Besides my work on the Great Sphinx, over the last twenty years I have become interested in the ancient Egyptian monuments and antiquities more generally. Various aspects of my Egypt research are covered in my books, particularly Voices of the Rocks, Voyages of the Pyramid Builders, and Pyramid Quest (which focuses on the Great Pyramid).
On this page I will post various photographs and commentary on some of my adventures in Egypt. The top photograph on this page is of the Second (Chephren) Pyramid in the foreground and the Great Pyramid in the background. The next photo is of the original entrance to the Great Pyramid. The remainder of the photos are of Hawara, and that is the story I will tell now. In the future I will post other stories and photos here, such as my adventures on the Egyptian Sinai at the Temple of Hathor.
I had the pleasure of joining an NBC expedition to Hawara on the edge of the Faiyum Oasis, Egypt. Researching a documentary about 2012, they wanted my comments on the fabled labyrinth located there.
In Greek mythology, Daedalus (known for crafting wings with which to fly) built a maze-like structure known as the Labyrinth on Crete to contain the Minotaur (part man, part bull). But the Cretan labyrinth was not the only one, or even the original labyrinth. Herodotus (fifth century B.C.) and other Greek and Roman writers described a magnificent labyrinth in Egypt, containing three thousand rooms on two levels. Pliny the Elder (first century A.D.) related that the Egyptian labyrinth was already 3600 years old in his time.
Since the nineteenth century, the Egyptian labyrinth has been identified with an area on the southern side of the Middle Kingdom pyramid of Amenemhet III (circa 1845 B.C.) at Hawara. It was here that I traveled with the NBC crew in March 2009. In the photos you can see the Hawara pyramid. From a distance it looks rather like a pile of mud, because indeed it is composed primarily of sun-dried mud bricks. Originally it was sheathed in limestone, but the stone was stripped off in ancient times (probably Greco-Roman times) and used for building elsewhere.
Besides the pyramid at Hawara, there is an area of approximately 75,000 square meters littered with the remains of pottery, human bones, fragments of stone sculptures, pieces of limestone and granite columns, and blocks of carved quartzite. Here some mighty structure once stood, but little remains. However, recent geophysical studies by the Egyptian National Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics give tantalizing evidence that there are structures remaining to be discovered under the sands of Hawara.
To my dismay, there is now a canal running near the Hawara pyramid and right through the area of the labyrinth. I attempted to enter the pyramid, but before I could get very deep, the passage was entirely blocked by mud and water (as can be seen in the accompanying photo of the limestone lined entrance to the pyramid). Surely whatever remains of the labyrinth, buried deep below the surface, is now also flooded by the elevated water table.
And what exactly was the Hawara labyrinth? One interpretation is that it contained and protected, in its maze of courtyards, passageways, and chambers (which Herodotus relates as being covered with inscriptions) the most important and sacred knowledge possessed by the Egyptians -- knowledge possibly acquired from a still earlier civilization, perhaps one that had experienced cataclysmic events.
For more information on the Hawara Labyrinth you may find this site of interest: www.labyrinthofegypt.com