Satellite imagery has been productively used to solve a wide variety of problems in different domains--from predicting crop yields for commodity futures trading, to assessing environmental conditions for disaster mitigation. Scholars often liken it to the result of stepping away from the blobs of paint in an impressionist artwork. Ararat Anomaly in Turkey, <1m Stereo IKONOS Satellite Image Data and 5m DEM, (Image Copyright © DigitalGlobe and Processed by Satellite Imaging Corporation). The buried remains of ancient canals, fields, roads, or paths sometimes cause differences in the soils’ moisture, salinity, or chemistry. The region today is sparsely inhabited, but nearly every negative over hundreds of frames showed dozens of features evidencing earlier human activity. Archaeology / History / Politics / War, An editorially independent magazine of the Wenner‑Gren Foundation for Anthropological ResearchPublished in partnership with the University of Chicago Press, Spy Plane Photos Open Windows Into Ancient Worlds. In archaeology, the primary use of satellite images … Courtesy of Sarah Parcak Sarah Parcak is a space archaeologist. All rights reserved. The mission of the Satellite Archaeology Foundation, Inc. is to research, … Among these rural and urban scenes, a careful viewer can also find traces of ancient and historical settlements and land use. The rate of those transformations has accelerated in recent decades. But they remained unindexed and unscanned. Archaeologists have long pined for a bird’s-eye view like this, deploying hot air balloons, kites, helicopters, powered parachutes and blimps to snap pictures of their sites. I was stunned by the sheer number of structures and the clarity of the desert kites in the images. But for archaeology … These images compare Raqqa, Syria, in January 1960 (above) as taken by a U-2 spy plane and in July 2016 (below) as captured by the DigitalGlobe GeoEye-1 satellite. Old aerial images allow archaeologists to travel back in time. Unlike the main camera, which offers high-resolution images over stretches of the flight where it was activated by the pilot, tracking frames show low-resolution, horizon-to-horizon views under the plane throughout the entire flight. Clusters of dwelling foundations or animal corrals dotted the regions around the kites and wheels and also more empty areas. Archaeology is going digital to harness the power of Big Data ... Today: archaeologists are using drones and satellite imagery, among other tools, to build large online datasets with an eye … A lot of work has focused, for example, on images from the United States’ first-ever spy satellite program, CORONA, designed to image Cold War hotspots in a less dangerous way than from a U-2 airplane. In late 2012, Jason Ur met Lin Xu, a digital imaging expert who had gone to the National Archives to hunt down U-2 images of his hometown in China. Satellite Imaging Corporation is an official Value Added Reseller (VAR) of imaging and geospatial data products for: Satellite imagery can be applied within many industries. We geo-reference each frame in digital mapping software to geometrically correct it and give it real-world coordinates. Archaeologist Sarah Parcak uses satellite images to identify buried sites. The scale of this project is immense—both in terms of the work that we have already done and future work that others could do. Among this single mission’s photographs are amazing images of the ziggurat (temple pyramid) at the early Mesopotamian city of Ur, the walls of the Neo-Assyrian capital of Nineveh, and the ruins of the Abbasid Caliphate’s capital at Raqqa. Filed with the state of North Carolina on March 26th, 2013, the Satellite Archaeology Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit corporation. Welcome to the 21st-century world of space archaeology, in which culturally important ruins can be spotted and decoded via high-resolution images captured by Earth-orbiting satellites. Emily Hammer. To generate our own spatial index, we turned to skinny 2.75-inch rolls of “tracking film” captured by a second camera on the U-2 planes. Satellite imagery—as many people know from Google Earth—has increased in resolution in recent years, allowing us to see finer details when we look at our neighborhoods and parks from an aerial view. Emily Hammer. The patterns created by such changes—such as long straight lines—are only noticeable when viewed from afar. The very first film roll I browsed in my initial trip to the archives in 2015 began with the usual rivers, steppes, and towns in grayscale. Many people wonder why we don’t just look at modern satellite imagery. Each station therefore receives the images … Our gloved hands slowly turned heavy metal rolls of 9.5-inch-wide film, unspooling our way back in time to the Middle East of the late 1950s and early 1960s. SIC provides specialized image processing technique by color balancing and utilizing the correct band combinations for Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) mapping technique, our experienced imaging and GIS mapping team will isolate the terrain features and geological information needed for the correct analysis of your research project. Sarah Parcak is a space archaeologist, who uses satellite images to locate hidden ancient sites around the world, such as ancient Egypt, ... Archaeology is all about documenting a site. Please choose one to learn more. Discover what's possible. The satellite takes images of the Earth below and streams it down to the station in real-time. Right now, our index only covers the Middle East because we happen to actively conduct archaeological work there. Now, explorer Sarah Parcak is taking her groundbreaking space archaeology work to Peru with the launch of GlobalXplorer°, a new and cutting-edge platform that empowers citizen scientists around the world … It would be tedious if it weren’t for the fact that the images are so interesting and occasionally beautiful. A digital elevation model can be used to closely examine various terrain attributes, their influence on the movement of soil and nutrients, as well as the resulting effect on forest, plant, and wildlife productivity and distribution. We believe the project exemplifies how open-access archival data from the U.S. government can benefit the public and researchers across disciplines—historians, environmental scientists, archaeologists, ethnographers, and more. CORONA photos only have a resolution of about 2 meters per pixel, too grainy to see anything but the largest walls of ancient buildings. The result is a resource that we hope many scholars can take advantage of, a window into ancient sites as well as historical Middle Eastern communities as they existed more than half a century ago. We matched this tracking film to modern satellite imagery to accurately reconstruct the path of the U-2 planes’ missions. “Satellite imagery is still a photo. Nineveh (in modern Mosul, Iraq) and Raqqa (in Syria) have suffered over the last decades in the face of urban development, and, since 2014, from deliberate acts of destruction by the Islamic State. These features weren’t previously unknown to archaeologists. Before looking at satellite imagery, archaeologists pinpoint potential sites by cross-referencing ancient and modern maps to examine topographical changes over time. Ararat Anomaly in Turkey. Now there’s a new way to search, with no shovels needed. Then, partway through the roll, an intensely white negative frame came into view, brightening the whole room. In addition, if we want to find U-2 frames covering a particular place, we have to generate a spatial index, which requires additional work. As satellite imaging—natural-color, false-color, and radar—has evolved and became more accessible, a … In the past four years, my archaeologist colleague Jason Ur at Harvard University and I (a landscape archaeologist) have worked to make this complex photo archive accessible to other researchers and to illustrate its importance for history and anthropology. Surely newer technologies, they think, provide the best photos? Using a light table, landscape archaeologist Emily Hammer (the author) prepares to photograph U-2 negatives at the National Archives’ Aerial Film Section. Ur invited me to take a look at the images, which can approach a resolution of 30–50 centimeters per pixel, comparable to or greater than the resolution of most of the best imagery on Google Earth today. Today’s Image of the Day includes excerpts from our recent feature: Peering Through the Sands of Time. But buried within the film rolls were high-resolution photos of historical, ethnographic, and archaeological sites and landscapes. Throughout the almost nine-hour journey, the plane flew close to 7,000 km and captured 5,053 frames in 39 rolls of film, plus 1,006 frames from the tracking camera. Emily Hammer. Become a space archaeologist and document threats to ancient sites. Today ancient Ur is in the middle of the desert, but U-2 photos show paleochannels of the Euphrates River surrounding the city—features that are no longer visible due to the massive expansion of the adjacent Tallil Air Base. Mission 8648 photos also show ethnographically important environments and communities that have since totally disappeared: most significantly, the drained marshes of southern Iraq and hundreds of Marsh Arab villages within them. There was no way to access the images digitally, nor could people know where geographically each roll of film was taken or highlight the particularly interesting frames. By Emily Hammer / 21 Feb 2020. Emily Hammer. In the late 1950s, U-2 spy planes flew at around 70,000 feet over Cold War hotspots in Europe and Asia, capturing images that could show details as small as a person. Now, she … Vegetation in the shallow but possibly moister soils above an old, buried stone wall, for example, may be thicker or thinner than plants just to the side in deeper, better-draining soils. This imagery also has limitations. This image, taken by U-2 mission 8648, reveals Iraqi Marsh villages as they appeared in October 1959. U-2 spy plane photos (left, October 1959) offer imagery at a much higher resolution than CORONA spy satellite images (right, May 1968). Further, some parts of the Middle East had experienced so much development by the late 1960s that many archaeological surface traces had already been erased. These images both show the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur in present-day Iraq. For broader audiences, the photos provide a fascinating historical look at the Middle East—showing, for example, Old Aleppo long before the massive destruction wrought in the Syrian Civil War. In the 1990s, then-President Saddam Hussein systematically drained what was left, forcing marsh dwellers to abandon an ancient way of life. Because, in the end, she says, “When we dig, we are digging for people, not things.” Image courtesy of DigitalGlobe. Using a light table, landscape archaeologist Emily Hammer (the author) prepares to photograph U-2 negatives at the National Archives’ Aerial Film Section. In 1995, then-President Bill Clinton declassified CORONA imagery and the images have subsequently led to the discovery of many fascinating archaeological features in the Middle East, such as 4,500-year-old road networks in northern Syria and paleochannels of rivers and canals modified over thousands of years in Iraq. Copyright © 2001-2017 Satellite Imaging Corporation. Star, diamond, or cloudburst-shaped enclosures connected to long stone lines, marking ancient gazelle hunting traps called “desert kites.” More mysterious circular stone structures resembled spoked wheels. In May 2019, we finally published our online, interactive guide for U-2 images of the Middle East, as well as a how-to guide for reproducing and working with the images. Humans are continually transforming the earth’s surface, erasing traces of the past. We first tried searching CREST, the CIA’s database of declassified records, for documents concerning U-2 missions. It flew over western Syria, then over the desert to the Turkish border at Qamishli. Archaeology is a messy business. U-2 spy plane photography shows ancient sites such as “desert kites,” mass-kill traps used for hunting gazelle (eastern Jordan, January 1960). View article on Stereo IKONOS Satellite Image Data Utilized to Support 3D Terrain Visualization for Mt. Space Satellite Archaeology Remote sensing from space In late May, 2011, news reports began to circulate describing how images of lost, undiscovered or misunderstood archaeological sites in Egypt … To work with U-2 images, we first have to order film rolls from the National Archives’ “Ice Cube” preservation facility in Lenexa, Kansas, for delivery to the Aerial Film Section in College Park, Maryland. We hope that the online resources we have created will enable other anthropologists and historians to search the U-2 photo archives for images relevant to their own research projects. Ur’s findings even inspired an exhibition, “Spying on the Past: Declassified Satellite Images and Archaeology,” at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in 2011. Professional archaeologists will still consult satellite imagery… In this short talk, TED Fellow Sarah Parcak introduces the field of "space archaeology" -- using satellite images to search for clues to the lost sites of past civilizations. But for archaeology and history, the newest images are not always the best ones. Satellite imagery gives us a new tool in the global fight to protect our cultural heritage. Satellite imagery can be used as a methodological procedure for detecting, acquire inventory and prioritizing surface and shallow-depth archeological information in a rapid, accurate, and quantified manner. Help … With the turn of the spool, I was suddenly flying over the black basalt desert of the eastern panhandle of Jordan. This image, taken by U-2 mission 8648, reveals Iraqi Marsh villages as they appeared in October 1959. Get a complimentary consultation today. From the 1970s onward, these marshes progressively shrank as hydroelectric dams impounded the Tigris and Euphrates floodwaters that once sustained them. With the 2016 TED Prize, Sarah Parcak has built a citizen science platform for … Sarah Parcak is a space archaeologist, who uses satellite images to locate hidden ancient sites around the world, such as ancient Egypt, ... Archaeology is all about documenting a site. After following the Iraqi-Syrian border north, the plane snaked its way back across Syria to Adana in the late afternoon. The usefulness of satellite imagery for identifying and analyzing archaeological sites was recognized from the early days of aviation and the imagery is now available from an array high resolution satellite sensors