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A Massive, Ancient Platform Discovered in Petra Has Been ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’

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Archaeologists have used satellite imagery and drone photography to discover an enormous ceremonial platform near the center of the ancient city of Petra.

Sarah Parcak and Christopher Tuttle published their finding in a new report that reveals the monument that has been, as the paper is titled, hiding in plain sight. That is all the more impressive because of the platform’s size: at 184 by 161 feet, it’s roughly the length of an Olympic swimming pool (and twice the width), National Geographic reports.

“I’m sure that over the course of two centuries of research [in Petra], someone had to know [this site] was there, but it’s never been systematically studied or written up,” Tuttle told the magazine. “I’ve worked in Petra for 20 years, and I knew that something was there, but it’s certainly legitimate to call this a discovery.”

Using the aerial images, the archaeologists determined that a small building sat atop the platform. Petra, located in present-day Jordan, was founded around the second century B.C., and abandoned by the seventh century A.D.

[National Geographic]

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Write to Julia Zorthian at julia.zorthian@time.com