Scientists now cosmic scanning the pyramids to reveal secret tombs

28 Oct 2015

A group of international scientists are taking a cosmic approach to investigating the pyramids of Egypt, measuring ‘muons’ to find any hidden chambers within.

This latest attempt to peer into the hidden interiors of the pyramids is “non-destructive”, according to the team of scientists from Egypt, France, Canada and Japan.

Egypt’s antiquities minister Mamdouh Eldamaty earlier said the project would be implemented through “scanning techniques using cosmic rays”, which we now know means muon imaging.

Muons shower our planet’s surface on a continual basis, penetrating rock without causing damage and weighing around 200 times more than electrons.

A special detector rests within the pyramid, or below it if possible, and measures the mouns, which lose weight as they pass through thicker, harder surfaces.

The global approach

The ‘Scan Pyramids’ study comes on the back of several similar and successful investigations in Mexico and Belize, where infrared and muon measuring devices are playing their part in revealing where archaeologists should focus their attention.

Considering any tangible work would ultimately be destructive to varying degrees depending on the approach, non-invasive projects like this sound appealing.

In fact, a similar approach was taken in Fukushima not so long ago, to investigate debris following the tsunami-struck nuclear reactor.

Bent Pyramid

In Egypt, four pyramids will be scanned: two in Giza (including the Great Pyramid of Giza) and the two in Dahshur (including the Bent Pyramid, above), with scientists hoping to improve on projects from 30 years ago, thanks to modern “cutting-edge technology”.

“The idea is to find the solution to the mystery of the pyramids,” said Mehdi Tayoubi, founder of the Paris-based HIP Institute, which is participating in the project.

Eldamaty says the techniques used on the pyramids could also be useful to look for a possible hidden chamber in King Tutankhamun’s tomb.

An excellent description of how the muon imaging process works is available here.

Giza pyramids image at top, and the ‘Bent Pyramid’ image in body, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic