Measuring at least 30 meters in length, the sensational uncovering of a cavity within the 4,500-year-old Cheops Pyramid in Giza, Egypt poses an ancient riddle for researchers.
The precise structure and role of the void remained unknown, but the findings could pave the way for further studies that could help researchers understand the pyramid and its construction process.
"The Grand Gallery is a spectacular internal structure, a kind of internal cathedral at the center of the pyramid", Tayoubi said.
The Great Pyramid may be ancient, but it still has something new to show us. Yet until now, despite centuries of study, no one knew this space was there.
The discovery was led by researchers from Egypt, France and Japan.
At present, neither the particle physicists nor the world's Egyptologists have any idea just what objective the Big Void filled, nor what artefacts, if any, maybe sealed inside it.
"In that sense it's obviously frustrating", he says.
They add that the discovery, which has been dubbed the ScanPyramids Big Void, represents a major breakthrough in the understanding of Khufu's pyramid, and demonstrates "how modern particle physics can shed new light on the world's archaeological heritage".
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"We don't know if the void is made by one structure or several successive structures". Muons (elementary particles similar to electrons) originate from collisions between cosmic rays and atoms in the upper atmosphere. These particles rain down and lose energy as they pass through materials - like the thick stones of the pyramid - and that makes them slow down and decay.
Using sensitive detectors that identify changes in speed, these muons can accurately give us an image of empty spaces in buildings.
"There have been many theories about the existence of secret chambers inside the pyramid", said Mr Tayoubi.
The chamber connects the burial site of the queen to that of the king and therefore it is possible that the chamber was used as a passageway between the two rooms.
They saw those rooms but, to their surprise, they found an additional large space as well. The results were then analysed three times. If there's a big void, lots of muons will flow through. Now we are sure that there is a void.
"We don't know what the cavity means", said Mehdi Tayoubi of the global team investigating the phenomenon. "I don't know what it could be".
"That's the good thing about the muon project, there's absolutely no damage to the pyramid at all", says Manuelian.
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