6 of the Greatest Discoveries Made on Google Earth

Anyone can be an archaeologist on Google Earth.

Armchair exploration is now a pastime of thousands, thanks to Google Earth. Its satellite imagery is one of the most detailed and comprehensive in the world available to the public, such that regular people are discovering what we thought archaeologists and scientists should have discovered first.

Two days ago, the remains of a man who had been missing for 22 years were found, thanks to Google Earth and the curiosity of one user. The following are similar surprising discoveries made through the satellite imagery. 

6| Ancient Tidal Fish Trap from the 11th Century

Photo by Google.

A 1,000-year-old V-shaped structure submerged in the water was discovered on Google Earth in 2006. The structure is located in Poppit Sands Beach in Britain. According to archaeologists, the structure is an ancient fish trap that was so effective it became controversial in Britain centuries ago. They were banned in rivers for fear of depleting fish supply, so people constructed them on the coasts. The fish trap worked by trapping fish in a pool made by the rock walls when the tide receded. View it here on Google Earth.


5| A Massive Underwater Grid in the Ocean

Photo by Google Earth.

Every time something structural is discovered in the ocean, people automatically think of a lost civilization like Atlantis. In this particular find, a massive grid the size of 20 Metro Manilas is seen underwater in a Google Earth image. The grid is located in the North Atlantic Ocean, over 1,000 kilometers northeast of Africa. Expectedly, people got excited: they thought it might be the remnants of the ancient and supposedly highly advanced and technologically superior civilization of Atlantis. But according to Google engineers, there is a more mundane explanation: The grid is just digital residue created by their sonar boats in the process of collecting mapping data. You can still view the grid on Google Earth here.

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4| An Ancient Roman Villa Next to an Extinct River

Photo by Google Earth.

A computer programmer, Luca Mori, from Italy was looking at his hometown using Google Earth when he noticed something peculiar: an oval distortion in a wheat field. Upon further inspection, he realized the shape was created by an ancient river, prominent only from an aerial view. When he zoomed in on the surrounding area, he noticed a bigger surprise: rectangular shadows. The shadows were evidence of uneven ground in the field. Mori suspected that the shadows were evidence of an ancient courtyard. True enough, when he endorsed the find to a team of archaeologists, they confirmed that the site contained the ruins of an ancient Roman villa. You can view the site on Google Earth here.

3| The Lost Mountain of Mozambique

Photo by Google.

How could a mountain be lost? Remoteness and a jungle that is notoriously difficult to penetrate are the reasons why Mount Mabu in Mozambique was unknown to science until 2005. Mount Mabu is known to the locals, but even they do not dare venture into the mountain, which has become the stuff of legend. The mountain is one of the last places on earth that is untouched by civilization. The mountain was rediscovered by biologist Julian Bayliss in 2005 using Google Earth. He was using the site to look for biodiversity hotspots across Africa and chanced upon the heavily forested mountain.

Since it has been untouched by humans for thousands of years, the mountain has become a phenomenal biodiversity hotspot, which potentially has thousands of undiscovered plant and animal species. In 2008, a team of 28 scientists ventured to Mount Mabu on the very first expedition to the area. During this single expedition alone, they discovered numerous species unknown to science. On the mountain, they discovered six bird species that are considered vulnerable globally. You can view the Mount Mabu, the Lost Mountain of Mozambique, on Google Earth here.

2| The Badlands Guardian

Photo by Google Earth.

The Badlands Guardian is a natural formation discovered through Google Earth. The formation looks exceptionally man-made because of its strikingly accurate facial details. The Badlands Guardian looks like an angel with wings and robes, and whose facial features are incredibly detailed, from its forehead, eyebrows, eye, nose, lips, chin, down to its neck. You can view the Badlands Guardian on Google Earth here.

1| Two-Million-Year-Old Skeleton

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

new hominid species has been discovered by scientists, thanks to the images provided by Google Earth. Since 2007, professor Lee Berger of Witwatersrand University in South Africa has been using Google Earth to find undiscovered caves that are potential archaeological sites. In 2010, his patience paid off—Berger and his team of scientists identified a new species of human, the Australopithecus sediba. The unnamed cave is part of the network of undiscovered caves in the Cradle of Humankind, a World Heritage site. Berger was able to find unknown caves by spotting the shadows and distortions that caves created. He also identified specific vegetation that usually grows on top of these caves, such as wild olive. You can view the Cradle of Humankind here.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor-at-Large
Mario Alvaro Limos is features editor-at-large at Esquire Philippines, and heads the Lifestyle and Esports content of SPIN.ph as its section editor. Email him at [email protected] and [email protected]
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