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> Satellites unearthing ancient Egyptian ruins


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Posted: Dec 28 2008, 12:45 PM
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Satellites unearthing ancient Egyptian ruins
By Cameron Tankersley
CNN
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(CNN) -- Archaeologists believe they have unearthed only a small fraction of Egypt's ancient ruins, but they're making new discoveries with help from high-tech allies -- satellites that peer into the past from the distance of space.

"Everyone's becoming more aware of this technology and what it can do," said Sarah Parcak, an archaeologist who heads the Laboratory for Global Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "There is so much to learn."

Images from space have been around for decades. Yet only in the past decade or so has the resolution of images from commercial satellites sharpened enough to be of much use to archaeologists. Today, scientists can use them to locate ruins -- some no bigger than a small living room -- in some of the most remote and forbidding places on the planet.

In this field, Parcak is a pioneer. Her work in Egypt has yielded hundreds of finds in regions of the Middle Egypt and the eastern Nile River Delta.

Parcak conducted surveys and expeditions in the eastern Nile Delta and Middle Egypt in 2003 and 2004 that confirmed 132 sites that were initially suggested by satellite images. Eighty-three of those sites had never been visited or recorded.

In the past two years, she has found hundreds more, she said, leading her to amend an earlier conclusion that Egyptologists have found only the tip of the iceberg.

"My estimate of 1/100th of 1 percent of all sites found is on the high side," Parcak said.

These discoveries are of no small significance to the Egyptian government, which has devoted itself anew to protecting archaeological sites from plunder and encroachment.

The Supreme Council of Antiquities has restricted excavation in the most sensitive areas along the Nile -- from the Great Pyramids at Giza on the outskirts of Cairo to the carvings of Ramses II in the remote south.

Antiquities officials hope the move will encourage more surveys in the eastern Nile Delta in northern Egypt, Parcak said, where encroaching development in the burgeoning nation of 82 million poses the greatest threat to the sites.

Old and modern methods

Parcak's process weds modern tools with old-fashioned grunt work.

The archaeologist studies satellite images stored on a NASA database and plugs in global positioning coordinates for suspected sites, then tramps out to see them. Telltale signs such as raised elevations and pot shards can confirm the images.

As a result, the big picture comes into view.

"We can see patterns in settlements that correspond to the [historical] texts," Parcak said, "such as if foreign invasions affected the occupation of ancient sites.

"We can see where the Romans built over what the Egyptians had built, and where the Coptic Christians built over what the Romans had built.

"It's an incredible continuity of occupation and reuse."

The flooding and meanders of the Nile over the millennia dictated where and how ancient Egyptians lived, and the profusion of new data has built a more precise picture of how that worked.

"Surveys give us information about broader ancient settlement patterns, such as patterns of city growth and collapse over time, that excavations do not," said Parcak, author of a forthcoming book titled "Satellite Remote Sensing and Archaeology."

The vagaries of climate in the region make satellite technology advantageous, too.

"Certain plants that may indicate sites grow during certain times of the year," Parcak said, "while sites may only appear during a wet or dry season. This is different everywhere in the world."

Archaeologists working in much more verdant climates, such as Cambodia and Guatemala, also have used the technology to divine locations of undiscovered ruins.

They have been able to see similarities between the vegetation at known sites and suspected sites that showed up in fine infrared and ultraviolet images covering wide areas of forbidding terrain.

"For the work I do [in Egypt], I need wet season images as wet soil does a better job at detecting sites with the satellite imagery data I use," Parcak said. "I can pick the exact months I need with the NASA satellite datasets."

Benefits of a bird's-eye view

Remote subsurface sensing has been used in archaeology in one form or another for years, though the term "remote" doesn't necessarily imply great distance. Typically, a surveyor has wheeled a sensing device over a marked-out area to determine what lies below.

The sensing devices employ any of an array of technologies, such as Ground Penetrating Radar. They bounce signals off objects below the surface and translate the data into images that a scientist's trained eye can decipher.

Multispectral imaging encompasses technologies that "see" what the human eye can't, such as infrared and ultraviolet radiation. Scientists have used it for years to study the Earth's surface for a variety of purposes. Until resolution of these images improved, though, the only way to produce a sharp image was to be relatively close to the ground.

