Abstract

The Great Pyramid or Khufu’s Pyramid was built on the Giza Plateau (Egypt) during the IVth dynasty by the pharaoh Khufu (Cheops), who reigned from 2509 to 2483 BC1. Despite being one of the oldest and largest monuments on Earth, there is no consensus about how it was built2,3. To better understand its internal structure, we imaged the pyramid using muons, which are by-products of cosmic rays that are only partially absorbed by stone4–6. The resulting cosmic-ray muon radiography allows us to visualize the known and potentially unknown voids in the pyramid in a non-invasive way. Here we report the discovery of a large void (with a cross section similar to the Grand Gallery and a length of 30 m minimum) above the Grand Gallery, which constitutes the first major inner structure found in the Great Pyramid since the 19th century 1. This void, named ScanPyramids Big Void, was first observed with nuclear emulsion films7–9 installed in the Queen’s chamber (Nagoya University), then confirmed with scintillator hodoscopes10,11 set up in the same chamber (KEK) and re-confirmed with gas detectors12 outside of the pyramid (CEA). This large void has therefore been detected with a high confidence by three different muon detection technologies and three independent analyses. These results constitute a breakthrough for the understanding of Khufu’s Pyramid and its internal structure. 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.

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Author information

Affiliations

  1. F-lab, Nagoya University. Furo-cho, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya, 464-8602, Japan

    • Kunihiro Morishima
    • , Mitsuaki Kuno
    • , Akira Nishio
    • , Nobuko Kitagawa
    • , Yuta Manabe
    •  & Masaki Moto
  2. KEK, 1-1 oho, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-0801 Japan

    • Fumihiko Takasaki
    • , Hirofumi Fujii
    • , Kotaro Satoh
    • , Hideyo Kodama
    • , Kohei Hayashi
    •  & Shigeru Odaka
  3. IRFU, CEA, Université Paris Saclay, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France

    • Sébastien Procureur
    • , David Attié
    • , Simon Bouteille
    • , Denis Calvet
    • , Christopher Filosa
    • , Patrick Magnier
    • , Irakli Mandjavidze
    •  & Marc Riallot
  4. Cairo University, 9 Al Gameya, Oula, Giza Governorate, Egypt

    • Yasser Elshayeb
    • , Tamer Elnady
    • , Mustapha Ezzy
    •  & Hany Helal
  5. HIP Institute, 50 rue de Rome 75008 Paris, France

    • Benoit Marini
    • , Vincent Steiger
    • , Nicolas Serikoff
    • , Hany Helal
    •  & Mehdi Tayoubi
  6. Dassault Systèmes, 10 Rue Marcel Dassault, 78140 Vélizy-Villacoublay, France

    • Bernard Charlès
    •  & Mehdi Tayoubi
  7. Emissive, 71 rue de Provence 75009 Paris, France

    • Pierre Gable
    •  & Emmanuel Guerriero
  8. NEP, 4-14 Kamiyama-cho, Shibuya-ku,Tokyo 150-0047, Japan

    • Yoshikatsu Date
  9. Suave images, N-2 Maison de Shino, 3-30-8 Kamineguro, Meguro-Ku, Tokyo, 153-0051, Japan

    • Makiko Sugiura
  10. Inria Nancy – Grand Est, Villers-lès-Nancy, 54600, France

    • Jean-Baptiste Mouret

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Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Kunihiro Morishima or Mehdi Tayoubi.