London, July 1 (ANI): The four decade long wait finally ended as archaeologists reached the end of the mysterious tunnel in the tomb of Seti I. But hopes that the advance would lead to the pharaoh's secret burial site shattered, when the seemingly unfinished tunnel suddenly came to an end after 174m.
Giovanni Belzoni discovered the tomb, in the Valley of the Kings, in 1817. But despite being one of the site's most spectacular tombs, excavation work on its tunnel was not taken up until the 1960s.
At the time a team led by Sheikh Ali Abdel-Rasoul took a wrong turn and work was stalled around 130m in, with workers fearing that further digging could bring the tomb crashing down.
However, excavation work resumed in 2007 under the guidance of Egyptian antiquities chief Dr Zahi Hawass. The team uncovered a descending passage, 25.6m long and 2.6m wide, 136m into the partially-excavated tunnel. The archaeologists also discovered a myriad 18th Dynasty (1569 - 1315 BC) artefacts including shabtis, pottery fragments, limestone cartouches of Seti I and a model boat made from faience.
Using a mining car system and metal struts for support the passage was cleared, revealing a 54-step staircase, three of which had been covered in ancient red graffiti.
Soon after, a second staircase was discovered, measuring 6m in length. At its entrance was a false door inscribed with hieratic instructions for the tunnel's builders: "Move the door jamb up and make the passage wider", reports The Independent.
Yet hopes the tunnel would lead to the king's secret burial were crushed when it ended suddenly; its last step seemingly unfinished.
Dr Hawass expressed his surprise on the discovery of the second staircase. Despite the tomb's ornate wall paintings, it also contains a large number of preliminary sketches of paintings which were never added, giving more credence to the belief that work on the tunnel was abandoned suddenly.
According to Dr Hawass, the tunnel was a symbolic path to the hidden tomb of Sokar, a god of the underworld. However, he says a connection with Seti's son Ramesses II is also likely.
Dr Hawass believes Seti I was trying to build a secret 'tomb within a tomb' at the end of the tunnel when he died, and that Ramesses II halted proceedings to bury his father. (ANI)