For those lugging unwieldy gear across jungle and desert, an effective bird's-eye view can change the world. It lets them leave behind the days and days of meticulous "prospecting" and get results from airplane-mounted sensors or, later on, a flyover by an advanced satellite.

One of the most advanced is called QuickBird, which has been in orbit since 2001 and can provide high-resolution images of 11-mile-wide swaths. The satellite can collect nearly 29 million square miles of imagery data in a year, according to DigitalGlobe, which developed and operates QuickBird.

The company, based in Longmont, Colorado, is working on an upgrade. WorldView-2, to be launched in 2009, will offer sharper resolution of visual and multispectral images than QuickBird, according to the company's Web site.

In the end, though, a tool is only as useful as its wielder.

"Most of the advances have come through processing on the ground by end users such as Dr. Parcak," said DigitalGlobe spokesman Chuck Herring.


Find this article at:
http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/science/12/23...chaeology.egypt


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Posted: Dec 31 2008, 03:52 PM
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The new remote sensing technologies of recent years does offer tremendous potential for new discoveries of Egypt's ancient past and indeed there have been new discoveries just this past year of new pyramids. However, this new knowledge is offset by the tight control Hawass and the Supreme Council of Antiquities wield over the excavations. Just this week I read on Graham Hancock's forum that an area of apparently empty sand near the pyramids has been closed off to casual visitors with no good reason given. This physical isolation does nothing but fuel the conspiracy theories as to what is actually being concealed.

When I was there, I was appalled at the lack of care given to the ancient monuments, with litter and garbage everywhere. I realize that Egypt is a very poor country by western standards, but the impression I got was that there was very little concern on the part of the average Egyptian for their national heritage. It seemed to me that the modern Islamic Egyptians were not that proud of the accomplishments of their ancient pre-Islamic ancestors. Those who do have a professed interest, such as Hawass, seem too eager to mirror European establishment theories of their past. Of course I do not expect them to embrace the equally Eurocentric theories of alternative history buffs but Hawass' contempt for "pyramidiots" seems to be that of his educators, the European establishment Egyptologists. This has always seemed ironic to me, given that Hawass' education was funded by the Edgar Cayce Foundation, as was that of the other eminent Egyptologist, Mark Lehner. Both seem to have bitten the hands that fed them, so to speak. And despite livid public denials, both seem to be witholding something gleaned from their recent investigations. I recently communicated Sharif, my guide at Giza last summer, and a British woman whom he is going to guide along with her companion. He said he had not made further progress on the tunnels beneath Giza since I was there but that he definitey intends to go deeper into them this coming January. He also posted some photos of stone wheels near the pyramids quite similar to those I found in Oklahoma, Texas, and Germany. Skeptics put them down as later era artifacts created by those scavenging the pyramid stones for building materials but what would you expect? BTW over Christmas, my sister gave me copies of the other photos from last summer including the stone wheels from the Roman site in the German mountains and more closeups of the hieroglyphs at the entrances to the Giza tunnels. As soon as I see my son again I will ask him to put them up at Anarchaeology.com.

Here's wishing everyone here at PuPP's a very happy New Year full of mystery and pleasant surprises from the remote hinterlands of North Texas.

Tex Arcana & the Caney Creek Gang cheers2.gif


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Posted: Jan 1 2009, 10:48 AM
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When I was there, I was appalled at the lack of care given to the ancient monuments, with litter and garbage everywhere. I realize that Egypt is a very poor country by western standards, but the impression I got was that there was very little concern on the part of the average Egyptian for their national heritage. It seemed to me that the modern Islamic Egyptians were not that proud of the accomplishments of their ancient pre-Islamic ancestors.





I don't understand that either, TA! You would think they would want to protect what they are so well known for. The reason tourist come to Egypt.


QUOTE
BTW over Christmas, my sister gave me copies of the other photos from last summer including the stone wheels from the Roman site in the German mountains and more closeups of the hieroglyphs at the entrances to the Giza tunnels. As soon as I see my son again I will ask him to put them up at Anarchaeology.com.



I would love to see them, TA! I hope you and the fam had a wonderful holiday.


