Full Episode
Scanning the Pyramids

Tracing the origin of the legends of secret chambers hidden in the heart of the pyramid, Secrets of the Dead will show what lies within, solving a 4,500-year-old mystery, by following the first scientific mission in 30 years to be authorized by the Egyptian government to examine the pyramids of Egypt.


Credits Print

narrated by
Jay O. Sanders

written and directed by
Florence Tran

with the collaboration of
Pascal Cuissot

produced by
Sophie Parrault
Emmanuel Priou
Yves Darondeau

scientific advisors
Benoit Marini
Sébastien Procureur

original soundtrack written and performed by
Gregory Tanielian
© 2017 Bonne Pioche Music

with the voices of
Paul Bandey
Geoffrey Bateman
Andy Chase
David Gasman
Antony Hickling
Chris Mack

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Nicolas Gabriel
Hervé Glabeck
Lionel Jan Kerguistel
Florence Tran

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Marie Landon
Frederico Stauffer

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Élodie Ferré

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Scanpyramids, A Scientific Mission Created And Coordinated By
The Faculty Of Engineering Of Cairo University (Egypt)
The Hip Institute (France)

with its scientific associates
Nagoya University (Japan)
KEK (High Energy Accelerator Research Organization - Japan)
CEA (The French Alternative Energies And Atomic Energy Commission - France)
Laval University (Canada)
Dassault Systèmes (France)
Emissive (France)
Inria (France)
CNRS (France)
Aïn Shams University Faculty of Engineering (Egypt)

The Scanpyramids Mission Is Supported By:
The Dassault Systèmes Foundation, Suez, Icewatch, The Dassault Group, Batscop, Itekube, Parrot, ILP, Kurtzdev, Gen-G, Schneider Electric, Octave & Octave

special thanks
Thierry Alexandre
Guillemette Andreu-Lanoë
Hamada Anwar
Marie-Pierre Aulas
Fabien Barati
Hussein Barrada
Laurence Barthès
François Bertrand 
Camera Lucida
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Pascal Daloz
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Mahmoud Ezzeldin
Romain Fontaine
Philippe Forestier
Laurence Gaudé
Emmanuel Guerriero
Karine Guilbert
Marie-Hélène & Benoit Habert
Takumi Hisaizumi

special thanks
Jean-Pierre Houdin
Laurent Jamet
Chloé Jarry
Aline Kiner
 Hirokazu Kurihara
Arturo Menchaca
Thomas Marlier
Ségolène Moignet
Junichi Nakao
Clémence Oger-Chevalier
Vincent Picou
Ange-Marie Revel
David Reyes
Anne-Marie Sangla
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produced by bonne pioche
in association with thirteen productions llc for wnet, curiositystream,
hip (heritage innovation & preservation institute), faculty of engineering of cairo university, nhk, and france télévisions

with the participation of the centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée

with the support of the ile-de-france region, in partnership with the centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée
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© 2017 hip institute, faculty of engineering of cairo university, nhk, bonne pioche télévision & france télévisions. all rights reserved.

Transcript Print

SECRETS OF THE DEAD | Scanning the Pyramids

The Great Pyramid at Giza…

No royal mummy or funerary artifacts have ever been found inside this tomb built for Pharaoh Khufu.

A papyrus text dating from 1700 B.C. tells of his fascination with magic and his desire to build secret chambers inside the pyramid.

But these hidden chambers have never been found.

Over the centuries, explorers have used the technology of their day to search for what might be inside….

19th-century treasure seekers used dynamite that left brutal scars.

Modern Egyptologists have used custom-made robots and miniaturized cameras.

Now, a new team will attempt to create a detailed scan of the 45-story pyramid.

After centuries of searching, can new rooms be found?

And can this be done without disturbing a single stone?

Hany Helal and Mehdi Tayoubi have taken up the challenge, directing the Scan Pyramids project.

Mehdi Tayoubi /Co-director, ScanPyramids
There are lots of theories about the ancient pyramids. Aren't there any techniques that don't specifically come from Egyptology, that might let us see through the pyramids without touching them, to see if there are any unknown structures inside these great pyramids?

They plan the most technologically advanced survey of the Great Pyramid, using muography, a cutting-edge imaging technique.

