The ScanPyramids mission is an Egyptian-International project designed and led by Cairo University and the French HIP Institute (Heritage Innovation Preservation). This project aims at scanning Old Kingdom Egyptian Pyramids (Khufu, Khafre, the Bent and the Red) to detect the presence of unknown internal voids and structures.
The project, launched in October 2015, combines several non-invasive and non-destructive techniques which may help to a better understanding of their structure and their construction processes and techniques. The team is currently using Infrared thermography, muon tomography, 3D simulation and reconstruction techniques.
ScanPyramids is an interdisciplinary project mixing art, science and technology. On November 2, 2017, the ScanPyramids team announced, through a publication in Nature, its third discovery in the Great Pyramid, a "plane-sized" previously unknown void named the "ScanPyramids Big Void".
On October 15, 2016, ScanPyramids confirmed their first unknown void discoveries thanks to muon tomography in the Great Pyramid. A previously unknown cavity was confirmed on the North-Eastern Edge, roughly at 110m high with similar void volume characteristics as a known "cave" located at 83m on the same edge.
A second void was discovered behind the chevrons area of Khufu's North Face above the descending corridor. This area was investigated after thermal anomalies observation that led the team to position muon emulsion plates in the descending corridor. This void has been more investigated during the year 2017 in order to provide more information about its shape, size, and exact position.
During 2017 more muons emulsion plates were positioned in the descending corridor and in Al-Mamun's tunnel. The void behind the chevrons has been reconfirmed through different "point of views" and its characteristics have been refined. Named "ScanPyramids North-Face Corridor", this void is located between 17 and 23m from the Great Pyramid's ground level, between 0,7m and 2m from the North Face. Its slope is either horizontal or upward slope and it has a corridor like shape.
ScanPyramids Big Void
On November 2, 2017, the ScanPyramids team published in the scientific peer-reviewed journal Nature its third discovery, named "ScanPyramids Big Void". This previously unknown and gigantic void is located just above the known Grand Gallery, in a circumscribed area. Its minimum length is 30m and it has a similar cross-section as the Grand Gallery. The ScanPyramids Big Void has been observed by three teams of physicists from different points of view (2 points of view in the Queen's Chamber and from outside in front of the North Face). Each team has confirmed the discovery of this previously unknown void at certainty level above 5 Sigma.
Three scientific institutions specializing in particle physics have worked independently and each one used a different and complementary muography technique:
- Nagoya University, Japan: Nuclear emulsion plates in the Queen's Chamber under the leadership of Professor Morishima Kunihiro
- High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK), Japan: Scintillator hodoscope in the Queen's Chamber
- Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), France: Muon telescopes with gas detectors positioned outside in front of the Great Pyramid's North Face.
The team has been very cautious about its architectural nature. As it was done for the void discovered behind the chevrons area (ScanPyramids North Face Corridor), new muography observations, from new angles, should be conducted in order to refine the Big Void's architectural characteristics (slope, shape).
This discovery has been featured in many international media as one of the top discoveries of the year 2017 (NBC News, Euronews, Physics World, Science News, Global News, Gizmodo, Business Insider, Altmetric, Egypt Today, NBC, MSN News, Le Monde, CTV, The Franklin Institute, Radio Canada, Sciences et Avenir, RTE, PBS, Yahoo, La Vanguardia, France Info).
On November 2, 2017, the Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, known for several controversies with other egyptologists, and who published few weeks before, with Mark Lehner his latest book, Giza and the Pyramids: A definitive history, told the New York Times: “They found nothing...This paper offers nothing to Egyptology. Zero.”
On November 4, Khaled al-Anany, Egyptian Minister of Antiquities said, during a press conference, that the void space found inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu by the ScanPyramids project is a new revelation that brought the world's attention to Egypt. He added “What was discovered is new and larger than the known cavities, and we’ll continue in our scientific steps”.
Other Egyptologists have welcomed the discovery. Yukinori Kawae told National Geographic “This is definitely the discovery of the century...There have been many hypotheses about the pyramid, but no one even imagined that such a big void is located above the Grand Gallery.”
Lee Thompson, an expert in particle physics at the University of Sheffield (UK) told Science: "The scientists have “seen” the void using three different muon detectors in three independent experiments, which makes their finding very robust." Christopher Morris, physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory called the findings “pretty amazing.” Jerry Anderson who worked on Khafre's Pyramid and was a member of the team of Luis Walter Alvarez, the first scientist to use muography inside a pyramid in the 1965, said to Los Angeles Times, with a laugh: "I am very excited and very pleased,...I wish we had worked in the Great Pyramid, now that I look back on it”.
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We’re avoiding the word ‘chamber', we know that it’s a big void, but we’re not calling it a chamber
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“What was discovered is new and larger than the known cavities, and we’ll continue in our scientific steps,” Anany said
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Peter Der Manuelian, professor of Egyptology and director of the Harvard Semitic Museum, said the discovery was “potentially a major contribution to our knowledge about the Great Pyramid.”
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