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Shark Science

Lasers Unearth Lost 'Agropolis' of New England 105

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-can't-laser-do dept.
sciencehabit writes "Hidden ruins are customary in the wild jungles of South America or on the white shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Now, researchers have uncovered a long-lost culture closer to Western civilization — in New England. Using aerial surveys created by LiDAR, a laser-guided mapping technique, the team detected the barely perceptible remnants of a former 'agropolis' around three rural New England towns (abstract). Near Ashford, Connecticut, a vast network of roads offset by stone walls came to light underneath a canopy of oak and spruce trees. More than half of the town has become reforested since 1870, according to historical documents, exemplifying the extent of the rural flight that marked the late 1800s. Some structures were less than 2 feet high and buried in inaccessible portions of the forest, making them essentially invisible to on-the-ground cartography."
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Lasers Unearth Lost 'Agropolis' of New England

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  • by mattdm (1931) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @12:58PM (#45926661) Homepage

    This makes it sound like a long-lost native civilization was discovered. Not the case. Early European settlers in New England devastated the native landscape and, basically, turned it into English sheep farms. As expansion pushed westward and agriculture shifted with it, that economy changed and native (and some invasive) species have reclaimed the landscape.

    Still very cool and interesting, but a different story from what you might expect from reading the lede.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      That's the same reaction I had. As someone who grew up in Connecticut, and not even that far from Ashford, this is incredibly common. The woods are criscrossed with old stone walls and the occasional stone foundation.
    • Early European settlers in New England devastated the native landscape

      Eek!

      and, basically, turned it into English sheep farms.

      Oh, you mean they wanted homes and livelihoods just like us. That doesn't sound quite so sinister.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Early European settlers in New England devastated the native landscape

        Oh, you mean they wanted homes and livelihoods just like us. That doesn't sound quite so sinister.

        But, but they devastated the native landscape.

        That makes them evil.

        And since we're their descendents (at least the New England readers of /.), we owe retribution to Mother Gaia forever and ever and ever.

        OTOH, Mother Gaia has covered the remnants of their "devastation" so thoroughly that they need LiDAR to detect them.

        So maybe it wasn't so "

  • by confused one (671304) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @12:59PM (#45926671)
    In a century or two, someone will look back at the U.S. and unearth the evidence that it once had vast manufacturing capability.
    • Re:lost in time (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheloniousToady (3343045) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @01:33PM (#45926839)

      Good point. But it may not take even that long. For example, I think the Studebaker plant still stands. And Armco Steel, which once was a primary employer in the Kansas City area, has been a gigantic rusting (but intact) hulk for a couple of decades. Since these things cost so much to tear down and there's no economic incentive to do so, they seemingly will last until nature takes over, in decades or centuries.

      • A whole lot more than just the Studebaker plant.

        http://www.marchandmeffre.com/detroit/ [marchandmeffre.com]

      • by Anonymous Coward

        South Bend is busy tearing down the last bits of the Studebaker production plant. Only the most ornate and preserved buildings remain. The area is being populated with industrial park structures which are more adaptable for current business uses including two server farms.

    • by Aighearach (97333)

      Yep, soon we'll just 3d print everything in the garage, at least until the replicators hit the market.

    • When people talk about the decline in manufacturing, they're generally worried about the decline in the number of people employed in manufacturing and not at all interested in the amount of goods produced.

      And why do they care about the number of people? Seems to me that most of the are overmuch concerned with voters, not economics. So that one input to the process is more important than the results of that process.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 11, 2014 @01:04PM (#45926693)

    West of Arkham the hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has ever cut. There are dark narrow glens where the trees slope fantastically, and where thin brooklets trickle without ever having caught the glint of sunlight. On the gentle slopes there are farms, ancient and rocky, with squat, moss-coated cottages brooding eternally over old New England secrets in the lee of great ledges; but these are all vacant now, the wide chimneys crumbling and the shingled sides bulging perilously beneath low gambrel roofs.

    • Mod parent up. This was my first thought, "it sounds like the beginning of a creepy New England story that H.P. Lovecraft wrote."
      • Apparently it really is Lovecraft[1]. I was surprised, because it didn't contain the word "gibbous".

        [1] I mean his words, not really him. Though you never know.

        • Yes, I know the AC was quoting Lovecraft. I meant I agreed, the summary made me think of Lovecraft too.

          I wasn't certain at first the quote was his, because it didn't contain the word, "tenebrous".
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Many years from now, digital archaeologists will use similar technology to find the remnants of pre-beta Slashdot.

    They'll be stunned at what they find. They'll find a site that's actually readable, unlike the Slashdot Beta site. They'll find a site where discussion can easily take place, unlike the Slashdot Beta site. They'll find a site that loads quickly, unlike the Slashdot Beta site. They'll find a site that isn't riddled with large, useless images, unlike the Slashdot Beta site. They'll find a site tha

  • by cold fjord (826450) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @01:05PM (#45926703)

    The use of LIDAR and other sensing techniques is having a powerful impact on archaeology around the world. New finds keep turning up, and there is still a lot of the earth to explore with those sensing technologies. Couple that with the ongoing efforts to digitize old records and the growing use of geospatial information systems and there are some interesting times ahead.

    Great article: The technology uncovering humanity's past, and perhaps its future [stltoday.com]

  • by Ivan Stepaniuk (1569563) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @01:06PM (#45926705)

    How is New England closer to Western civilization than the 'white shores of the Mediterranean Sea'? Western civilization was born in the shores of the mediterranean sea.

    • >> How is New England closer to Western civilization than the
      'white shores of the Mediterranean Sea'?

      Dunkin' Donuts?

