Continuing with our examination of the “Well-shaft”
“Judah fastened a rope-ladder to the iron pin which our men had previously fixed with cement at the head of the vertical part of the Well-shaft; and John and I descended with the intention of examining and measuring the shaft, and also the mysterious Grotto. Were it not for the ladder I question whether we would have ventured the descent. Even with its aid we found our down- ward climb laborious, and not without risk. This vertical part of the shaft lies a few feet to the west of the line of the Grand Gallery, being approached by the small horizontal passage already referred to—Plates XVIII and XIX. The floor of the small passage does not appear to be the original one. It is not all on one level, but rises abruptly in a shallow step near the Grand Gallery end.
To determine the level of the original surface of the floor might now be a little difficult; probably it was flush with the upper surface of the step, but it may have been a little higher. Our drawings show this floor restored. At the top of the vertical shaft, on the north side, there is a fairly large excavation. It is in the rough floor of this excavation, as I mentioned before, that our men have fixed the iron pin, from which the ladder is suspended. What purpose the excavators had in view in forcing their way into the masonry at this point we do not know; probably it was they who cut the floor of the small passage, to gain more headroom for working.
At the foot of the first vertical part (which is about 25 feet deep, and nearly 28 inches square in bore), we noticed a bend in the shaft southward. It still descends very steeply, however, and the rope-ladder hangs down it for yet another ten feet. From this point the shaft looks very fearsome, especially to us who are unaccustomed to such places.
The walls of the first vertical part are comparative smooth; but from the bottom of the first down to the top of the second vertical part, the shaft is very uneven indeed, being neither square nor round in section Plate XI. It looks as if the great irregularity in this part of the shaft is the result of stones having been dislodged from its walls; for the whole of this portion of the Well, from the Grand Gallery down to the top of the second vertical part, descends through the comparatively rough core masonry of the Pyramid. Here and there, one can see the open joints between the core stones; and we found them sometimes large enough to stow away our measuring rods when not required. Situated on the east, at the foot of the first vertical part, there is a crevice large enough at its outer end to allow one to sit in it; and in at its further end, the square corner of one of the core blocks is clearly distinguishable.
The small opening into the Grotto is situated a short distance down the second vertical part. For about seven and a half feet upward from the floor of the doorway, the four walls of the square shaft are composed of masonry built of small stones in ten horizontal courses. This short built part of the shaft goes through the Grotto. Below this, right down to the lower opening into the Descending Passage, the shaft is cut through the solid rock.
The grotto is longer from east to west, than from north to south. The roof is low; and except in one spot to the west, where there is a deep hollow in the floor, it is too low to allow one to stand. The floor, walls and roof are composed for the most part of gravel embedded in caked sand, which crumbles when touched. Here and there the natural rock appears Plate CLXXVII.
Owing to the thick coating of dust, and the extreme roughness of the walls of the shaft, it is difficult to determine the level at which the core masonry of the Pyramid rests upon the natural rock; but it cannot be far above the Grotto. It appears to us as if the large core blocks rest directly on the top of the ten courses of small stones which line the upper half of the square shaft of the second vertical part. As I indicated before, these courses of small stones were built to continue the shaft through the Grotto; and the level of the rock on which they rest can be distinctly seen in our photograph Plate CLXXV, with which compare K. Vaughan’s drawing, Plate XXXII.
Professor Petrie points out that the ancient workmen must have cut and completed the Subterranean Chamber and the lower part of the Descending Passage in the rock, before commencing the erection of the superstructure of the Pyramid with its built continuation of the Descending Passage. So also with the Well, its lower part would probably be cut in the rock first, and then it would be gradually continued upward as the core masonry of the Pyramid was built up, course by course, until it reached its present outlet on the west side of the lower end of the Grand Gallery. But before proceeding to the erection of the Great Pyramid, the workmen would also probably level the surface of the foundation rock.
That they did not do this in one plane, but in terraces, is evident, because the beginning of the rock-cut portion of the Descending Passage is distinctly on a higher level than the rock under the pavement at the outside base of the Pyramid; while our measurements of the length of the Well-shaft show that the rock-cut portion of that shaft begins on a still higher level Plate XI.
Our thought with regard to the Grotto is that, while the ancient builders were engaged in this work of leveling the rock surface in terraces preparatory to the erection of the Pyramid, they uncovered a large natural cavity or fissure. As the shaft of the Well passed through this cavity (and its course would lead one to believe that it was diverted for this purpose), the workmen would be instructed to build a continuation of its four walls with small courses of stone up to the level of the rock.
The cavity or fissure would then be filled up to the level of the rock with sand and gravel from the desert, packed in firmly round the four walls of this built continuation of the shaft, and so form a solid foundation for the masonry of the Pyramid. In our photograph of the Grotto some of this sand and gravel can be seen adhering to the white plaster of the masonry.
Curious investigators (probably shortly after Al Mamoun’s time), wondering what could be concealed behind such strange little walls, forced their way through the four lowest of the small courses of the south wall. Encountering nothing but sand and gravel, they would soon abandon their task; but, from time to time, later investigators, imbued with the same curiosity, would gradually extend the breach by picking away large quantities of the partly caked sand and gravel, and throwing it down the shaft would completely block up the bottom of the Well. (This thought was first advanced by Col. Coutelle in 1801).
Thus, the lower portion of the four walls of the shaft, built so long ago through the cavity, were again laid bare on their outer surfaces; for the Grotto curves almost completely round the Well-shaft—Plate CLXXVII. Even Professor Flinders Petrie did his share in enlarging what has for long been generally known as the “Grotto.” We discovered, at the bottom of the deep hollow to the west, a basket of the kind regularly used by the Arabs to carry sand, etc.” (Great Pyramid Passages Pages 351,358-362 par. 538, 539, 540-542, 548-552)
Continued with next post.