The future of Indiana Jones.

Cosmos recently did an article about finding “lost cities” with satellite imagery. They specifically talked about how easy it is to find new sites from your own office, usnig freely available maps from Google, NASA, etc., and questioned the future of “the quintessential, khaki-clad archaeologist pictured in countless movies and novels”. If it’s so easy to find these places from an office in LA, whither Dr. Jones?

Personally, I think it may breed more Drs. Jones. There will never be a replacement for being “on site”; this map search is a replacement for wandering around in the woods looking for humanity. Imagine the excitement of the woods-wanderers when they’re told “Go to such and such coordinates and you’ll find a previously undiscovered Mayan temple”.

The article is certainly worth the read, the science of chlorophyll illumination because of limestone building materials is really cool. But don’t put away your khakis just yet.

Cold War, we miss you

CONELRAD is an interesting site with lots of curiousities from the Cold War era. I was tipped off to this site by my parents, who experienced more of the Cold War than I did. Alas, the cruel whims of history dictated that I would grow up in the least interesting part of the Cold War–the final stretch right before it ended. (And by “least interesting part” I guess I mean “the part of the Cold War during which nuclear armageddon, while a definite possibility, did not seem like an absolute certainty.”) Explaining the site’s unusual name, dad also related the following tidbit, which I’m sure he won’t mind me quoting here:

The name Conelrad comes from the name of the emergency alert system for atomic attacks that was set up on all broadcast radio stations back during the peak of the cold war (50’s). Even ham radio operators were required to continuously monitor a broadcast station while transmitting so that if a Conelrad alert was broadcast they could stop their ham transmissions immediately so that the enemy bombers could not use their signals to home in their positions. (Yes, I used to have to do that when I was a kid.)

And sure enough, you can read all about CONELRAD on Wikipedia. As for myself, I was too busy playing with my G.I. Joe toys during the early 80s to be much aware of the subtle and terrifying developments of the Cold War. The entirety of my understanding of the conflict at the time came from Viktor Suvorov’s Inside the Soviet Army,* which inexplicably found its way onto my childhood bookshelf alongside the Chronicles of Narnia and the Empire Strikes Back Picture Book.

* strangely listed on Amazon as a “board book.” Is it just me, or are board books usually those thick-cardboard storybooks for babies? That’s not the Inside the Soviet Army that I remember, but then it has been a few decades.

Google Earth: the armchair archaeologist’s dream come true

You, yes you, can do archaeology without sacrificing a decade of your life to the slavering maw of higher education! Last year, an Italian programmer made the news when he stumbled across the ruins of a Roman villa using Google Earth. Since then, other archaeologists have started tapping into Google Earth as a free and easy way to scout out potential archaeological sites:

Madry got out his laptop, fired up Google Earth and looked over lands in Burgundy, near his research area. Immediately, he spotted features that, to his trained eye, resembled outlines of Iron Age, Bronze Age, ancient Roman and medieval residences, forts, roads and monuments.

In 25 years on the ground, “I’ve found a handful of archaeological sites. I found more in the first five, six, seven hours than I’ve found in years of traditional field surveys and aerial archaeology,” he said.

The Google Earth Blog has some additional comments. Very cool!

Thanks, Mom

My Mom sent me this link about preserving the original Declaration of Independence. It’s interesting!

One if by land, two if by submarine

There was no shortage of quirky personalities on the side of the Americans during the Revolutionary War. One of them was David Bushnell, who invented a bizarre machine that he hoped would turn the tide against the powerful British navy. He called it the Turtle, and while it didn’t exactly send the British navy fleeing for home, it did earn Bushnell a place in history as the creator of the world’s first functioning submarine.

The egg-shaped, one-man Turtle took to sea in 1776 to take on a true Goliath of an opponent: the 64-gun British man-o-war Eagle.

A recent effort to build a replica of the Turtle provides us some photos of the re-created craft, and Bushnell’s legacy is nicely laid out in this history of the American submarine.