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Archaeological Remote Sensing in the 21st Century: (Re)Defining Practice and Theory


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Despite the many (r)evolutions in remote sensing technology over the past three decades, integration in archaeological practice and theory has sometimes been limited by reliance on practice and theory imported from other disciplines, without questioning or deep understanding. This collection of papers aims to contribute to the exploration of developing practice and theory in remote sensing archaeology for the 21st century. The scope of this volume is the use of remotely sensed data from either air- or spaceborne platforms for the benefit of archaeology and cultural heritage in general, with a specific focus on better defining the roles and contexts that detail why archaeologists may apply remote sensing techniques. With this focus, it is our hope that remotely sensed data will be better and more intrinsically integrated into the symbiosis of archaeological practice and theory. The editorial for this volume suggests that many aspects of archaeological practice can be characterised as ‘beg, borrow and steal’. This collection provides the reader with thoughtful papers that contribute to the development of archaeological remote sensing as a mature interdisciplinary field characterised by explicit and theoretically engaged approaches to understanding the past.
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... Beck et al., 2007;Lasaponara & Masini, 2008;Cowley, 2011). Its growing importance in the last decade is reflected in publications by leading specialists in archaeological remote sensing that demonstrate broad ranges of applications and also open up new directions (Tapete, 2018a;Verhoeven et al., 2021). Among many factors, its increasing role is attributed to the technological development of sensors for data capture and the accessibility of new remote sensing and Earth Observation data (Tapete, 2018b). ...
... We attempted to select a few well-documented archaeological sites that were recently reported as being affected either by natural or cultural threats. Using established methods of satellite data processing or an approach to available data characterized as "beg, borrow and steal" to use a phrase from Cowley et al. (2021), we aimed to estimate the impact of such events on archaeological structures. We assumed that starting from known, well-recognized and documented cases will help establish potential and limitations of Sentinel-2 dataset. ...
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This article aims to demonstrate the potential of Sentinel-2 and GIS for heritage monitoring, protection, and management. Applications of remote sensing in heritage strategies have been explored for decades. However, new possibilities were opened up with the launch of the European Union's Earth Observation Programme Copernicus. Systematic and frequent global coverage of land surface offered by one of its products-Sentinel-2 provides an almost instant insight into sudden events and long-term processes that affect heritage around the world. Following new developments in remote sensing, GIS provides tools to integrate data for their effective processing, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of results. We will explore the potential and limitations of those datasets and tools using UNESCO World Heritage sites from Sudan as case studies. In particular, we will tackle issues related to the interpretation of changes around heritage sites, attempt to estimate their recent conditions, and identify existing and/ or potential threats.
... Archaeological research using RS gained more motivation for a more systematic exploitation of geospatial data. The development in the last 20 years of remote sensing has given great incentives to researchers to investigate new possibilities in archaeological research [14,17,[19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35], such as the identification of leveled archaeological mounds using satellite remote sensing analyses [20] or using LiDAR data for the recognition of archaeological features [21,23]. Moving further with the integration of multispectral, and especially thermal images, a qualitative increase was achieved in the detection of ceramics given the difference in thermal signatures between vessels, stones, soil, and vegetation [36][37][38][39]. ...
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The documentation and protection of archaeological and cultural heritage (ACH) using remote sensing, a non-destructive tool, is increasingly popular for experts around the world, as it allows rapid searching and mapping at multiple scales, rapid analysis of multi-source data sets, and dynamic monitoring of ACH sites and their environments. The exploitation of remote sensing data and their products have seen an increased use in recent years in the fields of archaeological science and cultural heritage. Different spatial and spectral analysis datasets have been applied to distinguish archaeological remains and detect changes in the landscape over time, and, in the last decade, archaeologists have adopted more thoroughly automated object detection approaches for potential sites. These approaches included, among others, object detection methods, such as those of machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL) algorithms, as well as convolutional neural networks (CNN) and deep learning (DL) models using aerial and satellite images, airborne and spaceborne remote sensing (ASRS), multispectral, hyperspectral images, and active methods (synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and light detection and ranging radar (LiDAR)). Researchers also refer to the potential for archaeologists to explore such artificial intelligence (AI) approaches in various ways, such as identifying archaeological features and classifying them. Here, we present a review study related to the contributions of remote sensing (RS) and artificial intelligence in archaeology. However, a main question remains open in the field of research: the rate of positive contribution of remote sensing and artificial intelligence techniques in archaeological research. The scope of this study is to summarize the state of the art related to AI and RS for archaeological research and provide some further insights into the existing literature.
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