US archaeologists have used satellite imaging to discover 17 buried pyramids in Egypt, as well as a thousand tombs and 3000 buildings dating back to the time of the Pharaohs.
Some of the infra-red imaging, taken 692 kilometres above the Earth, showing entire street plans of ancient towns.
At least two of the pyramids have so far been confirmed by archaeologists digging on the sites located by the satellite, and the technique is being hailed as a major breakthrough in archaeological surveying.
The discovery gives hope to Egypt’s struggling tourism industry. From the famous Pyramids of Giza to the Red Sea resorts, tourists numbers have plummeted to just a trickle this year following the ousting of president Hosni Mubarak.
The extraordinary discovery, documented in a film to be broadcast by the BBC this week, “show us how easy it is to underestimate both the size and scale of past human settlements,” said Dr Sarah Parcak of the University of Alabama.
Dr Parcak also used the same technique to identify tombs that had been broken into by looters during the chaos of the recent revolution in Egypt.
The technique picks out the more solid mud brick structures used by ancient Egyptian builders from the sandy terrain in which they are often submerged.