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Infrared satellite survey reveals 17 lost pyramids

Discovery on a massive scale could mean excavations for generations to come. Meanwhile, a robot finds symbols in the Great Pyramid of Giza.

An infrared satellite survey of Egypt has revealed 17 lost pyramids and thousands of ancient tombs and other structures.
Courtesy of the University of Alabama at Birmingham

Here's news Indiana Jones would dig: 17 lost pyramids and thousands of ancient tombs and other structures have been revealed in an infrared satellite survey of Egypt.

University of Alabama at Birmingham Egyptologist Sarah Parcak and colleagues used NASA and commercial satellites orbiting 430 miles above Egypt to show mud-brick structures under the surface. The stunning findings include more than 1,000 tombs and 3,100 settlements.

"This hints at the possibilities of discoveries to come," Parcak was quoted as saying by her university. "I am excited for my generation and the generations to come. There is enough to be excavated for 50 generations to come."

Preliminary excavations by a French team have confirmed the presence of at least two possible pyramids. The findings at Saqqara (Sakkara) could be one of the most important sites in Egypt.

The work will be profiled in the BBC documentary "Egypt's Lost Cities," airing Monday on the BBC. The documentary will also be broadcast on the Discovery Channel in the U.S.

Parcak and colleagues found streets and houses buried under Tanis, which was featured in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." The streets are invisible on the ground.

"Indiana Jones is old school, we've moved on from Indy," Parcak was quoted as saying by BBC. "Sorry, Harrison Ford."

In other high-tech archeology news, a robot being used to explore the Great Pyramid of Giza has started revealing what lies behind a mysterious door in the 4,500-year-old structure.

The Djedi robot, developed by the University of Leeds and industry partners, has relayed images of markings behind the door.

The red symbols have never been seen since construction of the Great Pyramid around 2560 BC. They may shed light on unexplored shafts going deep inside the mausoleum built for the pharaoh Khufu.

The images were published by the Annales du Service Des Antiquities de l'Egypte (ASAE), an organ of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The Djedi bot has a rock drill, a mini "snake camera" that can peer around corners, and an ultrasonic device that can determine the thickness of walls.

The bot is to continue exploring the shafts before work wraps up by the end of 2011.

If only Indy had had a robot sidekick.