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AIA Lecture: Spying on Antiquity

Declassified US Intelligence Satellite Imagery and Near Eastern Archaeology

Jason Ur

Harvard University


In 1995, President Clinton declassified 800,000 photographs from CORONA, the United States' first spy satellite program, in order to make them available for environmental and historical research. Since then, imagery from the U2 aerial missions and from HEXAGON, the CORONA successor, have been declassified as well. Archaeologists working in the Near East have been quick to embrace these newly available resource, which capture images of sites and landscapes in the 1960's. Many of these landscapes have been damaged or destroyed in the intervening 40 years. This presentation will discuss how CORONA imagery has been used to study ancient landscapes in the Near East, with case studies from Bronze Age Syria, Iron Age northern Iraq, and late Antique northwestern Iran.

Jason Ur is Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University and director of its Center for Geographic Analysis. He specializes in early urbanism, landscape archaeology, and remote sensing, particularly the use of declassified US intelligence imagery. He has directed field surveys in Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran. He is the author of Urbanism and Cultural Landscapes in Northeastern Syria: The Tell Hamoukar Survey, 1999-2001 (2010).  Since 2012, he has directed the Erbil Plain Archaeological Survey, an archaeological survey in the Kurdistan Region of northern Iraq. He is also preparing a history of Mesopotamian cities.

Admission to lecture closes 10 minutes after scheduled start time.  

Reception to follow. 

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Event Details

  • 10/23/2017
  • 06:00 PM
  • ISAW Lecture Hall

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