Armchair Archeology

Using satellite images from Google Maps and Google Earth, an Italian computer programmer has stumbled upon the remains of an ancient villa. Luca Mori was studying maps of the region around his town of Sorbolo, near Parma, when he noticed a prominent, oval, shaded form more than 500 metres long. It was the meander of an ancient river, visible because former watercourses absorb different amounts of moisture from the air than their surroundings do.

His eye was caught by unusual ‘rectangular shadows’ nearby. Curious, he analysed the image further, and concluded that the lines must represent a buried structure of human origin. Eventually, he traced out what looked like the inner courtyards of a villa.

Mori, who describes the finding on his blog, Quellí Della Bassa, contacted archaeologists, including experts at the National Archaeological Museum of Parma. They confirmed the find. At first it was thought to be a Bronze Age village, but an inspection of the site turned up ceramic pieces that indicated it was a Roman villa.



  1. Someone emailed me the following:

    Interesting; but this technique would probably be less effective in populated parts of the U.S. where folks often use irrigation that leads to the concealment of archaeological features.

  2. Fascinating. This reminded me of how I’ve used similar technology on a less-impressive scale, so I blogged about it. I tried to give you the TrackBack ping, but it didn’t seem to take.

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