Special Issue "Earth Observation, Remote Sensing and Geoscientific Ground Investigations for Archaeological and Heritage Research"

A special issue of Geosciences (ISSN 2076-3263).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2018)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Deodato Tapete

Italian Space Agency (ASI), Via del Politecnico snc, 00133 Rome, Italy
Website | E-Mail
Interests: earth observation; radar and optical remote sensing; InSAR; time series analysis; Earth Sciences; environmental geology; natural hazards; urban environments; geoheritage; geoconservation; cultural heritage

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The first Special Issue of Geosciences on “Remote Sensing and Geosciences for Archaeology” collected more than 20 high-quality peer-review papers outlining the state-of-the-art of research in the fields of archaeological remote sensing and geosciences.

Building upon this success, this second edition aims to gather original research articles, reviews and technical notes, on how Earth Observation (EO), Remote Sensing (RS) and geoscientific ground investigations mutually complement to achieve accurate and reliable detection and prospection of surface and subsurface archaeological records, as well as condition assessment of heritage assets.

It is nowadays a common practice that signals, parameters, features and marks extracted from EO and RS analyses are compared with ground truth collected during validation surveys and/or with contextual measurements from ground-based and in-situ sensors.

However, there is a wide variety of methods and only few of them have developed into established standards. On the other hand, technological advancement and new EO facilities are pushing researchers and practitioners to develop new or refine existing methodologies.

Therefore, I would like to invite you to submit articles about your recent work, experimental research or case studies, with respect to the above topic and falling within one of the following domains:

  • Archaeological prospection
  • Digital archaelogical fieldwork
  • Condition assessment of heritage assets
  • GIS analysis of spatial settlement patterns in modern landscapes
  • Assessment of natural or human-induced threats to conservation
  • Education and capacity building in EO, RS for archaeology

I also encourage you to approach me by sending a short abstract outlining the purpose of the research and the principal results obtained, in order to verify at an early stage if the contribution you intend to submit fits with the objectives of the Special Issue.

Dr. Deodato Tapete
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • Earth Observation
  • remote sensing
  • in situ measurements
  • ground-based sensors
  • data processing
  • analytical methods
  • data integration
  • validation
  • accuracy assessment
  • archaeological prospection
  • digital archaeological fieldwork
  • condition assessment
  • pattern recognition
  • capacity building

