New Pyramids found in satellite search
A landmark BBC programme is set to transform our knowledge of Ancient Egypt by revealing an astounding hidden world buried beneath its modern landscape – including an astonishing 17 undiscovered pyramids.
Egypt’s Lost Cities, made by BBC Cymru Wales for BBC One and BBC HD, and to be shown on Monday 30 May, looks at how satellite archaeology is beginning to revolutionise how archaeologists might work in the future. It tests the theory that stunning images of lost cities and tombs that can actually be seen from space using satellite technology are actually there on the ground.
The technology works by combining infra-red imagery with high resolution photography to ’see’ beneath the sands, revealing hidden mud brick structures – the typical building materials of ancient Egypt - the ghostly outlines of which can be distinguished from different surrounding soil types.
And to date Dr Sarah Parcak estimates satellite archaeology has found the location of not just undiscovered pyramids – the last major pyramid find was made more than 20 years ago – but more than 1,000 tombs and an incredible 3,100 ancient settlements.
The technology has also impressed Dr Zahi Hawass, the most prominent figure in Egyptian archaeology today.
In Egypt’s Lost Cities, he reveals he was prompted to dig at a new site near known pyramids at Saqqara, which is already yielding interesting findings.
“We have to thank this new technology, the satellite images, because I wasn’t interested in this site at all and I found out only through the photographs that this site is very important,” Dr Hawass, the Minister for Antiquities in Egypt, tells the programme.
Egypt’s Lost Cities takes Dr Parcak from her lab at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA, back to Egypt in the company of Bang Goes The Theory presenters Liz Bonnin and Dallas Campbell, to observe some test digs carried out by respected Egyptologists to see if the theories are correct.
And Dr Parcak – who admits to having been inspired by the adventures of Indiana Jones as a child – makes some surprising discoveries.
At Tanis, the site made famous by the Indiana Jones film Raiders Of The Lost Ark, her images reveal an ancient network of streets and houses, which are completely invisible from the ground. At another site Egyptian-led excavations uncover what could be the tantalising evidence of a series of pyramids and tombs that suggest a complete royal burial ground first hinted at by satellite archaeology.
Though revolution in Egypt put paid to further investigations for the time being, the Egyptian authorities are immensely interested in the findings.
But even though she was out of the country, Dr Parcak continued to monitor the sites and was able to see startling changes where she suspects looters, taking advantage of a lack of security due to the unrest, had been digging in protected archaeological areas.
Egypt’s Lost Cities shows the extent of the damage which can be viewed from space, findings which have now been passed to an International Coalition, which Dr Hawass is leading and of which Parcak is part, which aims to support the Egyptian government in protecting and repatriating its antiquities.
Egypt’s Lost Cities is on BBC One and BBC One HD on Monday 30 May at 8.30pm, and on BBC HD at 11pm.
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