Egyptian and foreign scientists is that Khufu sent in his Year 27 a mission to bring the red colour from the Western Sahara, from Mast stone in which the cartouche was written, which means that it was the quarry from which the colour was brought who dates 15 thousand years ago and not the pyramid”. He (Hawass) stressed on “the need for those responsible for antiquities to look to what is happening of destruction and vandalism in some areas, not just remove accusations from officials or trying to deny responsibility for a great disaster like breaking into the pyramid and stealing Khufu’s cartouche, as the present minister does”.

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I wasn’t sure if I should be shocked or amused at Hawass’s insane accusations! It was not the first time, of course, that he had accused me of plotting with ‘Jews’ to ‘undermine Egyptian antiquities’, but this was the epitome of all his bizarre accusations! My first reaction was that he had completely lost his mind! Although I generally ignore this kind of insane bursts from this man, this time I felt that in view of the importance of the Cartouche of Khufu as an historical artifact, I could not let such an accusation go unchecked. There was also the present intense political climate in Egypt to consider. By branding me a ‘Jew’ who masterminded the ‘stealing of the Khufu Cartouche’ might, in these in this already inflamed climate, induce a fanatic to take a pot shot at me. I decided, therefore, to find the two German culprits and demand that they make an official statement that not only I was never involved in their activities, but I also had never had any communication with them in the past! On the 11th December 2013 I placed a private message on Dominique Gorlitz Facebook, and waited. Two days later, on the 13th December, I received a reply. Gorlitz informed me that  he was in New York, and was totally shocked to hear about Hawass’s huge defamation against me, and also against himself and his colleague Stefan Erdman. But why was Gorlitz feeling defamed? Was it not the case that he and Erdman had in indeed damaged the Cartouche?

I put the question to him.

“This is a lie. We never even touched the Cartouche!” He replied. “We took just 2 milligrams of sample from another, much less significant graffiti next to the Cartouche.”

9

Place where the small sample of ochre paint was taken

on 17 April 2013 by Dominique Gorlitz

 

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Dominique Gorlitz showing the place where sample was taken.

Note the ‘Cartouche’ to the far left of the photograph.

 

 

But how could I be sure that Gorlitz did not also take more samples from the Cartouche itself? Assuming Gorlitz was telling the truth, then this meant that Hawass had fabricated his story about the Cartouche being stolen. Could that be possible?!… Surely he would not go that far in his blind hatred toward my person? I decided to look into this matter later. Meanwhile I asked Gorlitz to send me a signed statement confirming that I did not know him or ever had spoken or corresponded with him until this day, and that I was in no way involved or connected with him and Stefan Erdman. Gorlitz replied that he would of course be more than glad to sent me such a statement. The next day, as agreed, Gorlitz e-mailed me a PDF document containing the signed statement. This I immediately sent a letter to the newspaper in Egypt Al Masry El Youm, and included with it Gorlitz’s statement as well as other documents that negated the accusations made against me by Hawass and which their newspaper had published without even bothering to check their veracity.

To the Chief Editor: Al Masry El Youm
Dear Sir, my name is Robert Bauval. I am an author, and I live in Spain.
In your issue of the 10th December 2013 you published an interview by Zahi Hawass in which he accused me of paying two Germans (Dominque Gorlitz and Stefan Erdmann) to steal the cartouche of king Cheops in the Great Pyramid of Giza. He furthermore stated that I am a Jew living in Belgium and that I have written a book that ascribed the construction of the Egyptian pyramids to the Jews. These are outrageous and false accusations. Let me state with the utmost of force that I was not in any way, shape or form involved in the stealing of the Khufu Cartouche by the two Germans. Furthermore I have never met these Germans. I also categorically deny that I am a Jew. I am a Christian Roman Catholic and so were both my parents and grandparents. Furthermore I have never stated in any of my books that it was the Jews who built the Egyptian pyramids. Indeed on the contrary: in my book ‘Breaking the Mirror of Heaven’ I totally condemn the erroneous theory that the Jews built the Egyptian pyramids.

