Buried Roman City Mapped in Stunning Detail Using Ground-Penetrating Radar

For some years now, archaeologists have been employing a technology called ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to discover what lies beneath their feet without the risk of damaging ancient artifacts and structures with shovels and trowels.

Over the years the technology of GPR has advanced, and it was recently used to produce a map of an entire Roman city buried underground without overturning a single grain of soil.

The GPR produced images of the roman city of Falerii Novi in stunning detail, revealing the existence of a market, roads, a temple, monuments, and a bath complex with a network of underground pipes suggesting a sophisticated plumbing system.

The team, from the University of Cambridge and Ghent University, were able to map the city in layers, and deduce how it changed over time; something that could only be done previously with risky, costly, and laborious excavation processes.

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“The astonishing level of detail which we have achieved at Falerii Novi, and the surprising features that GPR has revealed, suggest that this type of survey could transform the way archaeologists investigate urban sites, as total entities,” said Professor and author of the discovery’s corresponding paper, Martin Millett from the University of Cambridge in a statement.

Furthermore, different kinds of radio waves can be thrust into the ground to create even more detailed images—including catching anomalies that not have been detected by other forms of radar. The forum tabernae (shop units) appear, for example, in an earlier magnetometer survey, but not in the GPR survey.

L. Verdonck, Cambridge

One small problem with the technology was encountered however: the sheer amount of data required for such detailed imagery necessitates around 4.5GB and 20 hours of manual computer work per-hectare surveyed, and the authors suggest that assistance from new computer processing programs may be needed in the future.

What was Falerii Novi like?

GPR works like regular radar, bouncing radio waves off objects and using the ‘echo’ to build up a picture at different depths. By towing their GPR instruments behind a quad bike, the archaeologists surveyed all 30.5 hectares (90 acres) within the city’s walls, taking a reading every 12.5cm.

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Falerii Novi was just under half the size of Pompeii and was located 50 km north of Rome. It was first occupied in 241 BC and survived into the medieval period until around AD 700. Although small, Falerii Novi is characterized by some truly remarkable details.

In a southern district, just within the city’s walls, GPR revealed a large rectangular building connected to a series of water pipes which lead to the city’s aqueduct. Remarkably, these pipes can be traced across much of Falerii Novi, running beneath city blocks and houses in a meticulously-organized system of plumbing, rather than only alongside them as has been documented in other places, such as Crete.

L. Verdonck, Cambridge

The team believes that the large-rectangular structure was a natatio, an open-air pool close to the bathhouses, forming part of a substantial public bathing complex—a sort of Roman waterpark.

Even more unexpectedly, near the city’s north gate, the team identified a pair of large structures facing each other within a porticus duplex (a covered passageway). They know of no direct parallel in existing Roman architectural sites but believe these were part of an impressive public monument.

Porta di Giove (Falerii Novi) – CC license

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“It is exciting and now realistic to imagine GPR being used to survey a major city such as Miletus in Turkey, Nicopolis in Greece or Cyrene in Libya”, Millett said. “We still have so much to learn about Roman urban life and this technology should open up unprecedented opportunities for decades to come.”

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After Finding His African City Missing From Maps, Zimbabwe Man Creates 2,000 Miles of Google Street Views

After discovering that his hometown was entirely absent from Google Street View, one man from Zimbabwe decided things had to change.

When Tawanda Kanhema moved to the United States in 2009 from Harare, the capital of his country Zimbabwe, he might have looked forward to showing people what his hometown looked as a major African city. However the self-described tech enthusiast discovered none of the streets and quarters of Harare were visible on Google Street View.

If you can imagine the disappointment of noticing your home city of 1.6 million people somehow didn’t exist on one of the world’s largest collection of digital maps, Kanhema also realized that his entire country was absent from street view.

He further learned that a bunch of other African countries were absent as well.

“When you look at Street View, you’re looking at this mosaic of images that show how people live across the world, how people conduct commerce, how people get around,” Kanhema told National Public Radio. “I found it quite jarring that a lot of the countries in the region were not on the map.”

A New Hobby

Currently working in Silicon Valley, the Berkeley resident volunteered to help Google get eyes and boots on the ground in some of what Kanhema considered Africa’s techno-neglected countries. After all, travelers from around the world might like to better plan their routes through these diverse states by seeing what they look like.

He wound up borrowing a 360-degree camera through Google’s Street View Loan Program and using it in a car as well as on the end of a 4-foot rod attached to his clothing. His trip in 2018 included a safari through a national park, boating down the Zambezi River, shooting Victoria Falls (below), and traversing over 2,000 miles of roads in Harare and other cities—it put Zimbabwe on the map.

“It’s so conspicuous to have a 4-foot contraption attached to the roof of your car,” Kanhema told NPR. “People are walking up and asking questions about, ‘Is that a camera? What are you recording? What are you filming? It is for Google Maps? Will my house be on the map? Will my face be on the map?”

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Atlases, globes and maps are an incredibly important part of how we conceptualize the world. Google Maps can confer a tremendous amount of information quickly, from the names, addresses and contact information of businesses, to local landmarks, to customer reviews and also grid patterns and street names to help plan commuting routes.

“We should do more to make sure that those communities are represented,” Kanhema says. “We should do more to showcase the businesses, the local businesses in those areas and also the tourist attractions.”

