6 Mind-Blowing Discoveries Made Using Google Earth

#3. A New Human Ancestor


We're not experts in archeology, but when it comes to digging up bones, apparently caves are where it's at. Over the Christmas holiday of 2007, Professor Lee Berger was at his computer, looking around for caves with, you guessed it, Google Earth. Having noticed a pattern of cave and fossil sites in the region around the Cradle of Humankind near Johannesburg, he went on to identify 500 new possible places old bones could be buried.


Fast forward to August of 2008, where he was subsequently exploring one of his Google Earth finds in person with his 9-year-old son, the family dog and a post-doctoral student (take a guess on who was most likely wearing a red shirt on this away mission), when the dog ripped off into the high grass.

Wits University

Chasing after his dog, the boy tripped over a log and fell smack dab into what some call "the Rosetta stone of human evolution." (Okay, it's totally Dr. Berger who says that.) What his son literally stumbled over would turn out to be an estimated 2-million-year-old fossil, part of a fossil pair belonging to a boy and an adult female, the likes of which had never been seen before.

Above: A small child, seen here outdoing Indiana Jones.

With a small, advanced brain, long arms, long legs and an advanced pelvis, Australopithecus sediba is described as probably a transitional species between Australopithecus Africanus and Homo habilis.

Geico is currently in talks with the remains.

The newly discovered species could even be a direct ancestor of Homo erectus, making it a possible "missing link" of sorts, located right at the transition point between an ape running around on two legs when not swinging in trees and humans as we are today.

Wits University
That is, sitting in chairs.

#2. Remains of Ancient Civilizations


While online looking at his town of Sorbolo in Italy via Google Earth, totally not looking for pictures of that girl who supposedly sunbathes naked in her back yard, Italian computer programmer Luca Mori happened to notice a prominent dark oval on the satellite maps over 500 yards long, with unusual shadowy rectangles nearby.

"This is obviously a burial ground for old Google doodles."

At first he thought they might be some kind of stain, like maybe a fly landed on the lens of the satellite. But it turned out the oval marked the former course of a long-gone river, and when he zoomed in, he found the rectangles were buried structures.

Cultural Ministry, Emilia Romagna
Real archaeology involves rather more buried rectangles than Arks of the Covenant.

It appeared to be the remains of a settlement of some kind, more specifically the remains of a villa or village. He contacted local archaeologists, who looked over the site and found ceramic pieces indicating it was a 2,000-year-old Roman villa.

"Mori's research is interesting in its approach," said an archaeologist at the National Archaeological Museum of Parma. Presumably this was quickly followed by a wanking motion and a questioning of all the time actual archaeologists have ever spent doing actual legwork.

Anne Burgess
"I wish my trowel had a 27" monitor."

#1. The World's Best-Preserved Crater

Norbert Brugge

An Italian researcher was surveying Google Earth images when he came upon something extraordinary in a remote area of one of the most difficult-to-explore deserts on the planet: the Sahara.

Norbert Brügge, Germany
Is it a sandworm? It's a sandworm isn't it?!"

What appeared on his screen was something typically seen only on our own moon and other planets -- a meteorite impact crater 148 feet across. Since the Sahara is about as life-sustaining as the moon and other planets, the forensic evidence left by the crater was pristine. The telltale splatter pattern of ejecta rays -- bedrock scattered around the impact zone -- suggested an 8,000 mph collision with a 4.3-foot iron space pebble. The Kamil Crater, as it is called, may actually be the world's best-preserved crater, and it's estimated to be a mere few thousand years old. That's a baby in geological terms.

Crater? We hardly know her!

The space-pounded depression has left such an impression with scientists that the study leader remarked, "This crater is really a kind of beauty because it's so well-preserved that it will tell us a lot about small-scale meteorite impacts on the Earth's crust. It's so nice. It's so neat. There is something extraordinary about it."

"Thanks for noticing my new piercing. Only took you a few thousand years."

If you want more from Scott Santens, you can read his tweets, Yelps and occasional blog.

For things Google Earth will never find, check out 7 Lost Bodies of Work (That Would Have Changed Everything) and 7 Books We Lost to History That Would Have Changed the World.

And stop by LinkSTORM to see what Google Earth found in Soren Bowie's bathroom.

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