Spy satellite photos reveal new archaeological sites

Spy satellite photos reveal new archaeological sites

Until late last month, there were some 4,500 known archaeological sites in the Middle East. However, following the analysis of American Cold War-era spy satellite photographs of the region, the number is now about 15,000, National Geographic reports, according to the Israeli news source Haaretz.

The largest sites were found in Turkey and Syria and include ruined walls and citadels, and likely cities from the Bronze Age, which in the Middle East spanned 3,300-1,200 B.C.

The discovery of some 10,000 ancient cities, roads, canals and ruins was made by archaeologists heading the newly launched website of the Corona Atlas of the Middle East.

“Some of these sites are gigantic and they were completely unknown,” said Jesse Casana of the Corona archaeological team, who presented the results at the Society for Amercan Archaeology’s annual meeting.

The Corona spy satellite photographed images from the earth’s surface from 1960 to 1972, the purpose being to expose Soviet missile bases and military camps. In the wake of the end of the Cold War, U.S. defense officials released the photos almost two decades ago.

“This is great data,” said Eric Kansa of San Francisco’s Alexandria Archive Institute, who spoke at the archaeology society’s meeting in Austin, Texas. “We have the opportunity to really blow up the scale of our efforts in archaeology.”

The atlas team’s Casana added that the photos reveal “not just new places to excavate. We have a real way with all these sites to look across the whole Middle East and see how it was connected.”