Sunday, January 07, 2007

Remote sensing update Lost cities seen from space
The tale had its beginnings in archaeology done the old-fashioned way: by stumbling upon an unexpected find. Back in 2001, Saturno was surveying a potential dig in a remote, uninhabited patch of Guatemalan rain forest, and took refuge from the hot sun in a dark, cavelike chamber. When he turned his flashlight toward the walls, he spotted marvelous murals telling the Maya story of creation.

The paintings at San Bartolo have been called the "Sistine Chapel of the Maya," and the site has also yielded the earliest examples of Mayan writing. It turns out that San Bartolo was a thriving center of Maya culture for centuries - but over the past millennium, many of the signs of habitation have faded into the jungle landscape.

That's where NASA comes into the picture: In 2003, the space agency began providing Saturno's team with satellite imagery, and Saturno bought into the idea that remote sensing from space could reveal ruins that could not be seen at ground level.