I’m enamored with this cutaway diagram, by Christopher Klein of National Geographic, depicting Egypt’s so-called “tunnel to nowhere.”
[Image: A cutaway of Seti’s tomb by Christopher Klein, courtesy of National Geographic].
In fact, it is a “mysterious tunnel that links the ancient tomb of Pharaoh Seti I to … nothing.”
After three years of hauling out rubble and artifacts via a railway-car system, the excavators have hit a wall, the team announced last week. It seems the ancient workers who created the steep tunnel under Egypt’s Valley of the Kings near Luxor abruptly stopped after cutting 572 feet (174 meters) into rock.
Christopher Klein’s image shows the complex in its full volumetric glory, a void hewn into the depths of the cliff face, “painstakingly chipped into high limestone cliffs above the Valley of the Kings.” Exploring its interior was a kind of reverse mining operation: these “recent excavations had to take new precautions, most notably bracing the tunnel roof with metal supports to prevent collapse, as in mines.”
That the sprawling tunnelwork would eventually lead—it seems—to nowhere was not a credible option at the start of these recent explorations: “The ancient Egyptians never built something without a plan,” we read back in 2008, “without an aim or a target to do this, so I think this tunnel will lead to something important.”
Returning to Klein’s image, it would be amazing to see his take on, say, the entire New York subway system, its tunnels drilled through bedrock, or a cutaway diagram drawn by Klein, explaining the underground nuclear waste storage facilities at Yucca Mountain (or, for that matter, at Onkalo). Or, why not, a weird hybrid of all three: a pharaonic tomb crossed with a densely packed urban subway system that eventually leads, after thousands of loops and coils, to some throbbing subterranean underworld stacked with Dantean spirals of nuclear waste.