Published Papers (13 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Automated Detection of Field Monuments in Digital Terrain Models of Westphalia Using OBIA
Geosciences 2019, 9(3), 109; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences9030109
Received: 15 January 2019 / Revised: 21 February 2019 / Accepted: 24 February 2019 / Published: 28 February 2019
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Abstract
While Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) revolutionized archaeological prospection and different visualizations were developed, an automated detection of cultural heritage still poses a significant challenge. Therefore, geographers and archaeologists from Westphalia, Germany are developing automated workflows for classifying field monuments from special terrain [...] Read more.
While Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) revolutionized archaeological prospection and different visualizations were developed, an automated detection of cultural heritage still poses a significant challenge. Therefore, geographers and archaeologists from Westphalia, Germany are developing automated workflows for classifying field monuments from special terrain models. For this project, a combination of GIS, Python, and Object-Based Image Analysis (OBIA) is used. It focuses on three common types of monuments: Ridge and Furrow areas, Burial Mounds, and Motte-and-Bailey castles. The latter two are not classified binary, but in multiple classes, depending on their degree of erosion. This simplifies interpretation by highlighting the most interesting structures without losing the others. The results confirm that OBIA is suitable for detecting field monuments with hit rates of ~90%. A drawback is its dependency on the use of special terrain models like the Difference Map. Further limitations arise in complex terrain situations. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Locating Cave Entrances Using Lidar-Derived Local Relief Modeling
Geosciences 2019, 9(2), 98; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences9020098
Received: 12 December 2018 / Revised: 4 February 2019 / Accepted: 6 February 2019 / Published: 20 February 2019
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Abstract
Lidar (Light detection and ranging) scanning has revolutionized our ability to locate geographic features on the earth’s surface, but there have been few studies that have addressed discovering caves using this technology. Almost all attempts to find caves using lidar imagery have focused [...] Read more.
Lidar (Light detection and ranging) scanning has revolutionized our ability to locate geographic features on the earth’s surface, but there have been few studies that have addressed discovering caves using this technology. Almost all attempts to find caves using lidar imagery have focused on locating sinkholes that lead to underground cave systems. As archaeologists, our work in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve, a heavily forested area in western Belize, focuses on locating potential caves for investigation. Caves are an important part of Maya cultural heritage utilized by the ancient Maya people as ritual spaces. These sites contain large numbers of artifacts, architecture, and human remains, but are being looted at a rapid rate; therefore, our goal is to locate and investigate as many sites as possible during our field seasons. While some caves are entered via sinkholes, most are accessed via vertical cliff faces or are entered by dropping into small shafts. Using lidar-derived data, our goal was to locate and investigate not only sinkholes but other types of cave entrances using point cloud modeling. In this article, we describe our method for locating potential cave openings using local relief models that require only a working knowledge of relief visualization techniques. By using two pedestrian survey techniques, we confirmed a high rate of accuracy in locating cave entrances that varied in both size and morphology. Although 100% pedestrian survey coverage delivered the highest rate accuracy in cave detection, lidar image analyses proved to be expedient for meeting project goals when considering time and resource constraints. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Stratigraphy, Petrography and Grain-Size Distribution of Sedimentary Lithologies at Cahuachi (South Peru): ENSO-Related Deposits or a Common Regional Succession?
Geosciences 2019, 9(2), 80; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences9020080
Received: 13 December 2018 / Revised: 16 January 2019 / Accepted: 6 February 2019 / Published: 8 February 2019
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Abstract
Several central Andean pre-Columbian sites struck by hydrogeological disasters due to El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events are reported in the literature. The mainstream explanation for the decline and demise of Cahuachi (pampa of Nazca, south Peru) implies the damage and burial of [...] Read more.
Several central Andean pre-Columbian sites struck by hydrogeological disasters due to El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events are reported in the literature. The mainstream explanation for the decline and demise of Cahuachi (pampa of Nazca, south Peru) implies the damage and burial of such a ceremonial center as a consequence of two catastrophic river floods, which occurred around 600 CE and 1000 CE, respectively. Therefore, geological studies at Cahuachi are mandatory with regard to both the correlations of ENSO-related deposits (“event-strata”) among different Peruvian sites and the assessment of the millennium-scale climate variability. In particular, the latter is crucial to evaluate the environmental and economic consequences due to the incoming fluctuations of ENSO. In this paper, stratigraphic, grain-size distribution, and petrographic investigations on a sedimentary section exposed close to one of the main temples of Cahuachi are reported. They represent the first test for the current mainstream explanation. The preliminary finding indicates that the studied stratigraphic interval may belong to the common regional succession of the pampa of Nazca rather than the ENSO-related deposits described in the literature. However, further geological research will be necessary to unravel this issue in more detail. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Sumerian Pottery Technology Studied Through Neutron Diffraction and Chemometrics at Abu Tbeirah (Iraq)
