COSI’s Lost Egypt Exhibition

Sarah and the Satellites by COSI
April 30, 2009, 1:11 pm
Filed under: From the Field | Tags: , , , ,

Author: Kate

Here’s a slide show that goes through the process used by our project advisor Sarah Parcak, to find archaeological sites in ancient Egypt. We’ll talk about this process in Lost Egypt as well. You can hear Sarah talk about how she uses satellites to find archaeological sites, check out a ground-penetrating radar unit, and try your hand at some remote sensing!

Josh and I are excited that we’re going to get to see Sarah again, when she’s here for the opening of Lost Egypt, in just a few weeks!

Cairo Satellite Image

Cairo Satellite Image

This is a satellite image of modern Cairo. The city appears as a large gray-brown area near the center of the image. The bright green areas are farms along the Nile River. All the lighter areas are the harsh Sahara Desert. This really gives you an idea of how much the ancient Egyptians must have depended on the Nile River, with nothing but the desert surrounding them. The image was taken by NASA’s Landsat 7 satellite, which has been instrumental in tracking land use and changes. On July 23rd, the Landsat program will have been recording satellite images of our planet for 37 years. How much has the city where you live changed in 37 years?


Another Day, Another Pyramid by COSI
November 11, 2008, 2:26 pm
Filed under: The Big Picture | Tags: , , ,

Author: Josh

Another big announcement out of Egypt: Dr. Zahi Hawass has just announced that a team of archaeologists has discovered the remains of a previously unknown pyramid at Saqqara, the 118th pyramid that we know of in Egypt.

Djoser Pyramid Complex

Djoser Pyramid Complex

You may recall that one of the stops we made in Egypt was in Saqqara, and it’s an amazing place. It’s the location of the first Egyptian pyramid, the pyramid of Djoser, and a great deal of Old Kingdom mastabas. You may also remember that this is the second pyramid to be uncovered at Saqqara this year, which seems unreal until you consider how much Egyptian history remains buried in the sand.

Consider this from Dr. Sarah Parcak, one of the Egyptologists whom we’ve had the pleasure of interviewing… Her work uses satellite imagery and other remote sensing methods to locate new archaeological sites in Egypt. When she compares the size and number of the new sites that she has discovered to the size and number of all current and previous Egyptian archaeological digs, she estimates that only 0.01% of the archaeological sites in Egypt have been examined!

There’s truly a lot of Lost Egypt left to find. Here’s another link that gives a taste of some of what’s left to be uncovered.

I know I’m going to keep an eye on Dr. Hawass’s website

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.