Cosmic Rays Reveal Further Secrets of the Bent Pyramid

Cosmic Rays Reveal Further Secrets of the Bent Pyramid

A team of researchers has presented the results of an analysis focused on the internal structure of the Bent Pyramid of pharaoh Sneferu (Snefru), a 4,500-year-old monument named after its sloping upper half.

Researchers from Egypt, Japan, Canada, and France have connected their knowledge and experience to work on the Scan Pyramids project. They are using innovative methods to take a look inside four of the ancient pyramids in Egypt without damaging their structures. Now, the picture they have received of the Bent Pyramid is as clear as if they had used an X-ray.

The study is based on three modern technologies: infrared thermography, 3D scans with lasers, and cosmic-ray detectors. All of them have allowed the researchers to take better look inside the pyramids. Using the infrared thermography technique, the researchers measured the infrared energy emitted from the structures. The results of their testing were used to estimate the temperature distribution inside. Then, the team used lasers to bounce narrow pulses of light off the interiors of the Bent Pyramid. The last part of the research was locating cosmic particles, muons , within the structure, using detector plates.

A depiction of cosmic particles passing through a pyramid. ( Scan Pyramids )

Muons are formed at the moment when cosmic rays hit the Earth’s atmosphere. The particles rain down from the atmosphere, pass through empty spaces, and they can be absorbed or deflected by harder surfaces. They don't affect the human body, but if special detector plates are used, they can be tracked.

Kunihiro Morishima, from the Institute for Advanced Research of Nagoya University, Japan, placed 80 plates in the lower chamber of the Bent pyramid. They covered an area of about 10 square feet (0.93 sq. meters) and stayed there for 40 days. Following an analysis of these plates, the researchers were able to create 3D images of the pyramid, which revealed the shape of all of the chambers inside the pyramid.

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The Tech Times reports that: “Although the scans were not able to detect further chambers that have the size of the upper chamber or beyond the field of view, Scan Pyramid's Mehdi Tayoubi says it is still a scientific breakthrough because it verifies the muography concept used in the Egyptian pyramids.”

Examining the plates. ( Cairo University )

As Mehdi Tayoubi, president of the Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute, and the director of the Scan Pyramids Project told Discovery News :

“From these plates, more than 10 millions of muon tracks were analyzed. We count the muons and according to their angular distribution we are able to reconstruct an image. For the first time ever, the internal structure of a pyramid was revealed with muon particles. The images obtained clearly show the second chamber of the pyramid located roughly 60 feet above the lower one in which emulsions plates were installed.''

The Bent pyramid is located in the royal necropolis of Dahsur, 25 miles (40.23 km) from Cairo. It was built during the reign of pharaoh Sneferu, who ruled Egypt c. 2,600 BC for 30 or even 48 years. Sneferu is known as a great builder of the pyramids. He wanted to create the greatest pyramid in the world, and looking for perfection, he created at least three.

For many decades, Egyptologists have speculated that Sneferu was buried inside the Bent pyramid in an undiscovered burial chamber. However, the recent research has ruled out this hypothesis. The researchers didn't detect any unknown chamber of a size which could be a burial chamber in their scans.

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The Scan Pyramids project began in October 2015, and is being carried out by the authority of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, with the support of researchers from Cairo University's Faculty of Engineering and a non-profit organization called Heritage, Innovation, and Preservation (HIP -based in France), with aid from researchers of the Université Laval of Quebec, Canada, and Nagoya University of Japan.

Pharaoh Sneferu's Bent Pyramid in Dahshur, Egypt. ( Ivrienen/ CC BY 3.0 )

Apart from the Bent Pyramid of Sneferu, scans have a focus on the Red Pyramid in Dahshur , Khufu’s Pyramid (also known as the Great pyramid and Cheops), and Khafre’s Pyramid in Giza.

On January 18, 2016, Ancient Origins reported the first results of the research - the thermographic scans. According to the information presented during the press conference by Matthieu Klein of Canada’s Laval University, there is no clear separation of temperature on the west side of the Red pyramid. The scans have, however, shown two anomalies located on the northern flank of Khufu's Pyramid.

The next steps of the project will be focused on the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza. Using two other types of electronic instruments besides the chemical emulsion films from Nagoya University, the researchers will try to analyze the mysterious hidden chambers located in the pyramid. The team is also participating in the project searching for possible hidden chambers in KV62, known as the tomb of Tutankhamun.

A thermal anomaly detected on the eastern side of the Great Pyramid, also known as Khufu or Cheops, at the ground level. Credit: Philippe Bourseiller / HIP Institute, Faculty of Engineering, Cairo / Ministry of Antiquities.

Featured Image: A 3-D cutaway showing the inside of the Pyramid of Sneferu. Source: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, HIP Institute and the Faculty of Engineering (Cairo University)

Scan Pyramids: Secret passages and rooms in ancient Egyptian structures to be revealed

Secret passageways, rooms and architecture mysteries of Egyptian pyramids are set to be discovered as part of a project to probe these ancient structures with cosmic rays. Further details on the Scan Pyramids project were announced by antiquities minister Mamdouh Eldamaty, who said 2016 will be the 'Year of Pyramids'.

The project will see some of the biggest pyramids in Egypt being scanned with non-destructive techniques that will provide researchers an insight into their design and structure. The mission was launched on 25 October under the authority of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. It is being coordinated by the Faculty of Engineering of Cairo and the French HIP Institute, with further assistance from Université Laval of Quebec and Nagoya University of Japan.

Scientists will use cosmic particles, infrared thermography, photogrammetry and 3D reconstructions to aid their understanding of the pyramids, which date back around 4,500 years. Matthew Klein, from the Laval University, Canada, said the infrared thermography allows scientists to find out what is happening inside a monument from the outside.

