Monday, June 6, 2011

Somewhere in the sands of time.

Two interesting stories from the world of archaeology.

"Lara Croft, meet Dr. Parcak."

University of Alabama's Dr. Sarah Parcak used infrared satellite imagery to find 17 previously undiscovered pyramids beneath the sands of Egypt.  Finding just one new pyramid would be a big deal, but finding 17 is huge.  French scientists on the ground have already dug at two sites and confirmed the accuracy of the imagery.  Parcak also found evidence of 1,000 tombs and 3,000 settlements.

Use of satellite imagery like this could totally change and reinvigorate the field of archaeology.

* * *

"Dr. Jones, welcome to Turkey." 

The June 2011 issue of National Geographic Magazine has an article by Charles C. Mann and Vincent J. Musi about a Stonehenge-type site in Turkey called Gobekli Tepe.  Klaus Schmidt of the German Archaeological Institute first visited Gobekli in 1994, and quickly realized that earlier surveys had mislabeled the site as Byzantine.

The discovery of an enormous number of flint chips led Schmidt to start digging the site, and over time he and his team discovered several rings of standing pillars, some as large as 18 feet tall and weighing up to 16 tons.  The shocking thing about Gobekli is that it dates back 11,600 years ago--7,000 years before the Great Pyramid at Giza was built!

The pillars are carved with all sorts of animal totems, including snakes, scorpions, foxes, cranes and wild boars.  The site must have been built for religious purposes because apparently no one made permanent homes there.  In fact, the nearest water is three miles away, and there's no evidence of organized agriculture.  It looks like people came from quite a distance to build a temple in the middle of nowhere.  Very curious indeed.

(Thanks to the history blog and the Telegraph for info on the 17 pyramids, and thanks to National Geographic for the article on Gobekli and the cool monthly quizzes.  The pyramid pic is from digitaltrends.com.)

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