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2009/4/1

Quest for the tomb of Monthemhat in Egypt

Using Georadar technology, a team of specialists from the Terranova and In situ Testing enterprises have explored all the enclosures of a funerary complex, in order to identify hidden rooms which might hold the sarcophagus of the fourth prophet of Ammon and Governor of Upper Egypt (670- 648 B.C.).

The Terranova and the In Situ Testing companies are taking part in an archaeological dig taking place to the west of Thebes (Luxor), Egypt, in one of the largest funerary complexes of the area. It involves the tomb of Monthemhat, the fourth prophet of Ammon and Governor of Upper Egypt (670-648 B.C.).

The team of professionals from both firms are contributing evidence to finding the sarcophagus of the mummy of this important civil servant, still remaining undiscovered, but suspected to lie under the funerary complex. Based on these clues and the characteristics of the place where the sarcophagus of one of his offspring was found (using a camera to access a 7 metre-deep shaft which had been uncovered on excavating one of the stone steps), all the surface area of the complex was analysed with the geophysical technique of Georadar.

This technique enables the extrapolation of a complete, in-depth profile of the terrain, and is identical to that employed for the detection from Earth of objects navigating in space. Its operation is based on the emission of high-frequency electromagnetic waves that penetrate the material to be analysed and the reflection signal of which enables the detection of changes in the material, cavities or peculiarities in the interior of the terrain of up to 30m depth. The team is made up of a control unit, an aerial and a control screen that moves across the surface along a determined alignment. The technique has numerous advantages in the field of archaeology; its non-intrusive nature, its relatively low cost and its great speed, all of which enable extensive surface areas to be investigated at costs and within deadlines adjusted to planned projects.

Over four days, using this technology, the joint Terranova and In Situ Testing technical team carried out a geophysical reconnaissance of the 57 rooms and the two monumental courts of the funerary complex, exploring the roof, walls and floors of each space. To receive the data a 400 MHz aerial was used and 265 profiles undertaken in the basement of the rooms and on their walls and roofs, with a maximum investigating depth of 3.9m, under highly difficult conditions (the complexity of access, the existence of multiple shafts and ramps, lack of ventilation and the sensitivity required in all this type of research). From this field work and from the processing of data a number of radargrams were obtained for each one of the emplacements, and with which the interior of the terrain is visualised, so that the targets can be analysed and interpreted to establish final conclusions about the existence of hidden rooms.

The result of the technical work appears to provide important indications to continue the search, having defined the existence of 3 anomalies associated with the presence of cavities. Based on this locating of spaces, subsequent stages of research will take us once again to the interior of the complex in order to carry out localised perforations at these points, enabling progress in the results to take place. Moreover, advances in obtaining complete geological information about the subsoil can be made in order to generate a three-dimensional model of the interior.

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