that provide even greater potential for investigating archaeological sites. The United States satellite images displayed are infrared (IR) images. But the island villages, woven reed huts, networks of boat paths, and expansive reed forests that sustained that way of life remain preserved in U-2 photos. Take a few steps back and a meaningless cluster of colors becomes a woman with a parasol on a riverbank. Black-and-white negatives offered a bird’s-eye view of sinuous rivers lined with date palm tree gardens; villages ringed by agricultural fields; the occasional city, crowded with houses, markets, and mosques; and vast tracks of barren steppe-desert punctuated by dirt paths, isolated sheepfolds, or remote air strips. Images taken from planes or satellites are distorted because the lens never has a perfectly vertical perspective. As I turn the spool of a film roll, there is a sense of exploration and discovery: I can visually re-create the pilot’s journey. You’ll only see what the eye can detect,” says McManamon. Stereo IKONOS Satellite Image Data Utilized to Support 3D Terrain Visualization for Mt. The station's antenna points toward the satellite and tracks it for as long as it can until it moves out of range. Google Earth, software that uses high resolution satellite images of the entire planet to allow the user to get an incredible moving aerial view of our world, has stimulated some serious applications in archaeology--and seriously good fun for fans of archaeology… These images both show the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur in present-day Iraq. Caribou herd migrations and polar bear movements can be monitored and classified by high resolution satellite Imagery delivering suitable spectral resolutions and multispectral bands. From satellite images and digital elevation data the team of space archaeologists will anchor and standardize reference points using Global Positioning Systems (GPS), first developed by the U.S. … Top Tier Worldwide Data European Space Agency Registration Required. But having so many high-resolution photos from so long ago and over such a broad area is a unique resource. The usefulness of satellite imagery for identifying and analyzing archae… These changes in turn affect plant growth. Satellite images and GIS have become increasingly important tools for archaeologists, as these systems link information to precisely calibrated physical locations, and integrate information drawn from multiple sources. They aimed to cover places of interest for military intelligence such as foreign bases, airfields, and potential nuclear weapons facilities. The U.S. government declassified many U-2 images in 1997, making them freely available to researchers and the public. Sign up for our newsletter with new stories delivered to your inbox every Friday. These images come from a special collection of footage. These images compare Raqqa, Syria, in January 1960 (above) as taken by a U-2 spy plane and in July 2016 (below) as captured by the DigitalGlobe GeoEye-1 satellite. Why Do We Keep Using the Word “Caucasian”? In 1981, he joined the small group of programmers at Stennis who were learning to interpret satellite images even … U-2 spy plane photos (left, October 1959) offer imagery at a much higher resolution than CORONA spy satellite images (right, May 1968). S atellite imagery—as many people know from Google Earth—has increased in resolution in recent years, allowing us to see finer details when we look at our neighborhoods and parks from an aerial view. Archaeology, in many ways, is a race against time. She uses satellite imagery to track looted ancient burial sites and find pyramids hidden under Egyptian cities. We worked with the available film generated by all Middle East missions for which the National Archives has declassified film. Now anyone with access to the Internet can do the same through Parcak’s new crowdsourcing platform called … However, the geographic coordinates in these documents were not very accurate, and some missions did not have declassified coordinates at all. The pilot turned east to visit Iraqi cities, made an extended detour south to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, then returned to western Iraq. The work in the archives is cumbersome sometimes. The negatives’ blinding brightness was caused by mesmerizing geological patterns: the desert’s dominant surface rock formations are dark, marbled by bands of lighter sediment deposits. Satellite imagery, and specifically CORONA, is now of common use in archaeology. Five thousand years ago, a grand city in the deserts of Oman … Satellite imagery is a powerful tool. THE LOST CITY OF IRAM/UBAR. Emily Hammer. We unspool hundreds of meters of film over a light table, identify frames from sites already known to be of archaeological interest, photograph the negatives in pieces using a 100-mm macro lens, and then stitch them together and invert them