Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers Work To Prevent Decay Of Egyptian Antiquities

Date:
July 31, 2001
Source:
University Of Missouri-Rolla
Summary:
In the land of pharaohs and sphinxes, civil engineers from the University of Missouri-Rolla are trying to solve a new riddle: Why are some of Egypt's most treasured antiquities crumbling into dust?

ROLLA, Mo. -- In the land of pharaohs and sphinxes, civil engineers from the University of Missouri-Rolla are trying to solve a new riddle: Why are some of Egypt's most treasured antiquities crumbling into dust?

UMR researchers studied antiquities during a recent visit to the Egyptian city of Luxor -- home to the Temple of Luxor, the Court of Ramses II and the Avenue of the Sphinxes. There, Dr. Richard Stephenson, professor of civil engineering, and Adam Sevi, a graduate student in civil engineering, took samples of the soil, rock and water surrounding the antiquities, then brought the samples back to their labs for analysis.

By studying the samples, the researchers hope to gain a better understanding of why the ancient sandstone structures are deteriorating. They also hope to help the Egyptian government find some possible solutions to the problem.

"What we're trying to do right now is find out exactly what's happening from a geotechnical perspective, and narrow down the possible solutions to the problem," says Stephenson.

Working with the National Research Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics in Egypt, and with support from the University of Missouri Research Board, Stephenson and Sevi visited Egypt between May 19 and June 3 to gather soil, sandstone and water samples from six archaeological sites in Luxor. The city, formerly known as Thebes, is located in central Egypt along the Nile River.

The area's ancient shrines are threatened by irrigation and drainage practices, which have contributed to a rise in the water table and high salt concentrations in surface soils, Sevi says.

Because of the rise in the water table, the groundwater comes into contact with the foundations, columns and walls of the antiquities, causing structural damage. "The sandstone used in these structures is relatively porous and relatively weak," Sevi says. The porosity allows for capillary action -- the phenomenon that occurs when a liquid sticks to surfaces and "climbs," much like water does when touched by a paper towel.

Capillary action causes the water to rise into a structure, further compounding the problem.

"The up-sweeping groundwater appears to be dissolving the cementing agent in the sandstone, and the sandstone basically goes back to sand," Sevi notes. "Additionally, due to the intense heat and very low humidity common in southern Egypt, groundwater is rapidly evaporated at the surface. Any salts that were in the groundwater would precipitate out during evaporation, causing salt buildup in and on the sandstone blocks. These salt precipitates may be expanding and possibly speeding the degradation by exploding the sandstone from the inside out."

Luxor's soil, Sevi adds, is "perfect capillary soil, unfortunately."

While much of the damage to Luxor's antiquities has occurred over time, "the rate of degradation has increased dramatically in recent years," Sevi says. Modern irrigation and drainage practices have added to the problems, Stephenson says.

One Swedish company is trying to address the problem by pumping groundwater back into the Nile River, Stephenson says. "But I'm not sure there's a big enough pump to lower the water table enough," he says.

"The problem may be unsolvable in economic terms," Stephenson says. He adds that the UMR study is a preliminary investigation, the purpose of which is to help better define the scope of the problem.

"The idea is to get a better understanding of the chemical properties of the soil and the water, and the capillary action of the sandstone," he says.

One of Luxor's most famous antiquities, the Temple of Luxor, was built upon the site of a small Middle Kingdom temple and was constructed by the 18th Dynasty pharaoh Amenhotep III, who reigned from 1391-1353 BCE.

The UMR antiquities study came about as a result of another UMR research project in Egypt. Ahmed Ismail, a Ph.D. candidate in geology and geophysics at UMR and a native of Egypt, is also employed by Egypt's National Research Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics. While on leave from the research institute, Ismail is using ground-penetrating radar to map the groundwater in the Luxor region. He is working with Dr. Neil Anderson, a professor of geology and geophysics at UMR.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Missouri-Rolla. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Missouri-Rolla. "Researchers Work To Prevent Decay Of Egyptian Antiquities." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 July 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/07/010730080508.htm>.
University Of Missouri-Rolla. (2001, July 31). Researchers Work To Prevent Decay Of Egyptian Antiquities. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/07/010730080508.htm
University Of Missouri-Rolla. "Researchers Work To Prevent Decay Of Egyptian Antiquities." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/07/010730080508.htm (accessed October 2, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Japan Celebrates 'bullet Train' Anniversary

Raw: Japan Celebrates 'bullet Train' Anniversary

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) A ceremony marking 50 years since Japan launched its Shinkansen bullet train was held on Wednesday in Tokyo. The latest model can travel from Tokyo to Osaka, a distance of 319 miles, in two hours and 25 minutes. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Battle of New Orleans Cannon Gets New Carriage

Battle of New Orleans Cannon Gets New Carriage

AP (Sep. 30, 2014) A Spanish cannon used in the Battle of New Orleans and weighing nearly 3 tons was lowered Tuesday by pulleys, chains and muscle onto a new gun carriage like one that might have held it once aboard a navy ship. (Sept. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
2,000 Year Old Pre-Inca Cloak on Display in Lima

2,000 Year Old Pre-Inca Cloak on Display in Lima

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) A 2,000 year-old Pre-Inca cloak that is believed to represent an agricultural calendar of the Paracas culture is on display in Lima. Duration: 00:39 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Original Mozart Sonata Manuscript Found in Budapest

Original Mozart Sonata Manuscript Found in Budapest

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) Considered lost for over two centuries, the original manuscript of one of the most famous works of Mozart's Sonata in A major has been uncovered in a library in Budapest. Duration: 01:04 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins