Since the announcement of the new discovery of the hidden void in the Great Pyramid of Giza (Khufu’s Pyramid), it aroused controversy among scientists and officials in the state’s Ministry of Antiquities.
Despite being one of the oldest and largest monuments on Earth, there is no consensus about how the Great Pyramid was built.
In a new study published in Nature Magazine, physicians and Egyptologists from Egyptian, Japanese, and French universities have conducted the research using a new technique using muons, which are a by-product of cosmic rays from the universe, to visualise what they think could be a large void at least 30 metres long above the Great Gallery in the pyramid.
This void, named Scan Pyramids Big Void, was first observed with nuclear emulsion films installed in the Queen’s chamber, then confirmed with scintillator hodoscopes set up in the same chamber (KEK) and re-confirmed with gas detectors outside of the pyramid (CEA), according to the study.
The large void has been detected with a high confidence by three different muon detection technologies and three independent analyses.
The Great Pyramid, or Khufu’s Pyramid, was built on the Giza Plateau (Egypt) during the IVth dynasty by the pharaoh Khufu (Cheops), who reigned from 2509-2483 BC.
One of the team leaders, professor Yasser Al-Shayeb from Cairo University said that scanning the Great Pyramid using the cosmic rays has been conducted in three different ways. Denouncing the statements that undermine the new discovery, Al-Shayeb told Daily News Egypt that three research teams from different universities have conducted studies on the topic and they all reached the same result.
Following the announcement of the discovery, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mustafa Waziri issued a statement saying that the Scan Pyramids team was working with the permission of the Permanent Committee for Egyptian Antiquities since 2015.
Waziri added that the team has presented a report regarding the findings of their work to the committee, headed by Egyptologist Zahi Hawass. The committee said that “archaeologists know about the several voids in the pyramid.”
Similar to X-rays, which can penetrate the body and allow bone imaging, the elementary muon particles can keep a quasi-linear trajectory while going through hundreds of meters of stone before decaying or being absorbed, according to the study.
Muon particles originate from the interactions of cosmic rays with the atoms of the upper atmosphere, and they continuously reach Earth with a speed near to that of light and a flux of around 10,000 per square metre per minute.
By recording the position and the direction of each muon that traverses their detection surface, muon detectors can distinguish cavities from stones.
Speaking to the BBC’s Science In Action programme, co-author of the study, professor Mehdi Tayoubi from the HIP Institute in Paris, said that researchers still don’t know whether this big void is horizontal or inclined and if this void is made by one structure or several successive structures.
On Saturday, Minister of Antiquities Khaled Al-Enany described the discovery as an important discovery, which has drawn the world’s eyes towards Egypt. He added that the project of scanning the pyramids aims to understand the internal structure of the pyramid using new techniques.
“The permanent committee for Egyptian antiquities agreed recently on extending the mission of the team on the project for a new year,” Enany said.
Former Minister of Higher Education and one of the co-authors of the study, Hany Helal, told reporters that the team is trying to understand the internal structure of the pyramids and how this pyramid has been built.
He added that famous Egyptologists, archaeologists, and architects have some hypotheses, and the team is working to give them data.