The Lat­est In­tel­li­gence

How sub-atomic par­ti­cle de­tec­tors are en­abling ar­chae­ol­o­gists to peer in­side an­cient struc­tures as never be­fore

BBC Earth (Asia) - - Contents -

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Ar­chae­ol­o­gists have un­cov­ered a mys­te­ri­ous cham­ber deep within the Great Pyra­mid of Giza, us­ing a cut­ting-edge imag­ing tech­nique based on the de­tec­tion of sub­atomic par­ti­cles cre­ated by cos­mic rays.

Dubbed the ScanPyra­mids Big Void, af­ter the name of the project that dis­cov­ered it, the cav­ity is ap­prox­i­mately 30m long and 3m high and is sit­u­ated above the Grand Gallery, a large cor­ri­dor that con­nects the two largest of the iconic struc­ture’s three main cham­bers.

The Great Pyra­mid, also known as Khufu’s Pyra­mid, was built dur­ing the reign of Pharaoh Khufu, who reigned from 2509 to 2483 BC.

De­spite years of re­search, there is no con­sen­sus on ex­actly how the mon­u­ment was con­structed.

As yet the pre­cise struc­ture and role of the newly dis­cov­ered void re­main un­known, but the find­ings may pave the way for fur­ther stud­ies that could help re­searchers to un­der­stand the pyra­mid and its con­struc­tion process.

“No im­por­tant in­ter­nal struc­tures have been found in the Pyra­mid since 820AD, when the Cal­ife Al Ma­mun dug a tun­nel and pen­e­trated in­side, re­veal­ing most of the struc­ture we know to­day,” said Prof Me­hdi Tay­oubi from Cairo Univer­sity. “Find­ing some­thing as im­por­tant, in terms of size, as the Grand Gallery is an im­por­tant break­through.”

The void was dis­cov­ered us­ing sen­sors tuned to de­tect muons, par­ti­cles that are cre­ated when high en­ergy cos­mic rays slam into mol­e­cules in the up­per at­mos­phere. By piec­ing to­gether data from sev­eral dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions, the team were able to form a three-di­men­sional im­age of the pyra­mid’s in­ter­nal struc­ture.

“Our dis­cov­ery is the first demon­stra­tion of the po­ten­tial of cos­mic ray imag­ing to gather new in­for­ma­tion in ar­chae­ol­ogy,” said Nagoya Univer­sity’s Ku­ni­hiro Mor­ishima.

“The Big Void has not been touched by any­one since the build­ing of the pyra­mid 4,500 years ago, so if there are some arte­facts in­side the big void, they should be very im­por­tant for un­der­stand­ing an­cient Egypt.”

The team now plan to take fur­ther scans of the Big Void, in or­der to de­ter­mine its shape and struc­ture in more de­tail.


A pre­vi­ously un­known cham­ber has been found in­side the Great Pyra­mid

Me­hdi Tay­oubi and col­leagues now hope to

in­ves­ti­gate the new cham­ber in more de­tail

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