Google Earth enables an archaeological find, but what has it done lately?

NEXT UP, MIDDLE EARTH. Google Earth has been incorporated into so many government applications that it seems to have become an institution itself. And as with government institutions, people will always find something to complain about.

A team of archaeologists writing in the journal Antiquity recently reported a significant find — more than 200 large, geometric structures, perhaps as old as 1,700 years, in the Amazon, leading to speculation that perhaps the legendary El Dorado wasn’t a myth after all. They estimate the area they found could have held 60,000 people and is only about 10 percent of what’s there.

And there’s the rub: Team members made their find by studying satellite imagery via Google Earth and seemed to think that this free service could have done better, citing “the poor coverage that Google Earth has for nonurban areas.” Never mind that they were able to log on from afar and find possible evidence of a lost civilization people have searched for unsuccessfully for centuries. Where’s the El Dorado Street View?

In fairness, the archaeologists weren’t complaining so much as lamenting the limits of their resources. However, their statement, along with the project itself, shows how quickly we can come to rely on innovative technology. Five years ago, Google Earth didn’t exist, at least not in its current form. Now it’s taken for granted — like any other institution.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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