Google Earth and Archaeology.
By Tom Georgonicas
For my 3rd blog post for my directed studies, I thought I would discuss the main program I decided to use to help complete my report on potential archaeological sites buried under the car parks of Adelaide. I am sure most of you have used Google Earth at some point—either as a way to plot road trips, create maps to a site, make mud maps (I have), or for actual reports and papers. The most widely used version is the free version available online via the Google home page. The better version, dubbed ‘Google Pro’, could set you back around $300.
In relation to my directed study, the use of Google Earth has been an important part of my work. Besides using Google Earth to locate ground level open-air car parks around Adelaide, I have also used Google Earth’s image overlay function to place historic maps of Adelaide over the current satellite image of Adelaide.
Currently I have managed to find 33 car parks around the city of Adelaide that may have potential archaeological value. Google has also added a ‘time scale’ function on Google Earth. It allows the user to review past satellite images of the location they are viewing. In Adelaide, for example, I was able to observe the development in the city from the first satellite image added on Google Earth to the latest image. This function also shows which areas of the city have undergone redevelopment in the past few years.
In 2009, Dr. Adrian Myers, then a grad student from Stanford University used Google Earth for his research on Internment Camps. He quite famously in 2009 used Google Earth, satellite images, aerial photographs and other data on Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to show that the prison had been expanded during the beginning of the War on Terror. It was interesting to see how the Camp had expanded as the war progressed. Myers also states that Google Earth has been used by other researchers to investigate looting of sites over the past few years, as well as locating and recording sites that are in inaccessible or dangerous areas for field work.
In conclusion, Google Earth is a powerful tool that can be utilised in archaeology. Desktop studies, such as my directed study, have been possible because of Google Earth and its functions. But, interestingly enough, Myers also makes the point that if archaeologists can freely access Google Earth to locate sites, then other people looking for potential sites, such as looters, can also use it.
For those interested in reading up on Google Earth’s use in archaeology and its potential. I would highly recommend these two papers.
‘Field work in the age of digital reproduction’ by Adrian Myers.
‘Camp Delta, Google Earth and the Ethics of Remote Sensing in Archaeology’ by Adrian Myers.
and finally a link to Google Earth