Infra-red Satellite Technology Reveals Buried Pyramids and Egyptian City of Tanis

Michael Cerkas's picture

Move over Indiana Jones, there is a new adventurer on the block, and her name is Dr. Sarah Parcak at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, who used state-of-the-art infra-red satellite technology to discover buried pyramids in Egypt.

It may not qualify to make a movie in Hollywood, however, the result is just as astonishing as any discovery that was made by Harrison Ford playing Indiana Jones. Dr. Parcak and her team of researchers at the University of Alabama have found an archaeologist’s mother lode by discovering buried pyramids using infra-red satellite imagery. The photographs were taken approximately 435 miles above the earth, using technology that can locate objects less than 3 feet in diameter on the earth’s surface.

After having confirmed the existence of two buried pyramids and studying the images, Dr. Parcak and her team believe they have also found nearly 1,000 tombs and more than 3,000 ancient settlements, with still more unidentified discoveries awaiting them.

In an interview with BBC, Dr. Parcak elaborated, stating “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.” She continued, “I couldn’t believe we could locate so many sites all over Egypt.” She marveled, “To excavate a pyramid is the dream of every archaeologist.”

Changing the Way We See the World
Dr. Parcak was the first person to use space imagery as an aid in conducting her archaeology work in Egypt. She began using it in 2003 as she studied infra-red satellite images of Egypt. In a 2007 Fox News interview, Dr. Parcak stated, “Basically, I’m trying to distinguish the ancient remains from the modern landscape.” She added, “A site is going to appear very differently from space.”

Also, in an interview with LiveScience, Parcak told them, “There are thousands of settlements that Egyptians don’t even know are there.” Making her point, she added, “Nothing will ever destroy the Pyramids or the Temple of Luxor, but these huge settlement sites where we get a lot of information are being threatened. And that’s how we find out how people lived.”

Watch a brief video clip from an upcoming BBC Documentary entitled “Egypt’s Lost Cities”, which will air on BBC One, Monday, May 30, at 20:30 BST (2:30pm CDT):

According to Dr. Parcak, her most exciting moment of the discovery was when she visited the excavations at Tanis. She told BBC, “They’d excavated a 3,000-year-old house that the satellite imagery had shown and the outline of the structure matched the satellite imagery almost perfectly. That was real validation of the technology.”

As she described the unique advantage that the infra-red satellite imagery and technology offers, Dr. Parcak stated, “It’s an important tool to focus where we’re excavating. It gives us a much bigger perspective on archaeological sites. We have to think bigger and that’s what the satellites allow us to do.”

In reference to her new-found fame in the field of archaeology, Dr. Parcak mused, "Indiana Jones is old school, we’ve moved on from Indy; sorry Harrison Ford.”

Image credit: BBC UK

You can reach Michael Cerkas via email at mcerkas@gmail.com

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