Geosciences 2019, 9(2), 74; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences9020074
Received: 24 October 2018 / Revised: 24 January 2019 / Accepted: 28 January 2019 / Published: 31 January 2019
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Abstract
Pottery is the most common material found in archaeological excavations and is used as the main tool for chronological dating. Due to the geopolitical instability of the Middle East during the latter part of the last century until recent years, Sumerian pottery studies [...] Read more.
Pottery is the most common material found in archaeological excavations and is used as the main tool for chronological dating. Due to the geopolitical instability of the Middle East during the latter part of the last century until recent years, Sumerian pottery studies and analyses are limited. The resumption of archaeological excavations in Iraq during the last ten years allows the acquisition of new information and the study of archaeological material excavated through modern stratigraphic methodologies. This paper presents the results of the non-destructive analyses of Abu Tbeirah Sumerian pottery (Iraq) from the 3rd millennium BC and is aimed at analysing the crystallographic composition of ceramic material, therefore contributing to fill a gap in the knowledge of early Southern Mesopotamian pottery production, shedding new light on details of ancient technology and manufacturing techniques. Among the wide range of analytical techniques available, neutron-based ones have been chosen, obtaining detailed analyses in a non-destructive manner. Non-destructive and non-invasive neutron diffraction (ND) was applied in combination with chemometrics such as Principal Component Analysis (PCA) and Cluster Analysis (CA). ND confirms a general uniformity of the raw materials and a local Mesopotamian provenance through a comparison with modern local clay. Moreover, secondary minerals and their marker-temperature formation imply two different ranges of firing temperature that never exceeded 1000 °C, a temperature easily reachable through pit-firing techniques. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Remote Sensing Analyses on Sentinel-2 Images: Looking for Roman Roads in Srem Region (Serbia)
Geosciences 2019, 9(1), 25; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences9010025
Received: 25 November 2018 / Revised: 22 December 2018 / Accepted: 28 December 2018 / Published: 5 January 2019
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Abstract
The present research is part of the project “From Aquileia to Singidunum: reconstructing the paths of the Roman travelers—RecRoad”, developed at the Université Bordeaux Montaigne, thanks to a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship. One of the goals of the project was to detect and reconstruct [...] Read more.
The present research is part of the project “From Aquileia to Singidunum: reconstructing the paths of the Roman travelers—RecRoad”, developed at the Université Bordeaux Montaigne, thanks to a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship. One of the goals of the project was to detect and reconstruct the Roman viability between the Roman cities of Aquileia (Aquileia, Italy) and Singidunum (Belgrade, Serbia), using different sources and methods, one of which is satellite remote sensing. The research project analyzed and combined several data, including images produced by the Sentinel-2 mission, funded by the European Commission Earth Observation Programme Copernicus, in which satellites were launched between 2015 and 2017. These images are freely available for scientific and commercial purposes, and constitute a constantly updated gallery of the whole planet, with a revisit time of five days at the Equator. The technical specifications of the satellites’ sensors are particularly suitable for archaeological mapping purposes, and their capacities in this field still need to be fully explored. The project provided a useful testbed for the use of Sentinel-2 images in the archaeological field. The study compares traditional Vegetation Indices with experimental trials on Sentinel images applied to the Srem District in Serbia. The paper also compares the results obtained from the analysis of the Sentinel-2 images with WorldView-2 multispectral images. The obtained results were verified through an archaeological surface survey. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Remote Sensing and Historical Morphodynamics of Alluvial Plains. The 1909 Indus Flood and the City of Dera Ghazi Khan (Province of Punjab, Pakistan)
Geosciences 2019, 9(1), 21; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences9010021
Received: 15 November 2018 / Revised: 20 December 2018 / Accepted: 21 December 2018 / Published: 29 December 2018
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Abstract
This paper explores the historical inundation of the city of Dera Ghazi Kkan (Punjab, Pakistan) in 1909. The rich documentation about this episode available—including historic news reports, books and maps—is used to reconstruct the historical dynamics between an urban settlement and the river [...] Read more.
