The oldest and largest pyramid in Egypt, the Great Pyramid in Giza, has a 100-foot-long void inside. Archaeologists first announced the possible existence of this void about two years ago, but only confirmed the discovery on Nov. 2 with the publication of their findings in the journal Nature.
The technology used to find and confirm the void is cutting edge and could greatly impact archaeology.
It is the first big find made using cosmic ray particle detectors.
It is the first big discovery made using muon detectors. Muons are particles that are byproducts of cosmic rays; when cosmic rays hit the upper atmosphere, muons rain down on the Earth. An open space in the pyramid would contain more muons than the stone, thus the scientists were able to determine the location and size of the chamber. They used three different muon detection technologies to confirm its existence.
This is the first major space discovered in the pyramid since the 19th century, and could represent a leap forward in understanding how the pyramid was built.
How the pyramid was built remains a mystery, but the chamber may provide insights.
The Great Pyramid is one of the seven wonders of the world. It’s also known as Khufu’s Pyramid, because archaeologists believe it was built by the Pharaoh Khufu (also known as Cheops), who reigned from 2509 to 2483 B.C. But how exactly the pyramid was built remains a mystery.
Researchers don’t know what the purpose of the chamber was, but are making guesses.
The chamber’s function is unknown. Archaeologists believe it is unlikely to be a burial chamber or to contain artifacts relating to the pharaoh’s burial.
French architect Jean-Pierre Houdin thinks it might be a space used for a counterweight system. The weights would slide along the floor in the chamber and help move the giant blocks used to construct the pyramid. However, no particular theory is favored at this point.
The project, Scan Pyramids, that made the discovery was supervised by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. They hope to scan more pyramids after their success at the Great Pyramid.