Archaeologists Unearth Vast Prehistoric Civilization in Central Europe Using Google Earth
Archaeologists have identified evidence of a previously unknown prehistoric civilization spanning a vast 3,000 square miles across Central Europe. What makes this revelation even more remarkable is the role played by Google Earth in uncovering the extensive network of settlements.
The civilization in question, thriving during the Early and Middle Bronze Age from 2200 BCE, was initially believed to have vanished by 1600 BCE. However, a recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE challenges this notion. The research suggests that rather than disappearing, the civilization evolved into a complex network of interconnected settlements spread across the expansive landscape.
Barry Molloy, an associate professor of archaeology at University College Dublin, described the significance of this finding, stating, “When we recognized how dense this settlement network was, we realized this was something really important and new for understanding how Bronze Age societies were organized in Europe.”
Contrary to previous beliefs, the study proposes that the central hubs of the civilization, referred to as “megaforts,” did not vanish but underwent a process of decentralization. The resulting interconnected settlements exhibited a less hierarchical structure compared to the preceding society, yet remained organized in political units.
Molloy explained, “We believe this meant that movement from outside the site to its very core areas was controlled and that not everyone could simply walk freely through these areas at all times.” Despite this control, the burial practices indicated a relatively egalitarian approach, challenging the notion of strict hierarchy enforcement.
The discovery was made possible by utilizing historical imagery from Google Earth and satellite data from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2. The researchers uncovered over 100 new prehistoric sites in the Pannonian Plain, encompassing present-day Serbia and Hungary, near the Tisza River. These communities are now referred to as the Tisza Site Group.
Modern farming practices have obscured many archaeological traces on the ground, making the use of Google Earth crucial in identifying these hidden sites. Molloy highlighted the “wow factor” when systematically searching for these locations, and the imagery provided insights into the layout and size of the settlement.
The proximity of these sites to the Tisza River allowed researchers to gain a deeper understanding of the communities’ reliance on a well-balanced ecosystem between 1,500 to 1,200 BCE. However, climate shifts, marked by warmer and drier conditions, led to the abandonment of these sites. Some communities migrated, while others adapted to the changing seasons.
As excavations continued, Molloy expressed hopes of unraveling more details about the daily lives of these ancient communities. The size of their homes, for instance, could provide insights into family structures, shedding light on whether extended family members shared the same dwelling.
This groundbreaking discovery not only reshapes our understanding of Bronze Age societies in Europe but also underscores the invaluable role of technology, such as Google Earth, in uncovering hidden chapters of human history.