Built over 4,500 years ago, the pyramids of Giza are some of the most celebrated manmade monuments in history. However, no one really knows how these majestic ancient structures were built on such a huge scale, in a relatively short period of time.
Recently, experts have been looking for hidden chambers located within the pyramids in Egypt, as well as for more insight into how these magnificent structures could have been built. Organized by the Paris-based Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute and the Faculty of Engineering in Cairo, the Operation Scan the Pyramids project’s goal is to conduct in-depth examinations of the pyramids employing non-invasive methods including thermal imaging and muon radiography, a Japanese method that has been used to look inside active volcanoes as well as the nuclear reactors of Fukushima.
An initial infrared temperature scan last week of the famous tomb belonging to the pharaoh Tutankhamen, famously known as King Tut, turned up encouraging results: a temperature difference in the northern wall of the tomb, which may point to a hidden cavity behind the wall’s surface. Their work follows up on allegations made earlier in 2015 by Egyptologist Nicholas Reeve of the University of Arizona, who suggested that ultra high-resolution images of Tut’s tomb illustrated hidden doorways leading to formerly unexplored burial chambers, potentially including the final resting place of the famous Queen Nefertiti, who was married to Tutankhamen’s father.
Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry has now announced that a thermal scan of the three ancient pyramids on the Giza plateau, about 20km from Cairo, between 2613 – 2494 B.C during the 4th dynasty, has shown some interesting anomalies. Specifically, a scan of the largest of the three pyramids – known internationally Cheops and locally as Khufu, but frequently referred to simply as the Great Pyramid – displayed higher temperatures in three of the stones at the bottom of the eastern wall. Although authorities cannot say exactly what this anomaly means, they guess that such differences in temperature could mean empty areas inside the structure, the use of different building materials or internal air currents.
An international team – including scientists from France, Japan, Canada and Egypt – carried out thermal scanning at different times of the day and night. They focused specifically on sunrise, when the limestone of the pyramids is heated by the sun from the outside, and on sunset, when the structures are cooling down. Regarding the Khufu pyramid, they discovered that while a lot of the wall heats up and cools down uniformly, a three-stone spot on the eastern wall acted differently. Compared to surrounding stones, this spot displayed a difference in temperature of 6 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit), showing up as a bloom of red on the thermal scans.
By the time Operation Scan the Pyramids finishes at the end of 2016, researchers will have scanned the Great Pyramid, the second largest of the Giza pyramids, as well as the Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid. The aim of the scanning project is to find more anomalies, each providing further clues for Egyptologists to examine in their efforts to solve the everlasting mysteries of the pyramids.