By examining infrared images taken by NASA satellites orbiting 400 miles above the Earth, space archaeologists have identified 17 pyramids buried deep under the ancient Egyptian city of Tanis, Egypt. Tanis, abandoned centuries ago, is famous as the fictional home of the Lost Ark from the Indiana Jones movies. Satellite images also showed other lost structures, upwards of 3,000 settlements, and 1,000 lost tombs, buried for thousands of years.
The satellite images are an archaeologist's clues to what might lie under a rice paddy or a city street. "You just pull back for hundreds of miles using the satellite imagery, and all of a sudden this invisible world become visible," Parcak says. "You're actually able to see settlements and tombs — and even things like buried pyramids — that you might not otherwise be able to see."
What Parcak's team located were 17 structures that had a similar size, shape and orientation to other pyramids in the area. Initial excavations indicate that at least two of the structures are most likely pyramids, but Parcak added, "we're not going to be able to say with a 100-percent certainty that they are pyramids until they're excavated."
Her team joined up with an excavation team onsite in Egypt, where they found the excavated structure matched the satellite images almost perfectly.
"We only have a limited amount of time left before many archaeological sites all over the world are destroyed," Parcak says. "So we have to be really selective about where we dig." The new tools might just buy archaeologists a little more time. We've got to map all of our ancient history before it's gone."
Today's Most Popular
The Daily Galaxy via NASA, npr.org, and wired.com