Hany Helal / Co-director, ScanPyramids
Our first challenge was assembling the team, that all need to work together, but with their different cultures, working methods, and approaches.

To do this, the pair assembles a multidisciplinary team of Egyptian, French, Japanese and Canadian experts that includes:

Thermal infrared engineers, experts in modeling and 3D simulations, and particle physicists.

Can physics unlock the secrets within this ancient pyramid?

45 centuries ago, Egyptian workers, who knew neither the wheel nor iron, built the Great Pyramid of Giza, a mountain of 2.3 million stone blocks.

This pyramid would be the eternal resting place for Pharaoh Khufu, ruler of the 4th Dynasty for several decades.

Given its size, one would expect to find awe-inspiring gold and funeral goods on a scale to match those inside Tutankhamun’s.

King Tut only reigned for a few years and left no monument to posterity.

He is famous today simply because his tomb is the only one ever discovered in its original state, with its fabulous treasure still intact.

No treasure or statue of Khufu has ever been found.

This tiny ivory figurine is all we know of the ruler who left the most monumental pyramid of all.

While looters raided the pyramid throughout history, the tomb was only officially opened in the 9th century, by a Muslim caliph interested in science and mystery.

Salima Ikram, an Egyptologist based in Egypt for 30 years, has studied the accounts left by Arab historians from the era.

Salima Ikram / Egyptologist, American University in Cairo
This is the entrance to the great pyramid but it wasn’t always the case.

In the ninth century A.D. the Khalifa Mahmoud decided he wanted to enter the pyramids and in those days they looked completely different, they were in fact covered with shiny white limestone.

He had heard rumors that inside there were astonishing things, there were maps of the world, there were all kinds of treasures, not really gold and silver so much but actually magical things.

Al Mahmoun’s men used an ancient technique: heating the stones with a fire and then throwing vinegar on them so they would crack.

After several months of hard labor, Mahmoun’s team found a corridor descending under the pyramid that led to a room.

But there was no treasure.

They continued their exploration and found another corridor leading to another room. It too was empty.

They named this second room the Queen’s Chamber, apparently assuming that King Khufu had reserved this room for his wife.

By the light of their torches, they then explored the Grand Gallery, 25 feet high and nearly 165 feet long.

Salima Ikram / Egyptologist, American University in Cairo
When Mahmoun and his team came in here, they were holding their torches aloft and they picture it with bats flying every which way trying to hit them and avoid the torches and being burnt. It must have been an extraordinary experience, coming into this amazing structure for the first time. This is truly one of the most extraordinary and amazing pieces of architecture in the ancient world.

At the end of this mysterious gallery lay more astonishing proof of the Egyptian builders’ genius:

The so-called King's Chamber, with its flat ceiling, made entirely of precisely fit granite blocks.

Al Mahmoun, however, had hoped to find much more.

Salima Ikram / Egyptologist, American University in Cairo
At the end of the room they found the sarcophagus of the king. Neither the room nor the sarcophagus had anything in it. All were empty. Some people had expected mamoun to find all kinds of jewels and gold. But nothing like that seemed to have been here so i suppose that both al mamoun and his people were rather disappointed.

No other comparable rooms have been found in the centuries since.

Despite the lack of success, countless explorers have continued the search.

What has fueled this desire to know the inner secrets of the Great Pyramid?

Perhaps the answer lies in the Museum of Egyptology in Berlin, where a papyrus text from 1700 B.C. is carefully preserved.

The Westcar papyrus is filled with legends and tales from the era of King Khufu.

According to the papyrus, Khufu was inspired by the sacred architecture of the god of knowledge and wisdom, Thot, and had secret chambers built into his pyramid to house magic books containing all the knowledge of the day.

Now, a new generation is trying to understand the Great Pyramid.

Mehdi Tayoubi is a specialist in innovation strategy. He has led numerous projects combining art, science and technology at Dassault Systèmes.

In 2013, he met Hany Helal, former minister of higher education and research and now a professor at the faculty of engineering at Cairo University.

Together, they spent two years preparing the ScanPyramids project and gathering the best scientists and engineers.

Once the team is assembled, they set out to scan the pyramids.

