Something else, however, was discovered inside the channels [of the Queen’s Chamber] viz. a little bronze grapnel hook; a portion of cedar-like wood, which might have been its handle; and a grey-granite, or green-stone ball …’

— Charles Piazzi Smyth, The Great Pyramid: 1878

I. The Future of the Upuaut Project

In the long term, Rudolf’s big hope for the future is to bring archaeology to the public in an exciting way and to raise global interest in the preservation of ancient sites around the world. With this in mind he has created The Upuaut Foundation in Monaco and is now in the process of putting together a specialised team of researchers and explorers. He has kindly asked me to be involved. In the short term, there still remains Gantenbrink’s exploration of the northern shaft – possibly before Christmas 1993 – and, of course, the climax of his work when the little door is opened in the southern shaft in February or March 1994.

2. Mysterious Relics of Cheops

In early September 1993, that is nearly six months after Rudolf’s discovery with UPUAUT 2 in the Great Pyramid (22 March 1993), I came across a rather startling passage in Charles Piazzi Smyth’s book of 1878, The Great Pyramid, where I read an account of the ‘newly discovered Air Channels in the Queen’s Chamber’. Smyth described how Waynman Dixon and Dr Grant first discovered the shafts in this chamber:

Perceiving a crack (first I am told, pointed out by Dr Grant) in the south wall of the Queen’s Chamber, which allowed him at one place to push in a wire to a most unconscionable length, Mr W. Dixon set his carpenter man-of-all-works, by name Bill Grundy, to jump a hole with a hammer and steel chisel at that place …

Smyth then narrated how also the opening was found for the northern shaft and, too, how Dixon and Grant lit fires to check for outlets on the outside of the pyramid:

Fires were then made inside the tubes or channels; but although at the southern one smoke went away, its exit was not discoverable on the outside of the pyramid …

But then followed a mysterious comment which, even more than a century later, made me jump out of my seat:

Something else, however, was discovered inside the channels, viz. a little bronze grapnel hook; a portion of cedar-like wood, which might have been its handle; and a grey-granite, or green-stone ball … 8325 grains [about 0.850 kilograms] …

This was the very first time I had heard of this. I read on. Smyth went on to explain how these relics or ‘curiosities’ had ‘excited quite a furore of interest, for a time, in general antiquarian, and dilettante, circles in London; but nothing more has come of them’.

I found it odd that I had not heard about this before. My first reaction was to assume that the Egyptologists were well aware of the existence of such relics. I remembered the copper ‘fittings’ that Rudolf had discovered in the southern shaft. It appeared that he had not, after all, been the first to discover metal inside the Great Pyramid. I wondered what he would make of this. I immediately called Rudolf in Munich and, as I had anticipated, he was as astonished about this as I was. We both wondered why no Egyptologists had thought it important to inform us of Dixon’s amazing find inside the channels in the Queen’s Chamber. Perhaps they assumed that we already knew of this. I then called Dr I. E. S. Edwards but, to my greater surprise, he, too, had never heard of such items found by Dixon – nor had he come across Piazzi Smyth’s report. He offered to check with the British Museum. It turned out that no one there could remember anything of this matter. Later Dr Spencer, who is responsible for the archives, also confirmed that no such items were recorded in the annals of the museum – let alone the relics themselves being there. This was most mysterious. What could have happened to these ancient relics from Cheops’s pyramid? Were they brought to London after Piazzi Smyth examined them? From his account, this seemed to be the case.

It was then that I thought of calling an amateur astronomer I knew in Scotland. He put me in touch with Professor Hermann Brück and Mary Brück. Professor Brück had been Astronomer Royal for Scotland 1957–1975 and his wife was a lecturer in astronomy at Edinburgh University. They were the authors of several books, most recently a comprehensive biography of Piazzi Smyth. I telephoned Mary Brück and she told me she remembered seeing some drawings in Piazzi Smyth’s personal diary of these relics. She kindly offered to research the matter. A few days later she reported that she had found many interesting letters and notes, and suggested I come to Edinburgh. Two weeks later I drove to see the Brücks in their lovely home in Penicuik, near Edinburgh. To my great delight, Mary Brück produced a copy of Piazzi Smyth’s diagrams showing the ancient relics and also, more interestingly, the various written accounts on them by the two Dixon brothers, Waynman and John.1 From the accounts of Piazzi Smyth and the Dixons I felt that there were good chances that the relics might be found somewhere in London.

