Mostafa Waziri, the secretary general of Egypt's Ministry of State of Antiquities, released a statement Thursday saying scientists with the ScanPyramids project, a collaborative scientific mission launched in 2015 by the Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute, Cairo University and the Egyptian government, were mistaken to suddenly declare the so-called new discovery to the public before discussing the findings with the ministry's archaeologists.
"The Ministry of Antiquities believes that the research team should not have rushed to address public opinion at the current stage and use ... promotional terms for the project, such as 'discovery' and 'find a room or void inside the Great Pyramid," Waziri said, noting that additional research and extensive study must be done.
The Great Pyramid in Giza on the outskirts of Cairo was built about 4,500 years ago as a royal burial chamber and is the last surviving wonder of the ancient world.
In an article published earlier Thursday in the journal Nature, ScanPyramids researchers revealed they had found a nearly 100-foot void hidden deep within the pyramid above its Grand Gallery using cosmic-ray imaging. Their paper was peer-reviewed before appearing in the international scientific journal, and the results were confirmed by other research teams.
Scientists involved in the scanning at the monument, also known as Khufu's Pyramid, described the discovery of the large space, dubbed "ScanPyramids Big Void," as a "breakthrough" that "constitutes the first major inner structure found in the Great Pyramid since the 19th century," according to their paper.
"This is a premier," Mehdi Tayoubi, co-founder of the ScanPyramids project and president of the Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute in Paris, told The Associated Press on Thursday. "It could be composed of one or several structures... maybe it could be another Grand Gallery. It could be a chamber, it could be a lot of things."
"It was hidden, I think, since the construction of the pyramid," Tayoubi added.
Zahi Hawass, a famed archaeologist and Egypt's former antiquities minister, was dismissive of the apparent find, telling The Associated Press that the area in question was "not a discovery."
"If you understand how the pyramid was built, you will know that inside the pyramid there is many hollows and many gaps. A void doesn't mean a room, a void doesn't mean a discovery, what they have been announcing today is not a discovery," Hawass told The Associated Press on Thursday.
"Now to build the Grand Gallery inside the Great Pyramid, they cannot build the Grand Gallery with a solid structure, they have to have hollows around it to build it. And therefore, the 30-meter void is already existent. It's already mentioned by Dieter Arnold 25 years ago," Hawass added.