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EARTH OBSERVATION
Satellite images identify early human settlements
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) March 19, 2012


An American archaeologist has used satellite images and a computer program to uncover thousands of ancient human settlements in Syria, according to a research study published Monday.

Software developed jointly by Harvard University professor Jason Ur and Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers can identify the remains of homes from the satellite images.

The software hones in on discolorations and mounds of soil characteristic of collapsed mud brick houses.

The area examined in the project covered about 14,290 square miles (23,000 square kilometers) in northeastern Syria. The software identified about 9,000 potential archaeological sites, which far exceeds discoveries so far, Ur said.

"I could do this on the ground, but it would probably take me the rest of my life to survey an area this size," Ur said.

The results of the study were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"With these computer science techniques, however, we can immediately come up with an enormous map which is methodologically very interesting, but which also shows the staggering amount of human occupation over the last 7,000 or 8,000 years," Ur said.

"What's more, anyone who comes back to this area for any future survey would already know where to go," he said.

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