Of all the chambers in the Great Pyramid, the subterranean chamber is the largest, as well as the most mysterious. It is 46 feet long, 27 feet wide, hewn into the limestone bedrock, and difficult to describe. The descending passageway’s entrance to the subterranean chamber is near the floor at the northeast corner. A six-foot-wide square pit shaped like a funnel has been tunnelled in the middle of the floor, near the east wall. This square-shaped pit is actually the mouth of a shaft that is eleven feet deep, although in 1816 the Italian explorer Count Caviglia drilled into the pit another thirty feet.
The western half of the chamber has been carved nearly six feet higher than the eastern half and sculpted into several large finlike protrusions. All these finlike protrusions are situated east to west and are nearly as tall as the ceiling. Between the large protrusions, a stepped channel starts at the floor and flows toward the back of the chamber. In its centre there is a channel leading to the western wall. In the southeastern corner, a tunnel known as the “dead end shaft,” thirty inches in height and width, runs south fifty-seven feet, then ends at a wall. There are two other features in the design of the Great Pyramid that appear to be part of the work performed in the bedrock, the well shaft and the “grotto” (see figures 1 & 2)
If the subterranean chamber was nothing more than a mistake, and was originally designed to be a burial vault, an enormous amount of resources was wasted. On the other hand, if the chamber was an integral part of the overall design of the Great Pyramid and performed a function, then what could that function possibly be?
Everything from a tomb to temple of initiation to a device of some kind, there’s never been a lack of theories over the years describing what the Great Pyramid of Giza and the other pyramids was originally designed for. What has been lacking, though, is a theory describing why all the ancient Egypt pyramids were built. More importantly, what’s been lacking in any theory is scientific experimentation.
To the best of my knowledge no one has built a scale model of the Great Pyramid. However, without any idea of what the Great Pyramid was, assuming it was a device, there would be no theory to test. Marine engineer, John Cadman, saw something that had been passed over for decades. In 1962, in a book entitled The Pharaoh’s Pump, a man named Edward Kunkel put forth the theory that the Great Pyramid was in its entirety a water pump. Cadman ran across the book one day browsing titles in a used bookstore. Intrigued, he purchased Kunkel’s book and after reading it realised that Kunkel was not far off the mark with his water pump theory. Being familiar with hydraulics and machines that rely on hydraulics, Cadman noticed that the design of the Great Pyramid’s subterranean chamber and its associated tunnels looked familiar.
Before the invention of the electric water pump the ram pump was used to move water from a reservoir to another location through a simple system that had only two moving parts, a weight loaded waste valve and check valve. Under the force of gravity, water in a reservoir flows down the input pipe and forces the waste value closed (see figure 3). With the waste valve closed, water continues to flow down the input pipe increasing the pressure inside the pump. The increased pressure opens the delivery valve forcing water into the output pipe. Since the water is being forced to a higher elevation faster than the water flowing down the input pipe the flow of water reverses which closes the check valve and the process begins again.
Inspired by Kunkel’s work, Cadman learned as much as he could about the Great Pyramid’s subterranean chamber and associated tunnels, and in June of 1999 he made his first model. It leaked then cracked, neither would it function. Several months later he began work on a second model and connected a new line to the bottom of the pit shaft, believing this new line had to be the pressurised output. But the pump still didn’t operate the way he thought it should so he began building a third model which he completed on April 3, 2000, and it worked flawlessly.
What Cadman discovered was that the subterranean chamber absorbed much of the reverse pulse. He also observed that without the subterranean chamber, the reverse pulse was large and the output flow was more erratic, confirming for him that the output in the Great Pyramid’s subterranean chamber travelled through what is called the dead end shaft. It also confirmed his suspicion that the ancient oral tradition that a tunnel exists connecting the subterranean chamber’s pit to the Nile River.
A few weeks later Cadman moved the model to a seasonal creek with a pond serving as a reservoir, and experimented further. To simulate the effect of being underground he encased the pump assembly in concrete (see figures 4 and 5). Interestingly, the action of the pump, which was now embedded in concrete, created a vertical compression wave. This, according to Cadman, meant that the Great Pyramid’s subterranean ram pump also had an acoustical element. So, he built two more models to study the acoustics and fluid dynamics.
