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CITIES OF THE SILK ROAD
A SPACE-AGE SEARCH FOR RELICS OF EURASIA'S DISTANT PAST
The ruins of Subashi, at the edge of the Taklamakan Desert.
|In 1992 I
joined a China Exploration and Research Society project
to use radar remote sensing to look for lost cities under
the sands of the Taklamakan Desert in northwest China.
Key to the project is a revolutionary remote sensing
device called SIR-C. Carried by Space Shuttle Endeavor in
two 1994 flights, SIR-C has the potential to reveal
man-made artifacts hidden for two thousand years beneath
desert sands. Since 1994 I have spent many hours in the
computer labs of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
processing and enhancing SIR-C radar images of the
Taklamakan, identifying unnatural-looking features that
hint at the presence of man.
In 1997 CERS shifted its focus to wildlife programs, leaving the Silk Road project high and dry. At that time I met an American archeologist named Adam Kessler whose lifelong passion has been to investigate China's ancient world. He was looking for people to help him form the Eurasian Origins Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to researching early civilizations on the Eurasian continent. Together we are seeking funding for a joint American-Chinese expedition into the "deep desert" of the Taklamakan to ground truth SIR-C images and possibly discover previously unknown archeological sites. Ruins discovered elsewhere in the Tarim Basin have produced artifacts such as tombs, temples, frescoes, statues, and scrolls--crucial clues that allow us to track migration of peoples and ideas across Eurasia.