Computer science techniques have enabled archaeologists to discover about 9,000 possible early human settlements across 23,000 square miles in northeastern Syria.
Researcher Jason Ur used computers to scan images for soil discoloration and mounds caused when mud-brick settlements collapsed. Ur says surveying the same sites on the ground would have taken him a lifetime. "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," says Ur.
He previously used declassified spy satellite photographs and the human eye to identify potential sites, but he has worked with Bjoern Menze, a computer expert from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, over the past three years to develop software for classifying terrain.
The volatile political situation in Syria has prevented Ur from conducting any ground searches, but he hopes to pursue further research in the Kurdish provinces of northern Iraq. Ur wants to follow that up with excavations that would serve as "a very rigorous testing of the model."
From BBC News
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