To Study Ancient Humans, Archeologists Are Using… What?!


[♪ INTRO] When you think about archeologists, you might imagine people who spend years in the dirt, digging around to learn about old cultures and civilizations. But while field work is important, there’s also a lot more going on these days. In fact, in the last few years, archeologists have even started borrowing and adapting methods from other fields to advance their
own work. So today, while you will find some researchers knee-deep in dust, you’ll find others using
techniques from computer science, meteorology, and even astronomy to learn about people who used to walk the Earth. First, satellites. These things are often associated with militaries and tech companies, but recently, they’ve
been used to help archaeologists, too. Satellites might not spot ancient bones or pottery, but they can see a whole region at once. That lets us find larger patterns and big-picture details we can’t pick up from the ground. And by studying areas using different kinds of light, satellites can also reveal hidden
structures. For example, in 2011, the BBC announced that researchers studying Egypt had used infrared satellite images to spot mud walls underneath
the sand. According to those researchers, the walls absorbed water, so they looked different in infrared than the drier sand over them. Further analysis of these images revealed that there could be previously unknown cities down there, too — including thousands of buried homes and buildings, and possibly a dozen or so new pyramids. If they exist, these sites are likely around three or four thousand years old, and they could teach us more about how your average Egyptian lived backed them. Also: New pyramids! Outside of Egypt, satellites have also helped
us discover Viking settlements in Canada and map sites throughout Peru. They’ve even shown traces left by those who stole from archaeological sites. Which is less fun, but is a major problem in the field and something to keep track of. Satellites can only do so much, though, because you don’t always have a clear view of the ground. For example, places like Peru, Guatemala, Belize, and even New England have pretty dense forests that satellites can’t see through. They’re also hard for archeologists to reach in person. So lately, scientists have started mapping beneath the canopy with a method used in everything from meteorology to self-driving
cars. It’s called LiDAR, which is short for Light Detection and Ranging. In this method, they fly a plane overhead and point a laser at the ground. Then, some of that laser light sneaks through the leaves and gets reflected by whatever is down there. By measuring how long it takes for the light to return to the plane, scientists can calculate the distance to the canopy, the ground, and whatever structures might be hidden on the forest floor. That gives them a complete 3-D map of the area. In the last decade, LiDAR has revealed ancient Spanish gold mines, sunken Roman villas, and in 2018, a huge, densely-populated network of Maya settlements in Guatemala. The settlements involve hundreds of square kilometers of cities, towns, roads
— and over a thousand years ago, more than ten million people likely lived
there! And we found it all without a single archaeologist coming face-to-face with a jaguar. If you think about it, satellites and LiDAR feel like pretty intuitive technologies for archeologists to adopt. But this last method is a lot stranger because it takes a page out of astronomers’
playbooks. It involves some of the most powerful things in the universe: supernovas. These are huge explosions some stars undergo at the end of their lives, and they’re one source of high-energy particles called cosmic rays. These rays aren’t harmful to us on the ground, but researchers pay a lot of attention to
them for other reasons: Physicists, for example, use them to understand the subatomic realm. But in 2017, cosmic rays revealed something new in archeology, when physicists used them to discover a huge new room inside the Great Pyramid at Giza. They went inside the pyramid and used detectors to measure how many cosmic rays there were in various spots. Specifically, they were looking for one type of particle called muons. The idea was that fewer muons can get through something dense — like enormous sandstone
blocks. So if they saw an area with more muons than normal, that would suggest there was a room somewhere above them. And that’s what they saw. They noticed more muons than expected coming from just above the Grand Gallery — the largest room in the pyramid. And after doing some follow-up tests, they concluded that there was a huge, completely unexpected room up there. No one is quite sure why it exists, but this was still significant, considering that the Great Pyramid is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. It was the first new room anyone had discovered there in more than a century, and the researchers found it without breaking any ancient walls. Scientists are currently on the lookout for more places to turn their cosmic ray detectors. But finding a new room inside one of the Seven Wonders of the World is impressive enough for now. And it’s just one more way that archaeology is changing and embracing new technologies. Never fear, though: The field still hasn’t lost its roots. After all, when something like a satellite reveals an ancient city, someone still has to go explore it in person. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow, and thanks to all of our patrons for making
it happen! You help us keep the lights on, develop sweet graphics, and make sure our content is accurate. So we really can’t say thank-you enough. If you want to learn how to support free science content on the Internet, you can head over to patreon.com/scishow. [♪ OUTRO]

100 thoughts on “To Study Ancient Humans, Archeologists Are Using… What?!”

  1. I love LiDAR. It provides 1/3 of the closest thing I currently have to a testimony of the Book Of Mormon. That, the murals of BoM scenes in ancient structures, and the idea of illiterate farmboy creating such a well written book that matches scripture he couldn't access and history we(modern understanding of history) disagreed with until recently.
    Now, just to have direct evidence, revelation, epiphany, etc. that whatever supernatural thing that gave Joseph Smith the scripture was God/Jesus/Holy Ghost, and not a Djinn or something. Until then, I have to deal with relying on faith and my other testimonies.

  2. Awww yeee. My favorite SciShow and SciShow Quiz Show host. Dude, you're looking buff. Have you been working out?

  3. Why is there a huge room in the great pyramid? My guess, so they didn't have to fill it with stone, that stuffs expensive.

