The pyramids in Egypt have always been a source of mystery and awe-inspiring magnificence. It’s one of the most popular Ancient Wonders of the World (in fact it is the only Ancient Wonder still standing.) Theories on how it was built abound: was it slaves? Or higher beings? Besides the architecture, what is just as interesting are the controversies surrounding the pyramids. Some believe that rather than slaves, laborers volunteered because it was an honor. Then there are academics, like Graham Hancock, who dispute the age of the pyramids as being much, much older.
Regardless of its construction, workers or its origin, the fact that we know little to nothing about the inner workings of the Great Pyramids is somewhat disappointing to say the least.
But all that is about to change due to technology that utilizes muon tomography to scan the inner workings of these burial structures.
In December of 2015 a group of researchers entered into a lower chamber of the Bent Pyramid in Dashour, Egypt.
The pyramid is located 40 kilometers south of Cairo and was built for the Pharaoh Snefru.
During this Scan Pyramids Mission, scientists placed 80 sensitive films that used muons to scan the rest of the pyramid. By analyzing the particles and how heat fluctuates through these films, scientists can produce an accurate image of the pyramid’s surrounding areas.
Muons are cosmic particles that can penetrate deeply into most materials (even a mountain!) and don’t require a ton of instruments since they use natural elements from the atmosphere.
These sensitive films protected by aluminum plates helped researches detect secret chambers or passageways in the Bent pyramid without actually breaking into or destroying any potential historic artifacts.
After 40 days of exposure the researchers returned to collect their films and analyze their samples.
They went to a lab in the Grand Egyptian Museum where they looked at more than 10 million muon tracks. Using their angular distribution they were able to recreate the inner workings of the pyramid.
But that was all in 2015 and muography (using muons to detect voids or spaces in thick or dense regions) has only gotten better since then. The technology used to analyze muon tracks have grown exponentially, making this ‘scan’ that much more exciting and insightful.
When the same technology was applied to the largest of the pyramids: the Great Pyramid of Giza (known locally as Khufu and to some international members as Cheops,) researchers deduced something that could be a hidden passageway or chamber.
Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty said in an interview that the scanning revealed ‘a particularly impressive anomaly located on the Eastern side of the Khufu pyramid at ground level.’
Chevrons are usually used to maintain structural integrity in buildings with a ceiling. Researchers have found a void behind a chevron structure on the north face of the pyramid.
The thermal scanning was conducted all day which allowed it to gather the wavering temperatures from sunrise to sunset.
During these periods of alternating heating and cooling, the speed of this transformation is measured to deduce certain empty areas located within the pyramid, the different building materials and also the air current inside.
The Antiquities Minister went on further by illustrating that the first row of stones were ‘all uniform’ but then there is ‘an anomaly’ with three specific stones showing higher temperatures.
He furthered speculations by saying: ‘there is something like a small passage in the ground that you can see, leading up to the pyramids ground, reaching an area with a different temperature. What will be behind it?’
Researchers explained that when the pyramid is heating up or cooling down, solid areas show uniform temperature. But if there is a vast empty area, such as a hidden chamber, then it will cause ‘temperature fluctuations.’
Egyptologists have argued, on the contrary, that the base of the pyramids is composed of stones of varying sizes thus the anomalies or voids can simply be due to gaps in the boulders.
However, many researchers still want to conclusively deduce what this void is and urge for cautioning before making plans to open and dip up the pyramid.
The ministry has asked for an additional year of funding for the the imaging team, Scan Pyramids Mission, which uses muography with a high level of precision.
Researchers brought in additional experts from Nagoya University in Japan to help with their experiment. They are currently still doing muography inside the Great Pyramid and more data will be released in the coming months.