Archaeologists Uncover a 4,000-Year-Old Surveillance Network in Syria

Researchers found remains of a massive surveillance network dating back to the Middle Bronze Age.
Shelby Rogers

A team of archaeologists discovered a massive military operation in the northern part of Syria that dates back 4,000 years ago. According to a French press release from the University of Lyon, the network was potentially used for relaying information and surveying the area. The age of such a large system would date it back to the Middle Bronze Age. 

This particular defense network would've been built between 2000 BC and 1550 BC, according to the University of Lyon's press release. 

The research itself used to find the fortress can be considered dated. The team used images dating all the way back to 1960 to study more than 1,000 archaeological sites throughout Syria. 

That era of time was most known for manufacturing and trading ceramics, and it was during this time that the Syrians spread out across the Middle East, according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When the team compared their estimates to what was known about the surrounding area, the dates aligned. 

Archaeologists Uncover a 4,000-Year-Old Surveillance Network in Syria
Source: M-O Rousset mission Marges arides/IFLScience

"Located at the edge of the densely populated sedentary areas of the Fertile Crescent to the west, and the arid steppe nomadic domain in the east, it has not been consistently exploited by locals," the press release said. 

Satellite Imagery Unearths Another Archaeological Find

This isn't the first time that satellites have been used to 'dig' from its imagery. Drones have been used by archaeology teams to analyze sites in Afghanistan in areas that would be risky for a traditional dig. Earlier this year, researchers used satellite imagery to discover a new chamber in the Great Pyramids of Egypt. 


Most notably in this partnership is the work of Sarah Parcak. Parcak won last year's TED Prize for innovation and is using the $1 million to develop and improve satellite archaeology. 

"This is going to be a super high tech version of Google Earth," she said in an interview with NPR. "My team and I are going to process lots of satellite imagery and they'll be put on this platform."

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She's using the knowledge of millions to develop a 'game'-like app. Through an interesting take on crowdsourcing, Parcak will give users 20 to 30 images -- small pieces of a larger satellite image. Her team will help them base what they can see from known examples of surrounding archaeological sites. By knowing those reference point, users can then tag what they see. 

Archaeologists Uncover a 4,000-Year-Old Surveillance Network in Syria
Source: M-O Rousset mission Marges arides/IFLScience

Crowds use Periscope, Google Plus, Skype or Instagram

"As the crowd populates these images with their tags after 10, 20 or 50 users tell us that something is there, we'll know to be able to check, to confirm, one way or another," Parcak said.

She said it's perfect to get new eyes on projects that exhaust even the most seasoned of archaeologists. 

"The biggest problem we have when looking at satellite imagery is not the processing," she said. "The hardest part is actually eye fatigue. ... Imagine hours and hours looking at satellite imagery. We miss things."

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