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GE’s 21st Century Technology Helps Unlock First Century Secrets

Specially-adapted and standard Remote Visual Inspection (RVI) equipment from the Inspection Technologies business of GE Measurement & Control has been used to carry out an internal inspection of a newly discovered burial tomb, dating from the first century, in Jerusalem. The equipment has provided high definition video images of ossuaries within the tomb to enable archaeological experts to read the ossuary inscriptions and gain some insight into their provenance. The extent of the discoveries will be revealed in a new documentary film and an accompanying book that will be launched on February 28 at the Discovery Museum in New York.

The burial tomb was revealed during building work in the town of East Talpiot, just outside the old city of Jerusalem. Licensed exploration was granted to principal investigators Prof. James D. Tabor of the University of North Carolina (UNC) and Prof. Rami Arav of the University of Nebraska, under the academic supervision of UNC. Religious groups and the Israel Antiquities board stipulated that nobody should enter the tomb, nor should anything be disturbed or retrieved from the tomb as part of the licensed exploration. Fortunately, it was recalled that GE remote visual inspection equipment had been used during a similar tomb exploration in 2005 and consequently contact was re-established.

Bill Tarant, GE’s Ontario sales manager, who carried out the exploration in 2005 and took part in the latest project, explains the problems faced. “In 2005, we gained entry to the tomb through a soul pipe. With the current project, we had to drill three eight-inch holes through two meters of rock into the tomb. The tomb was one meter in height but any inspection equipment needed to be able to extend over three meters to obtain the required coverage. We solved the problem by using a mechanical/pneumatic arm, designed by Walter Klassen, who is a well-known prop maker for feature films. This was fitted to a GE CA-Zoom PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) camera, which was used to obtain the images inside the tomb. A second CA-Zoom PTZ was inserted in one of the other holes to monitor the movement of the first camera.”

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