For Immediate Release

New Exhibition: Spying on the Past:
Declassified Satellite Images and Archaeology

(Cambridge, April 5, 2010) How does the view from above reveal fresh possibilities for archaeological exploration?

The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology presents a new exhibition, Spying on the Past: Declassified Satellite Images and Archaeology. The exhibition opens Thursday, April 29, 2010.

Using declassified U.S. government spy satellite and aerial images, Harvard student archaeologists explored sites in Northern Mesopotamia and South America. These images are both visually arresting and potent archaeological tools.

In the exhibition, four case studies in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Peru reveal complex early cities, extensive trackways, intricate irrigation canals, and even traces of nomadic journeys. The exhibition will demonstrate how archaeologists recognize visible signs in these images and draw conclusions about the ancient world from them.

Aerial photos and U.S. government spy satellite images show Syria’s Bronze Age cities and remnants of their trackways. The routes connecting towns and settlements emerge as segments of larger ancient “highways” suggesting an integrated agricultural economy. In northern Iraq, spy photos reveal the Neo-Assyrian Empire’s imperial irrigation system. In northwest Iran, traces of ancient agricultural colonization and pastoral nomadic landscapes are visible. Visitors can fly over the extensive Peruvian ruins of Chan Chan, a site named one of the greatest pre-Columbian cities in the western hemisphere. There, changes over the past century can be detected from above.

The exhibition is curated by students of Anthropology 97x (Sophomore Tutorial in Archaeology) and graduate student Adam Stack, undergraduate Ari Caramanica, with Associate Professor of Anthropology Jason Ur, and Peabody Museum Associate Curator of Visual Anthropology Ilisa Barbash.

About the Peabody Museum
The Peabody Museum is among the oldest archaeological and ethnographic museums in the world with one of the finest collections of human cultural history found anywhere. It is home to superb materials from Africa, ancient Europe, North America, Mesoamerica, Oceania, and South America in particular. In addition to its archaeological and ethnographic holdings, the Museum’s photographic archives, one of the largest of its kind, hold more than 500,000 historical photographs, dating from the mid-nineteenth century to the present and chronicling anthropology, archaeology, and world culture.

Hours and location: 9 A.M. to 5 P.M., seven days a week. The Museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for students and seniors, $6 for children, 3–18. Free with Harvard ID or Museum membership. The Museum is free to Massachusetts residents Sundays, 9 A.M. to noon, year round, and Wednesdays from 3 P.M. to 5 P.M. (September to May). Admission includes admission to the Harvard Museum of Natural History. For more information call 617-496-1027 or go online to: The Peabody Museum is located at 11 Divinity Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Museum is a short walk from the Harvard Square MBTA station.

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Media Contact:

Faith Sutter
Communications Coordinator
Peabody Museum
Tel: 617-495-3397

A 1969 CORONA spy satellite view of an ancient canal north of Nineveh (modern Iraq), courtesy U.S. Geological Survey.

Where: Peabody Museum
When: Thursday, April 29, 2010 Opening Reception (Free to the public): 5-7 PM
Public Information Contact: 617-496-1027 or