Amorium city grid and some new (2019) Google Earth satellite images

It has been a really long time, since our last post in the blog of our project Amorium Urban Survey, but I hope we will get to write more in the near future as our 2019 season at Amorium is up and coming.

In Amorium as part of the “Amorium Urban Survey” project, we have been working a lot on satellite imagery in many various ways. Satellite images in Amorium are used on identifying architectural remains visible in the naked eye or the multi-spectrum analysis, but also on identifying and characterizing the Historical Landscape of the rural area immediately outside the city walls. The study of this material is ongoing and has been presented occasionally here and there but still, we are working on final publications of this research.

The site of Amorium is extremely adequate for the use of satellite images to recognize physical features of the Roman and Byzantine city, as there are very few new modern constructions on the site and also the vegetation, either crops or just grassland, offer great variations in the chromatic specter permitting different elements to be viewable each time.

But today I am writing more on the value of inspecting simple Google Earth images and doing this regularly as these images often change and get renewed. The renewed Google Earth/Map images of the different landscapes, of course, entail a certain degree of disappointment for the scholars working with them, since most of them were initially ordered and handsomely paid by organizations and individuals before becoming public domain. As a project, we have also ordered a number of special satellite shots using much of our then budget, only to find them a few seasons later on Google Earth as free. In a way, it is a bit better to come second in this kind of work!

For long we have been puzzled by the city grid of Amorium and the organization of built space in Roman, Late Roman, Early and Middle Byzantine Amorium. The wealth of the excavation so far that have been limiting us in small or medium size trenches going excruciatingly slowly in order to get the detailed stratigraphy and the robust medieval phases of Amorium seemed that they had not left any marks of the canonical Roman grid of the city if that ever existed. So, contrary to other post-Roman sites in Amorium so far, we knew a lot about the medieval city plan, and actually the relative lack of it, rather than the earlier Roman canonical planning.

Amorium topographical plan with the area of the 'Large Building' excavation in a red box 
Amorium, the Early Medieval (8th-9th c) street in the area of the Enclosure with a victim of the AD 838 destruction

One of the aims of our Project, when we decided to excavate in the area of the western Lower City of Amorium, was exactly to try and see if there we could learn more about the city planning, and how it evolved through time. This past summer for the first time we could say that in our ‘Large Building’ trenches we were excavating a street of the city that was in continuous use from the Late Roman up to the Middle Byzantine period (5th-11th c.) and might possibly extend further back in the past. This street is parallel to the decumanus of the city following an East-West, more or less, direction. Based on the street under excavation in the ‘Large Building’ trench we proposed a possible preliminary and partial reconstruction of the street grid, in which also the Early Byzantine churches fit in regularly.
Amorium 'Large Building' trench, possible streets

Amorium, SW lower city street system proposal (2018)

So, as part of a casual inspection of the Google Earth satellite record of Amorium a few days ago, I was struck by something that looks like a substantial discovery. Just a few dozen meters east of the excavated street one can see with naked eye what looks like a crossroad where two major city streets intersect canonically. This intersection actually perfectly fits with our preliminary reconstruction of the street system in the area, thus hinting us also for the existence of the straight streets of the cardo parallels. It seems that in this area near the edge of the urban space the medieval constructions did not fully alter the city grid and somehow parts of it survived, and are even visible in the Google Earth photos.
Amorium, 2019 Google Earth photo with visible crossroad

Amorium, 2019 Google Earth photo with visible crossroad highlighted

All this makes us even more anxious and impatient of the forthcoming season in order to further explore the evidence of the city grid. So, a piece of good advice is: do not forget also to check occasionally Google Maps/Earth images of your sites because you never know what you are going to find.

Any ideas, suggestions or comments are more than welcome.

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