Modern particle physics have allowed scientists to discover what they believe to be a large, secret space hidden within the Great Pyramid of Giza, a new study in the journal Nature reports.
The chamber — which measures roughly 100 feet long — sits above a tall, cathedral-like room known as the Grand Gallery. As a result, it could be the first significant internal structure found within the Great Pyramid since the 19th century. However, despite its size and importance, the room has remained a secret until now.
A team of international scientists uncovered the areas with an imaging technique that uses tiny particles known as muons to look inside enclosed spaces. Such molecules are created when cosmic rays from deep space hit atoms in the upper atmosphere. From there, they rain down to Earth and begin to decay as they pass through various materials.
Scientists can analyze that process to count the number of muons coming through space and see if the material inside of an object is solid or empty. In the recent study, the team used sheets of muon-detecting film to look into two rooms known as the the King’s Chamber and the Grand Gallery. However, to their surprise, they stumbled upon the empty area as well.
The discovery was such a shock that they double checked the finding with two other muon-detection techniques.
“The good news is the void is there,” study co-author Mehdi Tayoubi, a researcher at the HIP Institute in Paris, told NPR. “ Now we are sure that there is a void. We know that this void is big. I don’t know what it could be. I think it’s now time for Egyptologists and specialists in ancient Egypt architecture to collaborate with us, to provide us with some hypotheses.”
Now that the team has confirmed the space, they next want to find a way inside the hidden room without damaging the pyramid. Some have proposed the use of small robots to slip in through cracks or holes, but more study needs to be done before any such steps can be taken. Scientists state they will eventually find a way in, but until that happens the contents of the room will remain a mystery.
“All we know is that we have a void, we have a cavity, and it’s huge, which means possibly intentional and certainly worthy of further exploration,” said Peter Der Manuelian, an Egyptologist at Harvard University who was not involved in the study, in a statement.