Thursday 28 February 2013

Historical Imagery - Berlin

As you may have noticed, we use Google Earth quite often to investigate ancient sites and how the landscape and site has changed in comparison with historical imagery.

Google Earth has a tool button that allows you to see historical imagery (if there is any) of an area  - in many cases the imagery dates can differ just a few years, but the changes can be drastic with urban expansion, natural disaster and other impacts vividly changing a landscape in just a short period of time.

You can view a period in the slightly more distant past over Berlin, Germany, a period that is particularly poignant to many people living today. Google Earth has extended its historical imagery for the site of the city of Berlin to two phases of aerial imagery during (1943/1945) and post World War Two (1953). The overlay appears to be made from a mosaic of aerial survey photographs, probably created by the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) and/or Royal Air Force (RAF), or aerial photographs confiscated from the German Air Ministry after WW2. For example, the United States National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized includes the following:

242.9.4 Other air force records
Aerial Photographs (8,000 items): Target dossiers of sites in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, with each dossier consisting of a map, an overprinted aerial photograph, and a site description, 1938-44; aerial photograph studies relating to specific types of targets in the United Kingdom, France, and the USSR, 1940-44; aerial mosaics of coastal areas in the United Kingdom and France, 1942-43; aerial prints and anaglyphs of central Italy, 1943-44; and aerial photographs of North African and Mediterranean sites, compiled for the German X Air Corps war diary, 1941-44. <>
These Aerial Photographs are linked to the records for Topographical Maps (242.25 Cartographic Records (General) (1910-18, 1935-45), and therefore probably include survey photographs.

Using the Historical Imagery tool you can change between the two phases and see the change from ruined buildings and bomb craters, to cleared land and some rebuilding.
Berlin 1953. Large parcels of city blocks of bombed ruins have been cleared. Image: Google Earth. Click to enlarge.
The capitals of London, Paris, Warsaw and Rome have also been overlain with historical aerial imagery. London and large areas of the south-east of Britain use one phase of imagery in 1945, Paris with two phases of 1943 and 1949, Warsaw with pre-WW2 imagery of 1935, and one of 1945, and Rome dating to 1943. Other smaller centers include Dortmund, Hanover, Leipzig, Cologne, Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Koblenz, Nuremberg, Regensburg, Dresden, Wroclaw, Gdansk, Hamburg and Lubeck to name a few also have black and white historical imagery overlays.

Friday 8 February 2013

Slide Scanning - Samosata

We are currently digitising the APAAME slide collection of ground photographs, and I had the pleasure of completing the letter 'S' not that long ago.
'S' contained some beautiful sites in SYRIA, SABRATHA on the Mediterranean coast of Libya, and SARDIS in Turkey to name a few.
All of these sites are geoencoded in our database to allow for sites to be searched by location as well as by site name. When I was finding the geographical coordinates for SAMOSATA, I was surprised to come across this in Google Earth (having personally been unfamiliar with the site up until now).
Location of the ruins of Samosata beneath the Ataturk Dam in Turkey (click to enlarge).
Samosata, ancient city of Commagene, was flooded in 1991 with the construction of the Ataturk Dam, and the modern town of Samsat on the site was moved to the north on higher ground. The remains of the ancient tell, possibly the remains of a palace, can be seen here in the scanned slide, the photograph taken before construction of the dam. It had evidently become a playground for the local children of Samsat. The entire site is now at the bottom of Ataturk Dam.
Photograph taken on the tell of Samosata c1970s, the Euphrates River in the background. Photograph: David Kennedy (Click to enlarge).
Very little excavation occurred before the site was flooded. CORONA satellite imagery, freely available through the fantastic University of Arkansas' 'CORONA Atlas of the Middle East' reveals the extent of the ancient site - the walls c. five kilometers long, enclosing an area of roughly 200 hectares (500 acres). This ancient city was the capital of a prosperous Hellenistic kingdom that later flourished under the Roman Empire. This is evident when you provide some perspective: Samosata was roughly three times the size of Pompeii, and 50 percent larger than Londinium, the capital of Roman Britain (Kennedy 1998). Should excavations been carried out to a greater extent, finds may have revealed the wealth of the capital of the Commagene kingdom, its later prosperity under the Roman Empire and as home of the Legio XVI Flavia until the 3rd century AD before its gradual demise into obscurity.
Screen shot of Samosata from CORONA Atlas of the Middle East, University of Arkansas,4509629,4292155,4514526
Due to the location of Samosata now under some 120m of water, these historical images are all that preserve the knowledge of the site for future generations - who may become keen Underwater Archaeologists to learn more of Samosata.

For more information on the site of Samosata and the flooding of archaeological sites by the construction of the Ataturk Dam: David L. Kennedy (1998) 'Drowned Cities of the Upper Euphrates', Saudi Aramco World 49.5 (Sept/Oct):
To browse the CORONA imagery, please visit the CORONA Atlas of the Middle East:

Thursday 7 February 2013

Publications: Győző Vörös MACHAERUS I

Machaerus photographed by Robert Bewley.
Today we received a copy of Machaerus I. History, Archaeology and Architecture of the Fortified Herodian Royal Palace and City overlooking the Dead Sea in Transjordan by Győző Vörös. The volume is beautifully researched and illustrated, but we may be biased because the volume uses some APAAME images.

For more information on the volume, please visit the Edizioni Terra Santa website.