The acoustic model, which was made of fibreglass and epoxy and encased in concrete, weighed five hundred pounds. When operating, the characteristic heartbeat-like thump of the pump could be felt through the ground twenty feet away and heard nearly a hundred feet away. Because of the powerful pulses it generated, Cadman named it the “pulse generator.”
Cadman constructed a fourth model to study how water moved through the subterranean chamber and could operate in two different modes. This model was fitted with twenty-five individual ink injection locations and a glass top (see figure 6). It had a glass wall on its east side to view water flow, although Cadman discovered that the glass top quickly shattered when the model was operating in pump/pulse mode. Nevertheless, when not in pump/pulse mode, it was clear by studying the movement of water within the modelled subterranean chamber that the flow was complex and precise.
What he discovered was that the sound wave striking the perpendicular surface reflects the majority of the pulse back toward the source. He also discovered that when the fluid jet strikes a perpendicular surface, it spreads in a 360° pattern perpendicular to the jet. Thus, he concluded that the design of the subterranean chamber incorporated fluid dynamics as well as acoustical dynamics. In his own words, “The dynamics are on par with that of computerised storm analysis: somewhere between hurricane dynamics and tornado dynamics.”
Cadman’s model also revealed some performance issues that were built into the Great Pyramid’s subterranean pump. An additional “assist” line, from the compression chamber to a secondary location, speeds the movement of water through the output pipe. It also focuses the shock wave in the line leading to the compression chamber. The result is that a pulse is transmitted through the ceiling of the compression chamber. Thus, the line that connects the waste valve to the compression chamber acts as a waveguide, forcing the shock wave into a pulse. Therefore, the pulse is transmitted vertically (through the ceiling) as well as down the waste-valve line.
Cadman’s modelling of the subterranean chamber and its tunnels provides a better understanding of the Great Pyramid, as well as the Giza Plateau. In its completed state the Great Pyramid required a moat, which was fed by a system of aqueducts from the Western Nile (the Ur Nile); an ideal source for a gravity-fed water system, since the Western Nile was at a higher elevation than the plateau. It also explains the remains of a retaining wall that once surrounded the pyramid. The wall served as an embankment for an onsite reservoir, which in appearance was a moat. Tunnels, such as the “well” at the pyramid’s entrance, connected the Great Pyramid complex to an ancient lake, Lake Moeris, and the Western Nile.
Lake Moeris (Egyptian Mer-Wer, meaning “Great Lake”) was an ancient lake fifty miles southwest of Cairo. At one time it was very large and occupied the entire Faiyum depression. It was also called the Pure Lake and the Lake of Osiris by the ancient Egyptians. During prehistoric times the waters of Lake Moeris stood nearly 120 feet above sea level, but by 10,000 BCE they had dropped to nearly twenty-five feet below sea level, possibly as a result of the Nile channel being naturally diverted. With increases from rain, between 9000 BCE and 4000 BCE the lake rose again, but gradually subsided. And as the climate became increasingly more arid, a canal connected Lake Moeris to the Nile; over the years it slowly silted. During the Middle Kingdom, 2000 BCE to 1600 BCE, dynastic Egyptians widened and deepened the channel, thereby restoring its flow. At that time the lake was believed to be fifty-five feet above sea level.
There is little doubt that the lake served as a means of flood control as well as a reservoir for irrigation. Egypt’s Ptolemaic kings of the third century BCE partially drained Lake Moeris to make available 450 square miles of rich alluvial soil, which was irrigated by canals and extensive cultivation. Since then the water level of Lake Moeris has continually declined, and it is now the small, shallow saltwater Lake Qārūn.
When the Great Pyramid pulse pump was functioning, the descending passage, subterranean chamber, dead end shaft, pit, well shaft, and grotto made up the components (see figure 7). According to Cadman, it could be operational today if all the tunnels associated with the pyramid could be cleared. Besides the well shaft that connects the descending passage to the middle chamber of the pyramid, there are two other tunnels that would need to be cleared. Clearing the pit associated with the dead end shaft (where the check-valve exists) would expose the horizontal shaft. If these shafts were cleared, the moat reservoir was in place, and the well in front of the pyramid connected to a Lake Moeris substitute, the pump could be operational.