This new project is under the aegis of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, the Faculty of Engineers of Cairo and HIP, the Heritage Innovation and Preservation Institute, founded by Tayoubi and Helal.

Hany Helal / Co-director, ScanPyramids
We are a team of "neutral" scientists. There are several theories about how the pyramids were built. We are not taking sides. Our mission is to find proof, real evidence. All our results will be submitted to and analyzed by a group of expert Egyptologists from the ministry of antiquities.

They will use physics and sub-atomic particles to see inside this giant structure.

These particles are created when radiation in the form of cosmic rays from distant supernovae hits the earth’s atmosphere.

These cosmic rays then produce several different sub-atomic particles, including muons.

About 10,000 muons per square yard hit the earth every minute, and move through matter in straight lines.

Muons are less likely to be absorbed when passing through low-density matter.

To create an image with muography, nuclear emulsion films record muons as they cross. More muon trajectories recorded in a particular direction means there is likely more open space above the film.

The process is akin to taking an x-ray but on a much larger scale.

Nuclear film is placed inside the pyramid to record how many muons arrive from different directions.

But before the team attempts to scan the Great Pyramid, the Egyptian government has asked them to test the technique on the well-documented Bent Pyramid at Dashur, 20 miles from Cairo.

Kunihiro Morishima / Physicist and Muography Expert, Nagoya University
I'm really excited about using this method to take on such a mysterious monument.

Dr. Kunihiro Morishima and his team from the University of Nagoya have been chosen to start the muography tests inside the Bent Pyramid.

They set up their muon-detecting films in the lower room and hope these plates will record the muons passing through the stones, creating an image of the room above.

After 40 days of collecting muon particles, Dr. Morishima and his team recover the films.

He immediately takes them to the Grand Egyptian Museum where a new laboratory has been placed at his disposal.

The films will continue to record muons until processed so it is imperative they get to the lab quickly.

Kunihiro Morishima / Physicist and Muography Expert, Nagoya University
Ten seconds left. Five, four, three, two, one, zero

They are developed like photographic film with chemicals, fixers, rinsing and drying.

To guarantee the quality of the results, the procedure must be carried out very precisely.

And now, they can measure the number of muons recorded.

Kunihiro Morishima /Physicist and Muography Expert, Nagoya University
It’s better than I was expecting.

The muon moves in a straight line. As we change depths, we can see it going up. It moves like this.

Millions of muon trajectories were recorded.

Kunihiro Morishima /
Physicist and Muography Expert, Nagoya University
Oh! It’s perfect!

And the data must now be analyzed in detail. This work can only be performed one place in the world.

In Japan, Nagoya’s team scans each film individually with a machine that is both a scanner and a microscope and only exists in their lab.

What is the total resolution of the…

The sensor is 0.45 micron.

So it is kind of a mega pixel picture you get?


With the data, the machine can reconstruct the trajectories of the muons.

Using algorithms and immense computing power, any evidence of particles that are not muons is filtered out.

So that's why you have 36 computers? Each computer for two sensors.


Even with all of this computing power, it takes more than four weeks to scan the films from the Bent Pyramid.

Four weeks during which Dr. Morishima and his students work around the clock and watch as the first muographic image of the pyramid emerges.

Will the image show the upper chamber?

The fate of the entire ScanPyramids project depends on it.

Kunihiro Morishima / Physicist and Muography Expert, Nagoya University
There’s the pyramid. You can see the edges.

The four faces of the pyramid are recognizable, and the peak is distinguished in yellow because fewer muons crossed the monument where it is thickest.

What really interests Dr. Morishima’s team is invisible to the untrained eye.

Kunihiro Morishima / Physicist and Muography Expert, Nagoya University
Here’s the spot where a lot of muons penetrated. So that must be it. We see the same thing over here. Even if we have less data.

Could these red pixels represent the upper chamber that the scan was meant to find?

And could the scan have detected previously unknown cavities?

To answer these questions, Dr. Morishima must compare his results with what is already known.

For this purpose, Mehdi Tayoubi’s French team has created a detailed 3D reconstruction of the Bent Pyramid and developed specially-tailored simulation software.

The simulation confirms the Nagoya team has indeed detected the upper chamber using muography.

Benoit Marini / Dassault Systèmes
I didn’t think it would work this well.

