Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Special Feature: Update on the most recent works carried out by Latvian team at Saqqara Step Pyramid

There's no need for a "Daily Photograph" today, because Dr Bruno Deslandes, Head of the Latvian Scientific Mission in Egypt, has sent me this wonderful update, with a set of maps and diagrams . I will be posting some of the photographs today and some tomorrow, with my very sincere thanks to Dr Deslandes for such a lovely surprise! All the very best to the Latvian team, and keep up the good work.

Riga (Latvia) August 21, 2007: During its last campaign, the Latvian Scientific Mission, which has already worked more than two years in the Step Pyramid of Saqqara (Egypt) in the framework of its joint-venture with the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and direct supervision from Dr. Zahi Hawass, has successfully carried our some additional documentation works, very important for the safeguarding and restoration of the oldest stone monument in the world. Resources allocated to this program (15 scientists) represent the largest scientific team never mobilized abroad in the History of this small but scientifically highly advanced Baltic country.

These documentation works have been made in several main

- Continuation of the very detailed 3D scanner and
photogrammetry documentation works for the remaining facades, and further into
the 7km long underground galleries system. Up to date more than 320 million measurements perfectly geo-referenced have been collected, and managed by GIS system. This huge database is available and used by SCA specialists in order to properly implement specific restoration interventions, and provide a monitoring
of the regular collapses happening in the pyramid.

- In this context, The Latvian scientific team has realized jointly with SCA partners some Emergency shoring and consolidation works in the 5th and 6th galleries belonging to the so-called royal family galleries and located at the deepest level of the pyramid. These galleries present some very serious structural pathologies and imminent risks of collapsing. Therefore, restoration specialists knowledge and experience have efficiently contributed to protect 2 alabaster sarcophaguses by use of reversible new technologies, like for example polymer beams and nets. Based on this efficient solution, is currently discussed the best way to shore and consolidate the very unstable vault located on top of the central burial shaft.

- Detailed Architectural and structural investigationscontinuation. Some risky detailed surveys completed by some Carbon 14 dating have significantly increased the understanding level of the constructive chronology of this monument dated back to 2660BC as well as through the next historical main interventions, like the Saite or Roman ones.

- In order to accurately study the pyramid foundations shape, the surrounding original ground level relief and the stratified structure of the underground, has been carried out some Geophysical investigations (Ground Penetrating Radar). The obtained results have exceeded all expectations. First of all, very qualitative GPR signals have been collected up to –50m. It could be underlined that such quality of so deep signals has been obtained by Latvian produced equipment and software. These GPR investigations have also highlighted some underground cavities and galleries. These new structural and geological data are very important for a proper understanding of exact structural condition of the pyramid, and will have to be seriously taken into consideration for its restoration. It can be noticed that, as part of underground non-geological cavities, appeared on the eastern fa├žade a new descending corridor starting from the dry moat and reaching the 3rd gallery. GPR investigations have undoubtedly provided to Egyptologists an interesting and surprising fact which will require from them further studies.

Click on the smaller image to look at the bigger versions which let you see the details.

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