WHEN sewer-diggers last summer stumbled upon the ancient causeway and valley temple of the Great Pyramid of Cheops (pronounced KEE-ops; the Egyptian word is Khufu) underneath the Egyptian village of Nazlet al-Simman, archeologists were excited. ``The Great Pyramid is the best-known archeological site, and the only one remaining of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It's exciting because for the first time, we can start to get an idea of the complete plan of the complex of the Great Pyramid,'' says Peter Der Manuelian, curatorial assistant in the Egyptian department at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston. The MFA conducted almost 40 years of excavations at the Giza necropolis in the first half of this century and has a vast collection of pyramid-age artifacts, second only to Cairo's. ``When you have a monument that's so well known, it's interesting when anyone can add something new,'' he says. ``Who knows what might come to light in the chambers of the temple?''
Finding a statue of the king Cheops would be most welcome, Mr. Manuelian says, because today there is only one in the world of the great king, and that's a small (about 3-inch) ivory carving. The MFA has two statuettes of just his feet.
The problems of conservation at the Giza Plateau are the subject of last fall's issue of KMT (pronounced kemet, the ancient word for Egypt, or `black land'), a magazine for Egypt buffs. According to KMT editor Dennis Forbes, the monuments are threatened by a combination of factors: pollution from industry and automobiles; vibrations from buses that drive by to unload tourists and idle as they wait; and wear-and-tear from tourists who walk through, write on, and brush up against the monuments as they pose for photographs.