Last Friday I blogged about an interesting story that tended to confirm my hypothesis that one of the covert motivation for American (and Russian) interest in the Middle East is archeology, and the possibility that perhaps they are "looking" for '"something" they suspect might be there. It's always been in my mind that the explanation for the post-9/11 American invasion of Iraq, for example, might have been justified on precisely those grounds. We were told that we were looking for "weapons of mass destruction" in order to deny their acquisition to Saddam Hussein. Of course, the public narrative then was that those WMD's were the usual stuff, nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. And of course, everyone now knows we did not find any. But I suspected them and continue to suspect that included in that list were possibly weapons of a wholly different sort, exotic and ancient. On that hypothesis, we may have been looking for those, or for information about them. The presence of great power archeological interest, cloaked behind the usual geopolitical narratives, has been a feature of the region since the 19th century: Britain, France, and Germany have been crawling all over the area with their archeological teams for a long time, and in fact Hussein's government had teams of French and German archeologists in the country prior to the US invasion, teams that we (the US and UK) warned to get out because we were coming in. If there was a hidden archeological agenda to the invasion, then it's a handy way of removing rival teams of diggers from the field.
So last Friday you'll recall I blogged about the fact that apparently the Russian presence in Syria is not complete geopolitically motivated, but perhaps archeologically as well, since according to the article I referenced in that blog, Russian military and intelligence units have basically taken over the site at Palmyra, and allowing few any entrance, including the Syrians themselves.
In response to that story, yet another regular reader here, we'll simply refer to this reader as "X", spotted these two stories, which tend to go even further in corroboration of my "geopolitical-archeological hypothesis" for various Middle Eastern interventions:
Obviously, using the celebrated high altitude U2 spy plane and the early spy satellites to take pictures of archeological sites is an idea that's been around for a while, but what is revealing about the second article is a gold mine of statements that suggests that this was a very deliberate effort on the part of the aircraft and the whole high altitude reconnaissance progam, and the early spy satellites. Consider this statement from the second article, from page 114:
The geographic index presented here (Figure 8) is a roughly accurate but still incomplete guide to photographic coverage. Because the main camera was only turned on once the plane left Turkish airspace or approached its first target, the start of the mission near Adana (i.e., the start of the tracking film coverage) is not coincident with the start of frame acquisition by the main camera system. For example, Mission 1480 (October 7, 1958) was already 1:42 into its mission before its main camera was turned on; it had already traveled across southeastern Turkey and the length of Iraq before capturing its first frames near Ahwaz in southwestern Iran. Likewise, Mission 1455 (August 12, 1958) took off and circled over eastern Turkey for 1:08 before initiating main camera photography at the Syrian border. The spatial index we have created of Middle East U2 missions available at NARA shows several patterns (Figure 9). By far the densest U2 coverage among the available missions occurred over Syria, with riverine parts of Iraq taking second place. Most of the available mission sflew a similar path: east from İncirlik across southern Turkey or northern Syria/Iraq, then south along the Tigris River or Zagros Mountains through Iraq/Iran, then west across the eastern panhandle of Jordan or southern Syria, and finally north across western Syria, back to İncirlik.
Or to put it country simple: in this instance the u2 flight appears to have little if anything to do with Cold War reconnaissance of the Soviet Union or its missile and air bases, and everything to do with taking pictures of various archeology-rich regions of Syrian and Mesopotamia. Indeed, as the article points out in a map accompanying this statement, this flight took the U2 over two ancient Assyrian cities, namely, Ninevah(!) and Khorsabad. And to underscore this point, the authors of the second article include, in their Figure 8, on page 115 of the article, a coverage map of u2 flights, and it takes little imagination to see once again that the targeted areas are as much about archeology as they are about the militaries of Syria and Iraq. In fact, a case could be made that since these flights are in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when the militaries of those two countries would not be so well developed, that the primary purpose of the flights was archeological in nature.
And as the end of the first article notes, these spy-satellite and high altitude photo reconnaissance flights could also aid in the discovery of archeological sites that are much more difficult to get to... like, say, the Amazon basil, or Antarctica perhaps. Indeed, if my high octane speculation about the motivations for great power archeological are true, one might go so far as to advance the end-of-the-twig speculation that these technologies may have been developed with the deliberate intention not only of keeping eyes upon the Soviet Union, but on "others", and also for the purpose of spying out archeological sites and "areas of interest" for boots on the ground.
See you on the flip side...