During the Cold War, the US Central Intelligence Agency closely monitored the entire world and did not even know what consequences this would bring in the future. Thus, declassified satellite photographs of the territory of Iraq allowed archaeologists to discover the remains of a palace from the times of the mysterious Sumerian civilization and hundreds of tablets covered with cuneiform writing, which can shed light on the life of the ancient people.According to the Evening Standard, a team of researchers led by experts from the British Museum, who are working on the site of the ancient city of Girsu, became interested in the images. It existed 4,500 years ago and belonged to the Sumerians, a people credited with building the world’s first cities and inventing writing. About 30,000 people lived in Girsu – an unprecedented number at that time. And the discovered palace, according to archaeologists, was a very large complex on its territory and an administrative center.
Sebastien Ray, curator of ancient Mesopotamia at the British Museum and director of the Girsu project, spoke about the find. According to him, the discovery is extremely important. It can change the way science looks at what is really the cradle of civilization.
To find traces of ancient mud structures buried in the sands of southeastern Iraq, a team of scientists accessed declassified photographs of the CIA’s Corona program. This program used surveillance satellites to collect intelligence data from 1959 to 1972. Scientists are examining these aerial photographs, taken half a century ago, looking for landscape anomalies that cannot be seen from the ground. For example, they could be lines that were once walls or channels. After studying old photos and comparing them with modern ones, the researchers launch their drones in selected locations. This allows you to find traces of ancient buildings and start digging immediately in the right place.Now the British Museum is working on excavations together with the Getty Museum (USA). They set out to study the Sumerian civilization in more detail and preserve the artifacts of the ancient history of Iraq. “While our knowledge of the Sumerian world remains limited today, the work at Girsu and the discovery of the lost palace and temple hold great potential for understanding this important civilization,” British Museum director Hartwig Fischer said of the discovery.