More than 1,700 years ago, ancient farmers in China transformed one of Earths driest deserts into farmland
, possibly by using ancient knowledge of irrigation passed along by Silk Road travelers, a new study finds.
Archaeologists made the finding by using satellite imagery to analyze the barren foothills of northwestern Chinas Tian Shan Mountains. These peaks form the northern border of Chinas vast Taklamakan Desert and are part of a chain of mountain ranges that have long hosted prehistoric Silk Road routes connecting China with lands to its west.
The satellite imagery of one particularly dry area caught the researchers attention: a region dubbed Mohuchahangoukou, or MGK, which gets a seasonal trickle of snowmelt and rainfall from the Mohuchahan River. From the ground, the area looks like little more than a scattering of boulders and ruts, but when the researchers flew a commercial four-rotor 'quadcopter' drone about 100 feet (30 meters) over MGK to capture images, they could see outlines of dams, cisterns and irrigation canals feeding a patchwork of small farm fields, the scientists said.
(*) Lines marked in red are not the truth.
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