Diagram showing how the infrared cameras will work Egypt Antiquities Minsitry

Explaining how it works, he said all materials emit infrared waves that can be measured with cameras and sensors. These can then generate images to show what's going on – including the identification of areas that is losing heat. A cold air current would allow scientists to discover previously unknown cavities, such as rooms or hallways – possibly even the long lost burial place of Nefertiti, thought to be located in a secret chamber in Tutkenkhamun's tomb.

Mehdi Tayoubi, HIP Institute president, said the primary goal of the mission is to form an international team of experts that can look at the theoretical and technological approaches to the archaeological reality of the pyramids.

Eventually they hope to generate a realistic thermal map of the biggest pyramids in Dahshur and Giza. They will do this by taking thermal images of the pyramids at regular intervals, which can then be compared by a computer programme.

Egypt: Location of Queen Nefertiti’s tomb could boost Egyptian tourism Reuters

Another technique being used is that of muons detection – muons are created by collisions between cosmic rays in the upper layers of Earth's atmosphere. They fall to the ground extremely fast and pass through any structure – including pyramids. Detectors placed inside pyramids will allow the team to find contrasts inside these structures.

Scientists will also use drones and photogrammetry to take images from various viewpoints to reconstruct a relief of the object. Researcher Yves Ubelman explained: "First, drones with wings like airplanes. Thanks to their autonomy, they will allow us to obtain the data of large areas and reconstruct the pyramids' environment with details up to 5cm."

By doing this, scientists hope to find traces of ancient ramps and construction paths. "The details of this micro-topography will also give us clues about the position or shape of unexcavated buildings that are visible only thanks to the shape of the ground," he added.

Scan Pyramids will run throughout 2016 and the first pyramid to be surveyed is the Bent Pyramid in Dahshur, built around 2600BC by King Sneferu.

Particles could reveal clues to how Egypt pyramid was built

This file Aug. 19, 2011 photo shows tourists as they leave the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur, about 25 miles south of Cairo, Egypt. An international heritage research group says scientists will begin analyzing radiographic muons, or cosmic particles, collected from the ancient Bent Pyramid built by the Pharaoh Snefru. (AP Photo/Coralie Carlson, File)

An international team of researchers said Sunday they will soon begin analyzing cosmic particles collected inside Egypt's Bent Pyramid to search for clues as to how it was built and learn more about the 4,600-year-old structure.

Mehdi Tayoubi, president of the Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute, said that plates planted inside the pyramid last month have collected data on radiographic particles known as muons that rain down from the earth's atmosphere.

The particles pass through empty spaces but can be absorbed or deflected by harder surfaces. By studying particle accumulations, scientists may learn more about the construction of the pyramid, built by the Pharaoh Snefru.

"For the construction of the pyramids, there is no single theory that is 100 percent proven or checked They are all theories and hypotheses," said Hany Helal, the institute's vice president.

"What we are trying to do with the new technology, we would like to either confirm or change or upgrade or modify the hypotheses that we have on how the pyramids were constructed," he said.

The Bent Pyramid in Dahshur, just outside Cairo, is distinguished by the bent slope of its sides. It is believed to have been ancient Egypt's first attempt to build a smooth-sided pyramid.

The Scan Pyramids project, which announced in November thermal anomalies in the 4,500 year-old Khufu Pyramid in Giza, is coupling thermal technology with muons analysis to try to unlock secrets to the construction of several ancient Egyptian pyramids.

Tayoubi said the group plans to start preparations for muons testing in a month in Khufu, the largest of the three Giza pyramids, which is known internationally as Cheops.

"Even if we find one square meter void somewhere, it will bring new questions and hypotheses and maybe it will help solve the definitive questions," said Tayoubi.

Share All sharing options for: How cosmic rays revealed a new, mysterious void inside the Great Pyramid

It’s not ancient aliens. ScanPyramids

Today, the journal Nature has published a finding that sounds like the setup to a Nicolas Cage movie. A team of physicists and engineers has discovered a previously unknown “void” in the Great Pyramid at Giza in Egypt. And they did it with the help of cosmic rays created at the edge of space.

The “ScanPyramids Big Void,” as scientists are calling it, is around 98 feet long and about 50 feet high. The investigators don’t know what’s inside this void or what its purpose is. Nor do they have any way to currently access it.

But it’s a huge finding. “No very big structure has not been discovered inside the Khufu pyramid since the Middle Ages,” Mehdi Tayoubi, co-founder of the nonprofit that led the research, told reporters Wednesday.

The Great Pyramid, also known as Khufu’s pyramid, was built around 2560 BC to ensure the immortality of the Pharaoh Khufu after his death. The pyramid is one of the wonders of the ancient world, and it’s one of three at the site at Giza (along with the Great Sphinx).

Khufu wasn’t just a king — he was thought to be a god. And so his death commanded something spectacular. At 455 feet, his pyramid stood as the world’s tallest man-made building until the year 1300. That’s 3,800 years. The pyramid was about as old to the ancient Romans as the Romans are to us. And throughout the rise and fall of civilizations, the pyramids have remained a fascination. Even today, they still contain mysteries — like the newly identified void.

But archaeologists say that while it’s still hard to say how archaeologically significant the void is, it’s likely an intentional design element.

“When you’re dealing with creating a monument to house the immortal remains of an individual who bridges heaven and Earth, and whose ascendance to the stars helps assure the perpetual prosperity of Egypt, I don’t think [this void] was a cost-cutting measure,” Adam Maskevich, an archaeologist who was not an author on the paper, explains. (The New York Times explains the void could have been an engineering necessity to lessen the weight of the structure.)

And scientists suspect it’s there because of cosmic rays.

How cosmic rays found the void

An illustration depicts where the research team thinks the void is located in the pyramid. ScanPyramids mission

For two years, the ScanPyramids project, a collaboration between the Heritage Innovation Preservation project in Egypt, Cairo University, and the Egyptian government, has been using advanced techniques from the world of particle physics to learn more about the pyramids.

“Just because a mystery is 4,500 years old doesn’t mean it can’t be solved,” the ScanPyramids project explains.

