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Giant Archaeological Trove Found Via Google Earth 126

An anonymous reader writes "Using detailed satellite imagery available through Google Earth, Australian researchers have discovered what may be tombs that are thousands of years old in remote stretches of Saudi Arabia (abstract). 'Kennedy scanned 1240 square kilometers in Saudi Arabia using Google Earth. From their birds-eye view he found 1977 potential archaeological sites, including 1082 "pendants" — ancient tear-drop shaped tombs made of stone. According to Kennedy, aerial photography of Saudi Arabia is not made available to most archaeologists, and it's difficult, if not impossible, to fly over the nation. "But, Google Earth can outflank them," he says. Kennedy confirmed that the sites were vestiges of an ancient life — rather than vegetation or shadow - by asking a friend in Saudi Arabia, who is not an archaeologist, to drive out to two of the sites and photograph them. By comparing the images with structures that Kennedy has seen in Jordan, he believes the sites may be up to 9000 years old, but ground verification is needed."
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Giant Archaeological Trove Found Via Google Earth

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  • Re:Was it smart? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by elsurexiste ( 1758620 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @05:29PM (#35107086) Journal

    If they are over 9000 (*sigh*) years old, and in a desert, chances are whatever they could steal won't have much value, even on the black market. A crude knife that seems made on your backyard won't land you any money unless you could show that's from an archaeological site, and we aren't dealing with honorable people here.

  • by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <> on Friday February 04, 2011 @06:10PM (#35107382) Homepage
    At least some of these tombs predate Muhammad by centuries. Saudis have never had much interest in such sites, and there is a sense that nothing good can come from the era they term jahilia ("ignorance"). Most archaeological study of pre-Islamic Arabia is carried out by Europeans and North Americans.
  • Re:Was it smart? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dnwq ( 910646 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @06:37PM (#35107632)
    More importantly, Saudi's official brand of Wahhabism dislikes anything that may be potentially idolatrous and proactively destroys historical monuments. Buildings found via excavation in Mecca have been bulldozed by royal edict.
  • by pinguwin ( 807635 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @07:42PM (#35108152)
    Wonder how well this is going to go with the Saudi government. They are pretty touchy about archaeology that pre-dates the Islamic era. For those earlier times, they use the term, IIRC, "time of ignorance" and are reluctant to allow too much knowledge about past times, especially if it is something more advanced, such as a great trading city. I have read about (and the reference escapes me now) where they were ok as long as the research stayed obscure (journals) but once it became more widely know (i.e. popular press), they started to cut off access to the sites. A "treasure trove" might contradict "ignorance".

Money can't buy love, but it improves your bargaining position. -- Christopher Marlowe