The supposed discovery of the mythical temple of Melqart-Hercules crumbles: it is a "error" technological

The cartographer Kiko Sanchez has proven that the research that served to support the hypothesis that the mythical Phoenician-Punic temple of Melqart-Hercules had been located in an underwater area in Sancti Petri (Chiclana) was based on misuse of LiDAR technology, so its results have been in question.

The discovery of the supposed remains of this temple, something that would have solved one of the great unknowns of archeology, was made public a month ago at a press conference held at the Underwater Archeology Center of Cádiz (CAS) presented by the delegate in Cádiz of the Ministry of Culture and Historical Heritage of the Provincial Delegation in Cádiz, Mercedes colombo.

Colombo insisted on Monday that at that press conference “it was always said that it was a hypothesis”, which had to be confirmed with expensive underwater soundings to confirm the discovery of a platform that would be the base of the sought-after temple of Hercules, as it was called in Roman times.

The supposed structure of the temple, 300 meters long and 150 wide, had been located at a depth of between five and three meters under water in an area between Sancti Petri (Chiclana de la Frontera) and Camposoto (San Fernando).

It would have been discovered during the investigations that Ricardo Belizón Aragon carried out for his doctoral thesis at the University of Seville thanks to a remote sensing method called LiDAR (acronym for Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging) that would have obtained data, then interpreted by free software to turn them into a map in which the important platform was displayed.

“When the news came out, I immediately received five messages from colleagues asking the same thing: Does LiDAR work in water?“, explains to the Efe Agency Kiko Sánchez, who for fifteen years has been Head of Cartography of the Junta de Andalucía and is currently doing a doctoral thesis on the use of LiDAR technology in archeology.

Wrong conclusions

This system works by sending pulses of light to the ground from above (an airplane) and then measures the time it takes the surface to bounce them, thus calculating heights. The system does not work when it comes to water surface, because the information returns with errors, so when it is dumped in the software that draws a map with those parameters, the result is unreal.

With the idea that the new research on the Melqart temple would give him information about a new possibility of using LiDAR, the cartographer approached his data and maps. It thus verified that in reality the researchers had not taken into account that this remote sensing system cannot work on water, so their conclusions were wrong.

Remote sensing image of one of the possible locations of the sanctuary.

Cadiz University

“What they actually saw was a structure at 63 centimeters above sea level. And if it is not seen, it is an error, it does not exist. “He assures that several of his colleagues have reached the same conclusion, information that he has already transferred to the National Geographic Institute, whose public data were used; to the Historical Heritage Institute Andaluz and the author of the investigation, who has not responded to Efe’s requirements to obtain his version.

Kiko Sánchez believes that “there must have been a lot of political haste“to present” a hypothesis “at a press conference without first having made a minimum verification, skipping the rules of any scientific method.” They have not been able to subtract a piece of the headline. The columns of Hercules are on the flag of Andalusia, it is a symbol. This discovery would be what for Galicia to discover the corpse of the Apostle Santiago “, he jokes.

Second project

The cartographer does not understand that it has been possible to fall into such a “bulky” error in an investigation framed in the University of Seville, the same one that protects the doctoral thesis that he is carrying out on this technology. In Spain there are also “four archeology teams with LiDAR at four different universities. They could have contacted and made some verification before launching to a press conference, “he insists.

And that in that press conference the director of the Department of Prehistory and Archeology of the University of Seville, Francisco Jose Garcia, praised the “discretion”, the “meticulousness” and the prudence of the investigation: “I am reluctant to the archeology-spectacle that is in vogue now, but in this case the find is spectacular,” he stressed about a work that highlighted his “enormous historical significance”, which now seems to be unraveling.

The research at the University of Seville was made public a few months after another carried out by experts from the universities of Córdoba and Cádiz, coordinated by the professor of Ancient History Lazaro Lagóstena, which located the oldest and most famous sanctuary in the West in the Cerro de los Mártires in San Fernando, just about four kilometers away.

In this case, explains the cartographer, the researchers did not make the same mistake, since they used LiDAR technology to perform altimetry of the land surface of the area and sonar, which uses the propagation of sound under water to detect submerged objects. , to scrutinize the seabed of the area in which the mythical temple is being sought, whose specific location will still remain a mystery.

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