If an unknown chamber exists, it would have been visible in the muographic image.

But nothing showed up on Morishima’s films, and the team concludes they haven’t found any new cavities.

The entire ScanPyramids team travels to Cairo to present the first results to the Egyptian authorities.

Hany Helal / Co-director, ScanPyramids
Over the forty days when the emulsion films were exposed to muons in the Bent Pyramid, they recorded ten million muons. I tell you this to give you an idea of the volume of data that needs to be processed.

Hany Helal must convince the members of the committee that muography in no way harms the pyramid's integrity and also produces credible results.

The team explains how muography successfully detected the upper chamber in the Bent Pyramid.

The committee gives the green light for the project to continue.

But it makes one additional decision: ScanPyramids must present its next findings to a team led by the well-known Egyptologist Dr. Zahi Hawass.

After the successful test at the Bent Pyramid, the team prepares to tackle the pyramid of Pharaoh Khufu.

But before the muography work begins, infrared thermography specialists look for differences in temperature on the surface that could indicate a potential void inside.

Jean-Claude Barré and Clemente Ibarra Castanedo, specialists in infrared thermography, spend several days surveying the pyramid.

Jean-Claude Barré / Engineer in Infrared Thermography
At two different spots in each pyramid, there’s an almost identical temperature difference, as if there were a difference in density in both spots. There’s a density difference here, between there, there, and there.

If the monument shows abnormal thermal activity in certain areas – if some zones are warmer or cooler than the surrounding blocks – it could signal a void inside the pyramid.

The system records an image every 60 seconds as the sun changes position over the pyramid.

Blue and green colors indicate cooler temperatures, reds and yellows warmer ones.

In just a few days, Barré finds several irregularities, but the most significant one is located here, around the chevron-shaped stones on the pyramid’s north face.

The differences in temperature suggest the existence of a previously unknown cavity.

Jean-Claude Barré / Engineer in Infrared Thermograph
It is all quite extraordinary. Horizontal to the chevrons and on the right, that's cold air coming out... I do not know why but the temperature varies by 6, 8, and 10 degrees Celsius, whereas the overall temperature is currently stable at about 24 degrees. So, something's there.

Castanedo takes another set of readings on the north face of the pyramid to confirm the first measurements.

To ensure accuracy, additional instruments record the slightest variations in wind speed and surrounding temperatures.

The work is carried out in 24-hour cycles.

Despite blustery overnight winds and extreme daytime temperatures that wreak havoc on the sensitive cameras, Castanedo manages to complete three full observation cycles.

The results of this extended analysis confirm a thermal anomaly around the chevrons.

Mehdi Tayoubi / Co-director, ScanPyramids
You have to imagine that when the pyramid was finished 4,500 years ago, it was perfectly smooth. The chevrons were hidden, so they quite probably had some internal structural purpose.

Inside the pyramids, ancient Egyptians used stone rafters to keep ceilings from collapsing under the weight of thousands of tons of stone above them.

In theory, these rafters indicate the likely presence of a room beneath.

Mehdi Tayoubi / Co-director, ScanPyramids
Inevitably we asked ourselves a lot of architectural questions: Why are there so many chevrons to protect a descending corridor that slopes down? It seems a lot of work for such a small passageway. It's an area that raises lots of questions. So then, when Jean-Claude Barré found thermal anomalies and Laval confirmed them, we knew we needed to explore further. And there is the descending corridor which isn't open to tourists, so we can set up our plates and no one can touch them. So let’s do it, let's observe!

Dr. Morishima’s team places 151 muon detector plates inside the pyramid.

With the results of the infrared thermography tests serving as a guide, the films are positioned in the area behind the rafters, where the large temperature variations suggest a cavity.

If a new cavity is located here, it will be found.

As planned from the outset of the project, the ScanPyramids team also installs films in an area closed to the public in the heart of the pyramid: the Queen's Chamber.

Dr. Morishima has improved the sensitivity of his films so that they are now more resistant to heat and moisture and can record muons for more than 70 days.

Positioning the plates in the center of the pyramid maximizes the field of detection and encompasses a large part of Khufu’s tomb, including areas where voids, like the King’s Chamber and the Grand Gallery, are known to be.

But the set-up in the Queen's Chamber isn't finished.