Please find attached:
1) A signed letter by Dr. Dominique Gorlitz, one of the Germans who allegedly took the Khufu Cartouche.
2) My birth certificate.
3) My baptism certificate as a Christian.
4) A PDF of my book ‘Breaking the Mirror of Heaven’. Please refer to page 59, where I clearly state that the claim that the Jews built the Egyptian pyramids is a “nonsensical theory [which] has long been debunked, and no historian, let alone an Egyptologist, takes such things seriously at all.”

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Statement from Dominique Gorlitz 15 December 2013

I then re-contacted Dominique Gorlitz to find out from him exactly what had happened on the 17th April 2013 when he and Stefan Erdmann had entered the Great Pyramid. He insisted again that they had not touched the Cartouche. The tiny sample of red ochre paint they had taken was from a secondary and rather unimportant graffiti located about 1.5 meter from the Cartouche. And they had photographic as well as video images to prove this. Gorlitz also confirmed that they entered the Great Pyramid with an official ‘private visitors’ permit that was obtained by their Egyptian travel agent from the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquties (MOA). He also explained that at first it was not their intention at all to take a sample from the graffiti. Their main intention was to take a small sample of black markings from the ceiling beams of the King’s Chamber. Gorlitz said that  only a very small amount, about 2 mg, was taken from this black markings which could hadly be described as ‘damaging’ the pyramid!

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The sample of red ochre paint, about 2 mg.

 

I advised Gorlitz that he must explain all this, with pictorial evidence, to the Arab media. Meanwhile I asked him to send me copy of their ‘private visit’ permit for the Great Pyramid and also photos of the samples they took. I then forwarded this information to a journalist at the MENA (Middle East News Agency), Ms Sara Hazem. Gorlitz was then interview by Sara Harem on behalf of the MENA agency.

MENA (Sara Hazem): I would like to know the permit pass you got from the Ministry to enter the pyramid was only a visit permit to the place or not?

 D.G. (Dominique Gorlitz): We had an official visit permit from the Egyptian authorities to enter the Great Pyramid of Khufu on the 17th April 2013. We should explain first that Stefan Erdmann has been investigating the ancient Egyptian culture and especially the great pyramid for more than 20 years. He has already entered the pyramid three times with the permission of Dr. Zahi Hawass and has done several investigations. In 2007 Stefan discovered strange dark coloured areas on the granite beams of the ceiling of the King’s Chamber. He consulted many, many experts, but none were interested. In 2012 I met Stefan who convinced me to investigate this matter with him. So we applied for a private visitor permit for the 17th April 2013. We assumed that the permit covered all open areas within the Great Pyramid. This includes, we assumed, all the Chambers that were not locked. Please note that Stefan Erdmann already entered three times the relief chambers with visitor permissions in the last ten years during the tenure of Zahi Hawass. In the same way we got access to the relief chamber including two ladders. Please note that when we entered the Great Pyramid on that day it was not yet our intention to take any sample of red ochre paint from the graffiti in the so-called Relief Chambers.

 MENA: Did you break the law when you visited the place not mentioned in your pass and taking a sample from granite stone in the burial room?

 D.G./S.E. (Gorlitz and Erdmann):This is something that the Egyptian authorities must determine. It was never our intention to break the law or do any damage to the pyramid or, indeed, denigrate Egyptian history and culture. But we now realize that perhaps we should not have taken the very small sample (only a bit of crust scraped off, and not from granite itself). The same applies to the small sample of red ochre paint from the graffiti in the 5th Relief Chamber (see pics 1 and 2). We would like to make it absolutely clear that we did not touch the ‘Khufu Cartouche’. The small sample of red ochre paint was only a few milligrams, and can hardly be detected on the graffiti. We sincerely apologize, however, for any misunderstanding this has caused. We truly regret our action and would like to make full amends to the Egyptian authorities.

 MENA: Why you did not take ask for official procedures so you can take samples from Khufu pyramid?

D.G./S.E: Frankly as scientists it did not at the time occur to us that we would take a sample for the red ochre paint. The decision to do so was taken while inside the pyramid. The amount is really so small that we cannot understand why the Minister of Antiquities has considered it a ‘criminal act’ and that such a crisis between the Egyptian authorities and the German government has been generated. We have noted that Dr. Zahi Hawass may have been at the cause of such an over-reaction. On the 10th December 2013 he informed the Egyptian media that the ‘Jew’ Mr. Robert Bauval allegedly paid us to ‘steal’ the Khufu Cartouche. This is a total fabrication by Dr. Hawass. Therefore, I am not surprised that this story was then blown out of proportion!