Subtle techniques from physics are particularly helpful for exploring priceless ancient treasures like pyramids. You can’t knock out walls in the pursuit of a new discovery. So the ScanPyramids team takes a nondestructive approach.

Here’s the simplest way to describe what they did: It’s like they took an X-ray of the structure with cosmic rays.

Recall that when you go for an X-ray, radiation passes through your body. But this radiation gets partially stopped by the denser parts of your body (i.e., bones), while the soft tissue lets most of them pass on through. The X-ray machine is essentially picking up on the shadow of X-rays cast by your bones.

With the pyramid scan, the scientists used not X-rays but cosmic rays. These are sprays of high-energy subatomic particles that shower us every day.

Kyle Cranmer, a particle physicist at New York University, explains how cosmic rays form. It starts with huge energetic events like exploding stars. These events shoot jets of atomic nuclei across the universe at speeds nearing the speed of light. When these high-energy particles reach Earth, they slam into our atmosphere like shotgun pellets and “hit the nuclei of other atoms” in our atmosphere, Cranmer says.

When those atomic nuclei from space hit those atoms in our atmosphere at near the speed of light, they burst open, spilling out the subatomic particles that make up all the matter in the universe: electrons, positrons, neutrinos, muons, and so on. (This is exactly what scientists try to replicate with particle accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider.)

Some of these particles are very short-lived: They fall apart in a fraction of a second. But muons — which are a heavy version of the electron — are heavy and stable enough to reach the ground.

“They [muons] are going through us right now — thousands going through us every second,” Cranmer says. (You can actually build your own cosmic ray detector at home, and it really doesn’t seem all that hard. Even your smartphone can be turned into a cosmic ray detector.)

Those muons rocket down to Earth at 98 percent the speed of light — so fast they experience the time dilation predicted by Einstein’s theory of special relativity. They’re supposed to decay in just 2 microseconds, which would mean they’d barely get 2,000 feet down from the top of the atmosphere before dying. But because they’re moving so fast, relative to us, they age much more slowly. (A similar thing happens to Matthew McConaughey’s character in Interstellar.)

When they hit objects on the ground, they act exactly like X-rays: Dense objects absorb them less dense objects let them pass through. The ScanPyramids team used photographic plates sensitive to muons. These photographic plates were placed inside the already-explored chambers of the pyramid and around the outside of the structure. The data from each plate was then combined to make a map of the void.

A muon detector set up outside the Great Pyramid. ScanPyramids

Muon emulsions film is set up in Khufu Queen’s Chamber. ScanPyramids

And the researchers found that the muon pattern observed in these photographic plates looked a lot like the pattern of muons from the pyramid’s grand gallery. That makes them confident that what they are observing is truly an empty space and not just a region of less dense rock.

The team previously had success using these techniques to map the (already known) internal structure of the Bent Pyramid, a smaller pyramid in Egypt. No new voids were found on that investigation.

Okay, so what might be the purpose of this void?

The Great Pyramid is a wonder of the ancient world built around 2400 BC experts still don’t know exactly how it was constructed. The void is completely sealed off from the known passageways in the pyramid. There’s no way to currently get to it. And so Nature’s finding opens more questions than it provides answers.

“This is an exciting new discovery, and potentially a major contribution to our knowledge about the Great Pyramid,” Peter Manuelian, a Harvard Egyptologist not involved in the research, says in an email.

A new chamber could provide clues to how the pyramid was constructed. Or, more tantalizingly, it could contain treasure. The Great Pyramid was ransacked and looted millennia ago. This void could represent the last untouched portion of the structure.

But it’s too soon to say any of this. “Most people want to know about hidden chambers, grave goods, and the missing mummy of King Khufu. None of that is on the table at this point,” Manuelian says.

The ScanPyramids team currently has no concrete plan to get inside the void, and they have much more work to do to pinpoint its location in the pyramid. The muons only give a blurry, rough sketch.

“For the time being we cannot allow ourselves [to start drilling bore holes into the void],” says Hany Helal, vice president of the Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute, which runs the ScanPyramid project. “We need to continue the research with nondestructive techniques, which will allow us to have a complete picture of what is inside.”

Once there’s consensus on the exact dimensions of the void and its location, then a team can drill a small hole and deploy a robot drone to explore it.

“We can’t allow for trial and error,” Helal says.

After all, this is perhaps the most famous building on Earth.

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How cosmic powers will help unlock the secrets of the pyramids

HOW can cosmic rays help archaeologists peer through stone deep into the heart of a pyramid? It takes power on an intergalactic scale — and the ghostly impressions it leaves behind.

Seen in a new light . A year-long survey aims to peer deep into the heart of the pyramids to learn the secrets of their construction. Source: AP Source:AP

HOW can cosmic rays help archaeologists peer through stone deep into the heart of a pyramid? It takes power on an intergalactic scale — and the ghostly impressions these particles leave behind.

Late last month the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities announced it will be conducting an extensive, high-tech survey of several key pyramids in an effort to better understand how they were built.

Then there’s the enticing idea of discovering hidden chambers.

So how do cosmic rays play a part in the Scan Pyramids mission?

Ghost particles . Short-lived muons, created from the impact of cosmic rays with our atmosphere, can pass deep through rock before being absorbed.

𠇌osmic rays produce muons when they hit the atmosphere,” says Swinburne University astrophysicist Dr Alan Duffy. “It works just like a doctor would X-ray your arm where the bone blocks the X-rays leaving a shadow on the film print and you see a broken arm because X-rays fly through the bit where the bone should be.”

In the case of the pyramids, such a break would be a chamber. Or a passage.

And instead of artificial X-rays, it’s naturally-produced muons.

It’s been used to look inside volcanoes. It’s been used to peer into chaos of Fukushima’s damaged nuclear reactors.

It’s just that the technology has advanced considerably since it was first used 40 years ago to survey the Second Pyramid of Chephren.

Now, muons will be used to peer deep into Khufu and Khafre’s pyramids on the Giza plateau, and the Bent and Red pyramids at Dahshur.

