Mysterious void in Great Pyramid of Giza could finally reveal how pyramids were built

A mysterious void has been discovered in the Great Pyramid of Giza and Egyptologists believe it could finally shed light on how the ancient tombs were constructed.

The enigmatic gap, which is around 100ft long is situated directly above the Grand Gallery, an elaborate access route which cuts through the pyramid.

It was found using a state-of-the-art scanning process called ‘muography’ which picks up tiny cosmic particles known as muons.

The Great Pyramid of Giza
The Great Pyramid of Giza

Muons lose energy and eventually decay when they move through matter, so if large numbers are picked by a detector it means a hole must exist, which has allowed them to pass through unimpeded.

Today a team of scientists from France and Japan announced that months of scanning had shown a clear void in the pyramid, and they are hoping to drill a small hole and release a tiny flying drone to video the chasm.

Pyramid void

Expedition leader Mehdi Tayoubi, president of the Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute, Paris, said: "We were very surprised to see a big anomaly. We were expecting to detect the King’s chamber and grand gallery but we were surprised to find a big void and we think what we have is very important.

“What we are sure if it is there, and it is impressive, It is the same height as the Statue of the Liberty.

“It could be a second grand gallery, it could be a chamber. We are working with archaeologists to compare it to other chambers, The void is there, it’s very big.  It was not expected by any kind of theory.

“We are thinking about sending in a very innovative robot that can get through a small hole.”

The team carrying out 'muography' in the Queen's Chamber  - Credit: Philippe BOURSEILLER
The team carrying out 'muography' in the Queen's Chamber Credit: Philippe BOURSEILLER

The Great Pyramid of Giza which was built for Khufu, or Cheops, the second pharaoh of the 4th dynasty who reigned between 2589 to 2566BC. His tomb is 456ft high and 755ft wide, the largest pyramid ever built, and one of the Seven Wonders of The Ancient World.

However experts are divided about how the Ancient Egyptians moved the massive stones into place, some of which weigh 80 tonnes, and which came from Aswan, more than 500 miles away. Some theories suggest elaborate cranes and pulleys, wooden rail tracks, spiral outer ramps, or even floatation chambers.

The new void is 230 feet from ground level and scans suggest it may be sloped at a similar angle to the Grand Gallery below.

Khufu's pyramid is more than 4,000 years old 
Khufu's pyramid is more than 4,000 years old

Dr Kate Spence, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology and Egyptology at the University of Cambridge, said the incline could be the key to the purpose of the chasm, and help solve the mystery of how the Egyptians got their huge stones inside.

“This finding is very exciting, but not because it is some kind of secret chamber,” she said.

“I think it is an inclined ramp that was used to transport huge blocks into the centre of the pyramid and then sealed off by the builders. The orientation leads up to the huge granite roof struts at the top of the relieving chamber.

“Although that might not sound as exciting as a secret burial chamber, in fact, this would be the first evidence of the use of a ramp inside, which gives us a really important insight into how those huge bricks were put into position and how pyramids were constructed.”

A muon telescope set up outside the pyramid  - Credit: Philippe BOURSEILLER
A muon telescope set up outside the pyramid Credit: Philippe BOURSEILLER

Professor Hany Helal, of the University of Cairo, said the orientation resembles a corridor that was found hidden behind the North Face.

“It’s too early to go and conclude what is this void. Was it deliberately hidden away? This structure is not accessible. This void was hidden since the construction of the pyramid.

“We needed to have this new technique. A new, innovative robot that can fly, maybe

"While there is currently no information about the role of this void, these findings show how modern particle physics can shed new light on the world's archaeological heritage."

Jean-Baptiste Mouret of ISIR in France, said the team would be releasing details next week of a small flying robot which could fit into an inch wide hole to explore the void. Any drilling into the pyramid would require permission from the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

Once the mystery of the void is solved, archaeologists hope to use similar technology to locate the burial place of the queen Nefertiti, the wife of King Akhenaten. Some Egyptologists think she could be buried in a secret chamber in Tutankhamun's tomb.

The research was published in the journal Nature.