From the pyramids of Giza to the tombs of Luxor, Egypt’s ancient monuments have held on to mysteries for thousands of years.
Experts now believe they are on the brink of finding a hidden ‘recess’ in the Great Pyramid of Giza.
A project called ScanPyramids is using infrared thermography among other techniques to find out the secrets of this hidden chamber and date artefacts.
Also known as Khufu Pyramid, it stands at 479 feet (146 metres) high and was the world’s tallest man-made structure for nearly 4,000 years.
ScanPyramids is among the most ambitious of the projects to demystify the Khufu Pyramid near Cairo, which was completed in about 2560 BC.
‘All the devices we put in place are designed to find where the cavity is located. We know there is one, but we’re trying to find out where,’ said Mehdi Tayoubi, president of the HIP Institute heading the ScanPyramids project.
It is the only surviving monument from the ancient Seven Wonders of the World.
Chemical testing still requires small samples, but advanced techniques coming into use are meant to be non-invasive so as not to damage the ancient relics.
Researchers are also using muography which looks for charged particles to help date artifacts.
The results are then compared with infrared and 3D images.
Some archaeologists have pinned hopes on using the sophisticated technology to locate the burial place of the legendary queen Nefertiti.
The wife of King Akhenaten, who initiated a monotheistic cult in ancient Egypt, queen Nefertiti remains an enigma, best known for a bust depicting her that is now on exhibition in Berlin’s Neues Museum.
A British Egyptologist, Nicholas Reeves, believed her remains were hidden in a secret chamber in the tomb of Tutankhamun, in the southern Valley of the Kings.
In 2015, archaeologists scanned the tomb with radar hoping to find clues.
Both Reeves’s theory and the inconclusive results have been dismissed by other Egyptologists.
One of them, former antiquities minister Zahi Hawass, said that an adept of the sun god Aton would never have been allowed to be buried in the Valley of the Kings.
The excitement over the possible discovery has died down since the inconclusive results, but a team from Politecnico University in Turin, Italy, intends to give it another shot.
This time they will employ tomography – a method used in medical scans – and magnetometry, which measures magnetic fields.
Neither the Politecnico team nor the antiquities ministry has been inclined to discuss the fresh attempt, possibly put off by the anticlimactic media frenzy over the previous bid.
Elsewhere, Egyptologists are undertaking a project to nail down the chronology of Egypt’s ancient dynasties more precisely.
The French Institute of Eastern Archaeology (IFAO) in Cairo has a dating laboratory that the researchers are putting to use for the project.
‘The chronology of ancient Egypt is not clearly defined. We use a relative chronology,’ said Anita Quiles, head of research at the IFAO.
‘We refer to reigns and dynasties but we do not know exactly the dates,’ she said.
The investigation, which involves chemical testing, is expected to take several years.
But Egyptologists say that science cannot replace archaeologists and their work on the ground.
‘It is important to have science in archaeology,’ said Hawass.
‘But it is very important not to let scientists announce any details about what they found unless it has been seen by Egyptologists.’