THE KHUFU CARTOUCHE AFFAIR: ACCUSED FOR THE WRONG CRIME

Six Egyptians officials have been held in jail since February 2014 for allegedly helping three Germans to take samples from the Cartouche of Khufu in the Great Pyramid at Giza without permission. They are awaiting trial, along with the three Germans (in absentia) on the 14th September 2014 at the Giza Criminal Court. If this accusation is true, then all the accused have committed a heinous crime against our world heritage, because the Great Pyramid, being the last surviving wonder of the ancient world, is undeniably the most sacred of monuments from antiquity. But the crime is the more heinous because of the huge importance of the Cartouche that bears the ‘signature’ of its builder, king Khufu of the great 4th Dynasty. Because the Great Pyramid is totally devoid of contemporary official inscriptions, inside or outside, and therefore totally anonymous, this cartouche is the linchpin that links it to Khufu. It is, quite simply, the ‘holy grail’ of Egyptology and its importance cannot be overemphasized. But is it true? Why are the Egyptian authorities so convinced of this? It is well known, and well documented (in photographs, videos, documents and radio) that the three Germans –Dominique Gorlitz, Stefan Erdmann and Jan Gartig—have entered the Great Pyramid on the evening of the 17th April 2013 with full intent to acquire samples from the Great Pyramid. An official permit from the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities (MOA) was obtained on their behalf through a travel agent in Cairo to visit the Great Pyramid privately after opening hours, from 6 to 8 p.m. The Germans were accompanied and supervised during this visit in the Great Pyramid by six officials from the MOA, the security police, a guardian and the representative of the travel agent. The Germans had requested that a 5 meters ladder be made available for their visit in order to reach the various places from which they wanted to obtain samples. As requested, the ladder was supplied by the authorities. The Germans were also allowed to take filming equipment with them, as well as some small tools with which to extract the samples from the ancient blocks. When inside the pyramid, the Germans, along with some of the Egyptians officials, first made their way into the King’s Chamber. There the ladder was used by Dominique Gorlitz, the scientist among them, to climb up to the ceiling of the chamber to scrape off a few milligrams of black soot encrusted on the granite beams that make up the roof of the chamber. After which the ladder was transported out of the King’s Chamber and place against the south end of the Grand Gallery in order to enter a tunnel that leads to the so-called Relief Chambers located above the King’s Chamber. Only Gorlitz and Gatrig (the cameraman) went up. They carried their gear all the way up to reach the topmost chamber where the Khufu Cartouche is found inscribed in red ochre paint, thought by Egyptologists to be ancient graffiti or quarry marks left by the workers who built the chamber. It is to be noted that the Khufu Cartouche is not the only graffiti in the Relief Chambers. The Relief Chambers were given English names when they were discovered in 1837 by Colonel Howard-Vyse: Davison, Wellington, Nelson, Lady Arbuthnot and Campbell. There are many graffiti inscription in all chambers except ‘Davison’ (the lowest). Many of these graffiti give so-called “gang names” based on various titles and names of the king. There are ten ‘gang names’ linked to the king’s ‘Horus name’, seven others linked to his name as Khnum-Khufu, and two others linked to the name ‘Khufu’. The Khufu Cartouche that samples were allegedly taken from in April 2013 is in Campbell’s Chamber, inscribed on the lower part of a ceiling beam that make up the south section of the pitched roof of the Chamber. This beam is the second from south-west corner of the chamber. When Gorlitz and Gartig reached Campbell’s Chamber they went straight to the south-west corner of the chamber but not to the second beam where the Cartouche is but to the first beam. There Gorlitz scraped off a tiny piece of red ochre graffiti from a hieroglyph located about 1.5 meters from the Khufu Cartouche. This is well-documented in photographic and video evidence which some months later they posted on a Youtube video. In early November 2013 this video was seen by several Egyptian officials. One of them, Ossama Karar, assumed that the tiny red ochre sample was scratched off the Khufu Cartouche, and reported this in an Egyptian newspaper. Karar also –for reasons unclear—claimed that the Germans wanted to prove that the Great Pyramid was built by ‘Jews’. Amazingly, a few weeks later, on 