The Lost Underworld, Prelude to Beneath the Pyramids
The possibility of actually locating Giza’s lost underworld had been a fantasy for so long that I expected myself to be cool, calm, and collected if ever I found it. But as I peered through the small opening into a large, natural cavern, partially hewn by human hands, my heart raced and I gasped for breath. No one knew what lay ahead or even how safe it might be after thousands of years of decay and neglect.
Standing on a stone precipice, surveying what lay ahead, I almost turned back. Inside me now was a mixture of trepidation and fear, tinged by the overwhelming stench of bat guano, which seemed to pervade the very darkness. Yet I knew there was now no other option but to step inside.
Apprehensively, I descended, somewhat cautiously, into Giza’s subterranean realm and was struck by the knowledge that so many others searching for the Hall of Records had experienced the same dream—yet here I was at last, actually entering a cave system long rumored to exist beneath the plateau.
As I navigated the fallen rock debris in an attempt to reach the floor of the vast cave chamber, I could not help but think about the two men who had explored this network of “Catacombs” nearly two hundred years earlier. Henry Salt (1780-1827), the British consul general in Egypt, and his colleague, the redoubtable Italian explorer and former sea captain Giovanni Battista Caviglia (1770-1845), had chanced upon the cave system during their systematic search of the plateau. They penetrated several hundred yards into the rock before finally coming upon an entrance into a “spacious” chamber, which connected with three others of equal size. Who carved them and in what age was the mystery to be solved.
By now, Salt and Caviglia had seen enough, and without so much as a sniff of hidden treasure, the British consul general had ceased his exploration and exited the caves, leaving the Italian to pursue them further. Caviglia later advanced in another direction for “three hundred feet further.” Yet having found nothing of significance, he too gave up, leaving this labyrinthine world, never to return.
After that time, the entrance to the cave system was eventually forgotten. It has remained obscure through to the present day, and never in a million years did I expect to find it in quite the manner we did.
Never could I have hoped to walk in the footsteps of great adventurers such as Salt and Caviglia, exploring a subterranean world that might well hold the key to understanding the very origins of ancient Egyptian civilization.
Discovering unexplored caves may not seem earthshaking in archaeological terms. Certainly, Giza’s underworld may pale into insignificance when compared to the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb or the opening of a tomb live on TV. Yet the idea that a subterranean world exists in the vicinity of the Giza pyramid field has enthralled Egyptologists and explorers alike ever since the age of Salt and Caviglia, and for good reason. Ancient Egyptian texts dating back three thousand years allude to the existence here of a secret chamber known as the Underworld of the Soul and the Shetayet—literally, the “Tomb of God.” All pharaohs wanted to learn the secrets of this hidden chamber in order to create their own final resting place, otherwise their souls could not return in death to the cosmic source of life among the stars of the northern sky Roman writers perpetuated the mystery of an underworld beneath the Pyramids of Egypt, while much later, Arab travelers—influenced by tales heard from Coptic Christian monks and priests—spoke specifically of an antediluvian race depositing a record of its arts and sciences in subterranean corridors deep below the plateau, prior to some universal conflagration and deluge. The more superstitious of the local population spoke of the existence of a vast network of catacombs that stretched for miles beneath the plateau. They were haunted, they said, by spectral beings, and in here a man could very easily lose his mind, or even his life. Such legends sprang from the existence everywhere on the plateau of hundreds of tombs and sepulchres. Many of these open out to reveal spacious rooms, adorned with broken statues and fading frescoes that have fired the imagination for thousands of years.
So why should the discovery back in 1817 of a natural cave system, enhanced in places by human hands, be of even the remotest significance when so much more still awaits investigation in Giza? The answer is that not only did the entrance to the caves become obscure, but their very whereabouts was almost entirely lost. It is easily understandable how this came about, for since Salt and Caviglia found nothing of significance, very few people ever came to know of their existence.
A knowledge regarding the existence of Giza’s hidden underworld spurs on more recent claims that the discovery of this subterranean realm will herald a new dawn of enlightenment. Yet these claims come not from some wizened Arab mystic encountered in Cairo’s Khan el-Khalili bazaar or a dusty Coptic text languishing in the neglected library of a desert monastery, but from the “readings” of America’s most well-known psychic, Edgar Cayce. Since his death in 1945, the Edgar Cayce Foundation has established a large headquarters in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and set up affiliated groups in thirty-two countries. Among its aims are to promote and to confirm the prophecies and predictions of its mentor and founder and—under the auspices of its research body, the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.)—discover what Cayce’s readings refer to as the “Hall of Records.”
For six decades the A.R.E. has encouraged and supported exploration of Giza in an attempt not only to verify the existence of the Hall of Records but to seek its entrance, which the readings imply will be found in the vicinity of the Sphinx monument. Indeed, it is no secret that the organization has been behind a good deal of the archaeological work carried out on the plateau since the 1970s. Without its help and support in this project, Giza’s lost underworld would have remained just a few throwaway lines in Salt’s forgotten memoirs. It is thus only fitting that we begin this journey with an account of just how Edgar Cayce came to instigate the greatest quest of discovery Egypt has seen for a very long time.
Andrew Collins was raised in the Essex town of Wickford. As a teenager, he became a UFO investigator, and in 1977 he investigated the first-ever missing time abduction case reported in the UK, and that investigation changed his life. He became a journalist with the magazine Strange Phenomena and openly sought the help of psychics in an attempt to better understand the relationship between UFOs, prehistoric sites, earth energies, and the human mind. As a science and history writer, he has authored a variety of books that challenge the way we perceive the past, including his best-selling The Cygnus Mystery, that delves into how ancient monuments and temples, that are still standing today, were built with an orientation towards Cygnus. He continues to speak and travel throughout the world and is currently working on a book about Gobekli Tepe. He leaves near Marlborough, Wiltshire, in the UK.