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Remote Sens. 2016, 8(11), 918; doi:10.3390/rs8110918

Trying to Break New Ground in Aerial Archaeology

1
Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection & Virtual Archaeology (LBI ArchPro), Franz-Klein-Gasse 1/III, Wien A-1190, Austria
2
Department of Prehistoric and Historical Archaeology, University of Vienna, Franz-Klein-Gasse 1/III, Wien A-1190, Austria
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Kenneth L. Kvamme and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Received: 24 August 2016 / Revised: 14 October 2016 / Accepted: 26 October 2016 / Published: 4 November 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Archaeological Prospecting and Remote Sensing)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [4846 KB, uploaded 4 November 2016]   |  

Abstract

Aerial reconnaissance continues to be a vital tool for landscape-oriented archaeological research. Although a variety of remote sensing platforms operate within the earth’s atmosphere, the majority of aerial archaeological information is still derived from oblique photographs collected during observer-directed reconnaissance flights, a prospection approach which has dominated archaeological aerial survey for the past century. The resulting highly biased imagery is generally catalogued in sub-optimal (spatial) databases, if at all, after which a small selection of images is orthorectified and interpreted. For decades, this has been the standard approach. Although many innovations, including digital cameras, inertial units, photogrammetry and computer vision algorithms, geographic(al) information systems and computing power have emerged, their potential has not yet been fully exploited in order to re-invent and highly optimise this crucial branch of landscape archaeology. The authors argue that a fundamental change is needed to transform the way aerial archaeologists approach data acquisition and image processing. By addressing the very core concepts of geographically biased aerial archaeological photographs and proposing new imaging technologies, data handling methods and processing procedures, this paper gives a personal opinion on how the methodological components of aerial archaeology, and specifically aerial archaeological photography, should evolve during the next decade if developing a more reliable record of our past is to be our central aim. In this paper, a possible practical solution is illustrated by outlining a turnkey aerial prospection system for total coverage survey together with a semi-automated back-end pipeline that takes care of photograph correction and image enhancement as well as the management and interpretative mapping of the resulting data products. In this way, the proposed system addresses one of many bias issues in archaeological research: the bias we impart to the visual record as a result of selective coverage. While the total coverage approach outlined here may not altogether eliminate survey bias, it can vastly increase the amount of useful information captured during a single reconnaissance flight while mitigating the discriminating effects of observer-based, on-the-fly target selection. Furthermore, the information contained in this paper should make it clear that with current technology it is feasible to do so. This can radically alter the basis for aerial prospection and move landscape archaeology forward, beyond the inherently biased patterns that are currently created by airborne archaeological prospection. View Full-Text
Keywords: aerial archaeology; aerial photography; block survey; camera pod; landscape archaeology; multispectral imaging; object-based image analysis; spatial data management aerial archaeology; aerial photography; block survey; camera pod; landscape archaeology; multispectral imaging; object-based image analysis; spatial data management
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Verhoeven, G.; Sevara, C. Trying to Break New Ground in Aerial Archaeology. Remote Sens. 2016, 8, 918.

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