Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have located seventeen lost pyramids, 1,000 tombs and more than 3,000 ancient settlements in Egypt after studying images produced by a state-of-the-art infrared technique that allowed them to clearly see the ruins underground.
With two pyramids already confirmed by scientists, they believe there are thousands more unknown sites in the region.
"I could see the data as it was emerging, but for me the 'a-ha' moment was when I could step back and look at everything that we'd found," Dr. Sarah Parcack, who led the survey, told the BBC. "I couldn't believe we could locate so many sites all over Egypt."
Because infrared imaging is able to distinguish different materials beneath the surface, the team was able to analyze images from satellites orbiting 400 miles above the earth, equipped with cameras so powerful they can pinpoint objects less than 3 feet wide.
Buildings in ancient Egypt were constructed out of mud brick -- a dense material easily discernible from surrounding soil, leaving fingerprints that researchers could identify as pyramids, tombs, or homes.
The breakthrough find is a huge coup for the burgeoning science of space archaeology, but Parcack believes this is only the beginning, even hinting further finds could be buried deep below the Nile River.
"These are just the sites close to the surface," she told the BBC. "There are many thousands of additional sites that the Nile has covered with silt."