Antiquities and Archaeology News Egypt

Great Pyramid of Giza vandalised

German researchers allegedly scraped pigment from a pharaoh’s cartouche, in an attempt to prove it is a forgery

Dominique Goerlitz and Stefan Erdmann hoped to raise the possibility that the Great Pyramid was constructed by a civilization much older than the ancient Egyptians

Following accusations of vandalism and theft at the Great Pyramid of Giza, two researchers are under investigation in Germany and six individuals have been detained in Egypt, including the head of a tour company, archaeologists and local guards. Officials with the Ministry of Antiquities responsible for the pyramids have reportedly already been transferred to other positions as punishment for negligence.

In April 2013, Dominique Goerlitz and Stefan Erdmann are suspected of having illegally scraped samples of pigment and stone from one of the uppermost chambers of the Great Pyramid, focusing their attention on a red ochre cartouche of King Khufu. Most scholars date this mark to the pyramid’s construction in around 2500BC, while alternative theorists, including the two German researchers, have long claimed the cartouche to be a fake, painted by its discoverer, Colonel Howard Vyse in 1837 to help him secure further funding for his explorations. To prove their claims, Goerlitz and Erdmann allegedly smuggled the pigment samples from Egypt to Dresden University for further study; by proving the modernity of the pigment, they hoped to raise the possibility that the Great Pyramid was constructed by a civilization much older than the ancient Egyptians.

Their hopes of rewriting history were dashed in November, however, when a self-posted trailer on YouTube for a documentary detailing and revealing their exploits, drew almost universal condemnation and angered Egyptian authorities. After the controversy broke, the German embassy in Cairo released a statement emphasising that neither Goerlitz nor Erdmann were associated with the embassy or the German Archaeological Institute. The researchers, who have no archaeological training, also had no affiliation with Dresden University, although they approached one of its laboratories to study the samples taken from the pyramid. The university lab has since stated that it was unaware of the samples’ origin, and now wishes to return them to Egypt. Nonetheless, Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, the head of the Pharaonic Antiquities section of the Ministry of Antiquities, has stopped any future cooperation with Dresden University, saying that the German researchers broke Egyptian law when they took the samples without permission.

In December, both Goerlitz and Erdmann apologised for their behaviour in a letter addressed to Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, offering to pay compensation for the damage and stressing that they did not mean harm to the pyramid. Egypt’s head of antiquities, Mohamed Ibrahim, has so far rejected their apology.

The Great Pyramid of Giza
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20 Sep 14
19:49 CET


I would like to differ and say that the Researchers were right in trying to find the truth. High above the king's chamber one had dug a passage way from the Grand Gallery side to find something. That something is the 'Control Room' from which with cables and levers one could operate the opening of various chambers not yet found. The entrance to the control room is 2 or 3 courses lower from the shaft that was dug. It is simple, just run a Ground Radar on the wall to find the hollow opening.

23 Feb 14
20:55 CET


In response to Elf, those Germans are not archaeologists. Archaeologist are guided by codes of conduct such as that published on the ECHO website ( or the American Association of Archaeologists. The main priority of an archaeologist is looking after the cultural heritage, not self glory, but the diachronic investigation of past human existence.

21 Feb 14
3:37 CET


Elf, can we please not refer to these people as archaeologists. The article clearly states they have NO archaeological training.

21 Feb 14
3:40 CET


They should have tried to smuggle the Great Pyramid out of Egypt, now that would have been impressive!

20 Feb 14
22:32 CET


Had they succeeded in proving the forgery, they would be heroes. They are not remotely like people who deface nice things. All they did is circumvent the law, incompetently, in a good cause.

22 Feb 14
0:27 CET


I would like to see images of the cartouche before and after the scraping took place. I think it would lend more context to the claim of vandalism and give readers a better chance to form individual perspectives on the extent of damage done. In my understanding the act of sample taking is one of minimal aesthetic loss. Hopefully these guys didn't just scrape a huge chunk out of the middle of an ancient treasure. They should have gained permission, I agree. It would be interesting to learn if it was a fake, and I wonder, if it were proven to be a fake would these guys be seen in a different light? Would they be rebels for truth? If it's in fact an original, then, ehh, poor guys, they should have gotten permission!

20 Feb 14
15:8 CET


If we cannot trust archaeologists to respect our past, then they are no better than thugs spray painting private property. They were utterly irresponsible and only in search of personal attentions. It is not "better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission"

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