The year-long project kicks off this month.

Ghost hunting . A muon sensor placed in a pyramid’s burial chamber can detect the muons which flash through it — allowing physicists to extrapolate the direction from which it came and what speed it was moving.

Cosmic rays are some of the most energetic particles known, sped up to near light-speed by exploding stars or blockholes, says Dr Duffy.

These then travel trillions of kilometres through space before slamming into the Earth’s atmosphere.

“When a cosmic ray crashes into our atmosphere it can produce a heavier cousin of the electron, called a muon, which can fly through tens of metres of rock before finally stopping,” Dr Duffy says.

More than 600 of these particles ran down through your body every minute, with no effect.

But they do react with certain types of gas — causing them leave a briefly glowing trail.

These trails can be captured, and measured to reveal how energetic the muon was.

“This makes them perfect to image the inside of a pyramid by placing a muon detector in the middle of it and watching what makes it through the rock,” Dr Duffy says.

The patterns imprinted on the muon sensor tells a tale that can be extrapolated into a 3D image of a structure.

“In a pyramids the walls will block most of the particles from space but if we see more streaming in through from a certain direction we know that there’s a 𠆋reak’ in the wall. This may mean there is a secret chamber in that direction.”

However, it’s not a process that will produce an X-ray image within minutes.

It likely take most of the year-long duration of the project for a muon detector to build up a picture of a pyramid’s interior.

Getting warmer . Variations in temperature revealed by infra-red scans can provide clues of everything from cavities through to how much weight a rock is bearing.

The movements of muons aren’t the only new tool being used in this latest survey of Egypt’s key pyramids.

Ground penetrating radar again be used to send pulses of energy deep into the rock and measure how it is reflected back. Discrepancies in the timing of each return pulse will be produced by any voids it may hit. Then there’s the way different substances — such as metals — can reflect more.

The pyramids will also be electrified.

Electrical-resistivity probes with tap into the structures’ electrical flows. Differing types of stone and brick produce different results.

Lasers will be projected to map the position and characteristics of every block. Thermal imaging will seek out any odd changes of temperature on the surface and internal walls of each structure.

Then there will be the drones scouring the countryside, further adding to the mass of imagery recording the pyramids themselves and the terrain surrounding them.

But none of these offer the same potential to take as broad and deep an image of the insides of a pyramid as a muon detector.

Great Pyramid’s secret rooms revealed: Two mysterious ‘cavities’ are uncovered in Egypt’s 4,500-year-old monument

Experts have now confirmed the existence of hidden space in the pyramid using radiography scanning.

Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza could contain two previously unknown ‘cavities’.

Experts confirmed the existence of the mysterious cavities on Saturday after scanning the millennia-old monument with radiography equipment.

It follows an announcement by the antiquities ministry on Thursday that ‘two anomalies’ were found in the pyramid built 4,500 years ago under King Khufu.

They said they were conducting further tests to determine their function, nature and size.

A 3D cutaway view of the Great Pyramid of Giza revealing its interior chambers. Experts confirmed the existence of the mysterious cavities on Saturday after scanning the millennia-old monument with radiography equipment

The north face of the Khufu pyramid which was 4,500 years ago. Two previously undiscovered cavities have been detected inside the structure

Experts from the Operation ScanPyramids team investigate the inside of the ancient structure

At 146 metres (480 feet) tall, the Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu, named after the son of Pharaoh Snefru, is considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

It has three known chambers, and like other pyramids in Egypt was intended as a pharaoh’s tomb.

‘We are now able to confirm the existence of a ‘void’ hidden behind the north face, that could have the form of at least one corridor going inside the Great Pyramid,’ scientists from Operation ScanPyramids said in a statement.

Another ‘cavity’ was discovered on the pyramid’s northeast flank, said the researchers who are using radiography and 3D reconstruction for their study.

Egyptians ride their carts past the Great Pyramid of Cheops, aka Pyramid of Khufu or the Great Pyramid of Giza. Two previously unknown cavities have been uncovered inside the structure

Researchers work on muons emulsion plate setup in the Khufu pyramid’s lower chamber

A 3D graphic shows what the he Khufu pyramid would have looked like when it was constructed 4,500 years ago

A 3D graphic shows the known structures inside the Khufu pyramid

‘Such void is shaped like a corridor and could go up inside the pyramid,’ Mehdi Tayoubi, founder of the Paris-based Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute, told Seeker.

He said that currently no link can be made between the two cavities.

Operation ScanPyramids began in October last year to search for hidden rooms inside Khufu and its neighbour Khafre in Giza, as well as the Bent and Red pyramids in Dahshur, all south of Cairo.

The project applies a mix of infrared thermography, muon radiography imaging and 3D reconstruction – all of which the researchers say are non-invasive and non-destructive techniques.

Previous scans using muons at the Bent Pyramid, 25 miles south of Cairo, gave the first detailed scans of the pyramid’s internal structure. The 3D images show the internal chambers of the 4,600-year-old structure, as well as clearly revealing the shape of its second chamber, 60 feet above it (illustrated)

The Bent Pyramid in Dahshur (pictured), is distinguished by the bent slope of its sides. It has two entrances, which opens onto two corridors leading to two burial chambers arranged one above the other

Egyptian and foreign experts have begun unraveling their mysteries with the help of space particles. The team are using ‘cosmic rays’ to create maps that show the internal structures of these ancient wonders – and they say they could hold some surprises

Thermal ‘anomalies’ were detected on the Great Pyramid. the three stones with greater temperatures than the surrounding stones (shown in red) first raised hopes there may be a hidden chamber inside

Dr Zahi Hawass (pictured outside the Great Pyramid), a leading Egyptian archaeologist and Egypt’s former head of antiquities has been working with a team of French researchers who have been conducting the scans

Scientists have been using a muon detecting machine (pictured) to scan the internal structure of the Great Pyramid of Giza

The project will begin south of Cairo with the scanning of the so-called Bent Pyramid at Dashour, followed by the nearby Red Pyramid. Later, the two largest pyramids on the Giza plateau will also be scanned. The structures are over 4,500 years old


Infrared thermography – Infrared detects infrared energy emitted from object, converts it to temperature, and displays an image of its temperature distribution to reveal objects that may be hidden.

