A group of international archaeologists has found a rare void within the oldest of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and the only one that remains mostly intact: the Great Pyramid of Giza. According to them, the secrets kept inside of it remain undiscovered, but the technology they used throughout the two years of investigation demonstrated the first major finding since the 19th century.
With 30 meters of diameter, the void sits above the Grand Gallery of the Khufu’s pyramid — a 47 meters long and 8 meters high corridor that connects the entrance of the Queen’s chamber to the King’s, right in the center of all the structure. These three, along with the Robert’s tunnel and a subterranean chamber, are so far the only rooms found by scientists.
In the report published Thursday in the journal Nature, experts wrote they don’t know exactly which the purpose of the large cavity is. However, they hope this new finding will help them understand more about the method of construction Egyptians used thousands of years ago.
The researchers worked with ScanPyramids, a mission under the French Heritage, Innovation and Preservation Institute, the Faculty of Engineering of Cairo, and the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. Thanks to it, they were able to see inside the rock structure to reveal what’s inside of it without harm.
Using a physic technique called muography, Japanese and French scientists could study the density changes of a kind of particles known as mouns. These fall from the upper atmosphere to Earth and travel almost as fast as light when cosmic rays strike atoms, making them able to get through rough objects just like x-rays.
According to Mehdi Tayoubi at the HIP Institute in Paris, a non-profit organization willing to offer new technologies to study and preserve cultural heritage, this recently-found void has the “same characteristics” of the Grand Gallery. She considered it “really impressive.”
“We don’t know whether this big void is horizontal or inclined; we don’t know if this void is made by one structure or several successive structures,” explained Mehdi Tayoubi from the HIP Institute, Paris. “What we are sure about is that this big void is there; that it is impressive; and that it was not expected as far as I know by any sort of theory.”
The Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as Pyramid of Cheops or Khufu’s Pyramid, was built between the years 2509 to 2483 BC, in the 4th dynasty.
To protect the bodies of him and his queen, the pharaoh Khufu rose the 140 meters in height (460 feet) pyramid with three chambers inside of it: his at the heart of the ancient structure, his queen’s below, and the Great Chamber. This one if the largest pyramids in Egypt at Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo.
Unfortunately, the mummy of King Khufu is missing, and his queens were buried elsewhere.
A wide space recently found
The researchers started wondering about the existence of the void when they placed one of their detectors inside the Queen’s chamber. The saw an impressive number of mouns gathered and passing through the room, making them think there was an open space above them.
They continued making the same experiment one by one, but they always reached the same conclusion: that quantity of mouns couldn’t have other explanation than a large, empty and hidden cavity.
Previous research discovered that there are other compartments inside the Khufu’s Pyramid — above the King’s chamber are five, for example. Most of the experts believe Egyptians placed them to compensate the weight of the stones and prevent possible collapses. Impressively, the constructors made such a magnificent work that the structure remains just as it was built.
However, as Mehdi Tayoubi says, scientists don’t know in which position the void is: if horizontal, or parallel to the Grand Gallery. Likewise, they still wonder which could be the purpose of that specific wide space.
But what’s the void for?
No matter how bad the team wants to know the significance of the void, they have no rush on discovering it by using intrusive techniques.
According to Mohamed Ismail, a spokesman for the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, anyone “can’t touch” the Great Pyramid. However, the ministry invited other researchers to reach further findings by using different techniques or the same already one, but more advanced.
“Even if it is a different team with the same technology,” Ismail said. “Any intrusive technique is out of the question.”
The ministry also wants that this research generates a debate within the scientific community to discuss the significance and importance of the void recently found. However, it dismissed any theory related to any other grand gallery or a burial chamber.
“There is no scientific, archaeological or historical evidence that corroborates this,” said Ismail. “If there is another burial chamber, there would have been an entrance to it.”