Use of optical and SAR satellite imagery for archaeological research

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Context and objectives

Researchers have described the Holocene evolution of the alluvial plane of the Euphrates in Syria, and suggested the presence of remainders of human settlements under the fluvial loam (2.4 m thick) deposited since 3000 BC. Other interesting morphological phenomena have been described, such as 3 paleomeanders from 3 distinct eras and old channels (probably for irrigation).
The synoptic representation of the earth’s surface by satellite images is of particular interest in regions where the access to or availability of maps and aerial photography is limited. It furthermore allows study of the relation between various elements of the paleographic system with its geomorphological, chronostratigraphic, sedimentological and archaeological aspects.
Purpose of the study : evaluation of the contribution of satellite remote sensing to the geomorphological mapping of the region and the detection of potentially new archaeological sites.

Project outcome

Expected scientific results

Thanks to the repetitivity of the image acquisition and the quality of the satellite images, remote sensing contributes to increase the knowledge of the paleogeographic system of the study area. The SPOT P image clearly illustrates the relation between the present boundaries of the irrigated fields and the borders of the old riverbed of the Euphrates, and is thus of the utmost importance for the study of the paleomeanders.
Superposition of the SPOT P image with the topographic and paleomorphological data allows correction and completion of the existing information (e.g. the Nahr Daourim canal). SPOT images provide the basis for spacemaps, which allow viewing of the area in a more synoptic way than with regular topographic maps.
Of the two sensors (ERS-1 SAR, radar and SPOT P, visual) used in the study, SPOT P provides the most useful information for paleographic research.
Other studies indicate that ERS-1 SAR images are suitable for mapping of soil humidity in arid regions, and have been used to determine the location of old riverbeds of the Nile.
A multisensor approach of high resolution optical images and SAR images probably provides optimal information.
Project leader(s): ULg - Laboratoire de Géomorphologie et Télédétection
Location: Region:
  • Euphrate alluvial plane