Built for Pharaoh Cheops (who is said to have reigned around 2,600 BCE), the Giza pyramid is the largest ever built in ancient Egypt. ScienceAlert became interested to the technology calledmuon tomography» which could allow to discover more about the one which was considered, in Antiquity, as the first of the seven wonders of the world.
Between 2015 and 2017, the project “Scan Pyramidsestablished the existence of two voids in the monument thanks to the analysis of muons. These are elementary particles with negative electrical charges that form when cosmic rays collide with atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere. These particles constantly rain down on Earth (but are harmless) and behave differently depending on whether they come into contact with air or stone. This is precisely what allows researchers to use ultra-powerful detectors also called “muon telescopes” to identify void areas in a building.
The larger of the two cavities is just above the large gallery which leads to what could be the chamber of Pharaoh Cheops. It would be about 30 meters long and 6 meters high according to the 2017 scans. These voids could be two large rooms or several small ones. Scientists hope to find the function of the latter, with the most gratifying possibility being that it is the hidden burial chamber of the pharaoh. Another less exciting hypothesis: these pieces could simply have a technical function in the construction of the pyramid.
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A new exploration planned
A new team of researchers would now like to re-analyze these muons in more detail, with even more powerful technology. “We plan to deploy a telescope a hundred times more powerful than the previous one”writes a team of scientists in a pre-published article on arXiv – which has therefore not yet been reviewed or approved by peers. The detector imagined by the researchers being very wide, it cannot be placed inside the pyramid. The project is therefore to move it along the square base of the monument. It should be so precise that it might even reveal the presence of artifacts.
The research team has already received approval from the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. But all is not settled: the equipment requires time to be built and especially funds. Alan Bross, one of the scientists of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratorydeclares: “We are looking for sponsors. Once found, it will take us about two years to build the detector.” For now, the investments are sufficient only to conduct simulations and design prototypes.
Even once the detector is in place, it will take 2 to 3 years of data collection to exploit the maximum capacity of this technology and complete the study.