MENA: Did you receive any replies from the Ministry after you sent letters?

D.G./S.E.: Unfortunately not yet. We still hope he will accept our apology and the amends we are happy to make, as stipulated in our letter to him.

 MENA: Do you have any mediator between you and the Ministry?

 D.G./S.E.: Not officially, although some people who appreciate the truth of our position, have helped us to pass our letters to the Minister of Antiquities. We hope that you and the MENA agency will also help us convey our sincere apologies to the Minister and also to all the Egyptian people for the misunderstanding that our action may have caused.

 MENA: The Ministry said that it sent a complaint to different bodies including the German embassy in Cairo and the Egyptian foreign Ministry will file a case against you.

 D.G./S.E (Stefan Erdman) : We really regret that he has done this. No good can come out of such unwarranted reaction. As we have explained, it was never our intention neither to cause any damage to the Great Pyramid nor embarrass the Egyptian culture. We only took few milligrams of very insignificant graffiti. We consider ourselves friends of Egypt and would never do anything to harm its cultural heritage. Our motive was purely scientific and nothing else.

 MENA: Did UNESCO communicate with you on this issue?

 DG: Not yet.

 MENA: How the German media tackle this issue and did it consider you a cause for tension between Egypt and Germany?

 S.E.: Unfortunately the German and world media reacted to the false information put forward by Dr. Hawass i.e. that a ‘Jew’ paid us to ‘steal’ the Khufu Cartouche. But this is a total lie and fabrication by Zahi Hawass. Since then with the kind help of Mr. Robert Bauval, we have been able to explain the true facts of this event to the public outside Egypt, and now the initial negative reaction towards us has shifted to a more understanding and conciliatory way to deal with this matter. We hope that you and MENA will also help us spread the truth to the Egyptian public. Most importantly, we categorically assert that none of the Egyptians implicated in this situation, especially the Antiquities inspectors and security personnel that were with us on the 17th April 2013 have not participated with or supported us when we took the samples. We hope that the Egyptian authorities will not impose a penalty against them. We thus urge the Egyptian authorities to drop any charges against any Egyptian regarding this matter.

 I also advised Gorlitz to send a personal letter to the Minister of Antiquities, Dr. Mohammad Ibrahim, which contained the same information given in the interview with the MENA. On the 27 December 2013 the following article appeared in the EGYPT INDEPENDENT newspaper:

  • German archaeologists will not be penalized for stealing King Cheops artifacts: Source MENA informed source from Ministry of State for Antiquities Affairs has revealed that the three German archaeologists, who were accused of stealing artifacts from Pyramids, had earlier obtained three official permissions from the Supreme Council for Antiquities addressed tourism company that organizes trips to King Cheops. The source added that the ministry has the right to take all legal measures but only against the company in case of violating standards, which means the german archaeologists will not be penalized. The first permission was made on 17 April to visit Tomb of the Birds at the Western Cemetery at Pyramids during the working hours from 10am to 12pm, the source said. The second permission was made on the same day to visit King Cheops after end of working hours from 6pm to 8pm.

On the 28 December 2013 the interview of Dominique Gorlitz to the MENA was published in the Al Ahram newspaper, under the title ‘German letter of apology to the Egyptian people regarding the samples taken from the pyramid of Cheops: we did not mean to offend anyone, and our goal was purely scientifically.’

Meanwhile I have been informed by a friend in Cairo that on the 21st December 2013 Zahi Hawass gave a talk at the Journalists Syndicate of Egypt. When asked why he made those accusations against me he replied straight-faced that he had “no proof that I was involved in the crime committed by the Germans”. On that same day he was interviewed by a the Swiss journalist, who also asked him why he said that I had paid the Germans to steal the cartouche of Khufu. Hawass replied  by e-mail: “I do not have any evidence that Bauval was involved in this crime.”