This paper explores the historical inundation of the city of Dera Ghazi Kkan (Punjab, Pakistan) in 1909. The rich documentation about this episode available—including historic news reports, books and maps—is used to reconstruct the historical dynamics between an urban settlement and the river morphodynamics in the Indus alluvial plain. Map and document-based historical regressive analysis is complemented with the examination of images obtained through different Remote Sensing techniques, including the use of new algorithms specifically developed for the study of topography and seasonal water availability which make possible to assess long-term changes in the Indus River basin. This case of study provides an opportunity to examine: (1) how historical hydrological dynamics are reflected in RS produced images; (2) the implications of river morphodynamics in the interpretation of settlement patterning; and (3) the documented socio-political responses to such geomorphological change. The results of this analysis are used to consider the long-term dynamics that have influenced the archaeo/cultural landscapes of the Indus River basin. This assessment provides critical insights for: (1) understanding aspects of the formation, preservation of representation of the archaeological record; (2) identifying traces of morphodynamics and their possible impact over the cultural heritage; and (3) offering insights into the role that recent historical documents can have in the interpretation of RS materials. This paper should be read in conjunction with the paper by Cameron Petrie et al. in the same issue of Geosciences, which explores the Survey of India 1” to 1-mile map series and outlines methods for using these historical maps for research on historical landscapes and settlement distribution. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Mapping Archaeology While Mapping an Empire: Using Historical Maps to Reconstruct Ancient Settlement Landscapes in Modern India and Pakistan
Geosciences 2019, 9(1), 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences9010011
Received: 10 November 2018 / Revised: 17 December 2018 / Accepted: 19 December 2018 / Published: 25 December 2018
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Abstract
A range of data sources are now used to support the process of archaeological prospection, including remote sensed imagery, spy satellite photographs and aerial photographs. This paper advocates the value and importance of a hitherto under-utilised historical mapping resource—the Survey of India 1” [...] Read more.
A range of data sources are now used to support the process of archaeological prospection, including remote sensed imagery, spy satellite photographs and aerial photographs. This paper advocates the value and importance of a hitherto under-utilised historical mapping resource—the Survey of India 1” to 1-mile map series, which was based on surveys started in the mid–late nineteenth century, and published progressively from the early twentieth century AD. These maps present a systematic documentation of the topography of the British dominions in the South Asian Subcontinent. Incidentally, they also documented the locations, the height and area of thousands of elevated mounds that were visible in the landscape at the time that the surveys were carried out, but have typically since been either damaged or destroyed by the expansion of irrigation agriculture and urbanism. Subsequent reanalysis has revealed that many of these mounds were actually the remains of ancient settlements. The digitisation and analysis of these historic maps thus creates a unique opportunity for gaining insight into the landscape archaeology of South Asia. This paper reviews the context within which these historical maps were created, presents a method for georeferencing them, and reviews the symbology that was used to represent elevated mound features that have the potential to be archaeological sites. This paper should be read in conjunction with the paper by Arnau Garcia et al. in the same issue of Geosciences, which implements a research programme combining historical maps and a range of remote sensing approaches to reconstruct historical landscape dynamics in the Indus River Basin. Full article
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Open AccessArticle The Application of Freely-Available Satellite Imagery for Informing and Complementing Archaeological Fieldwork in the “Black Desert” of North-Eastern Jordan
Geosciences 2018, 8(12), 491; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences8120491
Received: 30 November 2018 / Revised: 11 December 2018 / Accepted: 12 December 2018 / Published: 15 December 2018
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Abstract
Recent developments in the availability of very high-resolution satellite imagery through platforms like GoogleEarth (Google, Santa Clara County, CA, USA) and Bing Maps (Microsoft, Redmond, WA, USA) have greatly opened up the possibilities of their use by researchers. This paper focusses on the [...] Read more.
