At this point, Großchnabel and Rohrsänger appear to have realized that they were, in fact, excavating the ruined core of a 5th-dynasty pyramid, albeit one that had been so extensively vandalized for stone that it was scarcely recognizable. In response to their cable, the University of Stönn dispatched an excavation team, which was able to arrive onsite very quickly, much to Großchnabel and Rohrsänger’s astonishment. This was because the team had just completed excavations for Borchardt at Amarna, and had been scheduled to return home. Großchnabel’s letters and cables to Prof. Ermann emphasize his displeasure with the excavation team, noting their sullenness and many acts of petty sabotage, in comparison to the praise he tended to lavish on his local Egyptian diggers.

After a further period of excavation, Großchnabel and Rohrsänger reported finding evidence of an undisturbed chamber carved in bedrock below the structure, which they had taken to calling the Pyramid of Seth-Ka based on a misreading of a funerary inscription, preserved today in the Stönn archives as a rubbing (the actual meaning was closer to star of ka, believed to be a poetic name for the pyramid itself). They also found mounting evidence that the pyramid had been sealed and abandoned before completion, though their letters and communications to this effect are vague at best.

The next round of excavations with a fresh crew were due to begin in July 1914; Großchnabel and Rohrsänger remained at the site with their Egyptian workers while the majority of their crew, aside from five volunteers, returned to Cairo. This, unfortunately, happened to coincide with the July Crisis, which led directly to the outbreak of the First World War. The entire University of Stönn excavation crew, less the five volunteers, was interned at Alexandria upon the outbreak of war, and a small detachment of British and Egyptian troops was dispatched to arrest Großchnabel and Rohrsänger as well.

When they arrived in early August, they found that the dig site had been completely abandoned. The local diggers’ families reported that they had not returned, the site was full of valuable abandoned equipment, and in their brief and cursory examination of the dig, there seemed to be no sign of the subterranean chamber that had been reported earlier.

A typhus outbreak at a Cairo internment camp resulted in the deaths of all surviving members of the Großchnabel-Rohrsänger expedition in early 1915, and no general search for the men was ever carried out. After the war, the Daqqa pyramid complex area became part of a major military base, first under British and later Egyptian control. By the time the area was open to civilians again, in 1979, any evidence of the fates of the seven Germans and twenty-seven Egyptians who had disappeared was long gone.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!