ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 145

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The stuff of legendsThe stuff of legends

Scientists use ‘cosmic rays’ to peek inside Egypt’s pyramids

Researchers hope to create definitive maps of structures’ inner chambers, perhaps even find Nefertiti’s hidden tomb

A 3-D cutaway shows the interior of the Bent Pyramid.
(Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, HIP Institute and the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University)
A 3-D cutaway shows the interior of the Bent Pyramid. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, HIP Institute and the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University)

Egyptian and foreign experts are using cutting-edge technology to create three-dimensional maps of the pyramids, hoping to find previously undiscovered hidden chambers in the process.

A team of scientists from Egypt, Japan and France is using a special type of film to record the track of muons – radiographic particles that constantly rain down from the Earth’s atmosphere.

Since the particles pass through empty spaces but are absorbed or deflected by harder surfaces, analysis of film left in a chamber of a pyramid for several days can yield a 3D recreation of the pyramid’s shape and all the hollow spaces inside, so long as they are on higher ground than the films.

The project, called ScanPyramids, has so far been applied to the Bent Pyramid, a 4,600-year-old structure south of Cairo.

Among the achievements of the project so far, researchers have ruled out the possibility that Sneferu, the pharaoh who built the pyramid, was buried in a hidden chamber inside.

Specialist Kunihiro Morishima, and colleagues from the Institute for Advanced Research of Nagoya University, Japan, installing 40 muon detector plates inside the lower chamber of the Bent pyramid. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, HIP Institute and the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University)
Specialist Kunihiro Morishima, and colleagues from the Institute for Advanced Research of Nagoya University, Japan, installing 40 muon detector plates inside the lower chamber of the Bent pyramid. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, HIP Institute and the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University)

Mehdi Tayoubi, president of the Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute and a co-director of the ScanPyramids mission, said that “more than 10 millions of muon tracks were analyzed” from the plates installed inside a chamber in the Bent Pyramid.

“We count the muons and according to their angular distribution we are able to reconstruct an image,” Tayoubi told Discovery.com.

“For the first time ever, the internal structure of a pyramid was revealed with muon particles. The images obtained clearly show the second chamber of the pyramid located roughly 60 feet above the lower one in which emulsions plates were installed,” Tayoubi said.

Hany Helal, the institute’s vice president, said that the project aims to “either confirm or change or upgrade or modify” the various theories and hypotheses on the construction of the pyramids, for which, he said, “there is no single theory that is 100 percent proven or checked.”

File: The 3,300-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti, discovered in Egypt in 1912 (YouTube screen capture)
File: The 3,300-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti, discovered in Egypt in 1912 (YouTube screen capture)

The technology used on the Bent Pyramid will also be used on two pyramids in Giza and two others in Dashur.

Assisted also by laser and infrared scans on top of the muon tracing technology, researchers hope to eventually find a hidden tomb in Tutankhamen’s burial chamber that could belong to Queen Nefertiti, the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten, who ruled in the 14th century BCE.

“Even if we find one square meter void somewhere, it will bring new questions and hypotheses and maybe it will help solve the definitive questions,” Tayoubi told Discovery.

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