Recent developments in the availability of very high-resolution satellite imagery through platforms like GoogleEarth (Google, Santa Clara County, CA, USA) and Bing Maps (Microsoft, Redmond, WA, USA) have greatly opened up the possibilities of their use by researchers. This paper focusses on the exclusive use of free remote sensing data by the Western Harra Survey (WHS), an archaeological project investigating the arid “Black Desert” of north-eastern Jordan, a largely impenetrable landscape densely strewn with basalt blocks. The systematic analysis of such data by conducting a holistic satellite survey prior to the commencement of fieldwork allowed for the precise planning of ground surveys, with advanced knowledge of which sites were vehicle-accessible and how to efficiently visit a stratified sample of different site types. By subsequently correlating the obtained ground data with this analysis, it was possible to create a typological seriation of the site forms known as “wheels”, determine that at least two-thirds of sites are within 500 m of valleys or mudflats (highlighting these features’ roles as access routes and resource clusters) and identify numerous anthropogenic paths cleared through the basalt for site access and long-distance travel. These results offer new insights into this underrepresented region and allow for supra-regional comparisons with better investigated areas by a method that is rapid and cost-effective. Full article
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Open AccessArticle High Resolution Drone Surveying of the Pista Geoglyph in Palpa, Peru
Geosciences 2018, 8(12), 479; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences8120479
Received: 3 November 2018 / Revised: 8 December 2018 / Accepted: 10 December 2018 / Published: 13 December 2018
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Abstract
Currently, satellite images can be used to document historical or archaeological sites in areas that are distant, dangerous, or expensive to visit, and they can be used instead of basic fieldwork in several cases. Nowadays, they have final resolution on 35–50 cm, which [...] Read more.
Currently, satellite images can be used to document historical or archaeological sites in areas that are distant, dangerous, or expensive to visit, and they can be used instead of basic fieldwork in several cases. Nowadays, they have final resolution on 35–50 cm, which can be limited for searching of fine structures. Results using the analysis of very high resolution (VHR) satellite data and super resolution data from drone on an object nearby Palpa, Peru are discussed in this article. This study is a part of Nasca project focused on using satellite data for documentation and the analysis of the famous geoglyphs in Peru near Palpa and Nasca, and partially on the documentation of other historical objects. The use of drone shows advantages of this technology to achieve high resolution object documentation and analysis, which provide new details. The documented site was the “Pista” geoglyph. Discovering of unknown geoglyphs (a bird, a guinea pig, and other small drawings) was quite significant in the area of the well-known geoglyph. The new data shows many other details, unseen from the surface or from the satellite imagery, and provides the basis for updating current knowledge and theories about the use and construction of geoglyphs. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Implementing a Modern E-Learning Strategy in an Interdisciplinary Environment—Empowering UNESCO Stakeholders to Use Earth Observation
Geosciences 2018, 8(12), 432; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences8120432
Received: 31 October 2018 / Revised: 16 November 2018 / Accepted: 20 November 2018 / Published: 23 November 2018
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Abstract
The Copernicus Program and the fleet of available Earth observation satellites provide valuable services in sectors such as agriculture, forestry, urban monitoring, and heritage management. However, drawbacks such as knowledge gaps by the user, limited technical and financial facilities or the lack of [...] Read more.
The Copernicus Program and the fleet of available Earth observation satellites provide valuable services in sectors such as agriculture, forestry, urban monitoring, and heritage management. However, drawbacks such as knowledge gaps by the user, limited technical and financial facilities or the lack of ready-to-use data, result in insufficient exploitation of these opportunities by heritage site managers and other relevant stakeholders. Based on an initial assessment of current threats, existing limitations and potential applications, we developed the e-learning module Space2Place. Through the use of the learning module, stakeholders get a substantial introduction into Earth observation and knowledge barriers that may exist are removed. For this purpose, we refined an existing e-learning platform, which was developed in close relation to an online remote sensing application and adapted to the needs of UNESCO site stakeholders. One of the main features is the personalization of the learning modules content depending on the abilities or interests of the user. The platform offers information with different levels of difficulty and adaptable learning paths. A graduation certificate and practical exercises in an online remote sensing application increase the specific added value for UNESCO site manager. By using the associated remote sensing application and its link to Space2Place, heritage site managers also improve their knowledge on image processing by working with original satellite imagery. Additional advantages of using the platform will be enhanced through the introduction of new learning modules, translation into other languages and accompanying scientific research. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Mapping a Subsurface Water Channel with X-Band and C-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar at the Iron Age Archaeological Site of ‘Uqdat al-Bakrah (Safah), Oman
Geosciences 2018, 8(9), 334; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences8090334
Received: 10 July 2018 / Revised: 25 August 2018 / Accepted: 29 August 2018 / Published: 5 September 2018
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Abstract