The ScanPyramids team has asked Dr. Morishima to place additional films in another small tunnel dug by looters.

The scientists hope that by combining the muography from the Queen's Chamber with results from this tunnel, they can determine both the location and the size of any unknown chambers.

Kunihiro Morishima /
Physicist and Muography Expert, Nagoya University
If we position the films in just one spot, our vision is limited. It makes it harder to calculate the depth of the detected void and also its height. If we install the plates in two different spots, we can see from two different angles, and we can estimate the height of what we find.

Meanwhile, in France, the team is preparing the next phase of operations with Dr. Sébastien Procureur, a specialist in subatomic particles like muons.

Sébastien Procureur / Physicist and Muography Expert, CEA
There are two types of thin traces: the ones that zigzag a little are electrons; the traces that are practically straight are the muons.

Procureur and his colleagues are just completing the construction of three muon telescopes specifically designed for the project.

These ultra-sensitive detectors must be assembled in a dust-free room.

Each telescope is equipped with four sensors. An argon-based gas mixture flows inside the sensors and allows them to detect muons.

In the interest of safety, the team decides to install the telescopes outside the pyramid on the chance the dangerous argon gas leaks out.

The telescopes are shipped to Cairo and then delivered to the pyramid.

Sébastien Procureur / Physicist and Muography Expert, CEA
For now the telescope is pointed at the center of the pyramid, but in terms of height we want to point it at the notch, which is about two-thirds up the northeast edge, so we need to tilt it above the horizon about 45-50 degrees. Then, visually, we’re good.

The telescopes are first pointed at a mysterious notch in the pyramid’s exterior that has never been fully explained.

While the scientists hope to find new rooms, they also want to answer one of the biggest mysteries of all:

How exactly did the ancient Egyptians build this amazing monument?

New theories are proposed all the time, particularly related to the type of ramp used to raise the stones up so high.

In the 2000s, the architect Jean-Pierre Houdin developed the idea of an internal ramp that allowed stones to be brought to the summit, 480 feet above ground.

According to him, the notch would be linked to the internal ramp.

To get a closer look at this notch, the project receives special permission to climb the pyramid.

The ascent can be dangerous as the limestone blocks could crumble under foot.

Benoit Marini / Dassault Systèmes
I guess the safety equipment wasn’t such a bad idea.

Seen from this height, the magnitude of the work done by the builders of the pyramids seems even more impressive.

The group is intrigued by a space behind the notch.

Was this room designed during the construction of the pyramid? Or created centuries later? What could it have been used for?

An endoscope allows them to peer behind these large blocks.

Sébastien Procureur / Physicist and Muography Expert, CEA
What's interesting about this room is that, between the big blocks, we see orifices with much smaller stones. We get the impression that some passages extend rather far. So it's interesting to try to see as far as possible what's hidden back there, if there are more big stones or other structures.

Using the endoscope gives them a sense of the pyramid’s inner masonry, but muography is needed to find out more.

The telescopes must first detect this small room in order to prove their effectiveness. It's their calibration test.

If there are other cavities in this area, their instruments should find them as well.

The telescopes are left in place for several months and must remain in a fixed position the entire time.

In total, the team installs three telescopes on different sides of the northeast ridge.

The terrain and extreme heat, which can reach up to 113 degrees, cause several unexpected technical problems.

Sébastien Procureur / Physicist and Muography Expert, CEA
If the plastic expands, it’ll move a bit and the instruments and detectors won’t be in exactly the same spot and they won't end up pointing in the same direction over time; so we need reinforcement to make it more stable.

After three days, the technical issues are sorted out.

The telescopic muography shows the first traces of muons recorded as they appear in real time.

Sébastien Procureur / Physicist and Muography Expert, CEA
Each dot on the image is actually the path of a muon. We've reconstructed about a hundred thousand muons in eight hours and the telescopes weren’t even at full power. The fact we can see the pyramid after seven or eight hours is pretty promising. Obviously, it’s too early to look for things because we still have very little data – but in a few weeks, we'll have hundreds of times more than what we've got here and then it will really get interesting. We're going to see things.

Then, the Minister of Antiquities and Dr. Hawass drop in for a surprise visit. Hawass now heads the Committee of Egyptologists, which is in charge of evaluating the project’s results.