Have a wonderful 2009! Happy hunting! cheers2.gif






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Posted: Jan 1 2009, 03:02 PM
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Happy New Year Tex --- thanks again for your post here -- I appreciate reading what is happening out there and I am so glad you have been a part of my education these past 5 years or so ---man ---time flies?

As I recall, Tex, we met at GLP back in Dec 2003 --wow!

Regarding the garbage near the ancient ruins ---I see humans as pigs ---they really upset me --I live among them.... they litter my streets with their junk food garbage, dump their baby's dirty diapers in the parking lot --and they spit on the pavement.

If I was the law --I would not allow that --I would ticket anyone who littered --anyone who spit on the pavement and anyone who threw gum on the sidewalk.

We could have cops just for that --to write tickets ---walk the streets --beat patrol --like the old days.

And -- if the US govt printed up its own US Notes again like JFK did just before THEY put all those bullets in him, we would have no need for federal income taxes and the federal govt could employ anyone who needed a job, along with full benefits --like all the senators and congressman get.

If the US govt printed up its own currency ---we could all have Healthcare insurance --and dental care.

I look forward to your photos Tex, please let us know when you post them and provide a link. I do not venture to any forums these days.

Peace to all --- Mark




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"Believe nothing. No matter where you read it, or who said it, even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense."
~ Buddha
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Posted: Jan 8 2009, 06:59 AM
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I'll post the link as soon as it's available, Mark; my son has not been up here to get the zip file of photos since Christmas, so I'll have to wait until he shows up again. As for other forums, I've stopped going too, except for some very old groups I belonged to before GLP and the splinters. The unthinkable, going offline altogether, has crossed my mind more than once recently.


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Posted: Jan 8 2009, 02:02 PM
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Thanks Tex, I'd like to see the photos, as well as hear more of your adventures --I am sooooo envious as I have only seen ancient sites on video, never in person.

I hear 'bout leaving the net altogether ---If not for some help from others --I would have left the internet long ago. There's just sooo many bored useless eaters causing problems online --- instead of helping one another. I tell ya, if not for the good folks -- you would not be reading this.

Keep us posted Tex!




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~ Matthew 7:16

"Believe nothing. No matter where you read it, or who said it, even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense."
~ Buddha
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Posted: Jan 8 2009, 02:46 PM
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Remember, Mark, there are several ancient sites within a fairly short distance of you. A short bus ride over the mountains will get you to Calico and the La Brea Tar Pits are right downtown. Check your archives, there are many more close to you. Even with my legs on the fritz, I've managed to get down to the lower field with my grandaughters and discover a 10,000 year old spearpoint. The change of scene will do you a world of good. You and everyone here practically can be a player instead of a spectator. The Ancient, Weird and Wonderful is an equal opportunity experience.


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Posted: Jan 9 2009, 12:09 AM
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I did get a chance to visit the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles a few years ago Tex, but other than spanish pueblos and missions, I have never been to any real ancient sites built by humans.




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Posted: Jan 9 2009, 09:25 AM
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QUOTE (Tex Arcana @ Dec 31 2008, 03:52 PM)
Just this week I read on Graham Hancock's forum that an area of apparently empty sand near the pyramids has been closed off to casual visitors with no good reason given. This physical isolation does nothing but fuel the conspiracy theories as to what is actually being concealed.



I've heard there's a section of land like that in China - the Chinese govt has a huge tract of land north of Tibet they have closed off to everyone including their own people.

The what and why can only be speculation.

QUOTE
When I was there, I was appalled at the lack of care given to the ancient monuments, with litter and garbage everywhere. I realize that Egypt is a very poor country by western standards, but the impression I got was that there was very little concern on the part of the average Egyptian for their national heritage. It seemed to me that the modern Islamic Egyptians were not that proud of the accomplishments of their ancient pre-Islamic ancestors.



All it would take would be a fanatical & radical fundamentalist lslamic sect to take political power in Egypt and the ancient monuments & artifacts would be in danger of being destroyed and lost forever. Remember those giant statues of Buddha the Taliban destroyed in Afghanistan? pissed.gif


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Posted: Jan 9 2009, 06:21 PM
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QUOTE (Tex Arcana @ Jan 8 2009, 09:59 AM)
I'll post the link as soon as it's available, Mark; my son has not been up here to get the zip file of photos since Christmas, so I'll have to wait until he shows up again. As for other forums, I've stopped going too, except for some very old groups I belonged to before GLP and the splinters. The unthinkable, going offline altogether, has crossed my mind more than once recently.

