Satellites discover lost Egyptian pyramids

May 26, 2011 by Deborah Braconnier, report

A view of the pyramids at Giza from the plateau to the south of the complex. Image: Ricardo Liberato/Wikipedia
( -- In a new documentary soon to air on BBC, space archaeologist Sarah Parcak from the University of Alabama in Birmingham shares her recent discovery in the relatively new field of space archaeology. With the use of satellites and infra-red imaging, Parcak and her team have discovered 17 lost pyramids, over 1,000 tombs and 3,000 ancient settlements in Egypt.

Using satellites orbiting 435 miles above Earth that were equipped with cameras capable of pinpointing objects less than three feet in diameter on the Earth’s surface, Parcak and her team were able to identify materials that where just under the Earth’s surface.

Because ancient Egyptians built their homes and structures, including , out of mud brick, it is much denser than the sand that has covered it over time. The infra-red camera was able to highlight these areas and locate the structures.

In the area of Saqqara, Parcak had identified what she thought to be two potential pyramids. The covers her journey to this area where local archaeologists began test excavations to test her findings. The pyramids were discovered and it is now believed to be one of the most important finds in Egypt.

Parcak visited another location in Tanis where here imagery had located a 3,000-year-old house. Excavation revealed the house and the measurements almost perfectly matched what was shown in the images.

The findings of actual sites gave validation to Parcak and her technology and she hopes to use it to locate many more sites in the future. Egyptian authorities hope to use the technology to aid in the protection of their national antiquities. With the recent revolution, looting has become a problem and the ability to compare images through time will allow them to alert Interpol to be on the watch for particular antiquities that could be out on the market for sale.

Explore further: Egypt: New find shows slaves didn't build pyramids (Update)

More information: BBC

Related Stories

Egypt: New find shows slaves didn't build pyramids (Update)

January 10, 2010

(AP) -- Egypt displayed on Monday newly discovered tombs more than 4,000 years old and said they belonged to people who worked on the Great Pyramids of Giza, presenting the discovery as more evidence that slaves did not ...

Egypt unveils discovery of 4,300-year-old tombs

July 8, 2010

Egyptian archaeologists on Thursday unveiled a newly-unearthed double tomb with vivid wall paintings in the ancient necropolis of Saqqara near Cairo, saying it could be the start for uncovering a vast cemetery in the area.

Egypt to open inner chambers of 'bent' pyramid

March 16, 2009

(AP) -- Travelers to Egypt will soon be able to explore the inner chambers of the 4,500-year-old "bent" pyramid, known for its oddly shaped profile, and other nearby ancient tombs, Egypt's antiquities chief announced Monday.

New ancient Egypt temples discovered in Sinai

April 21, 2009

(AP) -- Archaeologists exploring an old military road in the Sinai have unearthed four new temples amidst the 3,000-year-old remains of an ancient fortified city that could have been used to impress foreign delegations visiting ...

57 ancient tombs with mummies unearthed in Egypt

May 23, 2010

(AP) -- Archeologists have unearthed 57 ancient Egyptian tombs, most of which hold an ornately painted wooden sarcophagus with a mummy inside, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities said Sunday.

Recommended for you

Sensual fresco discovered in ancient Pompeii bedroom

November 19, 2018

Archaeologists have found a fresco in an ancient Pompeii bedroom that depicts a sensual scene of the Roman god Jupiter, disguised as a swan, and a legendary queen of Sparta from Greek mythology.

Excavators find tombs buried in Bolivia 500 years ago

November 17, 2018

Archaeologists say they found tombs at a Bolivian quarry containing remains from more than 500 years ago that give an insight into the interaction of various peoples with the expanding Inca empire.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (5) May 26, 2011
While this is great news for Egyptian archeology, I am very suprised that no one has used this type of technique before.
4.5 / 5 (2) May 26, 2011
farmerpat42: Yeah, I guess you can call it a modern egg of Columbus.

And thanks to this article, I've found a new favorite job title:
Space Archaeologist!
3 / 5 (1) May 26, 2011
imagine all the treasure
5 / 5 (2) May 26, 2011
I believe that they have used this technique many times before. It was used to originally detect the Nabta Playa site.
3.3 / 5 (3) May 26, 2011
The area south of the Khysis/Baris/Bharga region, southeast of Esbet Dush, and east of but parrallel to the Darb Al Arbaein highway, is littered with ruins that don't appear in history books (or to be fair, not the ones easily obtained by me). This narrow, formerly-oasis-maintained region runs from just south of Tall Dush on the north end - from around 24.555252, 30.720912, although it may include the hillside ruins at 24.594651,30.702608, which lead down to the now-dry river, to past 24.510941, 30.719941 on the south end, encompassing 24.516251,30.719522, and ranging as far east as 24.50934,30.724307 or so, and in places as far west as at least 24.506714,30.681982. Interesting item: at 24.509803,30.703971 there's an ancient well in the midst of what was once a city. I was stunned when I first found this stuff on Google Earth a few years back.

I have to wonder if their study covered this area or just focused on areas further north?

Enjoy your favorite mapping program!
1 / 5 (2) May 26, 2011
This is a good use of space-based sensors that will help validate future planetary sensors. Using our ability to provide "ground-truth" to what we detect on Earth will give greater confidence to what we detect, say, on Mars.
1 / 5 (6) May 26, 2011
The most musterious architecture buildings in the world. How do the ancient people achieve such great range of technologies? It's a secret.
1 / 5 (3) May 27, 2011
For consideration , this tech was (while not as evolved) used to discover atlantis back in the 70's. So ... what is this about ? New ways of spying a verey important patch of land.
@koondoo there is no secret , thruth is taken as a joke.
1 / 5 (4) May 27, 2011
Why is it that when similar techniques are used on Mars and similar ruins are found, they are roundly denounced as erosion?
5 / 5 (3) May 27, 2011
cuz they are erosion
5 / 5 (1) May 30, 2011
Just watched the program. IIRC, the technique combined infra-red and visible imaging to reveal shallowly buried structures by their differential heating / cooling. A bit like parch-marks in crops...

The process turned up literally thousands of 'lost' sites, and should keep archaeologists busy for the rest of the century...

"...used to discover atlantis..."
Huh ? I thought Santorini / Thera had scooped the pot ??

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.