Cosmic Ray Scanning Has Revealed a Greek Tomb Hidden Beneath the City of Naples

Researchers used a powerful scanning technique that can penetrate through rocks and walls far below the earth's surface.

Carlo Leggieri (archaeologist, Celanapoli association) and Valeri Tioukov (INFN researcher, leader of the Italian muography team) with the muography equipment. Photo courtesy of Valeri Tioukov.

With cutting-edge technologies increasingly available, not every archaeological discovery requires a dig anymore. Instead, researchers have used “non-invasive” scanning techniques that rely on cosmic rays to detect ancient sites, like a Greek tomb that was recently found beneath Naples, Italy, according to LiveScience.

Though the existence of these burial sites was previously known, nobody has been able to reach them—until now.

Using muography, a scanning technique similar to an X-ray that uses muon-producing cosmic rays to detect open spaces and visualize them as 3D images, researchers glimpsed past the city’s busy streets and 33 feet below the its surface, to find a subterranean burial chamber underground that may have been built during the 6th century BCE. It has remained hidden for centuries below layers of history, including, most notably, Christian catacombs from around the 2nd to 4th centuries C.E., or the late Roman era.

The team of Italian and Japanese researchers explained in their report, published in April, scanning with subatomic particles called muons allows them to penetrate much more deeply than they could with X-rays and to detect objects beyond walls and rocks. Because muons scatter in open space, their volume, trajectory, and flux can be measured by a highly sensitive particle detector. Similar techniques have been used by ScanPyramids, a cross-continental initiative that uncovered a hidden tunnel beneath the Great Pyramid of Giza in March.

The main challenge, however, is that the detector has to be below the target because muons come down from the sky. The researchers buried the tool in a nearby cellar that, at 59 feet below the earth, was even deeper than the tombs. The team recorded the muon activity for a month; one particularly dense excess of muons indicated the presence of a rectangular cavity, a burial chamber. Unfortunately, the technique was not able to reveal the contents of the chamber.

Modern-day Naples replaced the Cumae, the first ancient Greek colony on the mainland of Italy, in 650 BCE. Where Naples now sits there was a Hellenistic necropolis as well as temples and a forum complete with ancient sewage systems.

More Trending Stories:  

A Philadelphia Man Paid $6,000 for Cracked Church Windows He Saw on Facebook. Turns Out They’re Tiffany—and Worth a Half-Million 

Mona Lisa’s Other Secret—Where the Portrait Was Painted—May Have Been Solved by an Art Historian Using Drone Imagery 

A Dutch Museum Has Organized a Rare Family Reunion for the Brueghel Art Dynasty—And the Female Brueghels Are Invited to the Party 

The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art’s Director Has Resigned After Less Than Two Years, Citing ‘Resistance and Backlash’ 

‘We’re Not All Ikea-Loving Minimalists’: Historian and Author Michael Diaz-Griffith on the Resurgence of Young Antique Collectors 

The First Auction of Late Billionaire Heidi Horten’s Controversial Jewelry Proves Wildly Successful, Raking in $156 Million 

An Airbnb Host Got More Than They Bargained for with a Guest’s Offbeat Art Swap—and the Mystery Has Gone Viral on TikTok 

Not Patriarchal Art History, But Art ‘Herstory’: Judy Chicago on Why She Devoted Her New Show to 80 Women Artists Who Inspired Her 

An Artist Asked ChatGPT How to Make a Popular Memecoin. The Result Is ‘TurboToad,’ and People Are Betting Millions of Dollars on It 

An Elderly Man Spray-Painted a Miriam Cahn Painting at a Paris Museum After Right-Wing Attempts to Censor It Failed 

The Netflix Series ‘Transatlantic’ Dramatizes the Effort to Evacuate Artists From France During World War II. Here’s What Actually Happened in Real Life 



Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.