Archaeologists just found a huge structure in a 2,000-year-old city using satellites and drones

Petra treasuryLydia RamseyThe treasury at Petra, one of the first sights you see when you enter the ancient city.

Petra, the ancient city carved into stone in Jordan, is still being explored for more clues about what life was like about 2,000 years ago.

Using drones and satellites, researchers have made their recent find: a monumental platform that’s roughly half the size of a football field. The discovery was published in May in the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research.

It’s likely been around since the mid-second century B.C., based on some of the pottery that was found nearby. No one has found any similar structures in Petra, so researchers aren’t clear on what it was used for.

“It was large, significant given its location, and significant resources were used to construct it. But its exact function? We don’t know,” Sarah Parcak a professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham told The New York Times. Parcak also recently won a $1-million TED prize to start a global project and she was behind the discovery of a new Viking settlement in North America.

Here’s what the platform looks like, as taken overhead by a drone and combined with satellite imagery. These high quality images were necessary for pinpointing the rectangular shape.

The platform is just about a half a mile south from the center of the city, and it’s the second-largest elevated structure, next to Petra’s monastery.

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