Scanners are being used to search for possible hidden chambers within Egyptian pyramids without compromising their infrastructure
By Nevine El-Aref , Thursday 17 Dec 2015
Muon radiography survey begins on King Snefru’s Bent Pyramid at Dahshour necropolis
A team of experts is beginning a scanning survey of the Bent Pyramid of ancient Egyptian King Snefru in Giza using scanning technology which uses non-invasive Muon particles. The scanners are being used to search for possible hidden chambers within the pyramid without compromising its infrastructure.
Following test sessions in November that allowed the #ScanPyramids team to calibrate the sensitivity of Muon emulsion films to the local environment (temperature and humidity) inside King Snefru’s Bent Pyramid, Kunihiro Morishima and his team from Nagoya University have just completed the installation of the Muon detector plates in the pyramid’s lower chamber.
Morishima explains that the films are composed of 40 “regular” plates representing a surface of 3m2 containing two emulsion films that are sensitive to Muons. These emulsion films will allow the detection of various types of Muons naturally penetrating the pyramid.
Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty told Ahram Online that the #ScanPyramids team has also installed a “regular” plate sample in the Queen Chamber of Khufu’s Pyramid in order to find out the best chemical formula of the emulsion films suitable for the local environment inside the Pyramid, as has been done inside the Bent Pyramid.
“The complete installation of the Muon detector films inside Khufu Pyramid is expected to be done at a later stage in 2016,” he pointed out.
The analysis of the Bent Pyramid Muon emulsion films will be taking place in Cairo and in Japan during the first weeks of 2016.
Muon radiography is non-invasive as Muon particles come naturally from the upper layers of Earth’s atmosphere, and are created from collisions of cosmic rays with the nuclei of atoms in the atmosphere.
Morishima said that the particles fall to the ground at nearly the speed of light with a constant rate of about 10,000 per m2 per minute. As with x-rays used to visualise human skeletons, these elementary particles, like heavy electrons, can very easily pass through any structure, even large, thick rocks and mountains. Detectors placed at appropriate places (e.g. inside the pyramid, under a possibly undetected chamber) allow with the accumulation of Muons over time to discern the void areas from denser areas as some of the particles are absorbed or deflected.
Muon radiography is now frequently used for the observation of volcanoes, which also involves research teams from the University of Nagoya. More recently, KEK, the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization, developed a detection approach based on electronic scintillators which are resistant to nuclear radiation, unlike chemical emulsions, in order to scan inside the Fukushima nuclear plant reactors.
The #ScanPyramids project was launched on October under the authority of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University, and the Heritage, Innovation and Preservation Institute (HIP).
The project aims to scan over a one year period some of the Egyptian Pyramids, including the Great Pyramid of Khufu and the Khafre Pyramid at the Giza Plateau, as well as King Snefru’s Bent and Red Pyramids at Dahshur necropolis. The #ScanPyramids combines several non-invasive and non-destructive scanning techniques in order to try to detect the presence of any unknown internal structures and cavities in ancient monuments, which may lead to a better understanding of their structure and their construction processes and techniques.
The used technologies are a mix of infrared thermography, Muon radiography and 3D reconstruction. It worth mentioning that the first phase of a project using a short infrared thermography survey has been completed, while its results and technical analysis of its findings will be announced in January 2016.