    • Closer here means culturally and structurally more like the Western civilizations than the pre-Columbus cultures, not physically closer.

      The Mediterranean and jungles of South America refer to the expected locations of lost civilization ruins rather than in New England area.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @01:20PM (#45926775) Journal

    Now, researchers have uncovered a long-lost culture closer to Western civilization — in New England.

    "Long lost civilization" here means 1700s New England farms, it's not a discovery that Native Americans were building saw mills or anything.

    • by DexterIsADog (2954149) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @01:36PM (#45926865)
      Well, given that the U.S. was founded as a country in the 18th century, and for comparison, tour guides in Paris dismiss anything younger than 500 years as "contemporary", yeah, that's pretty long lost.
      • It's not lost! It's a civilization that's still here!
        • It's still there ? Hm, some might say that.

          But thats only if you count the current USA as a civilization. ;)

      • tour guides in Paris dismiss anything younger than 500 years as "contemporary"

        Are we citizens of the New Republic supposed to be impressed by European claims of greater antiquity? There are places in the Mideast, India and China where anything younger than 2,000 years is dismissed as contemporary.

    • by dpidcoe (2606549)

      "Long lost civilization" here means 1700s New England farms, it's not a discovery that Native Americans were building saw mills or anything.

      I misread the headline as "lasers unearthed in Lost 'Agropolis' of New England and had done even better than mills.

    • by Aighearach (97333)

      it's not a discovery that Native Americans were building saw mills or anything.

      While true, there are also those. But, somewhere else.

      • While true, there are also those.

        Really??

        • by Aighearach (97333)

          In the Pacific Northwest there was heavy use of wood in home construction, including a well developed skill for board+wooden nail construction. Most families had square wooden boxes. You can get semantic on the fact that the logs were split into planks rather than milled, but after splitting the boards would be sawn to length. (with a stone hand tool) And there is a strong argument to be made that shaping wood with stone tools, such as in a dugout canoe, is "milling." Certainly if I was building one using m

  • by laejoh (648921) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @01:35PM (#45926851)
    "Long lost civilization" and "New England" have a whole different meaning once you've read Lovecraft :)
  • True for Most of CT (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WoodburyMan (1288090) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @01:35PM (#45926853)
    This story isn't hardly surprising. After I got past the fact that the outline made it read like they found some long long civilization, and in fact it was just forgotten farm roads from 200 years ago, it's really not that impressive. I also live in Connecticut, less than 45 minutes from this location.. and this is true for most of Connecticut, at least the parts that still have woods left mainly in the Eastern part of the state as well as North West part of the state (where I am). The exact same trails can be found in my own back yard. My backyard consists of a area close to 250 acres or so of wooded area. The entire wooded area is no more than ~150 years old. You can tell by looking at the trees, they're all to young to have been there for more than 100 years. There's all sorts of areas littered with old barbed wire, to which trees have grown around, and old stone walls that have almost fallen apart and are more like a clumping of rocks all lined up than a stone wall. There are also area's where you can clearly tell there used to be trails, in fact we use one to walk between relatives on the other side of our hill and my own house, and a few of the more aged trails as ATV trails. In fact there was even a man made stream, that was diverted from its natural course (to which is has now gone back to) that once flowed a few dozen feet from my house, to which my driveway now follows. Such is not uncommon for all of Connecticut and New England. If you look, you'll find former farm trails and relics everywhere.
    • I'm from CT (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And as a boy, I'd constantly stumbled on structures like this. What this study does show is how extensive it was and how it connected - I never appreciated that because all I ever saw was a lone stone wall or something in the middle of the woods and didn't know it was part of this huge network.

    • by ganjadude (952775)
      Same thing in the hudson valley in NY, there are stone walls covering the area, the last 3 homes I lived in had stone wall borders from years past. We are always finding long lost civ stuff like, coke bottles from the 30s, and square nails, and even old rock foundations! While this headline is very misleading, it is interesting either way
    • by Aighearach (97333)

      No, the impressive thing is that the technology is already revealing abandoned structures closer to home. The find itself as a find is not interesting.

      There are two main areas where this is interesting:
      1) Thinking about the future looking back at us, and what will we look like? What does our past already look like now that it is showing up?

      2) The power of these tools to find things not immediately visible to human observation is impressive. These aren't giant pyramids, these are small structures mostly obsc

    • by psydeshow (154300)

      Who do you suppose owns these tracts of land, now? I guess I'm just assuming that the 250 acres of woods wasn't literally your back yard, but maybe it was.

      Anyway, there should be property records for all of the fields "discovered" in the LIDAR map. When the farmers abandoned their farms, were they purchased by the state as watershed or open space, or by developers who never did anything with them, or what?

  • The summary makes it sound like they found 3000 year old ruins, not 300 year old ruins. This is not a lost civilization. It's just early Americans, colonial and USA. It's still interesting. There was no need to sensationalize. It reminds me of the innocent looking ditches I used to pass by in Fairfax County, VA local parks. It wasn't until after moving away that I saw an article online explaining that the ditches were colonial stream diversions leading to mills that no longer exist. A preserved examp

    • by Aighearach (97333)

      If the places are no longer on any existing maps, they are "lost." If they are actually cataloged somewhere, they're not lost. Notice the lost-ness being claimed is in reference to the 'agropolis' (farm town or grange with associated farmland) not to Colonial New England.

  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @02:35PM (#45927159)

    Southern New England is overrun with old stone walls and relics of old farms, take a walk in the woods some time. Also, water is wet.

  • by PPH (736903) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @03:13PM (#45927343)

    Property owners can use these maps to determine whether any such structures exist on their property. They will then bulldoze them flat so as to prevent some preservationist societies from declaring their property off limits to development.

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