Using Google Earth, researcher finds 400 undiscovered ancient structures

23 Oct 2017

Google Earth on a tablet. Image: Paul Stringer/Shutterstock

Google Earth has transformed how we view the world, and now it is contributing new archaeological discoveries in Saudi Arabia.

When we look at Google Earth, we tend to use it to find directions or even just to play those online games to guess where you are in the world based off a random image from the platform.

But for Prof David Kennedy from the University of Western Australia, it is a powerful tool to discover ancient structures that can’t be seen by the naked eye.

As noted in a paper published to the journal Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy, Kennedy has identified 400 previously undiscovered stone structures – which he refers to as ‘gates’ – in the vast deserts of Saudi Arabia.

While at first glance it might appear as if nothing ever existed there, the region may have been home to a significant number of populations that will need to be explored, recorded and mapped.

Speaking of the find, Kennedy admitted that he was baffled by these gates as they never appeared over the course of 40 years of research into the region.

Saudi gates

Examples of the gates found using Google Earth. Image: University of Western Australia

Mystery purpose

“I refer to them as gates because when you view them from above, they look like a simple field gate lying flat, two upright posts on the sides, connected by one or more long bars,” he explained.

“They don’t look like structures where people would have lived nor do they look like animal traps or for disposing of dead bodies. It’s a mystery as to what their purpose would have been.”

Despite the mystery, the suggestion is that these structures would have been built between 2,000 and 9,000 years ago, possibly by the ancestors of the people (the Bedouin) in the area.

Google’s satellite imagery recently helped researchers make an incredible discovery about Earth’s forest population.

Based on detailed analysis of the imagery, researchers last May announced that the planet’s forest cover had shot up by 9pc because of misidentification.

Google Earth on a tablet. Image: Paul Stringer/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic