Ancient Egypt Satellite Imagery

After class I was talking to a friend about our Ancient Egypt Archaeology class and she mentioned an interesting discovery that I though I would share.  The link to an article about this discovery is: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-13522957.

Last year a United States Egyptologist, Dr. Sarah Parcak from the University of Alabama, used infrared satellite imaging to look at the region surrounding San El Hagar including Ancient Tanis. Infrared satellite imaging allows for denser soil to be visible. The ancient Egyptians used mud brick to build structures including their temples, houses and tombs. The mud brick is much denser than the surrounding soil, and allows for the structures to become visible.

Over 1,000 tombs and 3,000 ancient settlements including 17 pyramids were found! After the imaging was analyzed, they performed initial excavations and confirmed some of the findings. These excavation validated the use of this technology. Dr. Parcak explained “these are just the sites [close to] the surface. There are many thousands of additional sites that the Nile has covered over with silt. This is just the beginning of this kind of work.” The archaeological team used the satellite imagery to focus their archaeological field work. Another benefit from this technology is that the Egyptian Government can use the images to protect the countries antiquities!

What I found most interesting about this article was that they were able to tell from the imagery that if the tombs were looted. It is amazing that they can tell from a satellite image if a archaeological site is looted. What I would like to know is what details of the imagery allowed them to determine if looting occurred. I wonder if it has to do with the density of the soils. When looters loosen the soil to reach the artifacts, that could change the density of the soil; maybe this is what they are seeing in the infrared images.

2 thoughts on “Ancient Egypt Satellite Imagery

  1. I thought this article was very interesting and I am very glad you shared it with us. This type of technology will have a huge impact on the field of archaeology and will give researches the chance to unlock more secrets of the past. It seems that because so many sites have been excavated in Egypt already that there can’t possibly more to find out there. But with this satellite imagery, it is clear hat there is still tons of stuff out there that has yet to be excavated. This is very good news for aspiring archaeologists, like myself, because there is still more stuff to be uncovered out there.

    I am particularly interested in technology like this because of the work I did last summer in Greece. We were digging to try and find a colonnade at our site but when we got to ancient ground level, we found that its remains had either been be robbed out at some point or were never there to begin with. I think if we had this type of technology at that time, we could have saved ourselves some valuable time and dug elsewhere looking for other important things; instead we wasted about three days of digging for nothing really. This technology could really change the field of archaeology and can point us in the right direction of uncovering the past instead of wasting time basically “guessing” where we think ancient remains are located.

  2. The possibilities of satellite based archaeology seem endless. I’m reminded of Jurassic Park when Dr. Alan Grant fears he will be replaced by sonar scanning devices. The romantics of archaeology may dissipate a bit, seeing as they may not have to do so much field research; but the time and knowledge gained from knowing exactly where to dig seem without pitfall. This method of examination will also be able to curtail silly questions like “where’s Noah’s ark?” There wasn’t one, so there won’t be archaeological evidence for it – but this satellite based look around the world will be able to assure that answer faster than if field research were wasted on such fruitless endeavors.

    What’s incredibly fascinating is the ability to interpret the readings to gain a succinct answer of the past. They examined the density of the earth to identify structures and graves – that is amazing when one realizes how seemingly ludicrous an idea like that is. I certainly hope to hear more in terms of major discoveries found using this method. Next, we’ll know where Atlantis is!

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