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Glorious Mud May 25, 2011

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Awesome, Science.

Researchers at Cornell are using 3D scanners and printers to produce copies of ancient cuneiform tablets for study. The real thing is needful because sometimes you have to see it from different angles to bring out the writing, etc. The originals are fragile enough that scholars are reluctant to ship them around the world for study, so copies have an obvious advantage.  Another advantage they have is that the 3D print for them can be enlarged with no loss of data, so a larger copy can be more easily read. Brilliant!  Here is an original, a copy and a twice-life-sized copy:


Interested scholars can download this one here.

Speaking of mud, ancient Egyptians built their homes, temples and tombs from mud bricks, which apparently are denser than the silt which makes up the Nile delta…meaning a good IR scan could pick out structures from that time period from under the silt.


This is great, since the Nile changes course frequently and covers over whole towns, like the ancient city of Tanis (sound familiar?).


It turns out that this is precisely what has happened. Seventeen lost pyramids have been identified in a new satellite survey of Egypt. More than a thousand tombs and three thousand ancient settlements were also located by looking at these infrared images which show underground buildings at slightly different temperatures than the surrounding silt. A little digging shows that, yes, there are two pyramids correctly identified—and probably all the other structures as well.  This is apparently a pretty reliable method for finding old structures (in the Nile delta, anyway)

So, overall, a big day for mud.

The title of this blog entry actually comes from the chorus of this song by the legendary Flanders and Swann:

This is only one of dozens of songs, each more charming and funny than anything written since (with the possible exception of the works of Tom Lehrer).


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