Monday, December 1, 2014

Story of Step Pyramid (9): Pyramid truth revealed

Recent reports that the Step Pyramid of Djoser is in danger are based on dangerous misinformation, writes Zahi Hawass 

The Egyptian press has reported that the Step Pyramid of Djoser is in danger. The foreign media has taken this unsubstantiated information, published in the Egyptian press, and run with it under the wrong assumption that they were quoting credible sources.

However, it is a fact that this information was taken from people who had never worked on a restoration project. The Egyptian reporter responsible gave them titles such as PhD and Dr, when in reality some of them had not even graduated from university.

The truth about the Step Pyramid is that it has been saved. This pyramid is the oldest in Egypt, dating back almost 5,000 years and built by the magnificent architect Imhotep, the first architect in history to make columns and ceilings from stone. Imhotep was recognised as a god in the Late Period and was worshipped like Asclepius, the god of medicine in ancient Greece.

The false media stories stated that no project plans or studies had been written before the beginning of the restoration of the Step Pyramid. But this is completely untrue. In fact, Hassan Fahmi, a rock mechanics and geo-technical engineering specialist from Cairo University, designed a solid project in order to save the pyramid that earlier had been falling down. The project was written over 20 years ago, but no one was able to see the plan realised until 2002 when I wanted to save the pyramid.

After a full examination of the project, during which all those who saw it approved it, we decided to take action, knowing that the pyramid was in danger. The restoration work started in 2006 with the clearance of sand from around the pyramid, revealing gaps in the structure. Stone was inserted into these gaps and the burial chamber, 29 m long with over 60 tons of stones above the pharaoh’s sarcophagus, investigated.

A British company built metal scaffolding to be used to restore the ceiling of the chamber. All this work was carried out under suitable conditions. It is a pity that the reporter who wrote the story about the pyramid interviewed non-scientific people, giving them false doctorates in a bid to convince readers of their lies.

I accompanied the famous TV presenter Mona Al-Shazli on a visit to the pyramid, and together we entered it to demonstrate to viewers that it was safe.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb also visited the site to find out the truth. Himself an engineer by training, he is well-known in the field of restoration and earlier supervised the restoration of the Serapium. Mehleb did not just stand in front of the pyramid and listen to the opinion of experts, but insisted on entering the structure, going down to see the sarcophagus that consists of 32 pieces of granite.

He also went to see the restoration work on the ceiling, later announcing that all the work was being carried out according to the highest international standards. A UNESCO team also visited Saqqara to inspect the work last week, declaring that it was happy with the restoration. Today I can tell the world that the Step Pyramid of Djoser is safe.

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