Physics at Virginia

Using Particle Physics to Search for Hidden Chambers in Pyramids

Wednesday, May 11 2022

Professor Dukes, research scientist Ralf Ehrlich, and undergraduate student Sydney Roberts are embarked on two archeology projects to search for hidden structures in the Great Pyramid of Khufu in Giza, Egypt and the El Castillo pyramid in Chichen Itza, Mexico.  Using a novel detector design Dukes's research team developed for an experiment, Mu2e, at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) outside of Chicago, they intend to probe the interior of the two pyramids using cosmic-ray muons, making a tomographic image of them.

Dukes and Roberts spent their spring break at Chichen Itza, working with other members of the research team making preliminary measurements and surveys of El Castillo, while Ehrlich took prototype detectors to Fermilab to measure their performance.  The real scan commences next year.

The scan of the Great Pyramid of Khufu requires a much larger detector, for which Dukes and the rest of a different research team, after having received approval by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, are seeking funding.

This work was featured in a recent UVA Today article: https://news.virginia.edu/content/professor-student-harness-space-particles-scan-ancient-pyramids

and an NBC news article featuring an interview of the leader of the Khufu team, Alan Bross: https://www.nbcnews.com/science/innovation/scientists-want-use-cosmic-rays-map-great-pyramid-gizas-secrets-rcna24839

Tags: Craig Dukes Ralf Ehrlich