And he is skeptical of the technology.


How can I trust that this type of things can be accurate?

You can say: "OK, here there is a cavity because we have more muons, less absorption, and here we don’t have any cavity because we have more absorption."

What you need is, when you have a report of the results of the work here, you should present it to the minister, and the minister will give it to the committee and after that we can think, based on his decision, what we can say about any results inside the pyramids. We do not want to make balloons.

From a scientific point of view, we are 99% sure that this technique is valid, this technique will show us everything.

Dr. Zahi Hawass /Egyptologist

We hope that this technique could be accurate. Actually, I don't believe in all this type of techniques, personally. I hope that I will be wrong and they will show me something accurate because all the science that has been done with the pyramids for the last 100 years, it’s a result of the air. Because we know inside the Great Pyramid there is cavities, I really believe that Khufu's burial chamber is still hidden inside. I do hope that I’m wrong and this technique will bring something accurate. Thank you.

Under pressure from the Committee of Egyptologists, the team redoubles its efforts.

Inside the Queen’s Chamber, they place a detector brought in by a third muography group from Japan’s high energy lab K.E.K.

To make room for the K.E.K. team to set up its instrument, Dr. Morishima has retrieved the set of films placed 70 days earlier.

With two teams, the data captured inside the pyramid doubles, strengthening the accuracy of the analysis.

Fumihiko Takazaki /Physicist and Muography Expert, KEK
We have six people working for this device and the analysis. They are well trained and their expertise is world top-class, to be honest.

K.E.K. has 20 years' experience using a type of muographic instrument called a scintillator that emits flashes of light when a muon penetrates a special plastic.

For the pyramid, a much more compact and mobile scintillator was built to fit inside the Queen’s Chamber.

K.E.K.’s machine also records muons in the upper part of the pyramid.

Will the two Japanese teams see the same thing?

Once the scintillator is installed, Dr. Morishima also places new emulsion films in the Queen's Room.

The more data gathered, the more reliable their findings will be.

There are now three types of muon detectors in place:

The scintillator and emulsion films inside the pyramid and the telescopes pointed at the edge of the northeast ridge outside the pyramid.

In photography, it takes only one millisecond for billions of photons to form an image.

But in muography, it takes several months to obtain an image, especially with a structure as large and dense as the pyramid.

The only thing to do now is wait… Wait for the muons to reveal the innermost secrets of the pyramid.

For months, Egyptian students, trained in muography, monitor the equipment – transmitting data, regulating the argon gas and sorting out internet connection issues.

They are the guardians of these cosmic particle detectors.

Once the data collection ends, a marathon of analysis begins.

In France, they process the information from the exterior telescopes.

Sébastien Procureur / Physicist and Muography Expert, CEA
This is the image we got with the first telescope. Over three million muons were reconstructed. We now have a relatively clear view of the notch that’s two-thirds up along the northeast edge.

The telescopes appear to have detected the cavity behind the notch, so they know the technique works.

And, they begin to see an anomaly above the cavity.

So maybe, there’s another kind of notch hidden here?


So, if there’s another notch here, we should see even more muons accumulating right along the edge.

That’s it.

After three months of collecting data and almost as much time analyzing it, Sébastien Procureur confirms the telescopes have detected another cavity about 365 feet along the edge, some 90-feet above the notch they visited.

This new cavity is similar in size to the one below.

Sébastien Procureur / Physicist and Muography Expert, CEA
This mission is really a first – the first time we’ve detected very tiny voids at such great distances.

Do these similarly-sized cavities support the internal ramp theory? Are there more cavities along other edges?

Further investigation is needed to answer these questions.

Meanwhile, at the University of Nagoya, the films placed in the descending corridor behind the stone rafters are scanned and analyzed before those placed in the Queen’s Chamber.

Kunihiro Morishima /
Physicist and Muography Expert, Nagoya University
I’ve aligned them for the first time. There seems to be something on the vertical axis. What could it be? If that shape remains even after we compare it to the simulation, it means there could very well be something there.

Does this finding match the infrared thermography results?


What do you think ?

There does indeed seem to be something there towards the middle.

Dr. Morishima doesn’t want to jump to any conclusions.

