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Satellite Archaeology

June 18, 2008

Satellite images are helping scientists measure the influence of an ancient Mexican civilization.


Satellite-enhanced archeology. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Satellite data is helping Rochester Institute of Technology archaeologist William Middleton connect the past to the present. Middleton studies the ancient Mexican civilization of the Zapotecs. He’s interested in how their settlements, agriculture, and trade shaped the landscape of Mexico today. So he’s relying, in part, on satellite images of present-day Mexico: images that pinpoint the exact type of land, vegetation, or man-made material represented in each tiny pixel.

WILLIAM MIDDLETON (Rochester Institute of Technology):
The satellite data are going to be combined with paleo-ecological data to get an idea of how the landscape has changed, over roughly the past 10,000 years.

In addition, he’ll be comparing the satellite data to digitized air photos from the 1970s to track ecological changes caused by present-day human society. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.