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Monday, November 2, 2015
Short Story: Scanning the Pyramids
the "Scan Pyramids Project" unlock the secrets of Egypt’s Wonders of the Ancient
World, asks Nevine El-Aref.
millennia after their construction, the ancient Egyptian Pyramids at Giza still
conceal their secrets. Although research has been carried out on them
throughout history, many questions remained unanswered. How were the pyramids
built? Why do they have different shapes? How could they have lasted for 4,500
years without collapsing? Why do the inner structures of the pyramids have such
inexplicable anomalies? These are just a few of the unanswered questions that
are still puzzling today’s archaeologists.
with the help of modern non-invasive technology many of these questions may now
be finally resolved. Under the motto “Just because a mystery is 4,500 years old
doesn’t mean it can’t be solved,” the Ministry of Antiquities has initiated the
ScanPyramids Project in collaboration with the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo
University and the French Heritage Innovation and Preservation (HIP) Institute.
project aims at probing the heart of Egypt’s pyramids from afar without
touching or drilling into them. This would be achieved through the use of
radioactive muons, or cosmic particles, infrared thermography, photogrammetry,
scanning and 3D reconstruction by international researchers from three major
universities: the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University, the Université
Laval in Quebec and the Nagoya University in Japan.
“The scientific ScanPyramids Project is an
unprecedented, large-scale project and will begin early in November,” Minister
of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty told Al-Ahram Weekly on the fringes of a press
conference held on Sunday in Cairo. He explained that the first phase of the
project would focus on four pyramids from the Fourth Dynasty: the Bent and Red
Pyramids of Snefru at the Dahshur Necropolis and the Khufu and Khafre Pyramids
on the Giza Plateau.
selected these pyramids to be in the project’s first phase not because they are
Fourth Dynasty masterpieces, but because they hide many secrets,” Eldamaty
said, asking how it had been possible to construct Khufu’s Pyramid on the Giza
Plateau, which contains 2.5 million blocks of stone weighing five million tons
in only 25 years.
Photogrammetry and laser scanning
does the Bent Pyramid of Snefru in Dahshur have a different structure from the
king’s second pyramid at the same necropolis? Why does the Bent Pyramid have
two doors and two burial chambers? “The various explorations conducted in the
past using less sophisticated means than today have resulted in strange images
that could correspond to hidden chambers in these structures,” he pointed out,
adding that the high technology methods to be used today were non-invasive and
said that two infrared thermography missions would establish a thermal map of
the pyramids to reveal differences in density. One would be conducted by expert
Jean-Claude Barré, while the other, running for at least a year, would be led
by the Université Laval in Quebec.
goal is to identify if there are any voids behind the facades of the pyramids,”
he said. Two missions using muon radiography also aim to verify and accurately
visualise the any unknown structures within the monuments. These techniques are
being developed in Japan by teams from the country’s High Energy Accelerator
Research Organisation (KEK) and Nagoya University.
team is to work for a year trying to crack the codes of the pyramids. I am
announcing 2016 as the “Year of the Pyramids,” Eldamaty told the Weekly, adding
that the ScanPyramids Project had already been approved by the permanent
committee of the Ministry of Antiquities and had obtained all the necessary
permissions from the concerned authorities.
infrared and muon technologies will also be used to look for a possible hidden
chamber in king Tutankhamun’s tomb, which may be the burial place of queen
Nefertiti, as British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves proposed in his recent
theory,” Eldamaty said.
said that archaeologists have not discovered the mummy of the legendary queen
Nefertiti, and Reeves, who was in Luxor in September to probe his theory,
believes a hidden door in Tutankhamun’s tomb could conceal her burial place.
The permanent committee for Ancient Egyptian antiquities at the ministry has
already approved using radar to search within the boy king’s tomb, but the
search is still awaiting security clearance.
Tayoubi, president of the HIP Institute, a co-initiator and coordinator of the
ScanPyramids Project, described it as “very important” because it is a mix of
the arts, science and technology in an attempt to use new perspectives and
approaches to find solutions to heritage issues. “Our desire is to form an
international team of experts and then to discuss the theoretical and
technological approaches that could be used to test the archaeological reality
on the ground,” he said.
previous missions have attempted to unravel the mysteries of the pyramids, he
said, and even if they had been unsuccessful, they had helped advance
knowledge. For example, 30 years ago the French EDF Foundation had detected a
density anomaly in Khufu’s Pyramid. “Our goal is to make our contribution and
to prepare, in all humility, the path for future scientific research missions,”
minister of education Hani Hilal who leads the team from the Faculty of
Engineering pointed out that until now many theories have been proposed either
to explain the construction of the pyramids or their structural anomalies, but
nothing has yet been proved. “Now through using state-of-the-art techniques we
can get concrete results that archaeologists and Egyptologists will interpret
to test which theory is correct or acceptable,” Hilal told the Weekly.
said that when people asked him about the purposes of participating in such a
project as an engineer and not an archaeologist, he answered that “I and the
team of engineers are participating in the project because we are physicists
and engineers and the pyramids were built by engineers, so we will be better
able to understand our ancient Egyptian counterparts. But we would not be able
to do so without the cooperation of the archaeologists.”
ScanPyramids Project was in the direct line of what he had done 30 years ago in
1982, when, in collaboration with a Franco-Egyptian mission from the Faculty of
Engineering at Cairo University and the Ecole des Mines in France, he had
helped carry out scientific and technological studies on ancient monuments in
Egypt. “We were the pioneers in the domain,” Hilal said, adding that the work
had led to the creation of the Engineering Centre for Archaeology in Egypt,
which had become a centre of excellence in the region.....Read More.