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Lost & Detected: 17 Pyramids Found in Egypt Via Infrared Imaging

Lost & Detected: 17 Pyramids Found in Egypt Via Infrared Imaging

Archaeologists have made an amazing discovery using infra-red imaging: 17 lost pyramids have been identified in the sands of Egypt, along with more than 1000 tombs and 3000 ancient settlements, says the BBC. Archaeologist Sarah Parcak of the University of Birmingham says that she’s also found a detailed street plan of the city of Tanis and an “A-to-Z of the region’s northern capital,” the Guardian reports.

This video has clips from a BBC report on Parcak’s findings.

Parcak made these discoveries by studying images from satellites that orbit 400 miles above the earth. Powerful cameras are able to detect objects less than three feet in diameter on the surface of the earth. This new technology can help archaeologists be, Parcak says, “more focused and selective in the work we do”; when “faced with a massive site,” it is — as us amateurs can only imagine — hard to know where to start looking.

A BBC crew accompanied Parcak on what she called her “nervous” journey to Egypt to excavate the sites. Initial excavations are confirming her findings — some dating back some 3000 years — and have already found two of the pyramids. Says Parcak in the BBC:

“We were very intensely doing this research for over a year. I could see the data as it was emerging, but for me the “Aha!” moment was when I could step back and look at everything that we’d found and I couldn’t believe we could locate so many sites all over Egypt.

“To excavate a pyramid is the dream of every archaeologist,” she said.

The mud bricks that ancient Egyptians used to build houses, temples and other structures can also be detected as such materials are denser than the soil around it.

While new technologies like infra-red imaging can help to reveal new archaeological treasures, it’s important to note that nothing replaces digging in the dirt. Mike Pitts, the editor of British Archaeology, writes in the Guardian:

In the near east and in Siberia, 3D images are helping to understand remote landscapes and archaeological sites. The roads on which the statues were moved across Easter Island have now been mapped. And in Peru vast ancient “geoglyphs” have been seen, land art in the form of animal shapes created when people moved earth and stones about. The last is a warning. Last year Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, a physicist in Turin, claimed to see birds and snakes outlined in the sinuous walls and field boundaries of ancient landscapes around Late Titicaca. These designs would never have been visible from the ground, and even from above require much faith as you pick along one wall and ignore many others to end up with a very wobbly looking fauna (mysteriously including a hedgehog).

Satellites are powerful tools. At the end of the day, though, you still need to get down on your knees before you can be really sure what you are seeing.

New archaeological findings could also be key in attracting tourists to Egypt. Prior to the revolution in Egypt, tourism made up 11 percent of Egypt’s economy, according to the Washington Post. But only 200,000 foreign visitors came to Egypt this past February, versus 1.1 million a year ago as Al-Jazeera reports.

 

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Photo of the pyramids in Giza by gloria_euyoque.

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103 comments

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1:13PM PST on Nov 29, 2011

Visiting Egypt has been a dream of mine for most of my life. I have been an Egyptophile since the age of fifteen, and I think Zahi Hiwass is one of the most fascinating people in the world today.

6:53PM PDT on Aug 16, 2011

As a youngster growing up I have always wished for the opportunity to excavate in Egypt. And possibly uncover something that could be useful for all of humanity. If you guys need an extra pair of eyes and hands in that adventure here's my email address Wilson.tamika10@gmail.com. I know that I would be beneficial. Keep up the great work guys and congrats on your finds.

3:44PM PDT on Jul 18, 2011

I have been lucky enough to visit Egypt many times, including visits to the Pyramids and the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queen's, it is truly the most remarkable place. Finding new pyramids would be wonderful - hopefully they will not have been ransacked like quite a lot of the other pyramids have.

2:29PM PDT on Jul 18, 2011

Good for Egypt!

2:14PM PDT on Jul 18, 2011

more for globe trotters to see, how lovely.

1:48PM PDT on Jul 18, 2011

Thank you very much for this interesting article.

In university i studied archeology, too. But then a lot happened, health, too, so i couldn't end, and this makes me so sad... and somehow it is weird, still having so much interest into ancient cultures and history, because it is a torture at the same time :(

1:13PM PDT on Jul 18, 2011

Wonderful and so exciting to uncover ancient history. Thank you for the positive use of technology. I hope we get to see some of the excavations. A great day for archeologist with a dream come true. So Cool!

9:15AM PDT on Jul 18, 2011

Fascinating!

9:13AM PDT on Jul 18, 2011

Michael...what i meant was not against the revolution that i shared and still sharing with " as we're not 100% done yet ",but i was simply trying to encourage people to visit the country,and not to be afraid,as things are stable enough to receive tourists now,security situation is much better than before.....you see,...but please try to undersand that when you write things like " I hate seeing comments like that. " as you wrote in your comment ,first...it sounds quite impolite,and for no reason of any kind,and not related in any way to the cntent of my previous comment...seconed it shall never stop me or any one else from writing our comments as long as we're polite in our language....

9:06AM PDT on Jul 18, 2011

EXCITING!

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