By Andrew Collins and Nigel Skinner Simpson

When it comes to exploring the necropolis at Giza, following up long overlooked leads in old books and excavation reports can, just occasionally, lead to dramatic results - our rediscovery in 2008 of a previously unrecorded cave complex in the plateau's north cliff being a prime example. Yet sometimes early investigations or discoveries at Giza become confused, especially when reported in the international press, and this can lead to false or distorted claims being repeated by speculative writers. Here is one example that we felt obliged to examine in order to set the record straight.

On August 29 alternative history writer Stephen Mehler wrote to one of the authors (Andrew Collins) stating that Egyptian Egyptologist Dr Selim Hassan, in charge of "excavation work around the Sphinx and area from 1936-1938", discovered a tunnel linking the Sphinx with the Second Pyramid, and that this is "stated by American Egyptologist Dr. J.O. Kinnaman in a small book he wrote in 1940 - that was reprinted in 1999 and I referenced in my first book. Kinnaman knew Hassan and Petrie personally, and was there when the tunnel was found."

Mehler stated also that American Egyptologist George A. Reisner uncovered an important site called "Reisner's Shaft" near the Sphinx, and that his son drowned in a shaft there in 1938. This same claims are repeated in Mehler's book The Land of Osiris (2001), where on page 114 he states:

American Egyptologist George Reisner excavated a great deal of the Giza Plateau during the 1930s and investigated many of the tunnels. There is a shaft under the causeway behind the Sphinx that is called Reisner's shaft … Reisner's son drowned in one of these shafts in the late 1930s, when investigating how far down the tunnels go. Dr J. O. Kinnaman mentioned in a book about the Great Pyramid he wrote in 1940 that a tunnel leading from the Sphinx to the Great Pyramid had been discovered the previous year, 1938-39, and was to be cleared and investigated.

J. O. Kinnaman (1877-1961), a former editor of the American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal, was known for his writings on ethnology and biblical history. The monograph by him cited by Mehler is The Great Pyramid in the Light of Archaeological Research, published by Defender Publishers of Wichita, Kansas, in c. 1935 (no actual publication date was given in any printing). An updated version called The Great Pyramid in the Light of Latest Archaeological Research had appeared by "June 1938", since it is this date that is hand written in the copy examined for this article. This means that the text was updated c. 1936-37.

By 1943 printings of the now updated monograph had reverted back to its original title of The Great Pyramid in the Light of Archaeological Research, with its authorship now being attributed to "Dr. J. O. Kinnaman". The text had also been revised to remove any references to biblical prophecy in connection with the Great Pyramid, presumably in order for the monograph to appeal to a more scholarly target audience.

On page 5 of the printing from c. 1936-37, Kinnaman writes:

The gallery or tunnel, discovered this past winter, leading from the Sphinx to the Second Pyramid, may throw some light upon the subject. We should not be surprised if a branching tunnel would be found leading into the Great Pyramid.

The matter is taken up on page 44 within his summary on the greater purpose of the Great Pyramid, where he states:

While I am writing, the great tunnel connecting the Sphinx with the Second Pyramid is being explored, measured, etc. Why this tunnel, and what was its purpose? Who knows? Will later discoveries reveal what we now do not know? The side walls of this tunnel are of granite, while the floor is of other material.

The enigmatic "gallery or tunnel" alluded to by Kinnaman can be understood to be a confused reference to a discovery made by Dr Selim Hassan during his sixth season's work at Giza in 1934-35 on behalf of the Egyptian University, Cairo. One of his aims was the complete clearance of the causeway linking the Khafra (or Khephren) Valley Temple adjacent to the Sphinx area with the Second Pyramid, and in doing so he revealed a subway, or tunnel, that penetrated the underside of the causeway at right-angles to its roughly east-west orientation. Inside this subway Hassan found the entrance to the so-called Water Shaft (renamed the "Tomb of Osiris" or "Osiris Shaft" in 1998).

An announcement regarding Hassan's discovery was made in the London Daily Telegraph of 4th March 1935 under the headline: "SUBWAY FOUND BELOW THE PYRAMIDS: NEW DISCOVERIES IN EGYPT". The story began:

A subway connecting Khephren's Pyramid City to Cheops' Pyramid City has been discovered in the course of recent excavations. This had been cut through the living rock.
More remarkable still, a shaft, 11 yards long, was found to lead from the subway to the heart of the rock. When examined, it was found to end in a chamber some 6 yards by 11 yards.

That Kinnaman was writing a year or so after this story broke the international press tells us that his reference to "the great tunnel connecting the Sphinx with the Second Pyramid" was in fact an allusion to the causeway uncovered at the same time. This is described as a "subterranean pathway" by AMORC founder H. Spencer Lewis' in his book Symbolic Prophecy of The Great Pyramid, first published in 1936. To quote pages 186 and 187:

In 1909 the first subterranean temple near the Pyramids was found and a passageway between it and the Sphinx hitherto unknown was also discovered at the same time. Dr. Hassan's recent excavations have disclosed that this subterranean pathway is, as a matter of fact, a gigantic stone causeway, 22 meters wide and about 450 metres long. It connects the second pyramid to the Sphinx and to the temple of the Sphinx adjoining.

It is likely therefore that Kinnaman writing the revised version of his monograph in c. 1936/37 gained his information either from Lewis's 1936 book, or from the AMORC founder's own source, which is stated to be an article written by Hamilton M. Wright about Hassan's discoveries, published in January 1935. Where Kinnaman got the idea that the walls were paved with granite remains unclear.

On the subject of Kinnaman knowing Petrie there is absolutely nothing recorded that might confirm this assertion, as Stephen Mehler confirms in his book The Land of Osiris, and also online (see URL link below). Other than The Great Pyramid in the Light of (Latest) Archaeological Research, there is very little evidence that Kinnaman wrote anything else on ancient Egypt. Moreover, in the knowledge that nothing can be found linking Kinnaman with Petrie, any inference that Kinnaman knew Hassan should be voiced with extreme caution.

Although it can never be disproved that Kinnaman did not meet Petrie or Hassan, it has to be considered possible that Kinnaman was a fantasist who attempted to gain kudos by falsely claiming associations with leading archaeologists of his generation.

On the subject of George Reisner having a son who drowned in a shaft at Giza, we can state categorically that he did not have a son, only a daughter, a fact confirmed by the Director of the Giza Archives website (operated by Boston Museum of Fine Arts).
Finally, there is nothing we have found to identity the existence of what Mehler calls "Reisner's Shaft", which he says was in the vicinity of the causeway adjacent to the Sphinx.


Hassan wrote about the subway/osiris shaft in Excavations at Giza IV (published 1944). See <>

For further contemporary newspaper reports see:

For more on H. Spencer Lewis, the founder of an American Rosicrucian society (AMORC), who wrote about Hassan's excavation of the subway in Symbolic Prophecy of the Great Pyramid (1936), see

See also Stephen Mehler's article "The Search for Kinnaman's Entrance", previously published in Atlantis Rising 10 (Winter 1997) at

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