One of the most important results from Cadman’s experiments was discovering the significance of the well shaft and its effect on the pump’s pulse rate. This specific design issue leads to the intent of the Great Pyramid’s designer. The well shaft begins near the bottom of the descending passageway and extends upward 170 feet. In the water-pump assembly, the well shaft functions as a standpipe, providing a shortcut for the reverse shock wave to reach air. In essence, it maximises the pulse rate of the pump.
Although standpipes are typically twice the diameter of the input (drive) pipe, in the Giza assembly the standpipe (well shaft) is actually 25 percent smaller than the input pipe (descending passageway), which has a peculiar effect on the system. It lowers the elevation of the pulsing water below the water level of the moat reservoir. Interestingly, this specific elevation correlates to the height of the grotto, which serves as a reservoir, allowing for stabilisation and regulation of the reverse pulse. A block of granite, existing within the grotto that fits within the pipe, is believed to function as some type of choke or regulator.
According to Cadman, the well shaft was part of the original design of the pyramid, and as a standpipe in the pump assembly, it served to maximise the pulse rate of the pump. The standpipe also reduced the reverse surge out of the descending passage, as well as reduced pumping efficiency and pulse intensity.
The Importance of Pump Efficiency
Cadman tested four different pump configurations, two circulating and two elevating, to gauge the well shaft’s affect efficiency. When in a circulating-pump mode, the well shaft reduced the efficiency by 29 percent. And, in an elevating-pump mode, the well shaft reduced the efficiency by 68 percent. The increase in efficiency of the well shaft provided an extra twenty pulses per minute, from sixty to eighty. Since the Giza configuration of the subterranean chamber included a well shaft, for the builders of the pyramid, pumping efficiency did not appear to be of primary importance. So if pumping efficiency was not of primary importance then what was?
One way to approach this question is to review the general layout of the subterranean chamber. The subterranean chamber pit is offset by 45° in relation to the general configuration of the chamber and is aligned northwest to southeast. According to Cadman, this is so because a plane placed at a 45° angle will maintain the unidirectionality and consistency of the compression wave. In other words, this reflective elbow ensures the consistency of the compression wave. Any other type of elbow at the pit’s bottom would diffract (scatter) the compression wave. So the pit’s alignment is strictly for acoustical dynamics and for creating a standing wave in the waste line and subterranean chamber.
To create the standing wave in the waste gate line and subterranean chamber, it would be imperative to have the reflective elbow. The pit’s offset is exactly aligned with the tunnel (see figure 8, right; the red arrow is aligned with the exit tunnel). Not only does the reflective elbow completely explain the pit’s diagonal offset, but it also confirms that the compression wave is a major design consideration. The designers thoroughly understood complex fluid dynamics as well as complex acoustics (see figure 8, right; the red arrow shows the direction of the tunnel at the bottom of the pit; the ink injection photo shows some of the flows in the step area).
Another way to approach the question is to review the engineering significance of the dead end shaft. It allows for a pressure change, which in turn changes the frequency of the compression wave. A gate valve at the end of the dead end shaft provides a means for accomplishing this. Adjusting the back pressure by adjusting the gate valve allows for changes in timing. In essence, this is a simple method to compensate for different water temperatures and atmospheric pressure, which are factors that affect the velocity of the compression wave.
Cadman’s testing demonstrated that the pulse rate can be altered by at least 30 percent, between sixty and eighty pulses per minute. He also discovered that adjusting the back pressure changed the water’s density and, as a consequence, altered the compression wave’s velocity and frequency. In essence, such an assembly allows for easy fine tuning of the lower portion of the Great Pyramid to create the standing wave in the subterranean chamber and waste gate shaft.
These experimental results confirm that the compression wave was a major design consideration. Also, according to Cadman, the square pit carved into the subterranean chamber created a whirlpool as water moved through the system of tunnels – apparently another design feature to efficiently move water to the chamber and out the waste line.
If pump efficiency – in other words, pumping water – was not of prime importance to the ancient Egyptians, then what was? According to the experimental evidence, the answer is a compression wave, which, of course, creates another question. Why was a compression wave of primary interest to the Great Pyramid’s builders?
