The Great Pyramid of Giza was constructed 4,500 years ago, from roughly 2580 to 2560 BCE. This marvel of ancient history and architecture is the only survivor of all the ancient Seven Wonders of the World. But even after all those millennia, the site remains shrouded in mystery. One recent discovery in particular, thanks to cutting-edge technology, may have at last unlocked some astonishing new answers.
The Oldest, Most Mysterious Structure In The World
“I think people often assume that all these mysteries of what is in our world are known, but there are places like the pyramids where we simply do not know,” researcher Rob Richardson from the University of Leeds once remarked.
He continued, “The pyramids have been there for thousands of years and we still do not know exactly why they are there, what they were used for, or how they were built.” But an international project aimed to solve at least one of these mysteries using modern technology. And what these scientists found could help to finally unearth one of the many mysteries that archaeologists have been trying to hunt for over the centuries.
On A Mission To Solve Ancient Questions
The Great Pyramid of Giza is by far the most recognized and famous pyramid in the entire world. And even with all of that attention, all of those visitors, and so many scientists studying it for centuries, there yet remain many things still unknown about it, many details and secrets still hidden inside of the ancient stone structure.
But Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities wanted to find out about the pyramid’s full breadth, and so the ScanPyramids mission was born. The University of Cairo, along with the Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute, hired a team of physicists from countries like Japan and France to investigate. They were all hoping to find something big, but they had no idea how gigantic their finding would eventually become.
Aligned With Orion
The Great Pyramid of Giza has long baffled scientists and historians. It is difficult for many to believe that an ancient civilization, with no modern machinery or technology, could have built such precise structures. Beyond their sheer size, the three pyramids that stand by the Great Pyramid all line up almost perfectly with stars of Orion’s Belt directly above them, off by only one-fifteenth of a degree.
So how was an ancient civilization able to pull off such a mathematically-intricate feat? Beyond that, how were they able to build this 479-foot tall structure, which was made up of 2.3 million blocks of stone and whose base spread across 13 acres of land? Soon, one of those questions would be answered by these worldwide physicists.
Previously Uncovered Secrets
Explorers in the past have been able to unlock only some of the secrets of the Great Pyramid. So far, only four known chambers have been found inside. There is a subterranean chamber found at the very bottom of the pyramid’s base that looked to be unfinished. Just above that, explorers found the Queen’s Chamber and the Grand Gallery.
The King’s Chamber was also discovered, and contained a granite sarcophagus that is said to have held King Khufu’s mummy. However, the mummy itself, like all of the other riches that were once stored inside, had been stolen. For years, these were the only four chambers scientists could find. But in a gigantic structure like this, they all knew that there had to be more concealed inside.
Using Technology From Space
The scientists that were flown in for this ScanPyramids mission wanted to explore the pyramid as it never had been explored before. The new method that these physicists were using involved an almost out-of-this-world technology, because it was actually derived from space.
The ScanPyramids project relied on the use of muons, a cosmic ray imaging technology that uses subatomic particles. These muons are able to penetrate even the thickest rocks, including the pyramid’s 15-ton stones, creating an almost X-ray type map without having to knock down any walls. Scientists were hopeful that this method could work, and were just moments away from making a massive discovery.
Mapping Out The Pyramids
Guidelines had long been set that instructed explorers and scientists not to disturb the pyramid in any way. So in order to fully explore what was inside, these scientists had to figure out the least invasive methods available to them. Using this new technology, scientists began to lay down muon sensors throughout the pyramids.
Detectors were put throughout some of the passages already discovered inside of the pyramids, along with outside detectors that were able to survey the entire structure. Some of these were placed at a long distance, while others were set up right next to the pyramid’s sloping sides. It was all going as planned, until an oddity quickly popped up on their radars.
Finding Something Strange
Scans from this muon-based method showed a few voids and anomalies buried deep within the pyramids, but those apparently did not surprise these scientists. According to one archaeologist, “the pyramids’ interiors are far more pockmarked and rubbly than people usually imagine.” But so far one discovery stood out.
Located just near the north-facing slope of the pyramid, an empty space was discovered. Unlike the other small pockets of airspace that these researchers had found, this one seemed to be larger, and it looked as though they were the very first to find it. The scientists began to zero in on this finding, hoping that it could turn into something groundbreaking. But they had different expectations for how it would play out.
The void seemed to be situated right behind a group of chevron-shaped stone blocks. For centuries, these unique structures had been blocked behind layers of outside stones. But as the pyramids aged, they slowly began to reveal themselves. These uniquely shaped stones matched those found in the Queen’s Chamber and the Grand Gallery, and were thought to have been built as a roof-like structure.
Had scientists just found a previously undiscovered entryway for the ancient Egyptians to access their leader’s tomb? They were determined to find out, and began to place even more muon detectors throughout the pyramid. In hopes of learning more about this strange passage, scientists soon stumbled upon an even larger discovery.
In order to learn more about this cavity that muons had detected, the team of scientists exploring the Great Pyramid began installing even more muon-based plates throughout the structure. From the outside, French physicists were using even more “muon telescopes” positioned around the perimeter of the Great Pyramid.
While the stone of the pyramid absorbed these muons, the empty spaces inside the pyramid would let these particles bounce around, allowing scientists to pinpoint exactly where the cavities were located. They were soon able to see a fuller picture of the pyramids, including the small passage that they had previously discovered. But something puzzling was going on.
Making A Jaw-Dropping Discovery
Muon plates that had been planted inside of the Queen’s Chamber came back with something strange. While trying to detect the previously-discovered, very small void in the side slope of the pyramid, it had picked up another space that scientists had not yet seen.
