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Hi-tech hunt for pharaoh’s tomb in Great Pyramid of Giza

Ben Cost, March 20, 2022 3:00PM Kids News

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Archaeologists plan to map the interior of Egypt’s largest pyramid using advanced cosmic ray technology in a project they have dubbed The Exploring the Great Pyramid Mission. Picture: ScanPyramids/SWNS/Mega media_cameraArchaeologists plan to map the interior of Egypt’s largest pyramid using advanced cosmic ray technology in a project they have dubbed The Exploring the Great Pyramid Mission. Picture: ScanPyramids/SWNS/Mega

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An ultra-powerful scan will be done of Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza under plans to identify two mysterious spaces that could house the legendary tomb of the pharaoh.

University of Cornell archaeologists plan to map the interior of Egypt’s largest pyramid using advanced cosmic ray technology in a project they have dubbed The Exploring the Great Pyramid Mission.

“We plan to field a telescope system that has upwards of 100 times the sensitivity of the equipment that has recently been used at the Great Pyramid,” the researchers wrote about their mission.

They said the latest cosmic ray telescope system would provide images from “nearly all angles and will, for the first time, produce a true tomographic* image of such a large structure”.

The team’s research is based on a study by Scan Pyramid group, which conducted a series of scans between 2015 and 2017 that analysed muons – cosmic particles that regularly fall on Earth – to detect any voids*.

Muons react differently to air and stone and are therefore ideal for mapping air pockets in stone structures such as pyramids.

Tourists ride camels to view the Giza Pyramids in Giza, Egypt, on Oct. 21, 2021. Egypt has entered peak tourist season as the weather is becoming cooler, and international flights to the country suspended due to COVID-19 are gradually resuming. The Giza Pyramids scenic spot is being visited by more and more tourists. (Photo by Sui Xiankai/Xinhua via Getty Images) media_cameraTwo mysterious voids have been discovered in Great Pyramid of Giza. Picture: Sui Xiankai/Xinhua via Getty Images

The scientists found two spaces, the larger of which measures 30m long and 6m high and sits above the Great Pyramid’s grand gallery. The smaller void is located near the pyramid’s north face.

And while neither void’s function is clear, scientists speculate* that the large one could lead to the secret burial chamber of the pharaoh Khufu, who reigned from about 2551BC to 2528BC and for whom the Great Pyramid was originally built.

In order to peer inside the void, researchers plan to scan the area with supercharged cosmic ray muons, which are 100 times more powerful than the ones used in prior scans.

“Since the detectors that are proposed are very large, they cannot be placed inside the pyramid, therefore our approach is to put them outside and move them along the base,” the team wrote. “In this way, we can collect muons from all angles in order to build up the required data set.”

They added that “the use of very large muon telescopes placed outside (the Great Pyramid) can produce much higher resolution images due to the large number of detected muons”.

In fact, the detectors are so sensitive that they may be able to pick up pottery and other artefacts inside the pyramid.

A young man walking towards the Great Sphinx of Giza and in the background the pyramid of Khafre, the pyramids of Giza. Cairo, Egypt media_cameraA tourist checks out the Great Sphinx of Giza with the pyramids in the background. Picture: Unai Huizi

While the scans have been approved by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the team still requires funding to build the equipment and deploy* it inside the Great Pyramid.

It will then take two to three years of viewing to collect enough data to begin the study itself.

In a similar pyramid study from 2017, archaeologists found that the ancient Egyptians constructed the Great Pyramid at Giza by transporting 170,000 tons of limestone in boats.

This article was originally published by the New York Post and reproduced with permission.

GLOSSARY

  • tomographic: the use of energy waves to create a three-dimensional image of the internal structures of a solid object
  • voids: empty spaces
  • speculate: form a theory about something without firm evidence
  • deploy: bring into action

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. What have the archaeologists called their project?
  2. How many voids do they hope to explore using the hi-tech scans?
  3. How much more sensitive is the cosmic ray telescope system they want to use, compared to the equipment used in the past?
  4. What are the cosmic particles that will be analysed called?
  5. Which pharaoh was the Great Pyramid built for?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. What else do you want to know?
Often when we read a text, it prompts us to become curious to find out more about a topic. Carefully read the text, with a note pad and pen handy. As you work through the story, jot down all of the questions (or wonderings) you have. (For example, you might wonder how many other pyramids there are and if Giza is the largest one, etc.)

By the time you reach the end of the article you should have quite a long list of questions. Choose two of your questions and see if you can research to find out the answers.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; HASS/History

2. Extension
Did your research to answer your two questions above prompt any further wonderings? Write them down.

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; HASS/History

VCOP ACTIVITY
Read this!
A headline on an article – or a title on your text – should capture the attention of the audience, telling them to read this now. So choosing the perfect words for a headline or title is very important.

Create three new headlines for the events that took place in this article. Remember, what you write and how you write it will set the pace for the whole text, so make sure it matches.

Read out your headlines to a partner and discuss what the article will be about based on the headline you created. Discuss the tone and mood you set in just your few, short words. Does it do the article justice? Will it capture the audience’s attention the way you hoped? Would you want to read more?

Consider how a headline or title is similar to using short, sharp sentences throughout your text. They can be just as important as complex ones. Go through the last text you wrote and highlight any short, sharp sentences that capture the audience.

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