3. Secret Chamber Fever

The Dixon brothers seem to have been deeply involved with Piazzi Smyth since at least 1871. They, too, sensed the possibility of a ‘secret chamber’ in Cheops’s pyramid. On 25 November 1871, for example, John Dixon reported to Piazzi Smyth that his younger brother, Waynman, was very busy working on a bridge construction project in Egypt and made this mysterious comment:

I am more than ever convinced of the probability of the existence of a passage and probably a chamber containing possibly the records of the ancient founders – as soon as I have a decent plan drawn I will send you a copy …

John Dixon went to Egypt and when he returned on 8 April 1872, wrote again to Smyth, saying that Waynman was still very busy, and that ‘I am satisfied I am on the clue to another passage!’

On 2 September 1872 a letter was written by John Dixon in London to Piazzi Smyth:

I am gratified that our borings and scratchings at the pyramid have resulted in an interesting discovery of passages closely approaching the Queen’s Chamber – I see he (Waynman) has sent you a copy of his report. I am anxious to have more by Monday’s mail and shall send you a copy of his letter if he has not done so direct. I think the blocked entrance to them [the shafts] rather upsets the theory (?). I have further suggested to drill the west walls of both Chambers i.e. the King’s and Queen’s, also to see if by smoke and firing pistol in the passages they can by sight, sound or smell detect any connection with those of the King’s. Possibly too the concussion may bring down any articles that have taken the benefit of … [the] ‘angle of rest’ and are lying up in the passages …

Then on 15 November 1872, John Dixon wrote a letter to Piazzi Smyth and mentioned again the ‘Dixons Passages’:

I’ve just got back from a hurried visit to Egypt – seen the new passages or channels in the Queen’s Chamber (Dixons Passages) – brought home the tools found in one – a bronze hook a granite ball doubtless a weight weighing 1lb 30z – and a piece of old cubit five inches long …

4. The Missing Cigar Box

A few days later, on 23 November 1872, two letters followed from John Dixon to Piazzi Smyth. In one letter Dixon informed Smyth that he had dispatched the relics to him:

These relics are packed in a cigar box and carried by passenger train. They consist of Stone Ball, Bronze Hook and Wood secured in glass tube … copy, photo or anything you like with them … but return them without delay as many are calling to see them and when next week The Graphic has a drawing of these in … there will be a rush … Is there any chance the British Museum giving a few hundred for these relics? If so, I’d spend the money in a great clearance and exploration [of the Pyramid base] … I’ll beg them after their existence [the relics] become known …

In the second letter Dixon discussed Smyth’s ‘theory’ that these shafts in the Queen’s Chamber might have been ‘air channels’:

Your remark as to the terminology of the new channels is forceful and good but I dissent from adopting on too hasty an assumption the theory that they are air channels for the obvious reason that they have been so carefully formed up to but not into the chamber. That 5 inches of so carefully left stone is the stumbling block to such a supposition. And again, one at any rate of them I am convinced from its appearance – so clean and white as the day it was made – cannot have any connection with the external atmosphere. It was here (in the north passage) we found the tools …

The now famous cigar box with the relics inside arrived safely on 26 November 1872 in the hands of Piazzi Smyth in Edinburgh. He entered this in his diary and also produced a full-size sketch of the metal ‘tool’. Piazzi Smyth also correctly noted that the ‘tool’ was ‘… strangely small and delicate for [being a] Great Pyramid implement …’

On the 4 October 1993 I went to the Newspaper Library of the British Library at Colindale. I looked up the December 1872 issues of The Graphic and, in the issue 7 December 1872 I found John Dixon’s article on p·530 (text) and p·545 (drawings).

