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 could soon finally be answered.
A group of researchers who have been using cosmic particles known as muons to scan the Great Pyramid of Giza have said they expect to finish their work later this month.
They are using the scans to create maps to reveal the internal structure of the 479 feet (146m) high pyramid and say they could help to unlock ancient secrets that have been buried beneath the stone.
Dr Zahi Hawass, a leading Egyptian archaeologist and Egypt’s former head of antiquities, is working with a team of French researchers who have been conducting the scans.
He said: ‘It’s running right now, and if it manages to detect one of the three chambers we already know exist inside, then we will continue the scans.’
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.
This led to theories that they may be hiding a secret chamber that has 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.
Writing on his website last year after Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities announced the results of the thermal scans on the Great Pyramid, he said: ‘The base of the Great Pyramid is cut some eight metres into the rock, and this can be seen clearly on the south side of the pyramid.
‘It would be impossible to see a room or tunnel in this location near to the rock. If this room exists, it would have to have a function, and since this is not the case the claim cannot be valid.’
But Dr Hawass has since been asked by Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities to lead the scientific team that will examine the muon scan results.
He was dismissed from his position as head of the Antiquities Ministry following the uprising in 2011 that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
Speaking outside the Great Pyramid duing a visit with Egypt’s current Antiquities Minister, Khaled El-Anani, Dr Hawass said he had come round to the idea that another burial chamber may remain undiscovered inside the pyramid.
He said: ‘You need Egyptologists to oversee all this, otherwise mistakes can be made.
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