The Surkhandarya province in southern Uzbekistan was once the heart of Bactria, a prosperous kingdom that flourished along the Amu River between 600 B.C.E. and 600 C.E.
Teams of archaeologists from the Soviet Union began visiting the province in the 1950s to catalog its archaeological riches—remnants of towns, irrigation networks, burial mounds, pottery, weapons, and many other items. In the past decade, satellites have made a contribution from above as well. Since 2008, Ladislav Stančo of Charles University has led a team that used satellite imagery to systematically survey the area for archaeological sites.
The researchers relied mainly on declassified spy satellite imagery from the Corona program, but they also gleaned insights from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite, Landsat satellites, and several commercial satellites. Stančo and colleagues identified dozens of new sites and followed up with field expeditions to several new sites.