3D scans with lasers – Lasers bounce narrow pulses of light off the interiors of a structure to map it in detail. Once the scanning is complete, the data can be combined into a highly detailed 3-D model.

Cosmic-ray detectors – This detects muons that are created when cosmic rays hit the atmosphere. Muons pass harmlessly through people and buildings.

Muons traveling through rock or other dense material will slow and eventually stop. The idea is to catch the muons after theyve passed through an pyramid and measure their energies and trajectories. Researchers can then compile a 3D image that reveals hidden chambers,

Muons are ‘similar to X-rays which can penetrate the body and allow bone imaging’ and ‘can go through hundreds of metres of stone before being absorbed,’ ScanPyramids explained in a statement.

‘Judiciously placed detectors – for example inside a pyramid, below a potential, unknown chamber – can then record particle tracks and discern cavities from denser regions.’

The research team carries out analysis during scanning of the Khufu pyramid

Engineers describing the muon telescope technology to Egypt Antiquities Minister Dr. Khaled El-Enany (left) and Dr. Zahi Hawass (second left), who heads up the egyptologist committee

An in-depth thermal survey was conducted by Laval University (Canada) to confirm that this area of the pyramid was a point of interest

The ScanPyramids team inspecting the north face of the pyramid

Aluminum plates containing emulsion films that are sensitive to Cosmic Muons were installed at the bottom of the descending corridor in order to “see” potential voids above them. The films collected Muon information during 67 days before being analyzed at Nagoya University

In May, archaeologists revealed 3D scans taken using muons of the 4,500 year old Bent Pyramid at the royal necropolis of Dashur.

These scans revealed the pyramid’s internal structure, clearly showing a second chamber around 60 feet above a lower chamber.

‘For the first time ever, the internal structure of a pyramid was revealed with muon particles,’ Mehdi Tayoubi, co-director of the ScanPyramids andpresident of the Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute told Discovery in May.

Some had suggested pharaoh Sneferu was buried inside the pyramid in a hidden chamber, but the latest scans have ruled out that possibility.


For more than 4,500 years, Egypt’s pyramids have kept their secrets hidden deep within the labyrinth of passages and chambers that lie inside their towering stone structures.

But the long-running row over whether the Great Pyramid of Giza is hiding a network of previously undiscovered tunnels behind its stone walls has now been answered.

The researchers confirmed the find using cosmic particles known as muons to scan the Great Pyramid of Giza.

They used the scans to create maps to reveal the internal structure of the 479 feet (146m) high pyramid.

Archaeologists and physicists used subatomic particles known as muons to scan the Great Pyramid of Giza (pictured) in an attempt to image the chambers and tunnels hidden beneath its stone

Last year thermal scanning identified a major anomaly in the Great Pyramid, the largest and oldest of the pyramids at Giza and one of the seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Those scans identified three adjacent stones at its base which registered higher temperatures than others.

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo on Thursday began putting on display the country’s oldest papyruses, which date back 4,500 years, detailing the daily life of the pyramid-builders.

This led to theories that they may be hiding a secret chamber that had yet to be discovered.

A team of experts then set up the ScanPyramid’s project to use muons, tiny subatomic particle that are typically produced by cosmic rays smash into atoms on Earth, to peer through the Pyramid’s huge stone blocks, some of which weight up to 15 tons.

Dr Hawass has in the past been sceptical of the usefulness of conducting such scans.

He recently clashed publicly with British Egyptologists over their theory that a secret burial chamber may be hidden behind the walls of Tutankhamun’s tomb in his pyramid in the Valley of the Kings.

In late 2015, Egypt started radar scans of Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings in southern Egypt, after a British archaeologist theorised that Nefertiti was buried in a secret chamber there.

Nicholas Reeves suggested that Tutankhamun’s tomb was in fact Nefertiti’s, and when the boy king died unexpectedly at a young age, he was rushed into her tomb’s outer chamber.

But Egyptologists have since disagreed on whether there is a secret chamber in the tomb and further analysis is expected.

The ScanPyramids team is still acquiring muon data inside Khufu’s Queen Chamber with other emulsion films and an electronic scintillator. They expect to have the results of the analysis of those instruments during the first three months of 2017

What is inside the great pyramids?

Probably not a rumpus room or breakfast nook. Here are the latest results from the Scan Pyramids Project.

In 1839, when British engineer John Shae Perring first opened the northern entrance to Sneferu's Bent Pyramid at Dahshur, he faced an immediate problem there was a rush of wind which blew so strongly that "the lights would with difficulty be kept in". He concluded that there must have been another opening.

He was right: there was, on the western side of the pyramid. However in 1839 the western entrance was totally walled-up.

Recent visitors inside the Bent Pyramid have also encountered a breeze, leaving them to wonder how the draft was vented. The theory is that there are other chambers inside the pyramid that remain undiscovered.

And here is our chance to finally find out.

"The primary results tell us that we have some good news." This month, the Egyptian Minister for Antiquities, Dr. Mamdouh el-Damaty announced the results of phase two of the Scan Pyramids Project. Or rather, hinted at results. El-Damaty teased us with, "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."

Recently, an international team of researchers have been scanning four of Egypt's largest pyramids: those of Khufu (the Great Pyramid) and Khafre at Giza, and King Sneferu's Bent and Red Pyramids at Dahshur.

It says a lot about the ingenuity of the ancient Egyptians that, 4,500 years after they were built, we need to employ some of the most advanced technology available to try and figure out how they did it.

