Hid­den cham­ber found in Great Pyra­mid

The Mercury News Weekend - - OTHER VIEWS - By Brian Ro­han The As­so­ci­ated Press

CAIRO » Sci­en­tists say they have found a hid­den cham­ber in Egypt’s Great Pyra­mid of Giza, in what would be the first such dis­cov­ery in the struc­ture since the 19th cen­tury and one likely to spark a new surge of in­ter­est in the pharaohs.

In an ar­ti­cle pub­lished Thurs­day in the jour­nal Na­ture, an in­ter­na­tional team said the 30-yard void deep within the pyra­mid is sit­u­ated above the struc­ture’s Grand Gallery, and has a sim­i­lar cross-sec­tion.

The pur­pose of the space is un­clear, and it’s not yet known­whether itwas built with a func­tion in­mind or if it’s merely a gap in the pyra­mid’s ar­chi­tec­ture. Some ex­perts say such empty spa­ces have been known for years.

“This is a premier,” said Me­hdi Tay­oubi, a co­founder of the ScanPyra­mids project and pres­i­dent of the Her­itage In­no­va­tion Preser­va­tion In­sti­tute. “It could be com­posed of one or sev­eral struc­tures ... maybe it could be an­other Grand Gallery. It could be a cham­ber, it could be a lot of things.”

The sci­en­tists made the dis­cov­ery us­ing cos­mic-ray imag­ing, record­ing the be- hav­ior of sub­atomic par­ti­cles called­muons that pen­e­trate the rock sim­i­lar to X-rays, only much deeper. Their pa­per was peer-re­viewed be­fore ap­pear­ing in Na­ture, an in­ter­na­tional, in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary jour­nal of sci­ence, and its re­sults con­firmed by other teams of sci­en­tists.

Chances of the space con­tain­ing trea­sure or burial cham­bers are al­most nil, said Ai­dan Dod­son, an Egyp­tol­o­gist at the Uni­ver­sity of Bris­tol, but the dis­cov­ery helps shed light on build­ing tech­niques.

“The pyra­mid’s burial cham­ber and sar­coph­a­gus have al­ready been dis­cov­ered, so this new area was­more likely kept empty above the Grand Gallery to re­duce the weight of stone press­ing down on its ceil­ing,” he said, adding that sim­i­lar de­signs have been found in other pyra­mids.

Egypt’s for­mer an­tiq­ui­ties min­is­ter and famed ar­chae­ol­o­gist Zahi Hawass, who has been test­ing scan­ning­meth­ods and heads the govern­ment’s over­sight panel for the new tech­niques, said that the area in ques­tion has been known of for years and thus does not con­sti­tute a dis­cov­ery. He has long down­played the use­ful­ness of scans of an­cient sites.

“The Great Pyra­mid is full of voids. We have to be care­ful how re­sults are pre­sented to the pub­lic,” he said, adding that one prob­lem fac­ing the in­ter­na­tional team is that it did not have an Egyp­tol­o­gist as a mem­ber. He said the cham­ber was likely empty space builders used to con­struct the rooms be­low.

“In or­der to con­struct the Grand Gallery, you had to have a hol­low, or a big void in or­der to ac­cess it — you can­not build it with­out such a space,” he said. “Large voids ex­ist be­tween the stones and may have been left as con­struc­tion gaps.”

The pyra­mid is also known as Khufu’s Pyra­mid for its builder, a 4th Dy­nasty pharao­hwho reigned from2509 to 2483B.C. Vis­i­tors to the pyra­mid, on the out­skirts of Cairo, can walk, hunched over, up a long tun­nel to reach the Grand Gallery. The space an­nounced by the scan­ning team does not ap­pear to be con­nected to any known in­ter­nal pas­sages.

Sci­en­tists in­volved in the scan­ning called the find a “break­through” that high­lighted the use­ful­ness of mod­ern par­ti­cle physics in ar­chae­ol­ogy.

“It was hid­den, I think, since the con­struc­tion of the pyra­mid,” Tay­oubi added.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Po­lice­men are sil­hou­et­ted against the Great Pyra­mid in Giza, Egypt, in 2012. Sci­en­tists have found a pre­vi­ously undis­cov­ered hid­den cham­ber in Egypt’s Great Pyra­mid of Giza, the first such dis­cov­ery in the struc­ture since the 19th cen­tury.

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