In the 1920s, 116 forts were documented in the region by Father Antoine Poidebard, who conducted one of the world's first aerial surveys using a WWI-era biplane. Poidebard reported that the forts were constructed from north to south to establish an eastern boundary of the Roman Empire.
A new Dartmouth study analyzing declassified Cold War satellite imagery reveals 396 previously undocumented Roman forts and reports that these forts were constructed from east to west. The analysis refutes Poidebard's claim that the forts were located along a north-south axis by showing that the forts spanned from Mosul on the Tigris River to Aleppo in western Syria.
"I was surprised to find that there were so many forts and that they were distributed in this way because the conventional wisdom was that these forts formed the border between Rome and its enemies in the east, Persia or Arab armies," says lead author Jesse Casana, a professor in the Department of Anthropology and director of the Spatial Archaeometry Lab at Dartmouth. "While there's been a lot of historical debate about this, it had been mostly assumed that this distribution was real, that Poidebard's map showed that the forts were demarcating the border and served to prevent movement across it in some way."
For the study, the team drew on declassified Cold-War era CORONA and HEXAGON satellite imagery collected between 1960 and 1986. Most of the imagery is part of the open-access CORONA Atlas Project through which Casana and colleagues developed better methods for correcting the data and made it available online.
The researchers examined satellite imagery of approximately 300,000 square kilometers (115,831 square miles) of the northern Fertile Cresent. It is a place where sites show up particularly well and is archaeologically significant, according to Casana. The team mapped 4,500 known sites and then systematically documented every other site-like feature in each of the nearly 5 by 5 kilometer (3.1 mile by 3.1 mile) survey grids, which resulted in the addition of 10,000 undiscovered sites to the database.
When the database was originally developed, Casana had created morphological categories based on the different features evident in the imagery, which allows researchers to run queries. One of the categories was Poidebard's forts-distinctive squares measuring approximately 50 by 100 meters (.03 x .06 miles), comparable in size to about half a soccer field.
The forts would have been large enough to accommodate soldiers, horses, and/or camels. Based on the satellite imagery, some of the forts had lookout towers in the corners or sides. They would have been made of stone and mud-brick or entirely of the latter, so eventually, these non-permanent structures would have melted into the ground.
While most of the forts that Poidebard documented were probably destroyed or obscured by agriculture, land use, or other activities between the 1920s and 1960s, the team was able to find 38 of 116 of Poidebard's forts, in addition to identifying 396 others.
Of those 396 forts, 290 were located in the study region and 106 were found in western Syria, in Jazireh. In addition to identifying forts similar to the walled fortresses Poidebard found, the team identified forts with interior architecture features and ones built around a mounded citadel.
"Our observations are pretty exciting and are just a fraction of what probably existed in the past," says Casana. "But our analysis further supports that forts were likely used to support the movement of troops, supplies, and trade goods across the region."
The results are published in Antiquity.
|Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters|
Leidos Enhances ISS Capabilities with New xPWD Water System
NASA sends holiday treats and a laser communication system to the Space Station
Inspiring the Next Generation with Student Challenges and Learning Opportunities
Collaborating with Public Innovators to Accelerate Space Exploration
SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket launches with telecommunications satellites aboard
HK, Macao add thrust to China's space exploration
UK and European Space Agency Commit Funding for Shetland Satellite Launch
ESA further boosts RFA One across Europe
Glow in the visible range detected for the first time in the Martian night
Cerberus Fossae Identified as Primary Source of Marsquakes
The Ones Who Make Curiosity Go: Sols 4001-4003
Curiosity rover clocks 4,000 sols on Mars
New scientific experimental samples from China's space station return to Earth
Shenzhou XVI crew return after 'very cool journey'
Chinese astronauts return to Earth with fruitful experimental results
Chinese astronauts return to Earth after 'successful' mission
SpaceX Launches Planet Lab's Pelican-1 and SuperDoves|
Final three for ESA's next medium science mission
European Space Agency turns to private sector to deliver cargo shuttle serving the ISS
Foxconn awards Exolaunch with contract to deploy the group's first satellites
Nations start negotiations over global plastics treaty
EU agrees plan to secure raw materials supply
'Call of Duty', the stalwart video game veteran, turns 20
World-first Zero Debris Charter goes live
Yucatan underwater caves host diverse microbial communities
Major $200M gift propels scientific research in the search for life beyond earth
Webb findings support long-proposed process of planet formation
Scorching, seven-planet system revealed by new Kepler Exoplanet list
Salts and organics observed on Ganymede's surface by June
New jet stream discovered in Jupiter's upper atmosphere
Uranus aurora discovery offers clues to habitable icy worlds
How NASA is protecting Europa Clipper from space radiation
|Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters|