The Great Pyramids of Giza are a complex of ancient monuments dating back to 2,000 BCE. They have taken their rightful place as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world; monuments that reflect astonishing ancient engineering skill and precise architecture. The pyramids are also the last of the seven wonders of the ancient world to remain standing.
They have been extensively researched, prodded and explored; despite this the manner in which they were constructed is largely unknown. The mystery remains, but a new discovery may shed some light on part of the process.
Engineering and archaeological professionals believe they have found a previously unknown void in the Great Pyramid - also known as Khufu’s Pyramid.
The ScanPyramids Project started in 2015. The Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University and the Heritage Innovation Preservation got the ball rolling, recruiting many scientific partners including Japan’s Nagoya University, and others, to work alongside the project. Their mission is to expand the search within the pyramids non-invasively.
Using the latest in site surveying technologies, the team went to work. Through the utilization of infrared tomography and 3D simulations, they began their work. Two years later, with the use of radiographic moun tomography technologies, the engineers and archaeologists could confirm that there are voids, previously undiscovered, within the pyramids.
In their report in the Nature Journal the researchers explained how they found the void. They wrote:
“To better understand its internal structure, we imaged the pyramid using muons, which are by-products of cosmic rays that are only partially absorbed by stone. The resulting cosmic-ray muon radiography allows us to visualize the known and potentially unknown voids in the pyramid in non-invasive ways.”
In simple terms, the process basically allows researchers to ‘X-ray’ dense materials.
Through many independent investigations, many of the scientific groups and engineering groups involved all agreed that their muon-heavy data showed that there was definitely a void above the Grand Gallery - a section of the Great Pyramid discovered in the 19th Century.
The technology has been used to plot out segments of the pyramids before, but the technology has since been improved. (This form of radiography has also been used to look inside the Fukushima nuclear reactor without endangering life.)
Minister of Antiquities for the Egyptian government, Zahi Hawass, is skeptical about the new find. He says the belief that there are large ‘voids’ within the structure is tenuous. He thinks that the pyramid is very likely to be full of tiny voids that maintain the structural integrity of the pyramid.
To substantiate the existence of the void is fraught with difficulty; archaeological works on an undiscovered void with no apparent entryway may cause damage to the pyramid.
Nonetheless, the project reflects the power of collective expertise; where researchers from different industries and countries come together and use the tools at their disposal to uncover history.
To see the full report on finding the voids within the pyramids, take a look at this video:
Fleur, Nicholas St. “Inside Giza’s Great Pyramid, Scientists Discover a Void.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 2 Nov. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/11/02/science/pyramids-giza-void.html.
Nature(2017).doi:10.1038/nature24647.12 October 2017.24 October 2017. Published online. 02 November 2017