Physicians began examining the results from three different types of muon-detectors. They all came back the same. There was something buried within the Great Pyramid, and it was something that did not show up on any previous maps or drawings of the pyramids. They were not quite sure at the time what they were looking at, but whatever it was, it was about to revolutionize the way people studied these ancient pyramids.
After more tests, scientists were sure that they had found a previously undiscovered void. For over 4,000 years, no one had even seen or detected this. Entire millennia of kingdoms and conquerors had risen and fell, yet no one had seen this part of the pyramid. The void stretched at least 100 feet above the Grand Gallery with similar dimensions.
This massive void was 164 feet long and rose about 26 feet high, with its width estimated at three and a half feet. From their scans, they could not tell if the void was level, or if it was at an incline. “What we are sure about is that this big void is there, that it is impressive, and was not expected by any kind of theory,” the researchers later said. But they had to be sure.
Discovery Of The Century
This structure was so massive and so unexpected, even the scientists were not quite sure if they believed what they saw. For months, they performed backup tests to make sure that the void really did exist. They ran three confirmation tests and, sure enough, the void really was there.
“This is definitely the discovery of the century,” archaeologist and Egpytologist Yukinori Kawae told National Geographic. “There have been many hypotheses about the pyramid, but no one even imagined that such a big void is located above the Grand Gallery.” But a big discovery also meant that there was a ton that scientists had to explore and document, and they began right away to try to get some answers.
What Was This Void?
The finding initially raised more questions than it solved. “ScanPyramids Big Void is not a room or a chamber — we don’t know if its is horizontal or inclined, if it is composed by one or several successive structure, but it’s big,” researchers wrote in their report.
The finding of this void heralded the first large inner structure discovered within this ancient pyramid since the 1800s, and its size was almost unbelievable. But the report stopped short of trying to assign a purpose or use for the void. Instead, forming theories about that was left up to Egyptologists and history experts, who all tried to solve this ancient mystery themselves.
Trying To Discover Purpose
The report went on to say that “this was a study about physics, it was not about Egyptology — we are not claiming anything about the interpretation of this void — we are just claiming that there is a void and that’s all.” The void was hidden for years, and it is not accessible to humans, so no one can be quite sure yet what is inside.
Through inspection of the Great Gallery, it seemed that there were no markings indicating that people had ever tried to access the void above it. Whatever was up there had likely not been seen for 4,500 years, and could possibly still hold treasures buried inside.
Attempting To Provide Answers
Since no one has been able to venture inside of the void, and even machines cannot access it, no one is really sure what lies inside. While some Ancient Egypt enthusiasts are hopeful that it could contain riches that were never found by looters, experts say that is not likely.
“This finding is very exciting, but I do not think it is likely to be some kind of secret chamber,” one archaeologist told The Telegraph upon the void’s discovery. Some experts say that they believe the void was originally a passageway made so that the people building the pyramids had a path for transporting huge blocks of stone. But others are not quite as convinced about that theory — and claim something more intriguing.
A Clue About Pyramid Construction
The dimensions of the void closely resembled those from the Grand Gallery. But while the Grand Gallery served the purpose of connecting the King’s Chamber to the Queen’s Chamber, this void did not seem to connect to anything in particular. While some thought that this passageway had been used for construction purposes, others have theorized that it is a “construction gap.”
According to some theories, the void could have been used to relieve weight on the roof of the Grand Gallery below. But as is the case with all of these other hypotheses, experts are not quite sure. And other discoveries could prove that there are even more mysteries that need solving.
Yet Another Breakthrough?
While the ScanPyramids efforts are mainly focused on using muon technology to map out the pyramids, there are still ongoing efforts that use other methods to try to unlock the ancient secrets hidden within the Great Pyramid’s depths. And one other method may have turned up yet another new discovery.
Using thermal scanning technology, scientists also found that three stones that sat next to each other at the base of the Great Pyramid registered at a much higher temperature than the rest. Could these three strange stones mark the entrance to another previously-unknown void that has yet to be seen by modern eyes?
Breaking It Down
While researchers are not exactly sure what this gigantic void could have been used for, experts say that it helps teams get closer to finally learning a definite answer about the processes behind the pyramid’s construction. According to which theory one believes in, it could help researchers learn about how exactly the ancient civilization was able to move the stones.
On the other hand, the discovery could show researchers just how well Ancient Egyptian architects understood the principles of solid construction. Regardless, scientists across the board agree that this void could be the key to unlocking some of the pyramid’s mysteries, once they are able to get inside and have a better look around.
Will We Ever Get To Look Inside The Big Void?
“I know most people want to know about hidden chambers, grave goods, and the missing mummy of King Khufu,” the author of the report wrote. “None of that is on the table at this point. But the fact that this void is so large warrants further non-invasive exploration.”
In the future, scientists hope to be able to get a robot inside of the void somehow. With the strict guidelines from the Egyptian government, that is, for now, the only way that humankind will get a peek inside the ancient chamber. But that could take years or even decades. And in that time, these muon experts expect to have uncovered many more secrets about ancient civilizations.
More To Come
After this massive find, muon specialists aspire to use the technology to try to unlock more mysteries hidden throughout Egypt. Next, some hope that these scientists will try to locate the burial place of the legendary queen Nefertiti, or explore the hidden chambers of Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings.
For now, researchers call this void “a tribute to humankind.” “It asks a question about what is our future,” the ScanPyramids report says. “If they have been able to do this with the means they had 4,000 or 5,000 years ago and they left this heritage today, what will our own society leave for future generations?”
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