IT tool helps satellites pinpoint ancient settlements

IT tool helps satellites pinpoint ancient settlements Img/2012/3/20/settlement-small.jpgWashington: A new computer tool that extracts clues about ancient human settlements from satellite imagery has uncovered thousands of sites which might otherwise have been lost.The survey could have been done manually, but then it would have taken a lifetime to cover the 23,000 square km in Syria, where these sites are located, said study co-author Jason Ur, professor at Harvard.

"We can (now) 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," said Ur, the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.
Ur, who teaches social sciences, along with Bjoern Menze, from the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, developed a system that identified settlements based on soil discolorations and distinctive mounding resulting from the collapse of mud-brick settlements, according to a Harvard statement.

Ur used the computer aided system to examine satellite images of a 23,000 sq km area of Syria, and turned up approximately 9,000 possible settlements, an increase of "at least an order of magnitude" over what had previously been identified.