Subsurface imaging in arid regions is a well-known application of satellite Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). Archaeological prospection has often focused on L-band SAR sensors, given the ability of longer wavelengths to penetrate more deeply into sand. In contrast, this study demonstrates capabilities of [...] Read more.
Subsurface imaging in arid regions is a well-known application of satellite Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). Archaeological prospection has often focused on L-band SAR sensors, given the ability of longer wavelengths to penetrate more deeply into sand. In contrast, this study demonstrates capabilities of shorter-wavelength, but higher spatial resolution, C-band and X-band SAR sensors in archaeological subsurface imaging at the site of ‘Uqdat al-Bakrah (Safah), Oman. Despite having varying parameters and acquisitions, both the X-band and C-band images analyzed were able to identify a subsurface paleo-channel that is not visible on the ground surface. This feature was first identified through Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey, then recognized in the SAR imagery and further verified by test excavations. Both the GPR and the excavations reveal the base of the paleo-channel at a depth of 0.6 m–0.7 m. Hence, both X-band and C-band wavelengths are appropriate for subsurface archaeological prospection in suitable (dry silt and sand) conditions with specific acquisition parameters. Moreover, these results offer important new insights into the paleo-environmental context of ancient metal-working at ‘Uqdat al-Bakrah and demonstrate surface water flow roughly contemporary with the site’s occupation. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Towards National Archaeological Mapping. Assessing Source Data and Methodology—A Case Study from Scotland
Geosciences 2018, 8(8), 272; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences8080272
Received: 6 July 2018 / Revised: 20 July 2018 / Accepted: 24 July 2018 / Published: 26 July 2018
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Abstract
While the National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) in Scotland contains valuable information on more than 170,000 archaeological monuments, it is clear that this dataset is conditioned by the disposition of past survey and changing parameters of data collection strategies over many [...] Read more.
While the National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) in Scotland contains valuable information on more than 170,000 archaeological monuments, it is clear that this dataset is conditioned by the disposition of past survey and changing parameters of data collection strategies over many decades. This highlights the importance of creating systematic datasets, in which the standards to which they were created are explicit, and against which the reliability of our knowledge of the material remains of the past can be assessed. This paper describes issues of data structure and reliability, then discussing the methodologies under development for expediting the progress of national-scale mapping with specific reference to the Isle of Arran. Preliminary outcomes of a recent archaeological mapping project of the island, which has been used to develop protocols for rapid large area mapping, are outlined. The primary sources for the survey were airborne laser scanning derivatives and orthophotographs, supplemented by field observation, and the project has more than doubled the number of known monuments of Arran. The survey procedures are described, followed by a discussion of the utility of ‘general purpose’ remote sensed datasets, focusing on the assessment of strengths and weaknesses for rapid mapping of large areas. Full article
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Open AccessArticle GIS and Remote-Sensing Application in Archaeological Site Mapping in the Awsard Area (Morocco)
Geosciences 2018, 8(6), 207; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences8060207
Received: 2 April 2018 / Revised: 14 May 2018 / Accepted: 15 May 2018 / Published: 7 June 2018
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Abstract
Morocco is famous as one of the archaeologically richest places with many sites. In addition, some of the sites have been listed as UNESCO World Human Heritage sites. In situ observations are used in cultural heritage and archaeological sites mapping. However, this procedure [...] Read more.
Morocco is famous as one of the archaeologically richest places with many sites. In addition, some of the sites have been listed as UNESCO World Human Heritage sites. In situ observations are used in cultural heritage and archaeological sites mapping. However, this procedure requires periodic observations, which are practically difficult to combine with traditional methods and practices since this is time consuming and expensive. Thus, modern technologies, mainly GIS and remote sensing, are gaining attention as tools for prediction at archaeological sites. The aim of this paper is to assess the application of GIS and remote sensing in order to develop a predictive model, which will be used in locating areas with high potential as archaeological sites in the Awsard area (southern Morocco). The analytic hierarchy process (AHP) as a multi-criteria decision making method, which integrates archaeological data and environmental factors, geospatial analysis and predictive modelling, has been applied to the identification of possible tumuli locations in the study area. The model was developed using a zone of 21 km2 with 233 known sites. It was later validated using 530 unknown sites within an area of 980 km2. The acceptable accuracy of 93% was calculated using an estimation of predictive gain, which proves the efficiency of the model’s predictive ability. Full article
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