Multi-disciplinary Egyptology: Geoarchaeology and Geophysics -revealing the ancient landscapes of the Nile Valley

Multi-disciplinary Egyptology: Geoarchaeology and Geophysics - revealing the ancient landscapes of the Nile Valley
The landscape we see today in Egypt is quite different to what the ancient Egyptians saw. Over time the regular flooding of the Nile changed the valley, people built cities and temples on top of sites already used. Some branches of the Nile silted up and whole cities were abandoned.

Geoarchaeology and Geophysics can allow us to 'see' through the layers of rubble, sand and modern cultivation to get an idea of what lies beneath.

Archaeologist Angus Graham of the Uppsala University, Sweden is examining the east and west areas of of the ancient capital of Waset (Thebes/Luxor) using 2 different methods.
The team takes core samples with a drill, then analyses the contents to work out if various layers were deposited by the Nile river or by humans. They then compare their results to Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) which works a little like radar. This shows if the deposits are sand/possible archaeological finds, or Nile silts (mud).

A third method which would allow better dating is optically-stimulated luminescence (OSL). This technique measures ionizing radiation and shows the date the material in the sample was last exposed to sunlight. Unfortunately, it is difficult to remove materials from Egypt for study and at present Egypt has no OSL lab, so this kind of analysis cannot be undertaken. OSL samples are difficult to handle as they must not be exposed to sunlight before analysis or the data is spoiled.

The team discovered that the original location of the temple of Karnak was an alluvial island, and dated it to around the end of the Old Kingdom. This choice is in line with Egyptian concepts of temple architecture. Today the site looks quite different and has been extensively built over. (Picture posted in comment section from Google Earth of the site today)
The team is also investigating the west bank around the now ruined temple of Amunhotep III (pictured in the article). You might recognise the twin statues as "The Colossi of Memnon".


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