SATELLITE PERSPECTIVES ON HIGHLAND – LOWLAND HUMAN INTERACTION IN ANCIENT SYRIA
Keywords: Landscape, Archaeology, Remote Sensing, Modelling, Vision, Environment, Geomorphology
Abstract. Nowadays we can travel by GoogleEarth 3D to Syria (http://www.worldcountries.info/GoogleEarth/GoogleEarth-Syria.php) and zoom in on the desert landscape of the mountainous region of Jebel Bishri between the Euphrates river and the Syrian Desert. This is the area, where the Finnish archaeological survey and mapping project SYGIS worked in 2000-2010 studying the relationship of humans with their environment from ancient times to the present. What kind of landscape views and visions did the ancients have and how did they utilize them? The present paper focuses on seeking answers for these questions by combining satellite data sources, such as imagery and radar data, with location information of archaeological remains collected on the ground. Landsat as well as QuickBird imagery have been fused with SRTM mission and ASTER DEM data in creating 3D landscape models and fly-over simulations. The oasis of El Kowm on the western piedmont of the mountain seems to have served as a base camp for early huntergatherers and pastoral nomads dwelling seasonally in the region of Jebel Bishri. According to the archaeological finds, the interaction between the lowland and the mountain people already started during the Palaeolithic era but was continued by pastoral nomads of the region from the Neolithic period onwards. The Upper Palaeolithic period meant a clear change in cognitive thinking and obviously in understanding the properties of landscape, visibility and perceiving sceneries in 3D. Mobility of hunter-gatherers and pastoral nomads is based on subsistence economy, but mobility also enhances visions and prospects of phenomena appearing in the horizon.