Google Earth

With the free availability of the Google Earth application, anyone with internet access has the ability to view almost any place on the earth’s surface.  Modern settlements and landscapes are the most familiar and therefore the easiest to understand, but the Google Earth interface also visualizes the traces of past settlements and landscapes, if one knows where to look. This page contains placemarks and map and image overlays for various archaeological sites, mostly from conference presentations and class lectures.  The Google Earth software for PC and Mac can be downloaded for free here.

Placemarks from Anthropology 1155 – Before Baghdad: Cities of Ancient Mesopotamia (Harvard University, Spring 2009) [course website]

  • Landscapes of Northern and Southern Mesopotamia.  A "field trip" across the regions of Mesopotamia.  From the Wed Feb 4 lecture.
  • Pre-Urban and Proto-Urban Places in Mesopotamia.  Places mentioned in the Mon Feb 9 lecture; including maps of Tell Brak, Khirbat al-Fakhar, and Eridu.
  • The City of Uruk and its Region.  From the Wed Feb 11 lecture. The city of Uruk; plan of excavations; digital elevation model of the ancient river levees in its hinterland
  • Late 3rd Millennium City-States.  From the March 3 and March 9 lectures.
  • Late Bronze Age Cities.  From the Wed April 1 lecture.  Placemarks including overlay maps of Hattusha, Brak, Alalakh, and Nuzi.
  • Assyrian Cities.  From the Monday April 6th lecture.  Ashur, Nimrud, Khorsabad, and Nineveh, with site and palace plan overlays; also includes the irrigation system for Nineveh.
  • Babylon.  From the Wed April 8 lecture.  Plans of the city of Babylon; overlays of the palace of Nebuchadnezzar and the Etemenanki Temple of Marduk; also the capitals of the Persian empire: Susa and Persepolis.
  • Seleucid-Parthian Mesopotamia.  From April 13th lecture.  Seleucia on the Tigris, Dura Europos, Hatra; Uruk and Nippur.
  • Sasanian Cities and Landscapes.  From the Wed April 15 lecture.  Maps and places in the Seleucia-Ctesiphon-Veh Ardashir conurbation; the Qatul-i Kisrawi and Nahrawan irrigation systems; Sasanian settlement on the Mughan Steppe (NW Iran) and Gorgan Plain (NE Iran); highland Sasanian cities at Firuzabad, Bishapur, and Istakhr.
  • Islamic Cities of Iraq.  From the Monday April 20, 2009 lecture.  Basra, Kufa, Baghdad, Raqqa, and Samarra.

Placemarks from Public Lectures


Placemarks from Publications

Places accompanying the newletter article “Google Earth and Archaeology,” in The SAA Archaeological Record 6 (3): 35-38.


Ur, J. A. 2006. Google Earth and Archaeology. The SAA Archaeological Record 6 (3): 35-38. [PDF]         

In the Media

“Googling Discoveries.”  National Pubic Radio’s Here and Now, October 23, 2008. [web]

“Armchair archaeology.”  The Economist, September 4, 2008. [web]

Elsewhere on the Web

Google Earth website [web]