Sci-tech

Plane-sized 'void' discovered in Egypt's Great Pyramid

Plane-sized 'void' discovered in Egypt's Great Pyramid

While erosion has reduced its initial 481-foot height to just over 455 feet, the pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for the 3,800 years directly following its construction around 2560 BC. There is also an unfinished chamber cut into the bedrock upon which the monument was built. "We know that [it] has the same characteristics as the Grand Gallery - which is an 8-metre-high structure, 47 metres long".

Egypt's former antiquities minister and famed archaeologist Zahi Hawass, who has been testing scanning methods and heads the government's oversight panel for the new techniques, said that the area in question has been known of for years and thus does not constitute a discovery.

"This void was hiddien in the construction of the pyramid".

"All we know is that we have a void, we have a cavity, and it's huge, which means possibly intentional and certainly worthy of further exploration", Manuelian says, noting that it's not yet clear whether it's a single chamber or more than one.

Known as muon tomography, the technique generates 3-D images using information from particles that hit the Earth close to the speed of light and then penetrate deeply into solid objects.

"We don't know if the void is made by one structure or several successive structures".

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"What is odd, for me, is to use those very, very small particles for a huge monument like the pyramid", says Tayoubi.

The known specifics about the space, which according to NPR is the "first significant internal structure found within the Great Pyramid since the 19th century", are pretty slim. Muons (elementary particles similar to electrons) originate from collisions between cosmic rays and atoms in the upper atmosphere.

This makes them a "really fabulous treat from nature", according to particle physicist Roy Schwitters who uses the technology to study the Mayan pyramids of Belize.

Detectors were set up inside the Pyramid, including in the so-called Queen's Chamber.

"In order to construct the Grand Gallery, you had to have a hollow, or a big void in order to access it - you can not build it without such a space", he said.

"We need to understand this void better and I think that Egyptologists and specialists in Ancient Egyptian architecture will provide us with some hypotheses that we can use to try and find an architectural explanation", he said. The study of the pyramids has been going on for an bad long time.