It’s the anniversary of the first human spaceflight, by Yuri Gagarin. This was, of course, during the Cold War, a time when American and Soviet astronauts were trying to go higher and farther than their geopolitical rivals, and a time when the world superpowers were involved in some more clandestine high-altitude activities.
Surveillance flights were a big part of the Cold War, including the American military spyplanes known as U2 planes. That’s where the band got its name.
The CIA flew U2 planes all over the globe, to see what the Soviets were up to, and in doing so, documented all kinds of geographical features from up above.
Two researchers, Emily Hammer of the University of Pennsylvania and Jason Ur of Harvard, decided to go back through these photos, not for their value to Cold War history but for archaeology.
And it turns out, these photos showed a lot: stone wall structures, irrigation canals and hunting traps, all thousands of years old, and some of which wouldn’t be visible today, because of the effects of time.
These findings are already yielding new insights into how people in ancient civilizations lived, worked and organized.
Music lovers, this is your weekend – tomorrow, in Woodstock, Illinois, the Great Lakes Steelpan Festival is getting underway. Steelpans are, as the name suggests, metal pans that have been shaped to make musical notes. They originated in Trinidad and Tobago, but are spreading across the world. The festival in Woodstock will be headlined by the Midwest’s biggest steelpan ensemble, the Potts and Pans Steelband.
Declassified U2 spy plane images reveal bygone Middle Eastern archaeological features (Phys.org)
Photo courtesy University of Pennsylvania