Washington, Nov 15 : A hidden room in Egypt's Great Pyramid may help solve a centuries-old mystery of how the massive monument was built.
According to a report in National Geographic News, the little-known sealed space may support the theory that the 4,500-year-old monument to Pharaoh Khufu was constructed inside out, via a spiraling, inclined interior tunnel.
This idea contradicts the prevailing wisdom that the monuments were built using an external ramp.
The inside-out theory's key proponent, French architect Jean-Pierre Houdin, said that for centuries, Egyptologists have ignored evidence staring them in the face.
"The paradigm was wrong. The idea that the pyramids were built from the outside was just wrong," Houdin said.
Houdin's theory suggests the Great Pyramid was built in two stages.
First, blocks were hauled up a straight external ramp to build the pyramid's bottom third, which contains most of the monument's mass.
Houdin said that the limestone blocks used in the outside ramp were recycled for the pyramid's upper levels, which might explain why no trace of an original ramp has been found.
According to Egyptian-archaeology specialist Josef Wegner, "The notion of using the already quarried smaller blocks to build the lower ramp and then dismantling that for use in upper sections would be a very logical approach to speed up the overall construction process."
After the foundation had been finished, workers began building an inclined, internal, corkscrew tunnel, which would continue its path up and around as the pyramid rose, according to Houdin.
"Because the tunnel is inside the pyramid, when they finished getting blocks all the way up to the top this ramp disappeared from view," said Egyptologist Bob Brier.
Now, new evidence uncovered about two-thirds of the way up the Great Pyramid supports the inside-out theory.
At about the 300-foot (90-meter) mark on the northeastern edge of the pyramid lies an open notch.
On a recent expedition with a National Geographic film crew, Brier, aided by a videographer with mountain-climbing experience, scaled perilous crumbling rocks to reach the notch.
When he ducked inside the notch, Brier entered a small L-shaped room, which according to Houdin, figures perfectly with his theory.
For the interior tunnel to work, it would have required open areas at the Great Pyramid's four corners. Otherwise, the blocks wouldn't have been able to clear the 90-degree turns.
These open corners would have given workers room to pivot the blocks, perhaps using wooden cranes, so the stones could be pushed into the next tunnel.
Houdin claims that the notch and room are remnants of one such opening. They are located at one of the spots where his 3-D computer models suggest they should be.