Researchers scanning the Great Pyramid of Giza with heat-detecting cameras have found several “thermal anomalies” in the ancient structures—hinting that there may be undiscovered treasures or secret tombs hidden within the monuments.
According to BBC News, the cameras detected elevated temperature readings in three adjacent stones at the bottom of the Great Pyramid as part of an ongoing search for hidden chambers. The possible causes include the existence of empty chambers inside the pyramid, the use of different building materials, or air currents, officials with Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities said.
The findings come just two weeks into Operation Scan Pyramids, a project that uses noninvasive visualization methods such as drones and 3D scanning to look inside the structures, and includes a “particularly impressive” anomaly on the eastern side of the Khufu pyramid, added CNN.
Additional anomalies were detected at the smaller Khafre pyramid of Giza and two pyramids in Dahshur, about 20 kilometers to the south, the antiquities officials said. Each of these signals and all of the data collected thus far will be subject to further analysis, and the next stage of the project will involve creating 3D models and simulations of the Giza plateau.
Pyramid of Khafre in a sand storm, Cairo, Egypt
Not necessarily evidence of hidden chambers
Operation Scan Pyramids, which is being conducted by scientists and architects from Egypt, France, Canada, and Japan, involves using infrared thermography to analyze the pyramids during sunrise and sunset. As BBC News explains, the limestone structures are heated by the rising sun, while they cool down once the sun sets in the evening.
Of most interest is the one discovered at the 4,500 year old Khufu pyramid, the largest pyramid ever built and the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still standing, CNN said. In fact, according to ABC News, while the temperature of adjacent blocks can differ from 0.1 to 0.5 degrees Celsius, the anomaly was up to 6 degrees hotter than neighboring blocks.
Richard Enmarch, a senior lecturer in Egyptology at the University of Liverpool, told ABC News that although it is “always interesting to hear new discoveries at Giza,” that the anomaly does not necessarily indicate the presence of a secret chamber. “A void could be one reason,” he said, “but it’s not necessarily the most probable. It could also be explained by quality of the stones, whether the stones were cracked and the air flow was able to travel around.”
“Behind any of the stones there may be gaps, rubble, solid mortar, large building stones, or bedrock. Each of these will have rather different capacities for conducting heat,” added Professor Kate Spence, senior lecturer in Egyptian archaeology. “It’s interesting to look at monuments in this way, but I think we’d need rather more evidence before we decide that it’s significant.”