3.1 Growing cities

As in much of the world, the population of the Middle East has grown rapidly in recent decades, and this growth is easily evident on CORONA imagery. Not only are populations of towns and cities across the region significantly larger, but the footprint of those cities has also expanded. With the growth and industrialisation of cities also come larger roadways, airports, power generation, sewage treatment and all the other necessities to make urban life possible. Today suburban sprawl and industrial facilities extend for miles outside of the dense, labyrinthine cores that long characterised Middle Eastern cities, and these changes have had inevitable impacts on the archaeological record.

3.1.1 Amman, Jordan

Figure 11: Amman, Jordan as it appears in a September 1967 CORONA image vs modern Google image data [Static images | CORONA atlas]

In Jordan, a particularly striking example of the growth of cities can be seen in the capital Amman. When Amman was made the capital of the new British Mandate controlled Emirate of Transjordan in 1922, it was little more than a large village with a population of around 5000 residents. However, waves of immigration following conflicts in the region have contributed to a rapidly growing urban population. Today, the city is home to nearly 3 million residents and is growing fast. CORONA imagery reveals a view of Amman as it appeared in September 1967, just prior to the settlement of around 245,000 refugees who fled the West Bank and Gaza following the 1967 war. A comparison with the city's footprint today shows the remarkable growth of the city over the past few decades.

3.1.2 Mosul, Iraq

Figure 12: Mosul, northern Iraq [Static images | CORONA atlas]

Northern Iraq is another region of the Middle East that has seen spectacular population growth and industrial development over the past several decades. Located on the west bank of the Tigris River, the city of Mosul was long a major trading centre and stopping point for caravans moving between the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. However, for most of its history, the city remained confined to a core area on the west bank, opposite the ruins of the Neo-Assyrian city of Nineveh, visible in CORONA imagery as a large, trapezoidal feature. Following the discovery of oil in the region, the city saw steady growth during the early decades of the 20th century. Seeking to consolidate control over this lucrative region—one dominated until recently by Iraq's Kurdish minority—the regime of Saddam Hussein moved many Sunni Arabs to the city during the 1980s. Today the city is the third largest in Iraq with a population estimated around 2 million; more than triple the population in 1987. As the city has grown rapidly in recent decades, it has come to cover increasing portions of the ancient city of Nineveh. New developments on the long-protected northern part of the archaeological site suggest that this ancient city may soon be nearly completed obscured by modern development.


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