Using infrared thermography, "hot spots", or, more officially, "points of interest", were observed on the northern facade of the Great Pyramid, and on the west face of Red pyramid in Dahshur. These spots were several degrees warmer than the surrounding stones, which could indicate empty areas behind the stones. Could they be passages or chambers? These scans are being repeated to confirm the initial results.

The project's next step was to investigate the pyramids with technology that utilises particle physics!

Think of it kind of like a giant x-ray using cosmic particles called muons. Metal plates were placed inside Sneferu's Dahshur pyramids to capture the muons that continually shower the earth's surface.

Muons detection plates being set up in the Lower Chamber of Sneferu's Bent Pyramid at Dahshur.

Muons are created from collisions between cosmic rays and the nuclei of atoms in our atmosphere. Just like x-rays pass through our bodies, muon particles can very easily pass through any structure: even pyramids.

The plate detectors allow the researchers to identify voids inside the pyramid where muons cross without any hindrance, compared with denser areas where some muons are absorbed or deflected.

The Muon detection scans have been completed on the Bent Pyramid and are now being analysed. Here's hoping that the source of Perring's bothersome breeze will be discovered.

In a month, the muon detection team will move onto Khufu's Great Pyramid at Giza to further investigate the source of those hot-spots, and search for hidden chambers that have long been rumoured to be within the massive bulk of the pyramid.

The results are likely to be announced in March. The Scan Pyramids Project, together with the examination into Nefertiti's hidden chambers in Tutankhamun's tomb, could see 2016 being a very big year in Egyptology!

The fun image above is from "Cvltvre Made Stvpid" by Tom Weller.

Satisfy your passion for ancient Egypt.
NILE Magazine June-July 2017 is out now. Inside:
- The Tomb-1000 years of robbery and reuse.
- Egypt's first ever funerary garden discovered.
- World Museum's new ancient Egypt gallery.
- Art and Archaeology meet: the two worlds of Susan Osgood.
- The Royal Tombs of Ancient Egypt.
- Aswan's powerful governors.
- On This Day in Egyptology history.
- Plus much more.

Cosmic Ray Tech May Unlock Pyramids' Secrets

A new generation of muon telescopes has been built to detect the presence of secret structures and cavities in Egypt’s pyramids, a team of researchers announced on Friday.

Built by CEA (French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission) the devices add to an armory of innovative, non-destructive technologies employed to investigate 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.

The project, called ScanPyramids, is scheduled to last one year and is being 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.

International researchers from Nagoya University and KEK (High Energy Accelerator Research Organization) in Japan and Laval University, Quebec, Canada, have also joined the project, which is separate from the search for the secret room in King Tut’s tomb.

“Now we welcome new researchers from the Irfu, a CEA fundamental research team,” 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, said.

Irfu, which stands for Institute of Research into the Fundamental Laws of the Universe, gathers almost 800 researchers on astrophysics, nuclear physics and particle physics.

“These scientists have built dedicated muon telescopes for our mission. They are actually under construction and being tested in the CEA laboratories at Saclay, France,” Tayoubi told Discovery News.

“It is really exciting to see how a technology that just came out from a fundamental research laboratory can help us understand 4,500-year-old massive monuments with non visible physics particles,” he added.

The new muon devices rely on micro-pattern gas detectors called Micromegas. Extremely precise, they are used to reconstruct particles tracks in high energy physics. For example, CEA’s Micromegas have been installed in the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility.

Such muon telescopes will be used in addition to the infrared thermography, muon radiography, and 3-D reconstruction technologies that have already been employed to investigate the pyramids.

So far the researchers have detected striking thermal anomalies on the eastern and northern side of the Great Pyramid at Giza, which could possibly indicate an unknown cavity or internal structure.

A team led by specialist Kunihiro Morishima, from the Institute for Advanced Research of Nagoya University, Japan, installed 40 muon detector plates inside the lower chamber of the Bent pyramid at Dahshur 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.

“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.

While the Japanese muon detectors are used inside the pyramids, the new moun telescopes, using gas detectors, will be used outside the pyramids.

“In this way, we can for example better understand some thermal anomalies that have been spotted,” Tayoubi said.

“We are not in a hurry to make discoveries as we rather want to build this project step by step. Our goal is to inform about all the actions we take. We hope that other labs with very innovative technologies will join us,” Tayoubi said.

The researchers have detailed their findings so far in this video.

The next step will be to announce the first results from the moun detectors placed inside the Bent pyramid at Dahshur.


The Red Pyramid at Dashur has the second largest base of any pyramid in Egypt (only slightly smaller then the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza) each side measures 220m (722 feet). However, with it’s sides sloping at 43°22?, it is substantially shorter at 104 meters (343 feet). Nevertheless, it is the fourth highest pyramid ever built in Egypt, with almost 160 layers of stone. Stripped from its limestone casing, this pyramid reveals the reddish sandstone used to build most of its core. This explains its modern-day name, the Red Pyramid. Its Ancient Egyptian name was “The Shining One”.

The severe structural problems encountered while building the Bent Pyramid South of Dashur, led Snofru (Sneferu) to build yet another pyramid, at a small distance to the North. Significantly, the Red Pyramid was the first successful, true, cased Pyramid built in Egypt, ushering in the era of the Giza style pyramids.

Fig. 1 The Red Pyramid of Snofru (Sneferu) near Dashur

Built by Khufu’s father, Snefru, what really makes this pyramid special today is the lack of crowds and circus atmosphere that plagues the Giza Plateau, along with the fact that it can currently be entered without limitation.

Fig. 1b Pyramids of Dashur (fragment of the panorama). Click on the link above to view the entire panorama (JPG – 380KB).
Note: Remember to enlarge image if you have the “automatic image resizing” enabled.
Photo courtesy of Frank Dörnenburg

Tura limestone was used as casing stone to cover the pyramid. Though some casing still remains, most has been removed. However, about every twentieth casing stone discovered had inscriptions on the back sides. Some were inscribed with the cartouche of Snefru while others had inscriptions in red paint naming the various work crews, such as the “Green Gang” or the “Western Gang”. Snefru’s cartouche was an important discovery, particularly since there are no identifying inscriptions within the pyramid.

