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Archaeologist uncovers lost Egypt using infrared satellite

A University of Alabama archaeologist has used infrared satellite imaging to discover 17 lost pyramids, as well as more than 1,000 tombs and 3,100 ancient settlements in Egypt.

Dr Sarah Parcak’s discoveries will be revealed in the BBC documentary Egypt’s Lost Cities, which airs next Monday on BBC One and BBC One HD.

Dr Parcak’s research was funded by a grant from the BBC in the hope of exploring how satellite imagery can be used in conjunction with archaeology. For more than a year, Parcak’s team used a combination of NASA and commercial satellites that orbited 700km above the Earth to capture the images of Egyptian antiquities.

She was able to uncover sites that had been invisible — including a world of houses, tombs and pyramids. Once the images were discovered via satellite, a team of French excavators confirmed what Parcak had seen in the images from space.

’I couldn’t believe that we could locate so many sites all over Egypt,’ she told the BBC. ’To excavate a pyramid is the dream of every archaeologist.’

Dr Parcak worked with Dr Zari Hawass, Egypt’s minister of state for antiquities, who was instrumental in her access to the excavation sites.

At Tanis — the site made famous by the Indiana Jones film Raiders of the Lost Ark — Parcak discovered an ancient network of streets and houses, which are completely invisible from the ground.

An infra-red satellite image reveals the pattern of streets and houses in the buried ancient city of Tanis in Egypt. The new technique has also shown up the sites of 17 lost pyramids as well as thousands of tombs and settlements.

Readers' comments (9)

  • Great use of technology, shame about the lack of technological information.

    Appalling BBC presentation, too many incorrect "facts" (e.g. Sahara hottest desert) from so-called presenters who were dire. Pity also about all of the special effects and lack of detailed information - so dumbed down.

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  • Yes, a good subject, but I could only watch half of it before getting so irritated by the padding out, simplifcation and the over dramatization that I had to give up.

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  • Super new technique, and proved by excavation. But what a lot of unneccessary gimmickry with bricks flying back into supposed original positions, we did not need that. Discussion of other areas to explore would have been more useful.

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  • Pity about the presenters - as is the case with the other BBC programme they presented (can't even remember it any more it was so bad). Too much of their uninformed input is allowed to control the show. Get some real experts to present factual or scientific programmes, not just somebodies who think they're expert enough to be professional presenters. Clearly their immaturity should make this patently obvious to the producers.

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  • Our community archaeology group photographs archaeological sites in the near infra-red with the aid of a kite.

    The programme lacked technical details and the people who actually did the work!!! Great images, well filmed poor presentation.


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  • They are the presenters from Bang Goes the Theory.

    You have to remember that while everyone on here might be rolling their eyes, 95% of the rest of the audience were finding it interesting...

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  • Thanks for the statistics Chris. Which percentage group were you in?

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  • I agree with Chris, and I have to say I really enjoyed it and only wish it went on for a few more episodes.

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  • Hello,
    Would it be possible to have Dr. Sarah Parcak's email address, as I have some information that might interest her.

    Norman Pigeon
    Ontario, Canada

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  • You should be able to track down Dr Parcak's contact details here:

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