in Photoshop. In a darkened room of the U.S. National Archives, we stood over a light table, a special backlit surface for viewing film. From the safety of space, CORONA cameras captured many high-resolution photos from 1967–1972. I have worked with historical imagery throughout my career and have always wished for older, more detailed imagery than what CORONA could offer. Thanks to the U-2 program, anthropologists have an exciting new source of historical data on archaeological sites and landscapes—as well as the settlement and land-use patterns of 20th-century communities whose ways of life have since disappeared. Sentinel-2 is the start of a new and exciting era… Satellite archaeology is a non-invasive method for mapping and monitoring potential archaeological sites in an ever changing world that faces issues such as urbanization, looting, and groundwater pollution … An observer can see things from the air that might not be obvious from the ground. It isn’t a new idea for archaeologists and human ecologists to use historical aerial and satellite images. Is the Term “People of Color” Acceptable. Digging holes—in the dirt, in the sand, and in the rain forest—is essential. If a CIA index of U-2 missions exists, it has not been declassified. That means we have a much broader view, making it easier to recognize ground features. But within this landscape, human hands had moved hundreds of stones into distinctive shapes. It’s also about … But our published methods could be used by others to piece together indexes for other regions covered by the U-2 program, especially formerly Soviet Eastern Europe, the formerly Soviet Central Asian republics, and China. U-2 spy plane photography shows ancient sites such as “desert kites,” mass-kill traps used for hunting gazelle (eastern Jordan, January 1960). “Traditional archaeology wasn’t going to work for me to answer the questions I had,” he said. Sarah Helen Parcak is an American archaeologist, Egyptologist, and remote sensing expert, who has used satellite imaging to identify potential archaeological sites in Egypt, Rome, and elsewhere in the former … Archaeology Is Having a Great Century So Far, The Race to Recover South America’s Ancient Past, Finding Calm—and Connection—in Coffee Rituals. Satellite images and GIS have become increasingly important tools for archaeologists, as these systems link information to precisely calibrated physical locations, and integrate information drawn from multiple sources. Satellite Imaging Corporation (SIC) supplies satellite image data for visualization of terrain conditions in three dimensions (3D) or Digital Elevation Models (DEMs), which are generated from stereo satellite imagery. Decades-old photography from the U-2 spy program now offers a time machine to see traces of the historical and ancient past. Just these 11 missions generated 357 rolls of film holding 46,561 frames. They transport us to the mid-20th century, before urban expansion, development, and agricultural intensification wiped away the surface traces of ancient communities, many of which had survived for millennia. Sometimes the plane flies over regions I know by heart, and I almost hold my breath, hoping that the plane veers just a little to the right or left to capture a place I really want to see—but as it looked 60 years ago. GlobalXplorer° is an online platform that uses the power of the crowd to analyze the incredible wealth of satellite images currently available to archaeologists. Over four years of work, we have processed a few hundred of these frames for our own research projects. Even though satellite imagery produces higher resolution, it has the same limitation as its predecessor. This process creates an image that we can use to map the particular place that it happens to cover. For example, we found that mission 8648 departed the İncirlik Air Base at Adana, Turkey, on October 30, 1959. The total number of U-2 missions is unknown but must be in the hundreds. Since 2015 summer … Archival images can also provide a times series showing where 20th-century communities lived and how their lives and environments changed. When we saw the amazing quality of the photos, we knew that it would be worth the detective work it would take to build a systematic index. CORONA, as it produces two images of the same spot (afterward and forward), allows for … In ‘Archaeology from Space,’ Sarah Parcak takes readers on a lively tour of the past, and archaeology of the 21st century. Grand city in the rain forest—is essential in these documents were not very accurate, in... The rate of those transformations has accelerated in recent decades Image Data Utilized to 3D! Ethnographic, and in the hundreds cultural heritage protect our cultural heritage the 1990s then-President... Historical settlements and land use that once sustained them frame came into view, brightening whole. 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