From these, and Piazzi Smyth’s own diagrams and commentaries of the relics, I concluded that the ‘bronze tool’ or ‘grapnel hook’ was an instrument used for a ritual, probably something to do with the ‘opening of the mouth’ ceremony. It reminded me of a snake’s forked tongue. Such a ‘snake-like’ instrument was actually used in this ceremony and some good depictions can be seen in the famous Papyrus of Hunifer at the British Museum. The discovery of this implement inside the northern shaft, which we now know pointed to the circumpolar constellations — the sky region which is identified with this ceremony — adds further support to this thesis. Professor Z. Zäba, the astronomer and Egyptologist, has argued that an instrument called ‘Pesh-en-kef’, and shaped very much like the ‘tool’ found in the channel by Dixon, was, in actual fact, used in very ancient times in the ceremony of the ‘opening of the mouth’. Furthermore, Zäba proved that the ‘Pesh-en-kef’ instrument, fixed on a wooden piece and in conjunction with a plumbbob, was used to align the pyramid with the polar stars. It now seemed very likely that a priest placed the ritualistic tools inside the northern shaft from the other side of the wall of the Queen’s Chamber.

Where could these relics be now? If not at the British Museum, then where? I took the diagrams of the relics to Dr Carol Andrews at the Egyptian Antiquities Department of the British Museum, but she seemed certain that they were not in their keep. Her first reaction was that the items, judging from the diagrams, did not look ‘old enough’, and she thought perhaps they were put in the shafts at a later date. But I reminded her that the shafts were closed from both ends until Waynman Dixon and Dr Grant opened them in 1872. The good state of preservation was actually explained by John Dixon in a letter dated 2 September 1872:

The passage being hermetically sealed, there was no appearance of dust or smoke inside — but the walls were as clean as the day it was made …

Dixon was right, of course. With such a sealed system the relics were free from air corrosion. I gave Dr Andrews my opinion that the ‘tool’ was a Pesh-en-kef instrument, and also a sighting device for stellar alignments. Dr Andrews favoured the latter idea, but said that no Pesh-en-kef instrument of this shape was known before the Eighteenth Dynasty. I then showed the diagrams to Dr Edwards in Oxford and he, too, was compelled to support this idea but, unlike Dr Andrews, he recognised the instrument as a type of Pesh-en-kef. Both Rudolf Gantenbrink and I tend to agree with him on this.

5. Cleopatra’s Needle and Victorian Memorabilia

The next place to check was at the Sir John Soanes Museum at Lincoln’s Inn. John and Waynman Dixon seemed to know the curator, Dr Bunomi, at the time and so did Piazzi Smyth. But the archivist there, Mrs Parmer, was clear that no such items were ever given to the Museum. I told her of Bunomi’s interest in Piazzi Smyth’s theories and how he had been very excited by the arrival of Cleopatra’s Needle in London. Apparently Dr Bunomi died in 1876, during the early stages of the operation to bring the obelisk from Alexandria. While we talked, Mrs Parmer remembered a curious event about Dr Bunomi: after his death, he had had placed on the roof of the museum a Doulton ware type jar full of curious memorabilia.

It was then that I suddenly remembered John Dixon’s involvement with the Cleopatra’s Needle affair. Both he and his brother, Waynman, had been contracted by Sir Erasmus Wilson and Sir James Alexander to supervise the transportation of the obelisk to London. But it was John who was primarily involved in the last stages of the operation and the erection of the monolith at the Victoria Embankment. The story appeared in the Illustrated London News of the 21 September 1878. I drove to the monument and read the commemoration inscriptions; one, on the north face of the monument, read:

Through the Patriotic zeal of Erasmus Wilson, F.R.S., this obelisk was brought from Alexandria encased in an iron cylinder. It was abandoned during a storm in the Bay of Biscay, recovered and erected on this spot by John Dixon, C.E., in the 42nd year of Queen Victoria (1878).

