Inspired by curious' question; I now have my own:

Has anyone actually* scanned the pyramids or similar ancient structures with x-rays, gamma-rays, muons, ultrasound, thermal diffusion, gravity waves or other methods to figure out what's inside?

If so, have any major historical discoveries occurred solely because of such non-destructive scanning?

* Proposals to do so rather more common.

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    Interesting question. There could be breakthroughs in material science made by the ancients that the modern scientists could learn something about.
    – curious
    Oct 19, 2013 at 4:48
  • Well I was thinking more along the lines of hidden goodies, but yes there could also be architectural insights to help solidify one or another construction hypotheses. Oct 19, 2013 at 4:51
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    There is a whole major subdivision of archaeology called "Geophysics". en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geophysical_survey_%28archaeology%29 As such, I'm voting to close this as too broad. If you want to focus it on architecture, or maybe even specifically the Pyramids, that might be better. Oct 19, 2013 at 9:32
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    @LateralFractal: All the time, everywhere, by everyone. It's too broad. What "major" is is also opinion-based. Oct 19, 2013 at 9:38
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    @Lateral Fractal. Simply do a search for Archaeology and Geophysics on Google and you'll come up with stuff that has been discovered. It has been particularly helpful in finding new sites, analyzing more about sites like stonehenge (my favorite and some of the biggest break-throughs of which I am aware - which is reletively little), more info on mound builders and learning more about how early peoples altered the earth around them because you can map out ditches and furrows and things - I can't answer specifically about the pyramids, but as to other discoveries?Too numerous to list here. Oct 24, 2013 at 2:00

1 Answer 1


The answer is a big "oh yes, definitely". And not just the Pyramids, Geophysics is a standard technique in modern archaeology.

Just some random things discovered with geophys:

  • Tremaine's electromagnetic induction is an example, but the article as I far as I tell (it's very long and quite dense) seems to be showcasing the versatility of technology instead of any major discoveries solely due to the technology. I think this answer needs some elaboration. Oct 19, 2013 at 9:44
  • What - There are no ancient aliens secretly buried in the Mayan pyramids and the sphinx! How cruel of you to shatter my myths that way. Oct 19, 2013 at 16:21
  • If you know of any major discovery (novel insight/primary research) due to geophysic remote sensing - I'll give this answer the green tick. Oct 30, 2013 at 12:11
  • @LateralFractal: Virtually no major discovery has been made without the use of geophys for the last 20 years or so. I added some random ones, chosen because I could find links for them. Oct 30, 2013 at 14:54
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    Have a look at just about any episode of BBC's Time Team to see good examples of geophysics in action on an archaeological dig. Nov 4, 2013 at 19:46

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