“Just because a mystery is 4500 years old, doesn’t mean it can’t be solved”. So proclaims the PR video (below) for the ‘Scan Pyramids Mission‘, a new project announced yesterday that will employ various high-tech methods to study four of Egypt’s largest pyramids, searching for hidden chambers and clues to the methods of construction used to build them.
The project, to be coordinated by Cairo University and the Heritage Innovation Preservation (HIP) Institute, will kick off next month, and is expected to run through until the end of 2016. The Bent Pyramid at Dahshur will be the first target, followed by the nearby Red Pyramid – and then the largest two of the three pyramids at Giza, those attributed to Khufu (Cheops) and Khafre (Chephren).
“This special group will study these pyramids to see whether there are still any hidden chambers or other secrets” inside them, Minister of Antiquities Mamduh al-Damati announced at a news conference.
Non-destructive high technologies will be implemented. Two infrared thermography missions will establish a thermal map of the pyramids to reveal differences in density: one brief conducted by the expert Jean-Claude Barré from LedLiquid, whereas the other, running for at least a year, will be led by Université Laval of Quebec. Their goal is to identify if there are any voids behind the faces of the pyramids. Two missions using muons radiography also aim to verify and accurately visualize the presence of unknown structures within the monuments. These techniques are being developed in Japan by the teams of KEK (High Energy Accelerator research Organization) and Nagoya University. “Many theories have been proposed, either explaining their construction or their structural anomalies, but we are physicists and engineers, not archaeologists”, insists Hany Helal, Professor at Cairo University and former Minister of Research and the higher education and Coordinator of the project, head of mission for the Faculty of Engineering of Cairo. “Our goal is to use techniques to get concrete results. Then the Egyptologists will interpret them.”
In parallel to the exploration missions, the company Iconem will realize a photogrammetry campaign using drones, to rebuild the Giza plateau and the site of Dahshur with all their monuments in 3D, with a unique centimeter precision. These models will be made available to researchers and the public in open data by the HIP Institute, a non-profit structure of general interest.
Regular readers of The Daily Grail will know that the Giza Plateau has a long history of being searched for secret chambers:
- In the late 1960s, the ‘Joint Pyramid Project’ investigated Khafre’s pyramid looking for hidden rooms
- in the 1970s Stanford Research International (SRI) (along with Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment) examined both Khufu and Khafre’s pyramids, as well as the Sphinx
- In 1986 a French duo performed a microgravimeter survey (as well as doing some old-fashioned drilling) in the Great Pyramid
- In 1987 a Japanese team used ground-penetrating radar (GPR) equipment in the Great Pyramid and around the Sphinx
- In 1991 French engineer Jean Kerisel performed another scan of the Great Pyramid using GPR and microgravimetry
- In 1992 German engineer Rudolf Gantenbrink famously sent a robot up the ‘air shafts’, discovering what seemed to be a tiny ‘secret door’ at the end, possibly hinting at a secret chamber beyond. Other teams have continued to follow-up on this work in the decades since
- In the late 1990s the ARE-connected Schor Foundation scanned around the Great Sphinx, as well as doing some further investigation inside the Great Pyramid, and exploration of the ‘water shafts’ beneath Khafre’s causeway
- More recently French architect Jean-Pierre Houdin put forward a theory about secret chambers in the Great Pyramid based on the layout of supporting stones in the King’s Chamber
It’s such a dense and controversial history that you really need a book to cover it all – and in fact, others have already done that. For more in-depth discussion of the search for hidden chambers in Egypt, see the books Giza: The Truth by Ian Lawton and Chris Ogilvie-Herald, and Secret Chamber by Robert Bauval. There’s also a ton of information in the related stories linked at the bottom of this article.
One can only wonder: if they do end up finding hidden chambers, how much ‘destructive’ excavation will be allowed by the Egyptian authorities within these most-famous of monuments, in order to gain access to what lies within?