Kunihiro Morishima - Assistant Professor, Fundamental Particle Physics Laboratory, Physics Faculty, Nagoya University and his team setting up muon particle equipment inside the pyramid while checking structural drawing (Courtesy of the research team)
Have you heard about the pyramids of Egypt? You must have seen them on TV or in a newspaper at least once - the famous ruins of huge square-based pyramids. Yet there seem to be no answers to the questions, "What lies inside them?" or "How were they made?" And that's because the right answers just haven't been found. Despite being famous ruins, the pyramids are, in fact, full of mysteries. Given this, Japanese researchers are now trying to shed light on these ancient mysteries using the latest technology.
Members of the research team setting up muon particle equipment in front of the Giza Pyramids near the Egyptian capital of Cairo; a team which includes Kunihiro Morishima - Assistant Professor, Fundamental Particle Physics Laboratory, Physics Faculty, Nagoya University (Courtesy of the research team).
Taking a look inside, without damaging the pyramids
Researchers at the University of Nagoya thought-up a method to explore the inside of the pyramids and sent an international team from Japan and France to conduct a survey. As the heritage of all mankind, the pyramids cannot be damaged when conducting surveys. So, the survey uses minute particles called "cosmic rays" that passthrough space and continuously rain down on earth. When "cosmic rays" collide with the Earth's atmosphere, they are broken down into even smaller particles; amongst which are so-called "muon particles." Muon particles rain down on the ground at a rate of around 10,000 particles/minute per square meter. Muon particles possess a property whereby "they pass through a variety of matter but when they hit a high-density object, there is a decrease in the number of particles passing through". By observing the number of muon particles raining down on the pyramids and examining how much they decrease, we can tell whether a section is packed with stone, or is hollow.
Muon particles are one of the smallest types of matter, created when cosmic rays fall from space and hit Earth's atmosphere.
Already a number of discoveries have been made, such as the so-called "King's Chamber" - a room in the Great Pyramid of Giza (a.k.a. the Pyramid of King Khufu). In October 2016, the Japanese university research team announced the existence of other open spaces confirmed by the observation of muon particles. The research team believes that there is potentially at least one corridor, heading towards the center of the pyramid. However, its size and shape are not clear and the survey is continuing with more points of observation and better methods of analysis. It will be a major discovery once the specifics of the new space are understood.
The Khufu Pyramid (left) and the Khafre Pyramid at Giza
Film is set up to observe muon particles in the space already discovered
Photos taken from the sky
Another project we would like to mention is the research to find out how the pyramids were built. Theories on the methods used to construct the pyramids include the "straight-on ramp" where a slope was built straight-on to bring the stones up; and the "spiral ramp" theory where a slope was built around the pyramid. However, it has not been possible to prove the accuracy of these theories, as the pyramids are too big to allow an understanding of their exact shape and size.
Another team of Japanese researchers from the same university in Nagoya, are trying to re-examine the methods used to construct the pyramids by creating drawings accurately depicting the pyramids' shape and size.
In order to take accurate measurements, the team is using a laser scanner and a drone that can measure positional data and shape. The researchers are trying to create a 3D survey map by taking aerial shots of the pyramids as well. In February 2017, in cooperation with a Japanese TV production company, the team used a drone to take a lot of detailed photo shots of the Khufu Pyramid - a world first.
The Khufu Pyramid, with the Sphinx to the front left.
Measuring a pyramid with a laser scanner at Abusir on the outskirts of Cairo - members of the survey team of Nagoya University's Yukinori Kawae, collaborative researcher (Archeology) (Czech Institute of Egyptology)
A drone taking shots of the Khufu Pyramid (Courtesy of TV Man Union)
3D image of the Khufu Pyramid, reconstructed based on photographs and measurement data A drone taking shots of the Khufu Pyramid (Courtesy of TV Man Union)
So far, we have been unable to say with certainty how the pyramids were built, but this may be revealed by the accurate survey maps created by the research team using the latest digital technology.
Japanese researchers continue the challenge in their search to unlock ancient mysteries using the latest technology.