Extraordinary: diving under a pyramid

I swam through a dark channel into the chambers of the tomb. Sediment clouds obstructed all visibility, and despite the small space, it was incredibly easy to get lost and find yourself going around in circles. A hand gripped mine, and we walked out into the second bedroom, where the collapsed ceiling had created a welcome pocket of air. Under the light of the flashlights, the work began.

Creasman’s team had to develop new techniques, often on the fly, to uncover the secrets of this little-known realm. Underwater archeology is now a specialized field but, in its early days, the skills and tools were adapted from those of wreck savers, and had rarely been used in such a confined space.

There was also no room for bulky scuba tanks. We were breathing through yellow pipes that came from where we had come in, connecting us to the air above. The risk of a collapse was not to be ignored, but the entrance was reinforced with 15 meters of steel beams, and there was little talk of the risk. The team members searched for anything of interest: gold leaf, figurines, pottery, and recorded their findings using charts and waterproof markers. A thin cord connected the third and last burial chamber to the world above; it was our guide in the dark.

A rhythm settled. Creasman descended into the final chamber, which contained what might have been Nastasen’s unopened sarcophagus. A few minutes later, he returned with a filled bucket, which he carried outside for team members to examine and sort through its contents.

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