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Archaeologists find ancient cities using the satellites

The remains of very old settlements, like the mound of Tell Brak, shown here, can now be found remotely. In a similar survey of large areas directly on site would take years

Experts have developed a new technique for processing of satellite images, which allowed to identify in northeastern Syria, several thousand previously unknown settlements. The oldest of them are between the ages of eight thousand years.

Directly on earth to speculate about hidden under layers of sand and earth the remains of the tiny towns or villages is very difficult. However, they do not disappear completely. Centuries of accumulated organic waste and rubbish, the broken bricks and, of course, irrigation alter the surface structure. It turns out anthropogenic soil (anthrosol ).

This ground is slightly different spectral features than in undisturbed regions. This property and used Jason Ur (Jason Ur) from Harvard University (Harvard University ), Bjoern Menze (Menze Bjoern) from the Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT ) to search for the ancient habitation of space.

According to the information Nature, scientists have developed a program that combines the modern with the old digital map satellite Photos (from the 1960s), and made in different times of the year.

An automatic analysis allowed to identify in North Mesopotamia the area of 23 thousand square kilometers many of the alleged settlements. All were put on the map 14 thousand points.

Accurate data for elevation of terrain from topographic mission SRTM space allowed us to estimate the size and lifetime of these towns (the amount of accumulated anthropogenic material depends on the size of the mound). Special attention was given by scientists to small villages.

“Traditional archaeology turned to the largest objects (palaces, big cities), but we tend to ignore the settlements at the other end of the social spectrum, says Ur. – However, people who have migrated to cities came from somewhere, and we have to “put” these people on the map”.

Analysis of the location of the hidden settlements has revealed many connections between them

Processing of satellite imagery showed some interesting discoveries. So, contrary to popular belief, some more or less large settlements in ancient Mesopotamia is not originated near rivers and in areas with high rainfall.

This raises the question of a much more complex relationship of urbanization and irrigation, and gives further clues to understanding the early stage of the development of human civilization.

New maps should help the archaeologists during excavations. “Everyone who head to this area for future research will already know where to go, explains Jason. — Now there is no need in the initial exploration.”