  4. And … potential Atlantis location ;): https://www.google.com/maps/@21.1282578,-11.4584028,76347m/data=!3m1!1e3

  5. I must have travelled to another universe…

    I don't see memes in the comment section! 😱

    Are people becoming… intelligent?? 😵

  6. how come all the aztech crazy massive structures and Egyptian pyramids thousands of years ago but today with our massive advancements we dont buikd any of these things. we make rectanlge towers on land and small houses. is this becuase people are less free and the population is higher but the laws are restricting creativity?

  7. There’s an alien spaceship hidden in that room. I just know it. What else could be there? Has to be an alien ship, and maybe even a few mummified alien bodies. Greys not reptilians, of course. Only an idiot would believe in reptilians, jeeez. Pffft.

  8. I have a question. There is a theoretical threshold in which all motion stops, Absolute Zero. There is also a calculated limit to how fast anything can move, the Speed of Light. My thought is why we can't, or don't, measure both using the same unit?

  9. I hope the LiDAR isn't loud and deafening animal's ears when they go over the areas.
    Remember, animals can hear higher pitched things then use.
    The LiDAR might not make noise we can hear,
    but if it does make noise, there is an animal that can hear it.

  10. Is that how Weyland Industries discovered the Predator-Zenomorph pyramid in Antarctica?… no, hang on… I'm just being informed that that is actually a movie and not, as it seems, real.

  11. 'LiDAR is super cool, it's also been used in the American SW to look at Chacoan Roads and allows manipulation of the light source (sun) outside of normal/natural parameters.

  12. That room in the Great Pyramid wasn't unexpected – which is why it was put in Assassin's Creed: Origins before its existence was confirmed.

  13. It is important to understand that archaeological sites are a finite resource. Once you disturb a site, it can never be un-disturbed. There are also many ethical reasons to not disturb archaeological site, chiefly to honor the burial practices of other cultures. Archaeologists have been working to figure out ways of doing archaeology without disturbing archaeological contexts. Various types of geographic information systems (GIS) and ground penetrating radar (GPR) have been revolutionary in how archaeology is done in the field and in the lab.

  14. I don't think we should arrest artifact thieves. How do you know if they aren't trying to stop a secret society from unleashing an ancient supernatural evil? Without Nathan Drake, I don't know where we'd be today.

  15. Archaeologists: come, strip a site of all of its artefacts, limit and even prohibit the locals' access to their own cultural treasures, send the good stuff to other places, then call other people thieves…

  16. I love scishow so much but please stray away from the click bait titles, your videos hold enough in education that they’re practically not needed

  17. Amazing that there were populations of tens of millions in groups that we only associate with modern cities. Having disease kill most of those people makes for a devastating realization – biological warfare has been introduced by colonialism, and we as a species have lived with a shortened, unhealthier lifespan because of it. We currently live with all the diseases that didn't kill us outright, and we survived long enough to make children as the ONLY survival technique our species knows, it would be cool to find out it wasn't always that way.

  18. What's in that secret chamber? You can't just tell us about a secret ancient chamber in a pyramid like that! Go explore that chamber!

  19. Nieandthals were sailing oceans 300 thousand years ago… We left Africa 100 thousand years ago… Where are the skyscrapers and space elevators? The sandwich wrappers?

  20. Wow. A video on satellite imagery and it’s impact on archaeology… And not ONE single real image showing an example. Way to go guys.

  21. Excellent video! I just wanted to say, until we've actually dug those cities up, it's hard to date how old they are. We're still in debate about the age of the stuff that isn't buried. Graham Hancock and others have been talking about this for years, and I'm only an idiot, so check out "Fingerprints Of The Gods" to get a better idea of what I'm trying to say.
    Yes, I know that that book isn't from a scientist, and it is full of opinions that are controversial, but it opens the mind to the chance that humanity and civilizations are a lot older than we have been thinking.
    And plenty of religious stories say the same thing; we fell from grace and had to start over. We did too much, and the Gods didn't like it. Natural disasters sent by the Gods wiped away our wicked history.

  22. I can't help but think that the chambers in the pyramid are for managing temperature changes in the pyramid. Consider how much we assume egyptians knew about condensation,,, it might have been a useful piece of equipment to have a giant rock that you could control the temperature of (even if it was very subtle). …. WE can use rocks to stabilize areas from erosion and to clear fog ,,, a pyramid might have been a useful tool for managing a local environment (maybe improving the air quality for local area storage structures during the heavy traffic associated with inundation)

  23. I am right there with ya on that exclamation…

    "BUT NEW PYRAMIDS"

    It's sad that we couldn't get to see more of the new stuff – but I'm betting that a lot of those images aren't exactly ready for public consumption yet, if they are even in a format that the layperson would understand AS an image lol

  24. cool hipster walks down alley and vandalizes a wall. doesnt get stabbed. wholesome commercial. not sure what theyre selling

  25. Could you do a show about hemp plastics? I really want to learn more about it and I can’t find a lot of information about if it’s being used, where I can find it or if it is a better option I wanna look after my planet but I need more information thank you!!

  26. "Those who steal from archaeological sites" – Archaeologists steal from archaeological sites. That's their whole shtick.

  27. So we can satellites to see the pyramids that The People's Republic of China covered in dirt and planted trees on before insisting that China never had pyramids?
    I suppose that might work a bit better than pointing out the suspiciously geometric hills from ground level.

  28. The Great Pyramids were not simple tombs, they were made with extreme precision with a purpose or use. What that use was we are still unsure. They are more likely quite a bit older than 3-4 thousand years. thats date that been rigidly upheld by science for too long, with little proof. It's been stuck that way because that's how all the old books read that have been taught to many people it's easier to uphold that than accept and explore new truth.

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