Arab Times

Hi-tech scans look to unravel mysteries

Some remarkable findings in Operation ScanPyrami­ds ‘Message for the world’


CAIRO, Nov 11, (AFP): New findings at Egypt’s Khufu pyramid are raising hopes of unravellin­g the mysteries of one of the ancient world’s most iconic monuments, including whether it may contain secret chambers.

Using the latest infrared technology — a far cry from the down-and-dirty methods of the “Indiana Jones” films — a team of researcher­s from Egypt, France, Canada and Japan have been scanning four of Egypt’s famed pyramids with thermal cameras.

Operation ScanPyrami­ds began on Oct 25 to search for hidden rooms inside Khufu, also known as the Great Pyramid, and Khafre at Giza and the Bent and Red pyramids in Dahshur, all south of Cairo.

The project is expected to continue until the end of 2016, but two weeks in, the experts announced at a news conference at the foot of Khufu that they had already made some remarkable findings.

Observatio­ns were made during infrared scanning of limestone blocks as they heat up and cool during different times of the day.

“Several thermal anomalies were observed on all (four) monuments, during the heating up or the cooling down phases,” said a statement released by the team of experts and Egypt’s antiquitie­s ministry.

Possibilit­ies “A lot of hypothesis and possibilit­ies could be drawn from those observatio­ns: presence of voids behind the surface, internal air currents, different materials with specific thermal capacity,” it said.

In particular, it said, an “impressive” anomaly was found “on the eastern side of the Khufu pyramid at ground level” that could indicate the existence of a secret chamber.

The team is made up of experts from the Cairo University faculty of engineerin­g as well as from the French HIP (Heritage Innovation Preservati­on) Institute.

The technology applied is a mix of infrared thermograp­hy, muon radiograph­y imaging and 3D reconstruc­tion — all of which the researcher­s say are non-invasive and non-destructiv­e techniques.

The goal is to try to see if unknown structures or cavities are present inside the famed ancient monuments “which may lead to a better understand­ing of their structures and their constructi­on process”. Antiquitie­s Minister Mamduh al-Damati told reporters the new finds were only a beginning. CARAL, Peru, Nov 11, (AFP): Architects seeking solutions for sustainabl­e living in the 21st century are taking notes from the ancient city of Caral in Peru, an engineerin­g marvel built some 5,000 years ago.

Caral’s builders created a city of pyramids, sunken amphitheat­ers, seismicall­y resilient buildings and undergroun­d ducts that channeled the wind to keep their fires burning — all with basic tools.

It was the site of the oldest known civilizati­on in the Americas, the Caral or Norte Chico civilizati­on, which developed from 3000 to 1800 BC — almost as old as Ancient Egypt.

Today, architects from around the world have convened in Caral to seek inspiratio­n in its sandy brown ruins and discuss the challenges facing humankind five millennia later.

The Internatio­nal Union of Architects met at the UNESCO World Heritage Site last weekend and signed a document called the Caral Letter, which hails the ancient city as an example of sustainabl­e urban planning and living in harmony with nature.

The letter from the 124-nation group will be presented next month at high-stakes UN climate talks in Paris, where countries will seek a comprehens­ive agreement on curbing the carbon emissions warming the planet. The world’s architects had previously met in Athens in 1933 to sign a landmark manifesto on urban planning and in Venice in 1964 to call for

“We should discover more things about the pyramids,” he said.

The most exciting findings focused on some of the limestone blocks that make up Khufu’s eastern flank. While some of these huge blocks showed cool temperatur­es, others just nearby were remarkably hotter, in some cases by up to six degrees Celsius, he said.

Avideo projection of the data recorded by the thermal cameras showed hues of red and yellow covering the blocks where heat was detected and blue and magenta for the cooler ones. “This is the most important picture of 2015,” Damati said.

Egyptologi­st Ashraf Mohie said the anomalies detected on Khufu pyramid the preservati­on of the world’s monuments.

“We turn to the past to see how civilizati­on was organized 5,000 years ago, thinking about their commitment to nature, their cosmic vision,” said Jose Arispe, one of Peru’s leading architects and an adviser with the Internatio­nal Union of Architects.

He marveled at engineerin­g feats like the ducts Caral used to supply air to fires used in religious ceremonies and keep them burning. The system relies on what physicists now call the Venturi effect, the reduction in pressure when a fluid flows through a constricte­d space.

“We are rediscover­ing the work of architects and engineers at the time, when there were no instrument­s like the level or the plumb line. It’s high engineerin­g,” he told AFP.

Buildings in the city, which is in a seismicall­y active area, also feature flexible foundation­s called “shicras” that resemble large baskets filled with stones — a technique to minimize earthquake damage.

Caral’s inhabitant­s apparently had no weapons and no city walls to keep out neighborin­g peoples.

“It was a peaceful culture and serves as a reference for future generation­s,” said Arispe.

They also built the city on arid land to preserve fertile ground for farming.

“This society was very interested in developing in harmony with nature. They never occupied the valley, they

represent “an unpreceden­ted discovery”.

The team has said it will carry out more investigat­ions that will include “further treatment and data analysis” of the anomalies so far detected.

The next phase of operations will include 3D modelling and simulation­s of the Giza plateau “which will definitely lead to a better understand­ing of the plans and techniques of pyramid constructi­on”.

Earlier this month, the team tested their scanning equipment inside the tomb of boy king Tutankhamu­n in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings in the southern town of Luxor.

Temperatur­e difference­s were detected on parts of the northern wall didn’t settle on productive land. Fertile fields were deities,” said Peruvian archaeolog­ist Ruth Shady, who conducted the first excavation­s at Caral in 1996 and brought the site to world attention.

Caral sits in the Supe Valley, in a semi-arid region about 200 kms (125 miles) north of Lima, just inland from the Pacific Ocean.

The horizon is dominated by seven stone pyramids that appear to light up in the sun. The city is built around two sunken circular plazas, and excavation­s indicate there were regular markets that drew traders from across a wide region.

Fishermen and farmers would trade their goods for flutes made of condor bones, or for shells from as far away as modern-day Ecuador to make necklaces.

Digs to uncover more of the site’s history are ongoing.

The city may also have been the birthplace of Quechua, which became the language of the subsequent Inca empire and is still alive today.

“This is a civilizati­on that achieved splendor and prestige. That’s the message for the world: We can live in harmony with nature to protect the planet and have respectful, peaceful relations with other cultures,” said Shady.

Caral was hit by a long drought around 1800 BC, forcing residents to abandon the area. After they left, the city was buried in sand.

of the tomb in what could support a British archaeolog­ist’s theory that Queen Nefertiti, or another royal, is also buried there.

Archaeolog­ists have never discovered the mummy of the legendary beauty, but renowned British archaeolog­ist Nicholas Reeves said in a recent study that her tomb could be in a secret chamber adjoining Tutankhamu­n’s tomb.

At 146 metres (480 feet) tall, Khufu pyramid, named after the son of pharaoh Snefru, is considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, built some 4,500 years ago.

It has three known chambers, and like other pyramids in Egypt was intended as a pharaoh’s tomb.

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