According to the Illustrated London News of 21 September 1878, all sorts of curious memorabilia and relics were buried in the front part of the pedestal. These were put there by John Dixon himself in August 1878 during the construction of the pedestal, inside two Doulton ware jars. Among the strange items were ‘photographs of twelve beautiful Englishwomen, a box of hairpins and other articles of feminine adornment … a box of cigars …’

Could John Dixon have put the ancient relics which he once kept in a ‘box of cigars’ under the London Obelisk? I telephoned an historian of the England National Heritage, Mr Roger Bowdler, but he did not think they had any details of the items under the Obelisk. He suggested I try the Record Office of the Metropolitan Board of Works, who apparently were responsible for the operations to raise the obelisk in 1878. A frustrating search in the archives brought no result. Another search in the National Register of Archives also proved a dead end.

Entry 26 November 1872 from Piazzi Smyth’s diary (by kind permission of Dr W. Duncan, Secretary to the Royal Society of Edinburgh)

Discoveries in the Great Egyptian Pyramid
1. Original Casing Stone from North Side
2. Granite Ball, 1lb 30z weight
3. Piece of Cedar, apparently a Measure
4. Bronze Instrument with portion of the wooden handle adhering to it. The last three items were found in the northern shaft of the Queen’s Chamber in 1872.

We cannot help wondering if these ancient relics — indeed, perhaps the very sighting instruments that were used to align the Great Pyramid to the stars — are in a cigar box under Cleopatra’s Needle in London. Or perhaps they lie elsewhere, in some dark attic or cupboard in one of the many London antiquarian shops. We shall, perhaps, never know.


It had been supposed that John Dixon and Piazzi Smyth erroneously described the ‘tool’ found in the northern shaft of the Queen’s Chamber as being made of bronze. Egyptologists had always told us that the Bronze Age only occurred in Egypt the Middle Kingdom. Copper, therefore, was mistaken for bronze by the Victorians. To my surprise, on 2 November 1993, I was informed by Dr A. J. Spencer and Dr Andrews, both Assistant Keepers of the Department of Egyptian Antiquities at the British Museum, that two vessels of the Second Dynasty, previously thought to be copper, were now confirmed to be made of bronze. This meant that the description given by Dixon and Piazzi Smyth was, after all, correct! It also means that the Bronze Age had already started in Egypt centuries before everyone had assumed.

It was at that time that Dr Spencer also kindly allowed me to photograph an iron plate found in 1837 by a British engineer, J. R. Hill, stuck within a joint inside the southern shaft of the King’s Chamber of Cheops’s pyramid. It had been necessary to ‘remove [it] by blasting the two outer tiers of the stones of the present surface of the pyramid’. Mr Hill and others with him then presented certificates stating that the iron plate was contemporaneous with the pyramid, and then deposited the ancient relic at the British Museum.2

The iron plate measures 26cm by 8.6cm. In 1926 Dr A. Lucas, the director of the chemical department at the Department of Antiquities in Egypt, examined it and ‘thought that the iron was contemporaneous with the pyramid’; strangely, when he was told that it was not meteoric iron, he felt compelled to change his mind.3 The matter lay dormant for more than fifty years, until in 1989, two eminent metallurgists, Dr El Gayar of the faculty of Petroleum and Minerals at Suez and Dr M. P. Jones of Imperial College in London, jointly performed chemical and microscopic tests on the mysterious iron plate and, to the annoyance of the British Museum, concluded that ‘the plate was incorporated within the Pyramid at the time that structure was built’.4 Their chemical analysis also revealed mysterious traces of gold and they conjectured that the iron plate might have been covered with gold. They also concluded that the plate was originally 26cm × 26cm (oddly, 26cm is exactly half an ancient Egyptian royal cubit, the measurement known to have been used by the pyramid builders) and thus probably was used to cover the mouth of the southern shaft some few metres from the outer face of the monument. If the conclusions of El Gayar and Jones are accepted — and we see no serious objections to them so far — it means that the Iron Age too began many centuries before Egyptologists had thought!

As yet, the ‘Dixon relics’ have not been found. The mystery of the great Cheops continues.

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