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A Kind of Documentary

Having spent $5,000 of his own money on the project, Kanhema sees it as a sort of documentary, with the gigabytes worth of sometimes stunning, sometimes quaint, sometimes informative photographs possessing the potential to connect people to his homeland from across the globe, perhaps contributing to her historically-troubled economy by adding tourist revenue.

His work has also seen him map the frozen ice-roads which the Mushkegowuk Nation in Northern Ontario use to traverse the land in winter.

“Imagine being able to lend a ticket to get on a helicopter tour of one of the seven natural wonders of the world and being able to bring at least a million other people with you by creating these images that people can look at and feel as though they were there,” he says.

WATCH an interview…

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These New Solar-Pavement Driveways Made of Plastic Bottles Can Power the Average Household

Photo by Platio Solar

Solar panel driveways may soon be powering all our households with clean electricity thanks to this Budapest-based startup.

For the last five years, Platio Solar has been developing new ways of implementing solar technology into urban spaces—and one of their latest developments is a residential solar paneled driveway made out of recycled plastic bottles.

According to a video that was published by the company last week, the solar system is the first to generate power from the pavement of a residential household.

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Each “Platio Solar Paver” is made from 400 polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles—one of the most common forms of consumer plastic. Compressed into pavers, the material becomes more durable than concrete while still being non-slip and sustainable.

The system can either be used to generate electricity for a residential household or power an electric car. According to the company’s website, a 20-square-meter (215-square-foot) Platio driveway system has the capacity to cover the yearly energy consumption of an average household.

The company is now offering resell opportunities and installation quotes for their driveway systems available in brown, blue, red, and green designs.

(WATCH the demonstration video below)

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Electric Car Completes UK’s Longest and Most Complex Autonomous Journey

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A top-secret electric vehicle has completed the UK’s longest and most complex autonomous car journey by self-navigating itself along 230 miles on British roads.

The modified 2017 electric Nissan LEAF travelled from the Nissan Technical Center Europe (NTCE) in Cranfield, Bedfordshire, to the brand’s manufacturing plant in Sunderland.

Over the course of the journey, the autonomous car tackled road junctions, roundabouts, motorways, and even country lanes with little or no road markings.

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The car’s autonomous technology activated along the route to change lanes, merge, and stop and start when necessary. The only moment the passenger took control of the LEAF was to drive into motorway services—in order to charge it.

The UK government-backed HumanDrive project, which took place on public roads with surrounding motorists none the wiser, is the result of 30 months of work by a consortium of industry leaders.

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“Our Future of Mobility: Urban Strategy is supporting transport innovation for cleaner, greener and smarter transport,” said Future of Transport Minister, George Freeman, MP from the UK Department For Transport. “Nissan’s successful HumanDrive project is an exciting example of how the next phase of the UK’s transport revolution could look.”

Nissan worked with Hitachi, Highways England, and a number of other partners to produce one of the most technologically advanced autonomous vehicles ever seen.

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By building a dataset of previously encountered traffic scenarios and solutions, it can use this “learned experience” to handle similar scenarios in the future and plot a safe route around an obstacle.

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Capable of handling narrow winding roads with no lane division markings and poorly-marked roundabouts all on its own, the LEAF’s technology was designed to create a more familiar and comfortable experience for passengers in the car.

The HumanDrive project demonstrates how car firms like Nissan, along with other industry leaders and the UK government are committed to making autonomous vehicles a reality on European roads.

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HumanDrive is jointly funded by the UK government through the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), Innovate UK, and nine other consortium partners. The joint funding package for the project totaled £13.5 million ($17.5 million).

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“Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility vision is to develop autonomous drive technologies for use in all of our cars in any area of the world,” said David Moss, senior vice president for Research & Development in Europe, Nissan Europe. “The door is now open to build on this successful UK research project, as we move towards a future which is more autonomous, more electric, and more connected.”

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This App Delivers Instant Sign Language Interpreters For Those Tricky Moments That Need More Than Pen and Paper

A new video app has the potential to revolutionize the way deaf people interact in their every day lives, no matter which country they are in.

Writing notes back and forth can be painfully slow and inconvenient, especially in a retail environment, but the Jeenie language-translation app has launched a new option which instantly connects users with an ASL interpreter to help them quickly solve tricky conversations.

“It can be challenging to communicate in everyday life with people who are not fluent in ASL,” Laura Yellin, a deaf woman who has been testing the app’s new ASL feature, told Fast Company. “For example, dealing with an issue at the dry cleaners and needing to talk to a supervisor or manager can be tricky via paper and pen or typing on the phone back and forth. It makes it a lot easier to have an interpreter available for situations like that.”

Within one minute of placing a request for help, users can be connected with an interpreter at any hour of the day, according to Jeenie, which says it has 100 operators on-call.

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One of the best features about their video calling app is its low cost. Although traditional Video Relay Services (VRS) may be available for free in the US, they are no good in Canada, for instance, and they may need special requirements.

As the company researched products that provide in-person interpreters, they found very expensive fees because services were geared toward the business world—charging $90 to $125 an hour.

Jeenie charges $1 per minute, but their packages take that fee down even further—and the interpreters earn half of all the revenue generated.

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Jeenie is not just paving the way for the next generation of ASL interpreter services, they are hoping to expand to other sign languages, such as British and Chinese Sign Language, leading to millions more convenient and detailed interactions between people across the world.

(WATCH the demonstration video below)

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