Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Denizens of the Desert Volume 49 Number 2, March/April 1996
by Thomas E. Levy, Alan J. Witten, and David Alon

Geophysical imaging maps subterranean settlements in the hard hillsides of Israel's Negev Desert.

Some 6,500 years ago the early settlers of Israel's Negev Desert chose to live underground, digging vast complexes of chambers and connecting tunnels into the hillsides bordering the streams. Since 1977 we have been investigating the subterranean settlement at Shiqmim. During the past three years we have supplemented traditional excavation with a new mapping technique known as Geophysical Diffraction Tomography, which allows us to map underground features such as tunnels and chambers by generating sound waves that help produce digital pictures of underground anomalies. Developed between 1984 and 1987 (by coauthor Alan J. Witten) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, GDT has also been used to image the skeleton of seismosaurus, the largest known dinosaur, in the New Mexico desert; to detect tunnels beneath the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea; and to find buried drums of toxic waste in the clean-up of two dump sites in Michigan and Minnesota.

* Check out the Nahal Tillah Regional Archaeological Project, an excavation of another site in the Negev, codirected by Thomas E. Levy and David Alon.

© 1996 by the Archaeological Institute of America