Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1279, (21 - 27 January 2016)
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1279, (21 - 27 January 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Cosmic rays and the pyramids

Analysis of cosmic rays detected on the Bent Pyramid and long-term infrared tests on the Great Pyramids of Khufu are part of attempts to decipher the secrets of Egypt’s pyramids, reports Nevine El-Aref

Cosmic rays and the pyramids
Cosmic rays and the pyramids
Al-Ahram Weekly

A long-term infrared examination and analysis of muon (cosmic rays) detections will be made on King Snefru’s pyramids at Dahshur necropolis and Khufu’s Great Pyramid at Giza Plateau.

Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty told reporters Sunday that nothing has yet been discovered inside the four pyramids under examination, but that short-term surveys and scanning has revealed several anomalies. He was speaking at a press conference held at the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM).

The pyramids surveyed are Snefru’s Bent and Red pyramids at Dahshur necropolis, and Khufu and Kafre’s pyramids at Giza Plateau.

Eldamaty said the aim of the conference was to show to the public the work that has been carried out step by step, and how the #Scanpyramids scientific mission is coming along.

He explained that the muons detections on the Ben and Red pyramids have been completed and are now being analysed and studied by Japanese scientist Kunihiro Morishima in a lab especially constructed in the GEM.

Hani Hilal, coordinator of #Scanpyramids, said that the short-term infrared survey reveals difference in temperatures on the eastern and northern facades of Khufu Pyramid. “The difference in temperature cannot by any means refer to the difference in the kind of limestone blocks because the difference is six degrees,” Hilal told Al-Ahram Weekly, adding that the difference in the kinds of blocks gives different temperatures of only three degrees.

Morishima, from Nagoya University, told the Weekly that the muons detection on Bent Pyramid started in December through plates planted inside the pyramid. These collected data on radiographic particles known as muons that rain down on Earth and the atmosphere.

The particles pass through empty spaces but can be absorbed or deflected by harder surfaces. By studying particle accumulations, scientists may learn more about the construction of the pyramids, built by the Pharaoh Snefru.

 “For the construction of the pyramids, there is no single theory that is 100 per cent proven or checked. They are all theories and hypotheses,” Hilal told the Weekly. “What we are trying to do with the new technology is either confirm, change, upgrade or modify the hypotheses that we have on how the pyramids were built.”

Muon radiography is non-invasive because muon particles come naturally from the upper layers of the 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 metre square 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 (inside the pyramid, or under a possibly undetected chamber) allow the accumulation of muons over time to show 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 involves research teams from the University of Nagoya. More recently, KEK, the High Energy Accelerator Research Organisation, developed a detection approach based on electronic scintillators that, unlike chemical emulsions, are resistant to nuclear radiation, to scan inside the Fukushima nuclear plant reactors.

#ScanPyramids was launched in October by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University and the Heritage, Innovation and Preservation Institute (HIP).

It aims to scan over a one-year period some of the Egyptian pyramids, including the Great Pyramid of Khufu and the Khafre Pyramid at Giza Plateau, as well as King Snefru’s Bent and Red pyramids at Dahshur necropolis.

 #ScanPyramids combines several non-invasive and non-destructive scanning techniques 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 technologies used are a mix of infrared thermography, muon radiography and 3D reconstruction.

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