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By analyzing satellite images from the Cold War era, archaeologists have discovered approximately 400 Roman forts that were previously unknown. These forts were constructed around 1,900 years ago and are now buried beneath present-day Iraq and Syria.
The recently published study in Antiquity provides further insight into the fortifications located in the eastern part of Rome, which were believed to be a defensive barrier against invasions from neighboring ancient civilizations.
In the 1920s, Antoine Poidebard, a French Jesuit priest and early figure in aerial archaeology, documented numerous fortified military structures in the Near East during an aerial survey.
Father Poidebard suggested that these fortifications may have served as a barrier for the Roman Empire against attacks from the eastern regions.
He conducted a survey and plotted the locations of 116 Roman forts spanning 1,000km (620 miles) along the border. He proposed that these structures were constructed in the second and third centuries AD to protect against attacks from Arab and Persian invaders.
For a significant amount of time, scholars and experts in the fields of history and archaeology have discussed the intended purpose of this system of fortifications, whether it be strategic or political.
The most recent study examined declassified photographs taken by the Corona and Hexagon spy satellites from 1960 to 1986.
Reviewing and reassessing these antiquated images has aided in the recognition of an additional 396 forts that are found throughout the northern region of the Fertile Crescent.
Scientists at Dartmouth College in the United States were able to differentiate these forts from contemporary structures and recognize their archaeological characteristics by observing the unique shadows and deteriorated walls.
According to scientists, these structures are commonly found in remote areas, separated from other noticeable archaeological sites. They are also typically situated in harsh surroundings with minimal signs of ancient or contemporary human habitation.
According to experts, the fortifications link the city of Mosul on the Tigris River in the east to Aleppo in western Syria.
According to Father Poidebard’s interpretation of his finding, the forts are scattered across a very large area that stretches from east to west.
According to scientists, this implies that these fortifications aided in the transportation of soldiers, resources, or merchandise between the eastern and western regions.
It is said that the area served more as a center for international commerce rather than a barrier against eastern invaders.
Archaeologists state in their study that the inclusion of these forts challenges Poidebard’s theory of a defensive frontier and proposes that these structures actually aided in the movement of individuals and goods through the Syrian steppe.
According to them, our results reinforce a different idea that these forts were used to facilitate a network of trade, communication, and transportation for military purposes.