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Exploring Ancient Egypt with Modern Technology

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Ancient Egypt

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The Theban Mapping

November 10, 2004

Modern technology is helping archaeologists answer some of the ancient world's most compelling questions. Through the use of high-resolution satellite photography, computerized scanning equipment, and the vast storage and sharing capacity of the Internet, scientists and researchers are shedding new light on ancient Egypt and the Valley of the Kings.

The burial place of thousands of rulers and important Egyptians, the Valley of the Kings has frustrated archaeologists for generations because of its relative lack of uniformity in burial structure and placement. But through the use of high-resolution satellite photography, researchers can discover where, for instance, the richest people were buried. The best rock, meaning the rock that the richest could afford, was sometimes at the bottom of a hill. Wherever it was, a satellite photo can reveal the location of that rock, at the same time helping archaeologists concentrate their efforts, so they don't spend hours searching in vain for what turn out to be small treasures. The same rich people who could afford to bury in tombs made of the best rock most likely were buried with expensive treasures as well.

This kind of satellite photography has also helped discover that followers of a certain pharaoh, Thutmose III, wanted to be buried so that their bodies, when placed in their final resting spots, could see Thutmose's tomb.

Medical technology is also being helpful. Scientists are using CT scans on mummies to determine the conditions of bodies without having to disturb the bodies themselves. Scientists can determine, for example, what caused the person's death without having to do an autopsy.

Lastly, the Internet is proving to be a very big help to archaeological research. Archaeologists on site at tomb digs can record data and take pictures and then upload that information to a website, allowing other researchers elsewhere in the world study and make notes on data to which they would otherwise never have had access. Specifically, the Theban Mapping Project, which is using high-resolution satellites to map the necropolis of the Valley of the Kings, is also doing such Internet information sharing using a system called the Geographic Information System (GIS).

All in all, modern technology is helping archaeology take giants strides toward a better understanding of the past.

Graphics courtesy of ClipArt.com

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