COSI’s Lost Egypt Exhibition

A Send-Off from Lost Egypt Exhibit Producer, Kate Storm by Carli

It’s been an amazing summer with “Lost Egypt” at COSI. There were several particularly memorable experiences for me.

  1. After years of looking at a small table-top paper scale model of the exhibit, it was incredible to walk into the gallery for the first time and see the real exhibits and murals and walls. Seeing the large scale murals of Egypt, as well as Brad Feinknopf’s photos in the hallway, reminded me of our trip to Egypt.
  2. Watching visitors at our member event with archaeologists Dr. Mark Lehner and Ana Tavares from Ancient Egypt Research Associates, and Dr. Jonathan Elias from the Akhmim Mummy Studies Consortium, was so great. I got to introduce two girls who want to become archaeologists to Ana as they walked through the exhibit!
  3. I saw hundreds of people climb on the camel, build a pyramid, search out the archaeological clues from the Lost City site, move a pyramid block, discover artifacts, watch a show about the afterlife, come face to face with a mummy, explore tomb art, and study the forensic science behind mummies. I really hope we managed to capture some of the excitement and sense of wonder that is the science of archaeology, and share it with our visitors.
  4. We performed formal evaluations, received written comments, and overheard lots of conversations about “Lost Egypt”. We really value all the comments from visitors and colleagues – everything that was said about what you liked and didn’t like, what you found compelling, beautiful, or boring, is so useful in planning our future exhibits. Thank you to everyone who participated.

Now we’re preparing to close “Lost Egypt”. I feel a bit like I’m sending my kid off on her first day of school. “Lost Egypt”is heading out into the world to tour the U.S. for the next several years. It was the most wonderful, exhausting, amazing and challenging work project I’ve ever had. I’m so grateful for the help of Josh, Carli, Jenn and all the others at COSI who helped turn the idea into reality. And the Science Museum of Minnesota team who brought it to life was incredible – I miss working with all of you, and hope we can head off to Jordan or Greece or Mexico for the next adventure some day soon! It’s been a privilege to work on Lost Egypt, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

An interview from the top of the world.

An interview from the top of the world.


Sarah Parcak, Content Provider by COSI
July 1, 2008, 10:00 am
Filed under: The Big Picture | Tags: , , , ,

Another of the archaeologists whom we have interviewed for the exhibit is Sarah Parcak. She has been doing some really cool work on finding sites using satellite imagery, and she’s been called the first person to use this imagery to find new sites in Egypt.

Sarah Parcak

Dr. Parcak works at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. It’s a little odd to think of an archaeologist doing a lot of “field work” at a computer station, but that’s exactly what she’s doing. One of the tricky things about archaeology is that the people who practice it are often looking for things that are hidden, buried underground for long periods of time (have you ever seen the drawings Napoleon’s team did of the Sphinx buried up to its neck in sand?). Archaeologists used to (and sometimes still do) rely on logic, perseverance, and luck when looking for new sites. They would dig in places where they had deduced that a site should be based upon the available evidence (like the team that discovered the Lost City of the Pyramid Builders), or they would jump on chance discoveries made by the local human or even animal population (like the donkey who accidentally stepped into the graves now known as The Valley of the Golden Mummies). But because of the satellite imaging that is now being done by Dr. Parcak and others, archaeologists are better able to determine exactly where to dig before ever even setting foot there.

Her tools range from old still images from spy satellites to cutting-edge digital scanning filters that can detect differences in the water content of soil. She even uses Google Earth to search known sites from above and look for previously unknown features. To date, Dr. Parcak has discovered more than 150 previously unknown sites, with the promise of many, many more; she estimates that only about 0.01 percent of ancient Egypt has been uncovered!

Try it yourself! In Google Earth, visit Amarna, a vast ancient site and the capitol of Egypt during the reign of Akhenaten (27°39’24”N, 30°54’22”E). See if you can tell the difference between the modern town and what’s buried just to the south of it!

Here’s a link to Dr. Parcak talking about her work.

Flying High – Literally and Mentally by Carli

Author: Carli

We’ve been averaging about 5-to-6 hours of sleep per night, and working about 17-hour days. I can barely keep my eyes open, but the incredible adventures continue every day, and I don’t want to miss a single moment. Yesterday, I got on a hot air balloon at 6AM and floated amongst 30 other balloons, watching the sun rise over the Nile, and taking photographs of the sugarcane fields and the Valley of the Kings below. We hopped an evening flight back from Luxor to Cairo, arriving around 2AM to the hotel, and slept until about 5:30AM this morning. We then headed back out to interview team members from the Giza Plateau Project.

My triumphant moment of the day – interviewing Mark Lehner, living legend of the discipline of Egyptology, esteemed archaeologist, and foremost expert on the pyramids. During the interview, we talked about the Giza Mapping Project, his discovery of the Lost City, the interfacing of different archaeological disciplines to complete pictures of ancient daily life, the importance and relevance of studying ancient Egyptian history, and scientific method involved in the process of archaeology.

The final line of questioning relating to scientific method and the proving or disproving of hypotheses brought me to tears. He essentially outlined the entire educational function of the Lost Egypt exhibit in a way that combined science, fantasy, discovery, curiosity, and the desire to seek out truth.

I couldn’t help but picture children at COSI standing in front of a kiosk station listening to Dr. Lehner speak and becoming inspired to take a similar career path. The impact of the project and the interview itself overwhelmed me. I am so proud of the work we have done here, and the product that will result from our efforts.

Watching Two Worlds Collide by Kate
March 10, 2008, 6:43 pm
Filed under: Trip to Egypt | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Author: Kate

We were happy to see Ana again today and to meet with her team. Going through the interviews and conversations with these people really brought home the interdisciplinary nature of science. Each one’s work influences the other, and the synergy that results provides new insights into our world. It was such a gift to meet with each of them, and we are so grateful. All the experiences we’ve had here have allowed us to better tell the story of Egyptian archaeology in our exhibit, but the scientist’s stories are providing such a beautiful and direct look into what science is all about. Amazing.

As a contrast to our extraordinary morning, we went shopping later today at the Khan el-Khalili market – a huge open market with hundreds of vendors lined up on street after street, selling everything: food (fresh oranges and bananas, live chickens, candy), clothing (t-shirts, belly-dancing outfits, galabyas, and thousands of scarves), gifts (wooden inlaid boxes, brass lanterns shaped like stars, incense, spices), and just about anything else you could imagine.

We bought a few brass lanterns for the exhibit, but spent most of our time just getting used to the shopkeeper’s teasing, “I miss your money!” and the sights, sounds and smells (mostly good smells, by the way – incense, cooking food, baking bread). Being there was like being in a movie – just unreal. I kept expecting a director to yell “Cut. Now, let’s get a few more donkeys in the scene, and where’s my smoke machine?!” The experience was topped off by riding back to the hotel listening to Led Zeppelin on the taxi’s radio, as we crossed the Nile River. The two worlds merge and clash in ways that are both startling and funny.