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Advanced Machining in Ancient Egypt

Page 6

By Christopher P. Dunn

On February 22, 1995 at 9 A.M. I had my first experience of being on camera. It was interesting, and not at all what I expected. I was standing in the central "King’s Chamber" of the only remaining wonder of the world, the Great Pyramid. Graham Hancock and Robert Bauvall breezed patiently through the script with me, like old pros, while I fumbled with instructions barked at me by Roel Oostra, the producer from Netherlands Television. In a few sound bites, I had to convey to an audience that there was something more to the sarcophagus, a large red granite box which resides inside the chamber, than is evident to the lay-person or casual observer.

I was invited there by Robert Bauvall (The Orion Mystery) and Graham Hancock (Fingerprints of the Gods) to participate in a documentary which has been broadcast on several channels since then. While there, I came across and was able to measure some artifacts produced by the ancient pyramid builders which prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that highly advanced and sophisticated tools and methods were employed by this ancient civilization. Two of the artifacts in question are well known, another is not, but it is more accessible, since it is laying out in the open partly buried in the sand of the Giza plateau.

For this trip to Egypt I had brought along some instruments with which I had planned to inspect features I had identified on my previous trip in 1986. The instruments were:

1. A "parallel": A flat ground piece of steel about 6 inches long and 1/4 inch thick. The edges are ground flat within .0002 inch.

2. An Interapid indicator. (Known as a clock gauge by my British compatriots.)

3. A wire contour gage. A device used by die sinkers to form around shapes.

4. Hard forming wax.

I had brought along the contour gage to check the inside of the mouth of the southern shaft inside the King’s Chamber. Unfortunately, I found out after getting there that things had changed since I was there in 1986. In 1993, a German robotics engineer named Rudolph Gantenbrink had installed a fan inside this mouth; therefore, it was inaccessible to me and I was unable to check it.

I had taken along the parallel for quick checking the surface of granite artifacts to determine their precision. The indicator was to be attached to the parallel for further inspection of suitable artifacts. The indicator, didn’t survive the rigors of international travel, though, but the instruments I was left with were adequate for me to form a conclusion about the precision to which the ancient Egyptians were working.

The first object I inspected was the sarcophagus inside the second (Khafra’s) pyramid on the Giza Plateau. I climbed inside the box and, with a flashlight and the parallel, was astounded to find the surface on the inside of the box perfectly smooth and perfectly flat. Placing the edge of the parallel against the surface I shone my flashlight behind it. No light came through the interface. No matter where I moved the parallel, vertically, horizontally, sliding it along as one would a gage on a precision surface plate I couldn’t detect any deviation from a perfectly flat surface. A group of Spanish tourists found it extremely interesting, too, and gathered around me as I, quite animated, exclaimed into my tape recorder, "Space-age precision!"

The tour guides, at this point, were becoming quite animated too. I sensed that they probably didn’t think it was appropriate for a live foreigner to be where they believe a dead Egyptian should go, so, I respectfully removed myself from the sarcophagus and continued my examination on the outside. There were more features of this artifact that I wanted to inspect, of course, but didn’t have the freedom to do so. The corner radii on the inside appeared to be uniform all around with no variation of precision of the surface to the tangency point. I was tempted to take a wax impression, but the hovering guides with their baksheesh expectancies inhibited this activity. (I was on a very tight budget.)

My mind was racing as I lowered myself into the narrow confines of the entrance shaft and climbed to the outside. The inside of a huge granite box finished off to a precision that we reserve for precision surface plates? How did they do this? And why did they do it? Why did they find this piece so important that they would go to such trouble? It would be impossible to do this kind of work on the inside of an object by hand. Even with modern machinery it would be a very difficult and complicated task!

Petrie gave the dimensions of this coffer, in inches, as - outside, length 103.68, width 41.97, height 38.12; inside, length 84.73, width 26.69, depth 29.59. He stated that the mean variation of the piece was .04 inch. Not knowing where the variation he measured was, I’m not going to make any strong assertions except to say that it’s possible to have an object with geometry that varies in length, width and height and still maintain perfectly flat surfaces. Surface plates are ground and lapped to within .0001-0003 inch depending on the grade of surface plate you buy. The thickness of them, though, may vary more than the .04 inch that Petrie noted on this sarcophagus.

A surface plate, though, is a single surface and would represent only one outside surface of a box. Not only that, the equipment used to finish the inside of a box would be vastly different than that used to finish the outside. The task would be much more problematic. I was constructing in my mind the equipment I would need to grind and lap the inside of a box to the accuracy I had witnessed and produce a precise and flat surface to the point where the flat surface meets the corner radius. There are physical and technical problems associated with a task like this that are not easy to solve. One could use drills to rough the inside out, but when it came to finishing a box of this size with an inside depth of 29.59 inches, and maintain a corner radius of less than 1/2 inch. There are some significant challenges to overcome.

While being extremely impressed with this artifact, I was even more impressed with other artifacts found at another site in the rock tunnels at the temple of Serapeum at Saqqarra, the site of the step pyramid and Zoser’s tomb.



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News group discussion of Chris Dunn's proposals


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