Muography Attempts to Uncover Mystery at The Great Pyramid

After 2 years of study, Japanese and French scientists have made the announcement that there appears to be a giant void within Khufu’s Great Pyramid at Giza, Egypt.

Diagram of the voids | Source: BBC 

Diagram of the voids | Source: BBC 


At 140m (460 feet) in height, The Great Pyramid (aka. Khufu’s Pyramid) is the largest of the pyramids located at Giza, and is thought to be have constructed during the reign of Pharaoh Khufu, between 2509 and 2493BC. The scientists have been using a technique called muography, which can sense density changes inside large rock structures, to look at the void.
There also seems to be a smaller void, and the multiple muon technologies sense the same feature in the same place. ScanPyramids, the organisation that are conducting the research, are the ones who are implementing the muon technology. 


Muography makes use of the shower of high-energy particles that rain down on the Earth’s surface from space. This non-invasive technique was suggested by archaeologist Luis Alvarez back in the 1960’s, but the technology required to perform the technique was not available then. However nowadays it is widely used by archaeologists, geologists and the military. Muons are elementary particles, like electrons, which you’ve probably heard of, and they have the same electric charge, but with a greater mass and are more unstable. Muons originate from the interactions of cosmic rays with the atoms in the upper atmosphere and come down to the ground at almost the speed of light.

The Great Pyramid | Commentary use

The Great Pyramid | Commentary use

While they can penetrate dense materials, like rocks, they are harmless to humans, which is why they are useful to use in analysing the pyramids. As they penetrate the rock, some of the particles will be absorbed and deflected by the atoms in the rocks minerals, and if muon detectors are placed under a region of specific interest, an image of density anomalies can be obtained. Put simply, this is where if there are holes everywhere, everything will be averaged, but if you see excess muons, it means you have a bigger void, hence how they found this void in the pyramid. The ScanPyramids team used 3 different muography technologies and all agreed on the position and scale of the void.


However, while this technology is showing signs of a void, people do not feel fully convinced by it. For example, other ideas such as it could have been a kind of space that builders left to protect the very narrow roof have been suggested. Much of the uncertainty comes down to the imprecise data that muography has given.


Now the question arises; do we investigate the void further? Some ideas have been explored, such a concept from the French national institute of computer science and applied mathematics, to drill a very small hole (about 3cm in diameter) that a robot could fit into to help explore monuments like this. 


But right now, the void at The Great Pyramid still holds some mysteries with it.