The 4,500-year-old pyramid is the oldest and largest of the three ancient monuments in the Giza Plateau and is believed to have been constructed for the Pharaoh Khufu over a 20-year period. The ScanPyramids project was launched to provide several non-invasive and non-destructive techniques which may help to provide a better understanding of its structure and the construction processes and techniques. After two years of work, French experts announced the discovery of the “Big Void,” a 30-metre previously unknown cavity located above the Grand Gallery, but there has been no development since.
That could be set to change after Japanese researchers announced plans to bombard the pyramid with cosmic rays to confirm what lies within.
Speaking on the proposal, lead researcher Sakuji Yoshimura said: “The previously discovered cavity is way too large from an archaeological perspective.
“We are very keen to verify the findings.”
The team from Kyushu University announced their plans in January, but work has been put on hold in Egypt due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The project was due to commence in the summer, with the result released in autumn – it is unclear what they managed to achieve before the March lockdown in the region.
But, since July, Egypt has restarted international flights, reopened major tourists attractions and restarted some archaeology work.
It is likely the team will soon be able to complete their work.
Tadahiro Kin, an associate professor of radiation metrology at Kyushu University, and other researchers said they would use a method called muon radiography, similar to X-ray imaging.
Muons are subatomic particles generated when protons and other cosmic rays strike the atmosphere.
While muons can pass through rock up to 600 metres thick, the number of muons that penetrate objects can change depending on their density and thickness.
The technology allows Prof Kin’s team to measure the thickness of stone blocks used to construct the pyramid.
A newly developed muon detector will operate for a month inside the Queen’s Chamber, which is located in the lower part of the giant structure.
The accumulated data will be combined with findings from a drone survey to reveal what lies inside.
The previous findings received huge media attention at the time, but some experts are sceptical.
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Egyptologist Dr Chris Naunton previously told Express.co.uk: “That story came and went quite quickly.
“This new technique has the potential to show us interesting things.
“But, the response from colleagues of mine, who know these pyramids very well, was ‘we’ve always known cavities exist’.
“It’s exciting, but it doesn’t take our understanding very far.
“We could speculate until the cows come home over what they might be, but there’s no way of proving it at the moment.
“I don’t know if the project stopped because it had done what they were planning to do, or whether they were discouraged by the response.”
Dr Naunton believed the best solution for the problem is to use a fibre-optic camera – a minute piece of technology that can be put through a small gap to peer inside – rather than more scans.
He added: “All of this fuses the fire, and it gets us all very excited, but when it comes to explaining what a cavity is, somebody like me is going to have to go in there and read an inscription.
“Would it be possible to put a fibre-optic camera through the wall and see what’s behind there? That seems to me to be a possibility.
“It might even be possible to do that without causing too much damage to the wall, which has been extensively restored already.
“So you could argue you wouldn’t be damaging anything other than a bit of painting from the Nineties.
“Even if it was technically possible, the Ministry of Antiquities would be very wary of the public reaction to putting a camera through the wall, only to find there’s nothing there.”