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Before digging starts: locating and surveying sites

discovering an archaeological site Many archaeological sites have never been lost: the pyramids of Gizeh or the temples of Thebes have always remained visible, just to mention two obvious examples.
Other sites were found by accident: in one instance, the famous archaeologist Howard Carter was riding his horse at Deir el-Bahri, Thebes West, and it stumbled into the top of the shaft of the tomb now called Bab el-Hosan. Finding objects and sites during farming and construction work is very common, especially when an ancient site is still occupied.
Ancient places may be relocated from mention in written sources. The most celebrated example comes from ancient Greek literature: the city of Troy is the focus of the epic poem by Homer, the Iliad, and Heinrich Schliemann used this to identify the site on the ground. Place names can also provide clues to the location of lost ancient sites.
surveying an area

Archaeologists survey a region to record as many archaeological sites as possible, often as a preliminary operation for selecting a single site to excavate. Archaeologists walk over an area and record all extant visible archaeological features, from pottery sherds to architectural remains. For a greater area the researcher can use cars and ask the local population; aerial photography can also be invaluable, though it has not been much used yet in Egyptian archaeology. Examples of surveys in Egypt: Memphis (Jeffreys 1985), Mallawi-Samalut (Kessler 1981).

Geophysical survey Buried s tructures can be detected without or before excavating them. Seismic and acoustic methods - striking the ground to record the resulting sound
Electromagnetic methods - using radio pulses
Electrical resistivity - using electrical impulses
Magnetic survey - useful for finding metal and fired clay structures; these objects produce slight distortions in the magnetic field of the earth (used today for revealing the plan of Qantir/Piramesses - Pusch/Becker/Fassbinder 1999)
Making a map

Creating a reliable map can be very difficult but is extermely important. A map needs at least one fixed point - a starting point for measurements - which will be still there after a longer period. Trees and houses are therefore not very useful, because they can disappear after a short period. Churches and mosques are more useful, because it seems less likely that they will be destroyed. At more intensively explored archaeological sites such as Saqqara fixed points have been installed by archaeologists (example: metal staff on the Unas pyramid at Saqqara). Examples of high standard mappings in Egypt: Amarna (Kemp/Garfi 1993); Valley of the Kings (Weeks 2000).


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