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Cold War satellite imagery reveals 10,000 unknown archaeological sites

Corona Atlas image of Tell Rifaat in northwest Syria. Photograph courtesy: Internet Archaeology/ Jesse Casana, Jackson Cothren and Tuna Lalayci

Corona Atlas image of Tell Rifaat in northwest Syria. Photograph courtesy: Internet Archaeology/ Jesse Casana, Jackson Cothren and Tuna Lalayci


Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 4:57 PM - University of Arkansas researchers have used declassified satellite images of the Middle East to discover 10,000 new archaeological sites, tripling the number of known locations in the area, National Geographic reports.

The images were collected by Cold War-era satellites between 1960 and 1972 and kept classified until 1995.

Researchers compared the data to known landmarks and 4,500 documented sites. The 10,000 additional sites that were discovered include canals, roads and whole cities which, in some cases, cover nearly 50 hectares.


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“Some of these sites are gigantic, and they were completely unknown,” University of Arkansas archaeologist Jesse Casana told Red Orbit.

"We can see all kinds of things ...the images provide a very comprehensive picture.” 

Researchers say the satellite data is important as it was taken before larger cities began to infiltrate archaeological sites, making them difficult to decipher with modern-day satellite data.

They hope to use their technique to uncover new sites in other parts of the world, like China and Africa, according to RedOrbit.

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