The Waving Flag: Satellites To Search For Genghis Khan’s Tomb?

Saturday 18 October 2008

Satellites To Search For Genghis Khan’s Tomb?

A recent article from the University of California at San Diego appears to outline plans to find Genghis Khan’s tomb using satellite imaging:
“[UCSD] are hoping to use advanced visualization and analytical technologies … to pinpoint Khan's tomb and conduct a non-invasive archaeological analysis of the area where he is believed to be buried.”

On first reading, the 16 October article appears very interesting.  The approach is easy to understand:
“If you have a large burial, that's going to have an impact on the landscape. To find Khan's tomb, we'll be using remote sensing techniques and satellite imagery to take digital pictures of the ground in the surrounding region …
Once we've narrowed down … [the] region in Mongolia … we'll use techniques such as ground penetrating radar, electromagnetic induction and magnetometry to produce non-destructive, non-invasive surveys.
We'll then … create a high-resolution, 3-D representation of the site."
Sounds great but something was troubling me.  After I’d read the article a couple of times it became clear that this was mainly academic PR.  The interviewee, Albert Yu-Min Lin, is:
“… looking to establish a position at UCSD that will allow him to spearhead the three-year Valley of the Khans project, which will require $700,000 in funding …”
Reading between the lines Lin’s pitching for a job, needs the job to get funding and needs the funding to set up the team before starting work.  

My suspicions were confirmed when I checked out and the Valley of the Khans project website and discovered that it was registered on 01 Oct 2008; just two weeks before the USCD article appeared.  Definitely academic PR.

So I don’t think we should hold our breath but the project looks interesting so I wish Dr. Lin good luck.


James said...

Hmm maybe that's the way stuff gets done. Actually $700,000 doesn't seem a great deal for a 3 year project...but then again they are only perusing satellite pictures..most of that might go on coffee and doughnuts. They will need more funding for a dig if they find anything.

Vexillia said...

I agree on both counts.

Anonymous said...

$700,000, divided among 8 researchers, over three years, comes to a little less than $30,000 a year, IF the entire fund were budgeted to salaries, and didn't have to cover all other aspects of the research. I fail to understand how people who claim to "love history" justify making remarks implying that practicing scholars in the historic disciplines would squander research funding on "coffee and doughnuts".

Vexillia said...

Next time leave please leave your name.

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