National Geographic makes use of drones and robots to analyse the Nubian pyramids

For the uninitiated, Africa is not only home to the Ancient Egyptian pyramids, but also the mysterious Nubian pyramids that are situated south of their renowned structural peers (within present day Sudan). And now, National Geographic has made its intention clear about exploring more of these 3000-year old architectural specimens. The good part is – the researchers are doing that with technological aplomb, as is evident from the glorious footage (see after the jump) captured by a remote-controlled quadcopter camera devised specially by National Geographic engineer, Alan Turchik. This hi-tech aerial mapping technique is also complemented on the ground level by a remote controlled robot; and both of these automatons are aiding in analyzing the El Kurru site (in Sudan) after 100 years since the previous archaeological expedition.

The ruins are remnants of the imposing pyramids constructed by the Kingdom of Kush, an African empire which made its mark in the region from around 11th century BC till 4th century AD. The El Kurru site in particular has held the interest of many a historian, since it contains the underground burial chamber of a Nubian king (known as Piye) who conquered Egypt in 715 BC. To that end, the researchers not only took help from the aforementioned robot, but also went ‘old school’ by using manual labor to clear out the variously hidden nooks and crannies of the chamber. The end result pertained to about 250 tonnes of debris being cleared from the ruins, thus leading to the discovery of a few thousand-year old artifacts.

In that regard, all of the objects recovered from the El Kurru site will be revealed in the upcoming documentary Black Pharaohs – produced in collaboration with the researchers and PBS. As for the thrill of discovering a less trodden historical site, this is what Turchik had to say about the experience –

You don’t really know what happened in the past, and to be able to investigate that…it’s like you’re a detective.

Quite interestingly, this is not the first time that a drone is used for archaeological investigation – as is evident from the Bronze Age site currently being unearthed at Fifa, Jordan.


Artist’s impression done by Charlie Swerdlow.

Source: National Geographic

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