Nowadays, many of the sexiest discoveries in archaeology are being made through the route of remote sensing – where the archaeologist uses false colour satellite imagery to make sites pop out of the ether.
Here’s a lovely example, where Dr Sarah Parcak displays what is very likely to be the city of Tanis, Egypt’s capital between 1,000-1,400 BC. She found it whilst sitting in her lab in Alabama…
Of course, this discovery must be ratified on the ground – satellite imagery can’t yet provide hard dating evidence, such as pottery shards – but it’s a stunningly cost-effective use of diminishing archaeological budgets. The false colour imagery is sufficiently flexible to sometimes provide 3-D site maps, allowing a dig to be positioned almost with pin-point accuracy.
This business of knowing exactly where you want to dig has an ethical plus, too. It’s a truism that archaeology always destroys what it uncovers. Well, not if you’re doing it from space; and even the targeted on-the-ground corroboration minimises damage.
I’m not aware of too much false colour imagery available to amateurs – but Google Earth can provide plenty of fun!
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