News FocusArchaeology

Google Earth Shows Clandestine Worlds

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Science  27 Aug 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5995, pp. 1008-1009
DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5995.1008

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By analyzing a series of satellite images easily accessible on Google Earth, an archaeologist has drawn the first independent map of the prison camp at the U.S. naval station in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and charted its explosive growth over the past 7 years. The analysis of the prison is one of an eclectic array of archaeological studies that use Google Earth—an inexpensive online service combining satellite images and maps—to explore concealed activities and to push the boundaries of archaeological research. Researchers are using the software to track looting on an unprecedented scale, for example, scrutinizing sites scattered across Jordan. And in war-torn Afghanistan, where ground surveys are too dangerous, Google Earth's images allow archaeologists to virtually field-walk huge swaths of terrain and survey for new sites. In some places, Google Earth is spurring archaeologists to venture into entirely new fields.