Muography scanning of the Great Pyramid of Giza reveals two previously unknown cavities

A team of researchers from Egypt, Japan, France and Canada have discovered a passageway and a chamber within the Great Pyramid of Giza.


The Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops is the only standing ancient wonder of the world. Even after four and a half millenia, the structure still holds some mysteries within. Researchers from the Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute in Paris (HIPinstitute) and the ScanPyramids mission initiated by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities have found a passageway and a chamber within the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Silver emulsion plates set up in the lower chamber of Khufu.

Silver emulsion plates set up in the lower chamber of Khufu.

Muography techniques were used for non destructive and non invasive scanning of the pyramid. Muon particles are formed when cosmic rays interact with atoms in the upper atmosphere. The particles can penetrate through hundreds of meters of stone without getting absorbed. By strategically placing detectors within the pyramid, scientists can track the flow of muons. No muons are absorbed in cavities, but stone can absorb some of them. The scanning takes months or years, for an image to emerge with a high enough contrast between dense and empty areas.

ScanPyramids Q1 2016 Video Report (Muons Techniques) from HIP Institute on Vimeo.

Institutes and organisations from Japan, Canada and France used their own specialised research to deploy three kinds of muon detectors within the Pyramid. Nagoya University from Japan placed 80 detectors within the Pyramid. These were silver emulsion based films, with an exposure period of forty days. The CEA (French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission) used gas electronic detectors from outside the pyramid. The detectors known as "Alhazen" and "Alvares" were calibrated for a whole month just to identify the known voids. Then the devies were used to look for unknown voids.

The current model for the internal structure of the Khufu Pyramid.

The current model for the internal structure of the Khufu Pyramid.

The High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) institute from Japan deployed based on scintillating plastics sensitive to muons. The detector was placed in the Queen's chamber within the pyramid. Detectors of this type were previously used to scan the interiors of the Fukushima reactor. Laval University supported the scanning efforts with Infrared Thermography. The emulsion based detector are not real time, but the gas and plastic based devices are.

Externally placed Muon Telescope. Image: Cairo University.

Externally placed Muon Telescope.

The precise nature of the discovered cavities are under further investigation, according to a report in Seeker. The exact shape, size and position of the voids are not known. An additional 12 muon plates have been placed, to precisely image the newly discovered voids.

Dr Khaled El-Enany from the Ministry of Antiquities and Dr. Zahi Hawass, Egyptologist.

Dr Khaled El-Enany from the Ministry of Antiquities and Dr. Zahi Hawass, Egyptologist.

The project started in October 2015, with an aim to find any hidden structures within the pyramids, and to better understand the methods of their construction. The results of the Muon campaign will be shared with researchers for further analysis. The Ministry of Antiquities has formed a committee of Egyptoligists to observe the results of the scans, lead by Dr. Zahi Hawass, the former minister of Aniquities.


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