We show that high-resolution space-borne synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery with pixel sizes smaller than 1 m2
can be used to complement archaeological surveys on intertidal flats. After major storm surges in the 14th and 17th centuries (“Grote Mandrenke
”), vast areas on the German North Sea coast were lost to the sea. Areas of settlements and historical farmland were buried under sediments for centuries, but when the surface layer is driven away under the action of wind, currents, and waves, they appear again on the Wadden Sea surface. However, frequent flooding and erosion of the intertidal flats make any archaeological monitoring a difficult task, so that remote sensing techniques appear to be an efficient and cost-effective instrument for any archaeological surveillance of that area. Space-borne SAR images clearly show remains of farmhouse foundations and of former systems of ditches, dating back to the times before the “Grote Mandrenke
”. In particular, the very high-resolution acquisition (“staring spotlight”) mode of the TerraSAR/TanDEM-X satellites allows detecting various kinds of remains of historical land use at high precision. Moreover, SARs working at lower microwave frequencies (e.g., that on Radarsat-2) may complement archaeological surveys of historical cultural traces, some of which have been unknown so far.
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