On October 25th, scientists from Egypt, Canada, France, and Japan began a project under the authority of the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry (1). ‘Operation Scan Pyramids’ is expected to last well into the end of 2016. After over 4,000 years of mystery, scientists are looking to shed a little light on the ancient structures.
Utilizing non-invasive drones, thermal imaging scanners, cosmic particle detectors, and radiography, the scientists are surveying the pyramids to examine the internal structures and create accurate three-dimensional models (2). The team of scientists hope to unlock the many questions that surround these structures.
Egyptologists have hypothesized that the Pyramids of Giza were built during the fourth dynasty as tombs for the Pharaoh Khufu and his wives. While archeologists have theorized the construction of the pyramids, the construction process is still shrouded in mystery due to the massive size of the limestone and granite used in conjunction with the processes of the time (3).
Over the years, the pyramids have been studied but much of the internal structure and architecture remains unknown to this day. The new round of high technology testing is intended to provide insight in the undiscovered corners and catacombs of the impressive formations.
Thermal scanning of the pyramids is conducted throughout the day. The images include scanning completed at sunrise as the structures heat from the outside, and at sunset as they cool down. The heating and cooling phases help scientists hypothesize about empty areas and air currents within the pyramids, as well as the materials used for construction (4).
Just two weeks into ‘Operation Scan Pyramids’, a battery of thermal imaging testing uncovered a heating anomaly. Three stones near the base of the pyramid show higher temperatures. Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty shared the scans of the Eastern side of the pyramid.
Upon inspection of the area, el-Damaty said they discovered “that there is something like a small passage in the ground that you can see, leading up to the pyramids ground, reaching an area with a different temperature. What will be behind it? (4)”
With typical construction, all of the external stones of the pyramid are expected to register with similar temperatures to surrounding blocks throughout the day. The variance in thermal signature indicates a difference and scientists want to get to the root of it.
Further testing and exploration will be conducted, but el-Damaty is inviting all Egyptologists to help postulate the reasoning behind the heating anomaly. The variance could point to a tomb, a passage, or simply a fissure in the rock (5).
Other heating anomalies were discovered in the upper half of the pyramid as well that will require expert examination. Following the latest discoveries, the team plans to conduct a long-term infrared survey of all of the pyramids. This would include Khufu, as well as the five smaller pyramids surrounding.
Egyptian officials are excited by the new discoveries and hope this endeavor will reignite their tourism industry that has suffered after political unrest (2). Egypt’s Minister of Tourism Hisham Zazou vowed to the Egpytian people that the project would stimulate tourism, which accounts for over 10 percent of Egypt’s economy.
With the first two weeks sparking so much interest, Zazou should be able to stick to his word. Further testing is sure to uncover more about these anomalies, as well as other mysteries of the ancient structures.