Another article in National Geographic’s Digital Places series touches on a topic of special interest: geospatial technologies and archaeology. The article discusses how users of Google Earth and other web mapping applications that feature aerial and satellite imagery are incerasingly being used to identify features of archaeological significance. As UNC-Chapel Hill archaeologisty Sccot Madry noted: “I’ve spent 25 years on and off bouncing around in low-level aircraft, searching old maps, looking at aerial photographs, and I found a handful of new archaeological sites. I found more sites on the first day of sitting down and doing a systematic survey on Google Earth than in those years of using the other techniques.”
The article also rightly points out that the use of remotely sensed images for identifying archaeological sites goes back to the beginning of aerial reconaissance during World War I when observers were able to see features such as ditches, circles and vegetation discolorations that weren’t visible from the ground, but until the new push for high-resolution imagery spurred by the web mapping boom, imagery was expensive and coverage was often spotty. It will be interesting to see how Google Earth and other applications will continue to impact archaeological survey and site identifications.