He travels to Paris to discuss his findings with the other members of the ScanPyramids project.

They zero in on a small surplus of muons that seems to suggest a startling discovery.

Morishima’s results are compared with Benoit Marini's computer simulations and two other simulators used in particle physics.

They spend three full days analyzing and comparing all of the data and their simulations.

The team does not want to claim success until they have checked everything several times.

In the end, they reach the same conclusion:


We have found big space.

They have indeed detected a cavity behind the rafters. The rate of certainty: 99.9999 percent.

To the first discovery of ScanPyramids, made by Nagoya University and Dr. Morishima team.

And HIP.

Ah, yes, and HIP, and everyone. But, congratulations.

This may be the first discovery inside the Great Pyramid in centuries. And it was accomplished using the latest non-invasive technologies.

But it raises new questions:

What is the exact shape of the cavity? Is it a room? A corridor? If it is a corridor, how far into the pyramid does it lead?

Muography may be a boon to Egyptologists, allowing them to peer inside a pyramid without moving a single stone.

But this is only the first of several potential discoveries made.

Dr. Morishima has more great news to announce.

The films from the Queen's Chamber have detected yet another enormous void higher up in the pyramid.

Benoit Marini / Dassault Systèmes
That’s the anomaly and we see it at almost all the way to 0. In terms of length, that means...

Any further exploration with muon films requires permission from the Egyptian authorities.

To obtain that permission, the team must present their findings to the Ministry of Antiquities and Dr. Zahi Hawass.

Helal and Tayoubi choose to present their first two discoveries: the cavity behind the rafters and the new cavity found on the northeast ridge.

But they keep the huge anomaly detected to themselves for further study.

This time, the meeting with the Egyptologists is held behind closed doors, no cameras allowed.

In the end, the committee authorizes ScanPyramids to continue their work on the Khufu pyramid, but barely…

The committee calls the two discoveries “mere anomalies.”

Dr. Hawass and the Committee of Egyptologists remain unconvinced.

Mehdi Tayoubi / Co-director, ScanPyramids
The question Zahi Hawass and the other Egyptologists asked us was whether the detected voids might be due to a sub-density – for example, stones that are smaller than others. In fact, they didn't actually believe that there are voids.

So, we had what I call the "big stone versus little stone" episode. It took some time before we could actually convince them that muography confirms the presence of voids and the volume of those voids.

Nevertheless, armed with their new permit and a detailed plan, the team heads back into the field.

Dr. Morishima places new films next to the granite blocks and in the Al-Mahmoun passageway to determine the exact location of the start of the corridor detected behind the chevrons.

He also places new films in another tunnel dug by looters, located just before the King's Chamber…

…a key spot that could make it possible to learn more about the enormous anomaly detected in the Queen’s Chamber.

This void is gigantic. If scientists confirm that it is indeed a cavity, then it could be comparable in size to the Grand Gallery.

No one suspected a space of this size could be located here.

With Dr. Morishima’s results in mind, the team redirects the three exterior telescopes toward the center of the north face where the enormous cavity was detected.

The hope is that by observing the north face from different angles, including the exterior, all three muography teams can confirm the cavity’s presence.

As they begin this new stage in the project, they don’t know how much time and hard work will be needed to collect the maximum amount of data.

Each team works independently so they don’t influence each other.

Now, it's the K.E.K. team's turn to find the intriguing irregularity.

KEK Researcher
I don’t know yet whether it’s an unknown structure, but I get the impression there’s something unusual!

Once the analysis is far enough along, all the teams gather in Paris to compare their results.

When we highlight the anomaly, we see this elongated shape appear. That means by looking upwards from these two spots we found a huge cavity stretching in the same direction as the Grand Gallery. This is the proof that we’ve found a large cavity above the Grand Gallery.

When we moved the scintillator to the second location, we were able to find this new structure that confirms Nagoya's findings.

So, we need to take out "anomaly" and write "cavity" now.

Even the telescopes outside the pyramid detect and confirm the existence of this immense void.

The findings of all three teams point to the same spot.

All three groups have found a gigantic void roughly 14,000 cubic feet, located between 170 and 230 feet up.

The void is comparable to the volume of a 200-seat airplane, and is at least 100 feet long.

