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Scientists want to probe pyramid

French architect Jean-Pierre Houdin says his years-long study of the Great Pyramid of Giza suggests that it was built inside-out, and that two unexplored chambers are hidden at the heart of the ancient structure. So far, Egyptian authorities haven't taken his ideas all that seriously, but there's a chance they'll actually be put to the test this year.

Researchers from Laval University in Quebec say they want to probe the pyramid's insides for a whole year using infrared thermography, a technology that they say would let them "see" through thick stone walls without disturbing the 4,500-year-old monument.

"It's a non-invasive technique," Xavier Maldague, an engineering professor who specializes in infrared thermography, told Postmedia News. "We won't even touch the surface of the pyramid."

Archaeologists have long puzzled over how the Egyptians built the Great Pyramid, which served as a monument to the Pharaoh Khufu (2589-2566 B.C.). Houdin proposes that the builders had stones brought up external ramps at first, but then constructed a corkscrew system of internal ramps to finish the 450-foot-high structure.

During a news conference in Paris today, Houdin said 3-D simulations point to the existence of two secret chambers at the pyramid's heart. He said similar chambers have been found in the pyramid of Snefru, Khufu's father, and that the hidden rooms in Khufu's pyramid might have held furniture meant for the pharaoh's use in the afterlife.

"I am convinced that there are antechambers in this pyramid," AFP quoted Houdin as saying. "What I want is to find them."

Houdin's past proposals for a pyramid probe have been rebuffed, but he was hopeful that the Laval expedition would turn up evidence to back up his claims.

Maldague said infrared imaging could reveal the outlines of the internal ramp. Thermal imaging devices could trace how different structures and materials within the pyramid radiate heat differently, he said. If there is an internal construction ramp, the thermal patterns would indicate anomalies. "By measuring the differences in temperatures on several parts of the pyramid, it will tell us where the ramp is," Maldague told Postmedia News.

Infrared cameras could be set up in a hotel located about 1,000 feet (300 meters) from the pyramid, and the imagery could be beamed back to Laval over the Internet, Maldague said. He hopes to get authorization from Egyptian authorities by the end of this year, and start his measurements by mid-2012.

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