Multinational Team Creates the First 3-D Model of Egypt's Oldest Pyramid

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The first "Virtual Step Pyramid" is to be used by architects, restorers, and archaeologists as part of efforts to save and restore the Step Pyramid in the face of threats from centuries of erosion and the fragility of the stone and clay body of the pyramid, exposed after the protective outer casing was removed by stone robbers in ancient times.

Ancient Egypt Research Associates, Inc., the premier non-profit organization conducting original archaeological research and educational programs in Egypt, has collaborated with Egyptian and Japanese research and technology teams to generate the first 3-D model of Egypt's oldest pyramid, the Djoser Step Pyramid in Saqqara.

The Saqqara Laser Scanning Survey (SLSS) is part of the salvage archaeology and restoration of the Step Pyramid in the face of threats from centuries of erosion and the fragility of the stone and clay body of the pyramid, exposed after the protective outer casing was removed by stone robbers in ancient times.

The AERA team worked closely with Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), and a Japanese consortium to use large laser scanners to produce a three-dimensional map of every inch of Egypt's oldest pyramid and first gigantic stone monument. The team was led by Dr. Mark Lehner, Director of Ancient Egypt Research Associates; Dr. Zahi Hawass; Dr. Kosuke Sata of Osaka University; and Mr. Afifi Rohaim, of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The SLSS aims for complete three-dimensional documentation of the Step Pyramid Complex by using a variety of laser scanners, including the "Zoser Scanner," which was custom-designed for scanning the Step Pyramid by Develo Solutions, of Osaka, Japan. The Zoser Scanner, carried on the backs of professional climbers as they rappelled down the faces of each of six gigantic steps of the pyramid, uses infrared signals to gather coordinates and elevations of thousands of points on the monument. The scanner gathers data at the exceedingly fast rate of 40,000 points per second. The result is a virtual "point cloud" that provides a ghostly 3-D image of the pyramid. The dependable "raw data" will add up to the first true, extremely detailed 3-D model of the Step Pyramid. From this "virtual Step Pyramid," architects, restorers, and archaeologists can produce detailed models, drawings, and ortho-photographs for scholarly and scientific studies, recording the current restorations, and for monitoring the Step Pyramid long term.

In addition to the SLSS project, AERA conducts excavations of the ruins of the Old Kingdom city of the pyramid builders at Giza, about 400 meters south of the Sphinx, and runs an annual field school for SCA inspectors with the American Research Center in Egypt. For more information about AERA or to become a member, click on http://www.aeraweb.org.

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