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 September 17, 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 September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Museum Traces Fragments of Star-Spangled Banner

Museum Traces Fragments of Star-Spangled Banner

AP (Sep. 12, 2014) — As the Star-Spangled Banner celebrates its bicentennial, Smithsonian curators are still uncovering fragments of the original flag that inspired Francis Scott Key's poem. (Sept. 12) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spinosaurus Could Be First Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur

Spinosaurus Could Be First Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — New research has shown that the Spinosaurus, the largest carnivorous dinosaur, might have been just as well suited for life in the water as on land. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Meet Spinosaurus, the First-Known Water Dinosaur

Meet Spinosaurus, the First-Known Water Dinosaur

AFP (Sep. 11, 2014) — Spinosaurus aegyptiacus was adapted for both land and water, and an exhibit featuring a life-sized model, based on new fossils unearthed in eastern Morocco, opens at the National Geographic Museum in Washington on Friday. Duration: 01:02 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:
from the past week

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