This is what the 'Google pyramid' looks like from up close

Early last month we told you about the satellite archaeologist who thought she discovered lost Egyptian pyramids using Google Earth. Well, it turns out that the structures may not be pyramids — but they still have archeological significance, in any case.

As NBC science editor Alan Boyle reports, the site has been known to Egyptologists since the 1920s. The remnants are located in an area around the present-day town of Dimai in Egypt's Fayoum Desert. The locale used to be a desert settlement during Egypt's Ptolemaic era, back when Greek and Roman influence were on the rise.

According to Italian archaeologist Paola Davoli, the structures may have been watchtowers — but she hasn't ruled out the possibility that they might also be tombs or well sites. What's needed is an excavation to unlock the secrets hidden within — and this is what Davoli's Soknopaiou Nesos Project aims to do.

And interestingly, Davoli has been in touch with Angela Micol, the satellite archaeologist who brought the structures back into the spotlight. Boyle writes:

This is what the 'Google pyramid' looks like from up close

Based on the satellite imagery, Micol suggested that the mounds might represent eroded pyramids. The up-close pictures make the formations look more like piles of rocky rubble. The largest one appears to have the ruins of a square building or walls on its summit, but it'll take a full-blown excavation to unravel the mystery.

"Since the sites haven't been excavated so far, I don't see how anyone could say it's not a pyramid," Micol told me today. "The potential that it still is a pyramid is very plausible. I wouldn't throw it out."

However, Micol acknowledged that her experience is more in the line of architecture and scoping out satellite imagery for unusual features - which she said she's been doing for 10 years. "I really want to help archaeologists - that's my dream, that's my goal," she said. "I had no idea that this was going to go viral. I was shocked. I just wanted to help."

Now she's hoping to stay in contact with the experts on Egyptology, to find out more about Dimai as well as another site about 90 miles (144 kilometers) away, known as Abu Sidhum. Micol marveled over a triangle-shaped feature in the satellite imagery that she thought might represent the remnants of a pyramid. Geologists say the 190-meter-wide (625-foot-wide) feature at Abu Sidhum is merely a naturally formed butte, and one expert has been quoted as complaining that Micol appeared to be "one of the so-called 'pyridiots' who see pyramids everywhere."

Pyridiots. Ouch. Though "pyramidiots" has a much better ring to it...

Read all of Boyle's account here, including some more images.

Images via NBC/Soknopaiou Nesos Project, University of Salento.