Mehdi Tayoubi /
Co-director, ScanPyramids
We know we've got a large void here, equivalent in volume to the Grand Gallery. We know this volume may be accessible from the north face, and maybe we're going to find other cavities. So, basically, we found a new circuit within the pyramid. We’ve made discoveries in the pyramid, and we’re going to stop talking about "big stones and little stones" – we’re finally going to update the map of this pyramid with major discoveries.

The discovery of this great cavity is a genuine success for the entire team.

The young scientists from Nagoya particularly relish this victory in Paris.

For two years, they worked around the clock, developing more than 1000 muon films and making some twenty trips to Cairo.

Kunihiro Morishima / Physicist and Muography Expert, Nagoya University
Since no one’s been in these chambers for 4,500 years, I hope we find some old papyrus scrolls or even, maybe, Khufu’s mummy. In any case, what would be amazing is to find something no one ever even imagined.

Before announcing these discoveries to the entire world, Mehdi Tayoubi and the team share them with Egyptologist Peter der Manuelian of Harvard University.

Manuelian is an Egyptologist passionate about new technology, just as Tayoubi’s high-tech team is passionate about ancient Egypt.

They choose to present their results in augmented reality.

We have a menu, yes.

OK. I’m seeing a massive area, can you explain this one?

It's between 55 meters from the ground to 70 meters. We need to refine those data. We don't know if this cavity is horizontal or oblique, but what I can tell you is that this cavity is between 400 and 500 cubic meters.

Wow, so you’re talking Grand Gallery size. This is a second cavity that is potentially as large as the Grand Gallery. Incredible. So now we need to know what the shape of this thing is and hopefully that would lead to what the purpose of it is.

Exactly, so, what we did with Pierre, what we did also with Benoit, is that we have simulated some architectural hypothesis.

At this point, there are several potential hypotheses:

One room, or many rooms. Horizontal, or sloping like a second Grand Gallery.

Mehdi Tayoubi / Co-director, ScanPyramids
The second big discovery is this corridor, just here, behind the north face.

The ScanPyramids team has determined the corridor behind the rafters is located 55 to 75 feet above ground, and that it is either horizontal or, possibly, slopes upward.

Our dream would be that those two discoveries are connected to each other.

So now, it's a game of relationships: what's the relationship between these two discoveries. Nice job!

Peter Der Manuelian / Egyptologist, Harvard University
So, what is this giant new room? Is it architectural, is it ceremonial, is it religious, what kind of purpose did it serve, was it a storeroom for burial equipment?

Will the team find furniture like that found in the tomb of Khufu's mother?

Is the room still intact, like King Tut's tomb when it was discovered?

Is there some truth to the legend described in the Westcar papyrus?

Could it contain papyrus scrolls belonging to Pharaoh Khufu that would provide new insight into the 4th dynasty?

Mehdi Tayoubi / Co-director, ScanPyramids
Today, we know that there’s a corridor behind the north face of the pyramid. We know it starts two meters from the facade. So maybe it’s time to develop some exploratory methods and, in fact, we have actually started to come up with some new ideas.

Jean-Baptiste Mouret, one of the world's top researchers in robotics, has joined the ScanPyramids team for future exploration inside the pyramid.

He is developing tiny robotic cameras able to fit through holes barely one inch in diameter.

These cameras will photograph the area of the cavity behind the chevrons that is inaccessible to the scientists.

To prepare for the next phase of the mission, the team has also developed a virtual reality experience to explore the seventh wonder of the world and the new discoveries.

Hany Helal / Co-director, ScanPyramids
What's great about this mission isn't just discovering and learning what’s inside the pyramid, but also the fact that it advances technology and science at the same time.

ScanPyramids’ discoveries are remarkable:

The second cavity on the northeast ridge that may be part of an internal ramp system during construction.

A new corridor behind the chevron stones on the north face.

And, perhaps most dramatically, the enormous cavity first detected by Morishima’s films and confirmed by both the scintillator and the exterior telescopes.

Any object or scroll found inside these rooms – untouched for 45 centuries – would be an exceptional discovery.

But the detection of these new cavities is already a major breakthrough. This is the first time since the Middle Ages that spaces of this size have been found inside this enigmatic monument.

Today, we seem closer than ever to solving the mystery of Khufu.