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An illustration of the newly discovered void in Khufu's Pyramid, courtesy of ScanPyramids mission.

Scientists have probed Egypt's mysterious Great Pyramid of Giza with tools of modern particle physics and say they have discovered a hidden "void" within its ancient walls. The large space is roughly 100 feet long and situated above the pyramid's Grand Gallery, according to a report published in the scientific journal Nature Thursday.

Why it matters: The study suggests that modern advances in technology could lead to new discoveries and help create a better understanding of the ancient world — even in well-studied places, like the Great Pyramid, built around 2500 B.C. and considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Context: Scientists involved in the study said this is the first significant internal structure found within the The Great Pyramid since the 19th century. But many archaeologists have questioned whether the discovery offers any new information, per the New York Times, arguing the void was likely empty space designed to prevent the structure from collapsing, as documented in the construction of the ancient monuments.

  • "They found nothing," Zahi Hawass, former Egyptian government minister and head of the scientific committee appointed by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities to review the work, told NYT, noting that such construction gaps were known for at least two decades. "This paper offers nothing to Egyptology. Zero."

Details of the study, per NPR:

  • Mehdi Tayoubi, co-director of the ScanPyramids project, and his team investigated the pyramid using a type of imaging technique that involves muons — subatomic particles that move through matter — to see through into the structure. "We tried to do for the pyramid what a doctor can do with X-rays," he said.
  • After uncovering the void, the team used two muon-detection methods to confirm their findings. "The good news is the void is there. Now we are sure that there is a void. We know that this void is big," says Tayoubi. "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."

What's next: Tayoubi said he's interested in whether small robots might be able to enter the newly-discovered chamber through tiny cracks or holes and provide more information.

Go deeper

3 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.