Updated Thu May 26, 2011 8:24am AEST
The Sakkara pyramid
The satellite spotted two previously undiscovered pyramids in the area near the Sakkara pyramid (pictured), 25 kilometres south of Cairo. (AFP: Khaled Desouki)
A new satellite survey of Egypt has identified 17 lost pyramids and more than 1,000 un-excavated tombs.
The team from the University of Alabama analysed images from satellites orbiting the earth that have infrared cameras which can highlight different materials under the ground.
Satellite archaeologists were able to identify ancient Egyptian houses, temples and tombs made of mud-brick, which is much denser than the surrounding soil.
More than 1,000 tombs and 3,000 ancient settlements have been revealed so far.
Preliminary excavations have already confirmed some of the findings, including the existence of two buried pyramids at Sakkara raising the possibility that it is one of the most important archaeological sites in Egypt.
Dr Sarah Parcak from the university’s archaeological team told the BBC she was amazed at how much she and her team found.
“We were very intensely doing this research for over a year. I could see the data as it was emerging, but for me the aha moment was when I could step back and look at everything that we’d found and I couldn’t believe we could locate so many sites all over Egypt,” she said.
“It just shows us how easy it is to underestimate both the size and scale of past human settlements.”
Dr Parcak told the BBC there may be more antiquities yet to be discovered.
“These are just the sites [close to] the surface,” she said.
“There are many thousands of additional sites that the Nile has covered over with silt. This is just the beginning of this kind of work.”
Dr Parcak said the new satellite technology will be a boon for archaeologists.
“It’s an important tool to focus where we’re excavating. It gives us a much bigger perspective on archaeological sites. We have to think bigger and that’s what the satellites allow us to do,” she said.
Satellite survey unearths lost Egyptian pyramids