A groundbreaking satellite survey of Egypt has revealed a dizzying array of lost tombs and settlements, including 17 previously unknown pyramids.

Dr. Sarah Parcak, an Egyptologist with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and her colleagues used infra-red satellite imagery to peer beneath the surface and discover hitherto unknown sites.  In addition to the pyramids, her team also discovered evidence of 1,000 other tombs and 3,100 settlements.

Initial test excavations seem to confirm the validity of Parcak’s findings.  Archaeologists digging at the great necropolis of Saqqara have confirmed the presence of at least one buried pyramid.  Furthermore, she was able to identify the remains of a 3,000 year old house at Tanis, the northern city that served as Egypt’s capital during the 21st and 22nd dynasties.  When the site was excavated, the remains of the house matched the satellite image almost exactly.

Parcak told the BBC that she believed that this technology would be a boon to archaeologists.  “It’s an important tool to focus where we’re excavating. It gives us a much bigger perspective on archaeological sites. We have to think bigger and that’s what the satellites allow us to do,” she said.

The BBC funded Parcak’s work and BBC One will show a documentary highlighting her findings on May 30.  American Egyptophiles will have to wait until the Discovery Channel airs its own documentary on the subject later this summer.