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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 September 2005, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
Internet maps reveal Roman villa
A woman looks at a view of the Italian capital Rome on Google Earth
Google Earth offers satellite images of many parts of the world
Latest technology proved an unexpected aid to unearthing the past when an Italian man decided to look at internet maps of his home.

Computer programmer Luca Mori found the remains of an ancient Roman villa when he browsed Google Earth maps showing satellite images of his local area.

His curiosity was sparked by unusual shading by his home in Sorbolo, Parma.

He contacted local archaeologists who investigated and confirmed it was once the location of a Roman villa.

"At first I thought it was a stain on the photograph," 47-year-old Mr Mori explained. "But when I zoomed in, I saw that there was something under the earth."

The satellite images threw up a dark oval shape more than 500m (1,640ft) long, as well as shaded rectangular shapes nearby.

Mr Mori decided to alert experts from the National Archaeological Museum in Parma about his find.

After excavating some ceramic pieces from the site - now farmland - they confirmed a Roman villa once stood there.

"At first they thought the site might be Bronze Age but a closer inspection turned up ceramic and stone pieces that showed it was a Roman villa built some time just before the birth of Christ," he was quoted as saying in the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Google Earth is a service offered by the US-based internet search engine Google, allowing users to view most parts of the world using a combination of satellite imagery and maps.

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