An older story worthy of a 2nd glance.
"INDIANA JONES, it is fair to say, would not approve. A small band of archaeologists are using Google Earth to make discoveries without getting their hands dirty. Although archaeologists have used satellite imagery for decades, the technique remained out of reach of most researchers because of the prohibitive costs and specialist skills needed to rectify distortions in raw satellite images caused by the angle of capture. But Google Earth, a free program that can be downloaded from the internet giant’s website, makes high-quality satellite images of much of the world’s surface available to anyone with a broadband connection. Archaeologists are now embracing the technology.
David Thomas, a graduate student at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, belongs to a team that launched a project called Archaeological Sites of Afghanistan in Google Earth (ASAGE) last year after plans for a survey near the Minaret of Jam had to be abandoned because of the continuing conflict in the region. He and his colleagues decided that making discoveries using computer mice, rather than shovels and trowels, would have to do instead.
“Realistically it is not possible for a Western field archaeologist to work in that area, and I can’t imagine it will be for the next 20 years,” says Mr Thomas. But, he says, studying images from Google Earth (pictured) “has the potential to enrich significantly our knowledge of Afghanistan’s archaeological remains, particularly in areas that are too large, dangerous or remote to survey from the ground.”
One aspect of the ASAGE project involved the use of high-resolution satellite images to catalogue the details of 463 previously unknown sites in the Registan desert, including mounds known as tepes (the remains of ancient settlements), hand-dug water channels and abandoned dams and reservoirs.
Little is known about the ancient history of the region, but nearby river valleys have been occupied for centuries, if not millennia. The Ghaznavids, who ruled over a large central Asian empire between the late 10th and 12th centuries, built intricate irrigation systems and established palaces, mosques and walled gardens at their winter capital of Bust and the surrounding settlements of Lashkari Bazar, on the east bank of the Helmand river."