Cairo University
Hard Science

Researchers Just Used Cosmic Particles to Peek Inside an Egyptian Pyramid

Scientists used muons to see into the heart of the Bent Pyramid in Egypt.

Obsession

For a species that can use technology to do many (seemingly impossible) new age things, humanity gets pretty hung up about its history. Take, for example, Ancient Egypt. The civilization started about 3000 years B.C.E, and stopped being a major player by the coming of the Common Era, but we are still studying the civilization extensively.

Indeed, we are still discovering parts of its tombs and theorizing about how it built some of its greatest monuments.

And we just raced forward with light speed.

A team of international researchers have just used cosmic particles to peek inside an Egyptian pyramid. The team revealed—for the first time ever—the internal structure of the 4,500-year old Bent pyramid, named because of its sloping upper half.

The team used a mix of technologies, such as infrared thermography, muon radiography, and 3-D reconstruction to analyze the pyramid and look for possible unknown internal structures and cavities.

The Bent Pyramid is the first of four to be scanned by the ScanPyramids project, conducted by a team from Cairo University’s Faculty of Engineering and the Paris-based non-profit organization Heritage, Innovation and Preservation. The other four to be scanned are the Great Pyramid, Khafre or Chephren at Giza, and the Red pyramid at Dahshur.

Muons

The technology the team used relies on cosmic particles called muons. Muons permanently and naturally rain on Earth, and are light enough to penetrate any material very deeply.

To conduct the scanning, 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 four months ago.

The plates, which covered 3 square meters (10 sq/ft) of the chamber, are covered by two emulsion fields that take in muons that rain down from the atmosphere due to collisions between cosmic rays and nuclei in the atmosphere.

Moroshima’s team collected the plates after 40 days of exposure. The plates allowed the researchers to identify void areas (places where muons cross without problem) and denser areas (where some muons are absorbed or deflected).

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