 

On the 17th December 2013, exactly a week after Hawass had made the accusations, the Minister of Antiquities, Dr. Mohammad Inbrahim, finally instructed a delegation of SCA (Supreme Council of Antiquities) inspectors to examine whether the Cartouche of Khufu had in fact been stolen or damaged. A well-placed contact I had in Cairo, Dr. Ossama Karar, obtained for me the official report from the SCA inspectors as well as several official photographs they had taken of their visit in the Relief Chambers of the Great Pyramid. The report, as well as the photographs confirmed that the Cartouche had not been stolen, although they did note some ‘damage’ –white spots where the red ochre paint had been scrapped off– on the top rim of the oval (the ‘cartouche’) that surrounding the hieroglyphic name of ‘Khufu’. An Egyptologist from the American University in Cairo, Dr. Monica Hanna, was then quick to accuse the ‘two Germans’ of causing thisdamage. Dr. Hanna sent the official photograph taken by the SCA Inspector on the 17th December 2013 where she had highlighted the damage/white spots by encircling them in green colour.

Monica Hanna1a

Green circles on the right rim of the Cartouche by Dr. Hanna

showing the ‘white spots’

where sampling/damage occured.

 

I immediately contacted Gorlitz who, again, insisted that they had not touched or damaged the Cartouche. ‘I am a scientist,’ Gorlitz was indignant. ‘I would never ever do such a thing!’

At this stage I did not know anymore who to believe. My gut feeling was that Gorlitz was telling the truth. But if so, how could the alleged damaged be explained? I had never been in the Relief Chambers myself, and so did not have any photographs that I could examine.

I suddenly recalled that my friend Dr. Robert Schoch of Boston University had visited the Relief Chambers twice: once in 2003 and another time in 2006. I immediately contact Schoch who very kindly sent me high-definition digital images of the Cartouche taken at those dates. It was beyond any shadow of a doubt that in the 2003 photograph the Cartouche was NOT damaged but in the 2006 photograph the exact same damage i.e. the white spots, was clearly there!  Gorlitz had been telling the truth.

KhufuCartouche_PhotoRobertSchoch

Dr. Schoch’s photo of 2003. No ‘white spots’ are seen on right rim of Cartouche

 

KhufuCartouche_PhotoRobertSchochDec2006 resized1

Dr. Schoch’s photo of 2006. The ‘white sSpots’ can be seen on the right rim of the Cartouche.

 

KhufuCartouche_PhotoRobertSchochDec2006 detail1

Dr. Schoch’s photo of 2006. Detail of Cartouche showing ‘white spots’ on right rim.

 

The question nonetheless remained of who had caused this damage to the Cartouche, and when? The photographs that Schoch had sent me proved beyond any doubt that the damage had occurred between 2003 and 2006. I knew that Hawass had authorized dozens of visitors, many of them students, regular tourists and even television crews, mostly from America and Europe, to visit the Relief Chambers. Any of these people could have caused the damage between 2003 and 2006. I decided to do a thorough research to see if we could not narrow down the dates. What I discovered was even more shocking!

I managed to find two TV documentaries, starring Zahi Hawass, in which he is seen in the topmost Relief Chamber examining the Cartouche. One documentary was made in 2005 and the other in 2010. It was clear that in the 2005 documentary the Cartouche was still not damaged but in the 2010 documentary the damage is there, exactly as it is seen in Schoch’s 2006 photograph and in the SCA inspector 2013 photograph. I was amazed that Hawass had not noticed the damage himself when he examined the Cartouche in 2010! The evidence was irrefutable: the Khufu Cartouche had been damaged between 2005 and 2006! Hawass was, after all, dubbed the most pre-eminent Egyptologist alive by the NGS and, in 2005/6 was not only the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities but the Gerenal Director of the Giza Pyramids. I found it very hard to believe that someone of his professional caliber and high position would did not notice the damage on the Cartouche when he examined it in 2010. It should have jumped out, as it indeed did to everyone when compared with his examination in 2005.

2005: “Digging for the Truth, Season 1, Episode 1. Timed Position 18:15
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFoyrprN59k#t=18m43s

2010: “Chasing Mummies, Episode 2: Trapped. Timed Position 35:50
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVh5kMzPdNQ

I immediately contact Dr. Ossama Karar in Cairo to inform him of my findings. Dr. Karar asked me to send him the photographic and video evidence immediately, so that he could submit it to the Minister of Antiquities, Dr. Mohammad Ibrahim, and also to the Giza Security Police. I send him all that he had asked on the 16th February 2014.

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