By Annick Benoist
Paris - Two French amateur archaelogists this week published a book in which they claim to have located the secret burial chamber of the Pyramid of Cheops near Cairo, the largest pyramid ever built.
According to the study of the Great Pyramid, a fourth, undiscovered room lies underneath its so-called Queen's chamber, and is likely to have been the burial chamber for Cheops, an Egyptian pharaoh who ruled from 2560 to 2532 BC.
Cheops' final resting place has never been found despite decades of investigation at the site, but the French researchers are being denied access to the pyramid to put their theory to the test.
Gilles Dormion, an architect by training, and Jean-Yves Verd'hurt, set out to probe the mysteries of the Great Pyramid with a first trip in 1986, returning to the site in 1998.
Using a technique called microgravimetry, which measures the density of materials, they discovered what appeared to be a cavity underneath the Queen's chamber, where they also found evidence that the stone tiling had been been moved at some point.
Japanese scientists later confirmed the existence of a cavity a few metres wide, using radar technology.
The French team suggests this is a corridor leading to a further chamber, hidden deep in the belly of the pyramid, which could be the elusive sepulchral room - but have been unable to put their theory to the test.
"It is still a hypothesis, but everything adds up and points to the same conclusion. We need the authorisation to carry out a search," Dormion was quoted as saying by the French newspaper Liberation.
Egyptian authorities are currently denying them access to the pyramid on the grounds that neither is a specialist - although their project has the backing of a top French academic.
Many pharaohs built their own pyramid for their mummified body to be preserved away from human view and sacrilege.
According to the French pair, none of the pyramid's three existing rooms would have been strong enough to qualify as a royal burial chamber Nwhich needs to withstand the test of centuries.
In the so-called King's room, at the top of a steep shaft reaching up inside the pyramid, they point to deep cracks in the massive granite blocks that form the chamber's ceiling as evidence of this.
The Queen's chamber, meanwhile, cannot be sealed off, meaning it could not have been used as a burial chamber, while work on the third known room was abandoned before it was completed.
The Pyramid of Cheops, greatest of the three pyramids at Gizeh, stands 147 metres tall and 230,34 metres across. It is 2,34 million cubic metres in size, and weighs more than 4,7 million tons. - Sapa-AFP