10th December 2013, the ex-Minister of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, was interviewed in the popular Egyptian newspaper Masry al Youm in which he repeated this bizarre story but added a twist to it but categorically stating that the Khufu Cartouche had actually been “stolen” and that Robert Bauval (myself) had masterminded the whole crime! A week later, however, he meekly declared in a press conference that he had no ‘evidence’ to back up his weird accusations. Unfortunately such false accusations had already gone viral on the internet and in the media, which exacerbated the whole affair no end. Everyone knows that such fabrication and false accusations in the media against me and many others are not uncommon to Zahi Hawass. On the 17th December 2013, a team of inspectors from the MOA were sent to inspect what happened in Campbell’s Chamber. They reported with clear photographic evidence that not only the Khufu Cartouche was still there but seemed to be unharmed! However, a few days later a young Egyptologist in Cairo called Monica Hanna noticed that four small scratches could be seen on the top right part of the Cartouche, and immediately accused the Germans of having taken samples during their visit in April 2013. This prompted an investigation which resulted in proving with irrefutable evidence that the four ‘samples’ (scratches) from Khufu Cartouche had indeed been taken but not in April 2013 by Gorlitz but between July 2004 and December 2006! This evidence was carefully documented with official photographs and affidavits which were provided to the MOA and the Egyptian media in February 2014. The evidence has also been published in numerous websites, blogs, facebooks and youtubes. Furthermore this evidence has also been given to the various Egyptian and German lawyers involved in this case. Yet in spite of this, the Egyptian media, as well as the German media, have persistently accused the Germans of taking samples from the Khufu Cartouche! To make matters worse, very recently the new Minister of the MOA in Egypt, Dr. Mamdouh el Damaty issued this statement to the Egyptian Press Office on 14th August 2014: “Tomorrow the Egyptian embassy in Berlin will receive King Khufu’s cartouche samples after about one year of taking them illegally out of Egypt as they are antiquities according to the Egyptian law.” This statement from the Minister of the MOA has now appeared in dozens of Arabic newspapers and gone viral on the Internet. The question is why do the Egyptian authorities and media still persist in accusing the Germans of taking samples from the Khufu Cartouche when this has been clearly shown to be untrue and furthermore that the evidence has been presented to them on numerous occasions? Is it because if the Khufu Cartouche is not somehow linked to the Germans, in spite of the solid evidence to the contrary, then the whole business seems trivial? For surely taking a few milligrams of some insignificant graffiti by the Germans in April 2013 under the attenuating circumstances reported above, then this ‘outrage’ and ‘crime’ seems like a storm in a teacup? So why is the falsity still being perpetuated? Who is to benefit from this? There is no denying that Gorlitz and Erdmann took samples from the ceiling of the King’s Chamber and from a graffito in Campbell’s Chamber. They are therefore guilty of an act of vandalism, even if they claim it was for the sake of scientific truth, and even if it is but a few milligrams of soot and red ochre paint. But it is a fact that they did not steal or damage the Khufu Cartouche. Gorlitz and Erdmann have officially apologized to the MOA for their alleged act of ‘vandalism’ and offered to pay any fine required. Furthermore they have returned the samples they took which were not from the Khufu Cartouche, which amount to a few milligrams of soot and red ochre paint. They have also made a public apology to the Egyptian people in the influential Al Ahram newspaper. Is this not enough reparation? Why all this fuss involving the Egyptian MOA, the Egyptian and German Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interpol, UNESCO, the Egyptian and German police and courts? Most of all, is this storm in a tea cup justified in keeping six Egyptians in jail for eight months over this storm in a tea cup? I think not. I say fine these poor men if necessary. Take a few months off their salaries if necessary. Even fire them from their jobs if necessary. But for God’s sake set them free, take them out of jail and let them return to their families, their wives and their children. For a pictorial view of the evidence, see this youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-XV61-59xg

Comments are closed.