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A hole in the heart of Egypt’s greatest pyramid

By David, 12 January 2018 News

Image of a pyramid with tiny people in the foreground.

There are still secrets inside Egypt’s biggest pyramid! Image: Nina Aldin Thune

Built more than 4500 years ago, you’d think there was nothing left to discover inside Cairo’s Great Pyramid of Giza. Think again. Scientists have recently discovered a new chamber deep in the heart of the tomb, all with the help of starlight.

The ancient architects who designed their kings’ tombs clearly didn’t want them to be easy to enter. Hidden chambers, false passageways, and blocked tunnels have made it hard work for historians to map the insides of these massive structures.

At over 100 metres high, the pyramid is far too big to fit it inside an X-ray machine. But over the past few years, some scientists have done the next best thing, using cosmic rays instead.

Doctors can get a good look at your bones by shining X-rays through your body onto sensitive film or a special detector. Your skeleton blocks some of the rays, casting a shadow that provides a spooky snap-shot of your insides.

In this case, the researchers used another ray made of particles called muons. These tiny bits of matter are formed when particles shot out of exploding stars at super high speeds smash into our atmosphere.

Muons can pass through solid rock, but some of them will be absorbed, just like xrays passing through your body. So the scientists put muon detectors inside the pyramid to see if they could see any shadows and bright spots.

Sure enough, a few years ago they detected a gap where the muons flew freely – a sign of an undiscovered chamber.

Why didn’t we hear about this sooner? They needed to conduct a few more tests to make sure they were onto something.

Nobody is sure what’s inside this chamber – if anything at all – or what its purpose might be. Looks like Egypt’s biggest pyramid still has a few more surprises locked up inside its stones.

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