Move Over Indiana Jones – GE Cameras Do Non-Invasive Tomb Exploration

February 29, 2012

Archaeologists exploring a newly discovered first-century tomb in Jerusalem have brought to bear some twenty-first century Remote Visual Inspection (RVI) equipment from GE. The Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) cameras and VideoProbes enabled the crew from the University of North Carolina to unlock the secrets of the tomb without entering the chamber. What they discovered there will be revealed in a new documentary film and an accompanying book which launches today at the Discovery Times Square Museum in New York.

License to study this historically significant tomb in the East Talpiot section of Jerusalem was granted to the academic team under stipulation by religious groups and the Israel Antiquities Authority that nobody should enter the tomb, nor should anything be disturbed or retrieved.


Secrets of the tomb: A view of the inside of the 2,000-year-old tomb on the screen of the XLG3.

After drilling three eight-inch holes through two meters of rock, the team deployed a GE CA-Zoom PTZ camera attached to a mechanical/pneumatic arm designed by Hollywood prop maker, Walter Klassen. The crew also employed GE’s XLG3 video probe, which was able to snake its way through the ancient masonry and capture images from even more remote corners of the tomb.

Ultra sharp images were required to make the inscriptions on the ossuaries legible to viewers, so engineers from the Inspection Technologies business of GE Measurement & Control custom designed a high definition camera for the crew.

The project was launched and funded by Toronto based Associated Producers, with Discovery Channel backing. Titled “The Resurrection Tomb,” the documentary will air this spring in the U.S. on The Discovery Channel.


Shedding light on the past: The PTZ camera inside the tomb, illuminated by the XLG3 video probe.

GE’s RVI technology was developed for industrial applications such as inspection of jet engines for overhaul and repair. It is used to check for corrosion and cracks in machinery, to peer inside tanks and containers, down pipes, and through all sorts of apparatus on oil platforms, commercial heat exchangers, racecar engine blocks, and power generators. As David Jervis, Media Manager for GE Energy Measurement & Control says, “virtually any situation where you need to see inside something where your eye won’t take you.” The U.S. Air Force recently ordered a score of them, he says.

As is the case in ancient Jerusalem, technology designed for industry often turns out to have applications far beyond their initial intended use. “You’d say this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Jervis says, “but actually they’re doing something like it right now at the Tower of London, using the same equipment to inspect wooden horses there. You never know, we might find one thousand Greek soldiers inside.”