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December 16 2012

Satellite Could Find Hidden Archaeological Sites by Remote Sensing


SAN FRANCISCO – Light reflected by the Amazon rainforest’s vegetation could help an orbiting satellite find the elusive fertile patches of soil known as terra preta — or ‘black earth’ — that mark archaeological sites where pre-Columbian populations settled.

Finding these rich patches of earth has been a challenge. They’re sprinkled throughout the enormous Amazon basin, hidden beneath an impenetrable forest, and embedded in a land with few roads.

So a team of scientists is testing whether satellite measurements of the light reflected by tree canopies could help researchers panning for black soil gold, a team of scientists reported here Dec. 3 at the American Geophysical Union conference.

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