This blog is the final part of a series: Engineering the Egyptian Pyramids. Tune in for a look into the impressive engineering behind the Egyptian pyramids and the modern tech we’re using to uncover their mysteries.
Archeologist Yukinori Kawae and his team climbed for two and a half hours before they were about 260 feet above the ground. As they stood on some shaky stone blocks for support, modern Cairo in one direction, endless desert in the other, Kawae and his team took video footage not of the magnificent view, but of a crevice inside the structure they had just climbed: the Great Pyramid of Giza. Their footage is part of a new age of pyramid exploration that will help us view the Egyptian pyramids like never before.
When you think of the pyramids of ancient Egypt, you might think of Harrison Ford or Brendan Fraser mapping out clues and deep diving into unknown chambers, but pyramid exploration has become slightly more sophisticated.
Previously, archeologists collected pieces of data from the Egyptian pyramids and put the separate pieces together to create line drawings and to tell a story of the past. However, this story only showed the outside of the pyramids. Today, teams of archeologists, computer scientists, mathematicians, and software engineers are using advanced tech to research parts of the Egyptian pyramids that we’ve never seen.
Archeologist Yukinori Kawae and his team are using 3D mapping to study the core of the Great Pyramid. They record 20 minutes of video and spread it into 300,000 frames. This creates a 3D model of both the outside and inside of certain sections of the pyramid.
Viewing the inside of the Great Pyramid reveals more about how builders stacked its stones, which gives us more clues on how they constructed it.
Experts are even learning about the pyramids through particle physics. In 1936, physicists discovered subatomic particles called muons that form when cosmic rays collide with particles in the upper atmosphere. Because muons are heavier than electrons and penetrate further than X-rays, physicists can use them to look deep into objects:
“Muons lose energy to surrounding electrons as the muons pass through matter…The denser the matter muons pass through, the more quickly energy is lost, and the more muons are effectively absorbed. Therefore, muons can be used to construct an image based on the density contrast in the matter through which the muons have passed.” – David Adam, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Physicists and Egyptologists in the ’60s first used muons to explore the Pyramid of Khafre. 50+ years later, while repeating this experiment on the Great Pyramid of Giza, experts found a hidden chamber as big as a 747 fuselage.
Experts have also used data mapping to record the exact coordinates of the entire Giza Plateau:
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