THE GRANITE PLUGS IN THE ASCENDING PASSAGE (CONT)
© Keith Hamilton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
[Extracted from an email dated 12 Jan 2001]
have recently come across some discrepancies that I feel the reader should be aware of, in respect of my item on the granite plugs and hope that you can append this to your board. I am indebted to John Legon who in recent correspondence was kind enough to have found measures of the upper plug which he took some twenty years ago and is happy for me to quote them here. Though he points out that they would really need to be checked by a further detailed study.
His notes are: "This plug [the upper one] fits tightly into the passage roof and east side, and is closely jointed with the plug below. Width of upper plug, by sighting to west side, base 1.045 (m), upper middle 1.040, middle (by using straight edge 1.030 or 1.035. Perpendicular height of plug, 1.185."
The straight edge as John pointed out is likely to be more reliable, and here we have a possible width of about 40.6", which is somewhat narrower than what Smyth & Petrie give of 41.6". John's height is also less, being about 46.7". John has pointed out that Smyth may have measured the cross-section of the passage and not the plug itself. I provide below two extracts from Smyth's work from pages 51 & 52 of his Vol II, for readers to interpret.
In his tables his starting line for measures is line AB by the upper plug, and his measures are 41.6" by 47.3". In his notes to this measure he says "These measures are rather of the portcullis block, close fitting into the original passage at this point: and showing what that must have been." His description of the plugs is "This is composed of a series of blocks of red granite of shape of the passage, viz., 47.3 high (transverse to axis of passage), and 41.6 broad..." Looking at these two statements it is certainly possible that he is referring to the passage and using this as a guide to what he thought the original plug dimensions may have been.
This takes us on to Petrie's work where he says "The granite plugs are kept back from slipping down by the narrowing of the lower end of the passage, to which contraction they fit. Thus at the lower, or N. end, the plug is but 38.2 wide in place of 41.6 at the upper end: the height, however, is unaltered, being at lower end 47.30 E., 47.15 mid, 47.26 W.; and at upper, or S. end 47.3. In the trial passages the breadth is contracted from 41.6 to 38.0 and 37.5 like this, but the height is also contracted there from 47.3 to 42.3." And further on he says "It has often been said that the Queen's Chamber was intended to contain the blocks for plugging the ascending passage, until they were required to be let down. But there is an absolute impossibility in this theory; the blocks are 47.3 x 41.6 in section, while the Queen's Chamber passage is but 46.2 x 40.6, or too small in both dimensions to allow the blocks to pass. Hence the blocks must have stood in the gallery until they were wanted, since they could never be got upwards through the ascending passage, as that is but 38.2 at the lower end, and the existing plugs are 41.6 wide above that." We can see he does appear to specifically mention the plugs themselves, but did he use and rely on Smyth's figures for the upper plug? And when he discusses the lower surface of the lower plug, which he appears to have measured, he says it is (mean) 47.2" high, while Smyth (page 42) cites a mean of 46.72". Since Smyth's figure is significantly less than Petrie's, and more in accord with what John obtained, perhaps we may deduce that Petrie also measured the passage and not the plug?
If, contrary to what Petrie and Smyth say, the upper blocks are 46.7" by 40.6" in section as John suggests, then clearance from the GG is possible, though it is not proof that this is where they were stored. That the plugs were slid into place is apparent as they all have a wedge shape to their fronts, and this is understandable as the special masonry that makes up the north end of the AP would have to be constructed first before the plugs were put in place. But what location were the plugs slid from?
The above demonstrates a need for a more detailed survey of these plugs. The 4" gap between the 1st and 2nd plugs provides us with an opportunity to obtain measures; this gap should also be inspected for the remains of liquid mortar as it is thought this may have been used as a lubricant for the plugs. If slid the distance from the GG a sizeable bow wave of mortar may have built up and therefore may be present in this gap. Further is there any evidence of a cushion of mortar between the 2nd and 3rd plugs, which are in contact with each other? Another point to bear in mind is that a sizeable portion of the upper plug is missing. Were there more than three plugs? We have no evidence of them. Although the intrusive tunnel bypasses the three granite ones, some researchers suggest the tunnellers came across additional limestone plugs that would have been broken up in the passage. Yet would the violators not continue the bypass tunnel, whose size they could control, and follow along the side of any limestone plugs? I know I would feel safer that way, not having to worry about a limestone plug falling down on top of me. But, then again, if there were only ever three plugs, and they were stored in the GG, why is the latter of such immense size? Such immense effort has been put into the construction of the GG, greater than the construction of the KC, that I find it strange that its purpose was merely to hold plug blocks. I cannot help but feel that there is a greater motive behind its construction.
In conclusion, based on John's measures and the apparent discrepancies in Smyth's and Petrie's accounts, and pending a more thorough survey of the structure, it is possible that the plugs may have been slid from the GG, though the other problems that I raised in my previous paper still remain.
[We cover the issue of the "missing plugs" in G:TT, and note that the apparent decision to only use three plugs may have been taken at a relatively late stage - albeit before the GG walls/ceiling had risen sufficiently that the blocks could no longer be lowered into place - in order to save time or be more efficient. This would be consistent, for example, with Khufu deciding at a late stage to have his body buried elsewhere but retaining the GP as a symbol as well as a diversion for would-be robbers - IL]