Archaeology

Egyptian Pyramid Scans Reveal New Anomalies

Scans have revealed several anomalies which indicate a discovery could be made in the pyramids by the end of 2016.

New anomalies have been detected on Egypt's pyramids by researchers scanning the monuments with innovative technologies, the Ministry of Antiquities said.

According to preliminary results, thermal "points of interest" were observed on the northern facade of the Great Pyramid at Giza, known as Khufu or Cheops, and on the west face of Red pyramid in Dahshur.

The announcement comes at the end of a three-month project to scan four pyramids which are more than 4,500 years old. They include the Great Pyramid, Khafre or Chephren at Giza, the Bent pyramid and the Red pyramid at Dahshur.

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Scheduled to last one year, the project, called ScanPyramids, uses a mix of innovative technologies such as infrared thermography, muon radiography, and 3-D reconstruction to identify the presence of unknown internal structures and cavities.

It is carried out by a team from Cairo University's Faculty of Engineering and the Paris-based non-profit organization Heritage, Innovation and Preservation (HIP Institute) under the authority of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

"The primary result tells us that we have some good news," Antiquities Minister Mamduh al-Damati said at a news conference. "Although no discoveries have yet been made, scans have revealed several anomalies which indicate that a discovery could be made in the pyramids by the end of 2016."

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Last November the researchers detected a striking thermal anomaly on the eastern side of the Great Pyramid at Giza, which could possibly indicate an unknown cavity or internal structure.

Further analysis of the thermal and infrared survey carried out in November has now revealed a similar anomaly on the northern side of the monument.

"We are not drawing any conclusions at the moment," Mehdi Tayoubi, co-director of the ScanPyramids mission with Hany Helal, professor at Cairo University's Faculty of Engineering and former minister of research and higher education, told Discovery News.

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"This project is evolving in real time according to what happens on the field. Our goal is to inform step by step about all the actions we take," he added.

He said that a new step has been added in the infrared survey process begun in November.

"Because we need to confirm that the anomalies are still there in a long time period and because we need to make hypothesis and simulation, we are going to measure the temperatures during 24 hours for each phase," Tayoubi said.

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The goal is to prepare a long term survey measurement so to eliminate natural factors, such as wind and changing seasons.

Another intriguing anomaly was detected on some of the limestone blocks that make up the western side of Red Pyramid in Dahshur.

"There is a clear difference of temperature, a cold and a hot zone, which is not found on the other sides. The bottom is colder than the top," Matthieu Klein of Canada's Laval University told reporters.

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"It could be because of the wind ... We have no answers yet, that's why we need long time measurements and hypothesis simulations," he said.

The researchers will further investigate the anomalies at the Great Pyramid next month, when plates will be placed inside the monument in an attempt to capture cosmic particles.

The technology relies on the muons that continually shower the Earth's surface. They emanate from the upper layers of Earth's atmosphere, where they are created from collisions between cosmic rays of our galactic environment and the nuclei of atoms in the atmosphere.

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"Just like X-rays pass through our bodies allowing us to visualize our skeleton, these elementary particles, weighing around 200 times more than electrons, can very easily pass through any structure, even large and thick rocks, such as mountains," Tayoubi said.

Plate detectors placed inside the pyramid allow researchers to discern void areas - these are places where muons cross without problem - from denser areas where some muons are absorbed or deflected.

Last month a team led by specialist Kunihiro Morishima, from the Institute for Advanced Research of Nagoya University, Japan, installed some 40 muon detector plates inside the lower chamber of the Bent pyramid at Dahshur. The plates have now been collected.

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"They are in a very good condition, meaning that all the necessary data have been recorded. The team is still developing them," Tayoubi said.

The next step will be to generate muon radiographies images, potentially revealing hidden chambers in the pyramid. The results are likely to be announced in March.

VIEW PHOTOS - Scanning Egypt's Pyramids:

Researchers of the ScanPyramids mission remove the plates previously placed inside the Bent pyramid to capture cosmic particles.

In one of the most ambitious and innovative projects ever, Egypt’s main pyramids will be investigated by a team from Cairo University's Faculty of Engineering, Nagoya University in Japan and Paris-based non-profit organization Heritage, Innovation and Preservation. Cutting-edge technologies like infrared thermography, muon radiography and 3-D reconstruction will look inside four pyramids, which are more than 4,500 years old. They include Khufu, or Cheops, Khafre or Chephren at Giza, the Bent pyramid and the Red pyramid at Dahshur. The current survey focuses on the Bent pyramid, so named because of its sloping upper half. Built by Snefru, founder of the Fourth Dynasty, the monument is the first with smooth faces after generations of stepped pyramids. Cosmic-ray muon radiographies are expected to provide more information about its construction. The work is under the authority of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

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A team led by specialist Kunihiro Morishima, from the Institute for Advanced Research of Nagoya University, Japan, has entered the pyramid to install 40 plates. The monument has two entrances, one on the north side and one on the west side. These entries open onto two corridors leading to two burial chambers arranged one above the other.

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The plates contain two emulsion films that are sensitive to muons, so they basically work as muon detectors. Muons continually shower the Earth's surface. Just like X-rays pass through our bodies allowing us to visualize our skeleton, these elementary particles, weighing around 200 times more than electrons, can easily pass through any structure, even mountains. Plate detectors placed inside the pyramid allow researchers to discern void areas -- that muons cross without problem -- from denser areas where some of them are absorbed or deflected.

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Now covering a surface of about 10 square feet in the pyramid's lower chamber, the plates have been left at the site to accumulate data. In early 2016 the emulsion films will be processed in Cairo. Then they will be analyzed to generate muon radiographies images, potentially revealing hidden chambers in the pyramid. "In case a void is detected, the images generated from the emulsion film analysis show a contrast difference," Mehdi Tayoubi, co-director with professor Hany Helal of the ScanPyramids mission, told Discovery News. "The principle is that you have to count the muons. Then you scan and process the image to generate an image with contrast," he added.

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The difficult part of the technique is producing highly sensitive detectors, which can be either gels like the ones used for silver prints or scintillators. Enough data then needs to be accumulated over days or months to emphasize the contrasts. In order to find out the best chemical formula of the emulsion films, plate samples have already been installed in the Queen Chamber of Khufu's Pyramid. "We need to find the best formula for the environment inside the pyramid. The installation will be completed at a later stage in 2016," Tayoubi said.

Read the article: Pyramid Secret Chambers Sought Using Cosmic Rays