A New Theory
The question I have always had in the back of my mind concerning the pyramids is one of economics. Resources are resources whether a construction project occurs today or thousands of years ago. Man-hours and tools are required, so is pay for the management team, supervisors, and workers. If it cost 35 billion dollars to build a large structure today it would also cost that much in resources to build the same structure many thousands of years ago, the only difference being the nominal value of money used. In the case of the Great Pyramid that’s 380 billion dollars, according to engineer Markus Schulte of the global design and business consulting firm Arup.1 The limestone blocks for the Great Pyramid, alone, would cost today 18 billion dollars. With such a high dollar amount for a single pyramid, and more than ten were built comparable in size, then there had to be a very good reason why the Great Pyramid and the other pyramids were built, a reason that would benefit the whole of society.
If the Great Pyramid was exclusively a water pump as John Cadman demonstrated in his experiments, then there wouldn’t be a need for another chamber located in the middle of the pyramid and a third chamber located in its upper regions. These chambers as well as the shafts in these two chambers need to be explained.
Assuming Cadman is correct that the compression wave was what the pump was designed for, then the middle and upper chamber would likely have been designed to somehow react with the vibrations emanating from the pump. The upper chamber, known as the King’s Chamber, in its entirety was built from slabs of granite – the floor, walls, and ceiling – and located just above the chamber the builders of the Great Pyramid placed five rows of granite beams. So, it is obvious that granite was of primary importance in the uppermost chamber. The question is why.
The high-fidelity stereo industry uses granite not only to provide a stable base for equipment but also because of its resonance qualities. All materials have a natural resonance frequency meaning that all materials will vibrate at certain frequencies. In the world of high-fidelity, the resonance of other materials in a room distorts the stereo’s sound, including the rack where the components of the sound system are housed. However, with granite as a base for stereo components not only are extraneous sounds dampened, but full sound is produced through the granite’s resonance. And by further isolating the granite base from the stereo rack with rubber washers or other polymer fixtures, the granite’s resonance properties can be further controlled. With this in mind, it might be the case that the purpose of building a granite chamber in the Great Pyramid was to create resonance.
According to Tom Danley, the sound engineer featured in the documentary film The Mystery of the Sphinx, the Great Pyramid makes strange sounds because the granite chamber resonates from the rigidity of the stone. What he also discovered was that a number of low-frequency components existed even without a test signal present in the pyramid implying that the chamber was constructed for its resonance, and that it naturally creates a frequency. Most likely, he added, the low frequencies were a result of “Helmholtz resonances caused by the wind blowing across the entry tunnel.”2
However, a compression wave emanating from the subterranean chamber would likely have a marginal effect on the granite in the upper chamber. What would be needed to localise the granite is a way to transform the compression wave into sound. This would create enough vibration to activate the granite beams and create a standing wave of resonance. With devices such as Helmholtz resonators built into the Grand Gallery those vibrations would become sound and cause the granite to resonate or ‘sing’. The question is ‘why’, to what effect? With shafts leading to the Great Pyramid’s exterior, the ‘singing’ granite would project its sound into the atmosphere. This, in turn, would create an electrical field in the atmosphere according to physics research.
Again, we are left with the question ‘why’? The subtle electrical field created by the Great Pyramid would be of little use for means of powering equipment. However, such a field would deflect very low frequencies (VLF) and extremely low frequencies (ELF), frequencies that exist at all times in the atmosphere as a result of thunderstorms around the world. In agricultural experiments, VLF and ELF have been shown to promote plant growth. With the Great Pyramid operating as the engine, all of the pyramids could be connected by a subtle electrical field to create a canopy of sorts thereby deflecting VLF and ELF into the surrounding fields.
In might sound mundane that the pyramids were agricultural devices, but it provides the best of reasoning for a civilisation to spend an immense amount of resources on any given project. Without food society would gradually fall into anarchy and civilisation would cease to exist.
Illustrations courtesy of © Edward Malkowski.
1. ‘Where Did It Come From? Ancient Egypt: Iconic Structures’, Popular Arts Entertainment, The History Channel, September 21, 2006.
2. “ProSoundWeb Live Chat with Tom Danley,” March 12, 2002, transcript, at www.prosoundweb.com/chat_psw/transcripts/danley3.shtml (Accessed September 29, 2009).
Further information on the above theory and a whole lot more can be found in Edward Malkowski’s new book Ancient Egypt 39,000 BCE: The History, Technology, and Philosophy of Civilization X (Bear & Company, 2010), available from all good bookstores.
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