Satellite images reveal 8,000 years of civilization, rooftop pranks


When on the hunt for ancient civilizations, it's not all about Pyramids and monuments. Archaeologists have developed a method of spotting smaller human settlements using spy-satellite photos from the 60s, digital maps and modern multi-spectral images of the planet's surface. The Scientists are looking for "anthrosols" which are left by decayed organic matter and mud-brick buildings. Containing a higher levels of organic matter, anthrosols impart a different texture and appearance to untouched soil, giving it a distinct visual signature. Software is used to spot these visual fingerprints from images over a 50 year period. Data from NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission is also used to determine the volume of the matter, and therefore the likely length of survival of the settlement. To give an idea of how prolific the system is, it's believed to have discovered 14,000 settlement sites in a 23,000 square kilometer area of Syria alone -- none of them Atlantis.