I'd miss you and your posts TA! Please keep posting here! You're one of the reasons I still enjoy places such as this. Things do seem to have changed quite a bit in the fora world, though. It's just not the same anymore. Anyway, I'm trying to be strong and not let the nut jobs get me down, but ...



Best of luck to you, TA! hugs.gif


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Posted: Jan 11 2009, 02:02 PM
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QUOTE (Wahya @ Jan 9 2009, 09:25 AM)
QUOTE (Tex Arcana @ Dec 31 2008, 03:52 PM)
Just this week I read on Graham Hancock's forum that an area of apparently empty sand near the pyramids has been closed off to casual visitors with no good reason given. This physical isolation does nothing but fuel the conspiracy theories as to what is actually being concealed.



I've heard there's a section of land like that in China - the Chinese govt has a huge tract of land north of Tibet they have closed off to everyone including their own people.

The what and why can only be speculation.

QUOTE
When I was there, I was appalled at the lack of care given to the ancient monuments, with litter and garbage everywhere. I realize that Egypt is a very poor country by western standards, but the impression I got was that there was very little concern on the part of the average Egyptian for their national heritage. It seemed to me that the modern Islamic Egyptians were not that proud of the accomplishments of their ancient pre-Islamic ancestors.



All it would take would be a fanatical & radical fundamentalist lslamic sect to take political power in Egypt and the ancient monuments & artifacts would be in danger of being destroyed and lost forever. Remember those giant statues of Buddha the Taliban destroyed in Afghanistan? pissed.gif

I don't know if the area north of Tibet to which you refer is the Taklamakan Desert but if it is, there are a few good reasons the Chinese have sealed it off. First that is where they conducted above ground testing of their nuclear weapons in the past and perhaps they still do, along with bioweapons. I've been doing a lot of reading on that region lately for my newspaper column, going over the original original counts of the first European explorers there in the late 19th and early 20th century. Notable among these were Sven Hedin and Aurel Stein.

The area is harsh in the extreme comparable to anarctica. Sandstorms buried over 300 cities in the region of Khotan alone almost overnight in many instances. These same sandstorms have buried entire caravans and cavalries and some have been found with dead riders still atop their equally dead horses when the capricious winds disinterred them. The deep chasms along the trails through the Himalayas and other two ranges are piled layers deep with dead men and mules that missed a step along the narrow ledges. What lies hidden in the sands are the remains of a Buddhist culture which disappeared as the desert grew almost too rapidly for the population to flee. The survivors were wiped out by the Moslems who took over the fringes of the Silk Road in the 8th and 9th centuries AD. The Chinese being most Confucian at that time turned a blind eye to the Moslem pogrom as they had no sympathy for the Buddhists at that time. Unlike other deserts, there is practically no accessible water in the Taklamakan and the Chinese showplace oasis near Kashgar using advanced Israeli desert reclamation technology is losing more ground than it reclaimed daily.

Those world girdling "dust" storms from the west begin in the 190 foot loess dunes of the Taklamakan and with the aforementioned testing done there, they are deadly even if they don't bury you alive and your little horse too. And lastly there are those Taklamakan mummies with their embarrassing Occidental features that date back to the days of Sumer and Akkad. The Chinese are torn between showcasing the wonders of the sand buried cities of Khotan to encourage tourism and ranting about Aurel Stein cutting out sections of murals to haul off to London. Actually Stein was racing his opposite numbers from Paris and St. Petersburg to loot the ruins before righteous rustic mullahs could destroy them ala Bishop de Landa. And local hardcases were taking off their desperate brethren to sell the loot to the highest bidder among whom the Chinese were conspicuously absent. Amid all this, British agents were collecting on their own to send down to archaeolgists of the British Raj in Calcutta. Anyone foolhardy enough to rip them off was hunted down by Indian thugs and dealt with, usually publicly. Surrender was not among the exit options.

The awfuller it gets, the more I want to go. lol2.gif


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