Nondestructive Testing & Research

International team launches unprecedented project to scan Egypt's pyramids using infra-red technology

Scientists from Egypt, Canada, Japan and France have launched a project to probe Egypt's largest pyramids using infrared scanning technology.
RNDT, needle hydrophones

International team launches project using infrared scanning technology

ELEANOR HALL: Scientists from Egypt, Canada, Japan and France have launched a project to probe Egypt’s largest pyramids using infrared scanning technology.

The project will begin next month, as Mandie Sami explains.

MANDIE SAMI: Egypt’s pyramids are thousands of years old.

While much has been discovered, scientist Matthieu Klein from Laval University in Canada says much more remains unknown.

And so he and an international team are using infrared scanning technology to scan beneath the surface of Egypt’s pyramids to try to unlock those secrets.

MATTHIEU KLEIN (translated): We will take measurements by infrared thermography. These are measurements that are known in English as NDT, non-destructive testing. We won’t be touching the pyramids. We don’t move any of the blocks, nor do we make any holes. These are measurements that are taken from a distance.

MANDIE SAMI: The scanning will start next month south of Cairo at the so-called Bent Pyramid at Dashour, followed by the nearby Red Pyramid.

After that, Egypt’s two largest pyramids in Giza will be scanned.

Mr Klein says even though his team won’t be physically touching the pyramids, his optimistic that the infra-red method will yield results.

MATTHIEU KLEIN (translated): We hope that we will be able to display, if there are any cavities, ramps, tunnels or anything that might be under the surface. How deep can we detect things? Not very deep; we remain under the surface. We won’t be able to see completely through the pyramid, maybe a few metres at the maximum. But it could be that there are interesting things there, even a few metres deep, two or three blocks distance, under the surface.

MANDIE SAMI: Associate Professor Boyo Ockinga is an Egyptologist at Macquarie University in Sydney.

BOYO OCKINGA: I’ve not heard of this being used in archaeology before.

Ten years ago or so people tried to see whether there were any hidden chambers in the Great Pyramid in Giza by boring into a cavity that laid behind a wall and then sending in sort of a robot with cameras to sort of explore in these cavities, but you know, actually scanning the whole structure itself of course is another matter altogether and one can never know what can turn up there.

So this project here seems to be looking for evidence of chambers and so forth that can’t be detected in any way from outside where there is no hint of their existence from outside.

MANDIE SAMI: How exciting is it?

BOYO OCKINGA: Well I mean if they do find something it will be very interesting and very exciting indeed. And it’s a non-destructive way of finding out this information which is great; in the early days they used gun powder and explosives to try and blast their ways into the pyramids so obviously this is a much better way of doing it, and yes, we’ll be interested to see what comes of it.

MANDIE SAMI: What do you think the potential discovery is?

BOYO OCKINGA: We know that there were burial places for the kings. The question of course is, were their any hidden chambers that were fuelled with grave goods that were intentionally built in such a way that they wouldn’t be able to be accessed by anyone.

Now it’s just amazing, with the developments in science how these new methodologies can be applied to a science like archaeology, which opens up all sorts of new and exciting possibilities for retrieving information and interpreting it.

ABC News – ELEANOR HALL: That’s Associate Professor Boyo Ockinga, an Egyptologist at Macquarie University, ending Mandie Sami’s report.

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