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Looting and Google Earth

September 8, 2010

It’s been a few days since I started and forgot about this post, so this is somewhat old news, but I’m posting it anyway.

I didn’t notice when it went up a few days ago, but Heather Pringle has a news story in Science (via) which includes a bit about using Google Earth to map looting activities in Jordan (the parts about mapping Guantanamo Bay are also a good read, of course).

I thought this all sounded very familiar, and sure enough, I’ve had the paper from the Journal of Field Archaeology that she cites (Contreras and Brodie 2010) in my Papers library for a few months now, but hadn’t gotten around to reading it. So I read it, and actually it’s pretty neat. The authors used data from the DAAHL to identify cemetery sites, and then monitored looting activities using the “Historical Imagery” feature in Google Earth. The idea of using time-series imagery to monitor looting isn’t really new in itself, of course. Politis (2002) discussed much the same thing, but using aerial photographs instead, at Ghor as-Safi. Google Earth makes this relatively easy, though, especially because the historical imagery is already there. This is a type of project that’s been on my mind recently, so it’s nice to see that there’s some interest in doing this sort of work.

References:

2010     Contreras, Daniel A., and Neil Brodie
             The Utility of Publicly-Available Satellite Imagery for Investigating Looting of
             Archaeological Sites in Jordan. Journal of Field Archaeology 35(1):101-114.
2002     Politis, Konstantinos D.
	     Dealing with the dealers and tomb robbers: the realities of the archaeology
             of the Ghor es-Safi in Jordan. In Illicit Antiquities: The theft of culture and the
             extinction of archaeology. N. Brodie and K.W. Tubb, eds. Pp. 257-267. New
             York: Routledge.
2010     Pringle, Heather
             Google Earth Shows Clandestine Worlds. Science 329(5995):1008-1009.
             DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5995.1008
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