It's another example in the growing field of what New Scientist dubs "armchair archeology": An Australian scientist has used Google Earth to identify nearly 2,000 sites of interest in otherwise hard-to-reach Saudi Arabia. More than half appear to be ancient tombs made of stone, though only an on-the-ground investigation can confirm.
"Just from Google Earth it's impossible to know whether we have found a Bedouin structure that was made 150 years ago, or 10,000 years ago," says David Kennedy of the University of Western Australia. Still, it's a start in a land potentially rich in archeological treasure but still largely off-limits to researchers, who generally don't have access to aerial photographs of the country. "Google Earth can outflank them," says Kennedy.