East of the pyramid is what remains of a mortuary temple, as well as the first capstone (Pyramidion) ever found belonging to an Old Kingdom Pyramid. It was recovered in fragments and reconstructed. The mortuary temple itself, though nothing much remains, is significant because Snefru pioneered the east west alignment of Egyptian temples to match the path of the sun.

The Red Pyramid History

The inscriptions found on the back of the casing stones gave us clues to how long the pyramid took to build and also revealed the sequence of work that took place. An inscription found at the base of this pyramid has shown that work had started during the year of the 15th cattle count of Snofru’s reign. Since the cattle counts were held at irregular intervals during this reign, this refers to somewhere between Snofru’s 15th and 30th year. It is very likely that the pyramid construction was started at the time when structural problems encountered when building the Bent Pyramid forced the builders to temporarily abandon this project.

Interestingly, a second inscription found 30 courses of stones higher is dated 2 to 4 years later than the inscription found at the base. This gives an idea about the speed at which the Egyptians were able to build a monument like this pyramid. Within four years, 30 percent of the pyramid had been completed, and the entire pyramid was finished in about seventeen years.

There is little doubt that Snofru was finally buried in this pyramid, although the fragments of human remains found inside the burial chamber are not certain to have been his. Interestingly, during the reign of Pepi I of the 6th Dynasty, this pyramid along with its southern neighbor, the Bent Pyramid, was considered as one estate.

The Geometry of the Red Pyramid

The Red Pyramid was built with a slope of only 43°22?. Its base length is 220 meters, that is 32 meters more than the Bent Pyramid. Its height is the same as the Bent Pyramid.

  • base length: 220 m
  • slope: 43 o 22?
  • height: 104 m
  • burial chamber: 4.18 x 8.55 m (height: 14.67 m)

Fig. 2 The Red Pyramid and its internal structure.
Source: Lehner, Complete Pyramids, p. 104-105.

The broader base and lower slope were intended to better spread the mass of this pyramid and thus avoid the structural problems that had temporarily halted works on the Bent Pyramid.

The internal structure of this pyramid is a further continuation of the pyramid at Meidum and the Bent Pyramid. Contrary to this latter monument, however, there is only one internal structure, making it a lot more simple.

The entrance is located 28 m high up in the Northern face of the pyramid.
A descending passage (at an angle of 27 degrees) leads down for 62.63 m to a short horizontal corridor 7.4m long. This is followed by two almost identical antechambers with corbelled roofs. Both antechambers measure 3.65 by 8.36 m and are 12.31 m high.

The burial chamber can only be reached via a short passage which opens high up in the wall of the second antechamber. The burial chamber measures 4.18 by 8.55 m. Its corbelled roof goes up to a height of 14.67 m. It is located well above ground level, in the core of the pyramid.

The chapel built against the Eastern face of the pyramid was finished hastily, probably after the death of Snofru. It is somewhat more elaborate than the eastern chapel of the Red Pyramid or the pyramid at Meidum in that it houses an inner sanctuary, flanked by two smaller chapels.

There is no trace of a causeway leading down to the Valley Temple, of which few remains were found at the end of the 19th century.

In fact, all three of the chambers in this pyramid have corbelled ceilings, with between eleven and fourteen layers. Even with some two million tones of stone above, this ceiling design is so strong that there are no cracks or structural problems even today.

Fig. 3 The Red Pyramid, Corbelled Ceiling

A short passage on the south side of the first chamber leads to a second chamber. These first two chambers are at ground level, while a third chamber is higher, built within the masonry of the pyramid itself.

The second chamber is unusual in that it lies directly under the apex of the pyramid, or center point of the pyramid. It is one of the only pyramids in Egypt to have this design layout. The final chamber, with its entrance passageway about 25 feet above the floor of the second chamber, can be accessed by a staircase (of modern construction).

Egyptologists believe the final chamber was intended to be the actual burial chamber. The floor has been excavated in an unsuccessful attempt to find other passageways.

Design of the Red Pyramid

It appears that the Red Pyramid design was based on the pentagon.

Each triangular segment of a pentagon has 72° at the central point (360°/5=72°).
Using 4 of the 5 triangles of a pentagon a pyramid can be made
(with a base equal to the base of the pentagon’s side)
that will have the same proportions as the Red Pyramid.

Fig. 4a
The pentagon and the red pyramid – perspective view.
© 2004 by

Fig. 4b
The pentagon and the red pyramid – top view.
© 2004 by

Using very basic reasoning we can see that the angle of the slope of the pyramid
(? ) can be found from this equation cos ? = tan 36°, which gives ?= 43°24?.

This theoretical slope angle of 43°24? ( 43.402680°) is practically identical
to the measured slope angle of the Red Pyramid: 43° 22?.

The Bent Pyramid

Two slope angles of the Bent Pyramid match a design based on a HEXAGON (for the lower part)
and a PENTAGON (for the upper part) principles:

The Bent Pyramid – slope angle:

Note: For hexagon: cos ? = tan 30° –> ?= 54° 44?

Fig. 5 The Bent Pyramid

Fig. 6 The hexagon principle gives the slope angle
for the base of the Bent Pyramid.
© 2004 by

Image Source:

PS Simple method of drawing regular pentagon

Copyright 2017 A. Sokolowski

For the angle of the Great Pyramid, any theory of the base, combined with any theory of the height, yields a theoretic angle but the angles actually proposed are the following (Source: Page 184, The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh by Sir W.M.Flinders Petrie 1883):

Angle of casing measured

By theory of 34 slope to 21 base
Height : circumference :: radius to circle
9 height on 10 base diagonally
7 height to 22 circumference
area of face = area of height squared
(or sine) = cotangent, and many other relations)

51º 51? 20?
51º 51? 14.3?
51º 50? 39.1?
51º 50? 34.0?
51º 49? 38.3?

