Another example of using Google Earth to survey for archaeological sites

I’d like to share news on how archaeology is growing to use non-traditional tools like Google Earth to find sites. See nearly one year ago, I passed on the news that an Italian man accidentally discovered the outline of an ancient Roman villa while looking at his house on Google Earth. Since then, UNC-Chapel Hill archaeologist Scott Madry has confirmed the free service’s promise as a research tool.

Here’s an excerpt from the news article reporting this all,

Madry looks for things that are difficult to see on the ground, usually from airplanes or in aerial photographs. Altered ground can preserve the outlines of things people built centuries ago.

For 25 years, Madry has scrutinized such details to explore how a Celtic people called the Aedui lived in France for about three centuries starting about 300 B.C. It is hard to find new clues.

After reading about the Italian man’s good luck, Madry got out his laptop, fired up Google Earth and looked over lands in Burgundy near his research area. Google Earth displays that area in particularly good resolution. Immediately he spotted features that, to his trained eye, resembled outlines of Iron Age, Bronze Age, ancient Roman and medieval residences, forts, roads and monuments.

“I’ve spent 25 years in this region of France,” Madry said. “In the whole time, I’ve found a handful of archaeological sites. I found more in the first five, six, seven hours than I’ve found in years of traditional field surveys and aerial archaeology.”

Also, “in all, he recorded 101 possible ancient sites along with their longitudes and latitudes.” This is good news for me, I always like hearing about how technology is being adapted for anthropology.

I’m even more happy to report that Madry has reported his preliminary findings at the international Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology conference this spring. It caught the attention of a lot of other archaeologists as a tool to do preliminary aerial surveying research… It seems especially useful for archaeologists who work in countries where aerial photographs are forbidden or restricted for security reasons are particularly curious. I wonder if we are gonna hear more of archaeological success stories like this with Google Earth?

Madry was encouraged to teach the technique at next spring’s gathering, but I think that’s too far off. It’s not that hard everyone, Google Earth is free and easy to use!

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