Fig. 7 The Great Pyramid design principle
Related link: Geometry of the Great Pyramid

Links and Resources

Worth a Look

When ancient architects completed construction on the Great Pyramid at Giza, they left behind the greatest riddle of the engineering world how did builders lift limestone blocks weighing an average of two and a half tons, 480 feet up onto the top of the pyramid? For centuries, adventurers and Egyptologists have crawled through every passageway and chamber of the Great Pyramid, measuring and collecting data in an attempt to determine how it was built. For the first time, a revolutionary theory argues that the answer may be inside the pyramid. Architect Jean-Pierre Houdin has devoted his life to solving this mystery by creating incredibly accurate blueprints of the Great Pyramid, using cutting-edge 3-D software. Unlocking the Great Pyramid follows Houdin and renowned Egyptologist Bob Brier in Giza as they put Houdins theory to the test.

Based on the author’s work in Egypt in the 1880s, this unusual volume addresses one of history’s greatest puzzles -how were the pyramids of Gizeh built? Before Petrie undertook this study, the Great Pyramid was a byword for paradox – something that was generally familiar, yet not accurately known. No measurements or detailed examination had been performed. Petrie set out to apply mathematical methods to the study of the pyramids and surrounding temples, with the objective of understanding the methods and abilities of the ancient workers. The result, presented in this volume, is a complete set of measurements of the pyramids, both inside and outside. These provide the foundation for the rest of the book, which deals with the architectural ideas of the pyramid builders, the mechanical methods they used, and a comparison of previous theories with the facts that Petrie had newly established.

Another Edition: Petrie, W. M. F. The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh. London. 1883

More Subject Related Books

International explorer, archaeologist and author Jonathan Gray has traveled the world to gather data on ancient mysteries. He has penetrated some largely unexplored areas, including parts of the Amazon headwaters. The author has also led expeditions to the bottom of the sea and to remote mountain and desert regions of the world. He lectures internationally.

“Dead Men’s Secrets” by Jonathan Gray is 373 pages of discovering ancient technology and lost secrets.
Do not miss his new books that followed “Dead Men’s Secrets”:

Book 1 – “The Killing Of… PARADISE PLANET” lays out stunning evidence of a once-global paradise,
with a temperature-controlled climate, idyllic landscape and long-lived human giants… but a super culture
ready to wipe itself out. The world BEFORE the Great Flood of 2345 BC

Book 2 – “SURPRISE WITNESS” shows what happened DURING that great Deluge – the cosmic calamity that ripped the Earth to shreds and wiped out the original Mother Civilization. Not only were the antedeluvian people buried, but their technological achievements were destroyed, including all form of machinery and construction. The skeptic may shout himself hoarse. But this event surely happened.
We have evidence that is more substantial than for any other event of history.

Book 3 – “The Corpse CAME BACK!” Now comes the fast moving, fascinating story of the settling down
of Planet Earth AFTER the Flood, and its effect upon human history.

Unique features

Of all the pyramids in Egypt, none is as impressive as the Great Pyramid. It is believed to have been built with more than 2.3 million stone blocks , experts estimate that the Great Pyramid of Giza has a total weight of around 6.5 million tons. Archaeological studies of the Pyramid have revealed that its builders used around 5.5 million tons of limestone, 8,000 tons of granite (imported from the Aswan quarries about 800 kilometers away), and 500,000 tons of mortar.

The Great Pyramid is also the only pyramid of eight sides known in Egypt. This was first observed in 1940 when the British Air Force pilot, P. Groves, flew over the Pyramid and noticed the concavity in the Pyramid.

IES Edwards, An English Egyptologist regarded as a leading expert on the pyramids wrote:

“In the Great Pyramid, the packing blocks were placed in such a way that they leaned slightly towards the center of each course, with the result that a notable depression runs through each face, a shared peculiarity, as far as is known, by no other pyramid ”( The Pyramids of Egypt , 1975, p. 207).

While the above features are very impressive, what we have learned in recent years about the Pyramid could change our complete understanding of its purpose.

One of the most fascinating studies regarding the Great Pyramid of Giza was done in 2017 when researchers Mikhail Balezin , Kseniia V. Baryshnikova Polina Kapitanova , and Andrey B. Evlyukhin analyzed the electromagnetic properties of the Great Pyramid.

Physicists essentially found that the Great Pyramid of Giza can concentrate electromagnetic energy in its inner chambers and well below its base, where an unfinished underground chamber is found.

“It is revealed that the Pyramid’s chambers can collect and concentrate electromagnetic energy for both surrounding conditions. In the case of the Pyramid in the substrate, at the shorter wavelengths, electromagnetic energy accumulates in the chambers providing local spectral maxima for electric and magnetic fields. Basically, the Pyramid is shown to scatter electromagnetic waves and focus them on the substrate region. The spectral dependence of the focus effect is discussed ”, the researchers wrote in their study.

Using multipolar analysis, scientists discovered that the scattered fields were concentrated in the inner base and the underground chamber of the piramid .

However, scientists say that while this is certainly interesting and may open doors for further study, it is highly unlikely that the ancient Egyptians knew about this feature, nor is it likely that the pyramid was built for the purpose of concentrating electromagnetic energy.

The researchers further noted that modern physical approaches have previously been used to study the Great Pyramid and led to the discovery of an entirely new structure.

Other recent studies of the Pyramid, such as Pyramid scans, have discovered several thermal anomalies within the Great Pyramid . These thermal anomalies can be hidden cameras.

While many discoveries continue to reveal the ingenuity of ancient civilizations worldwide, we tend to greatly discredit the capabilities of ancient civilizations. We are not saying that the Egyptians actually tried and built a massive antenna on the Giza plateau, but the fact that the Great Pyramid of Giza concentrates electromagnetic energy is just an interesting coincidence of how the pyramid and its materials are. We simply underestimate the capabilities of the ancient builders.

It is quite possible that we have not yet fully discovered what pyramids are capable of.