GIS, Remote Sensing, and Landscape Archaeology
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter examines a number of current practices relating to the use of geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing, including developments in LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) in landscape archaeology. It explains landscape archaeology and what it encompasses; whether remote sensing and GIS are a formal part of landscape archaeology; whether GIS and remote sensing are the same or completely different subfields; and whether remote sensing covers both satellite and ground-based remote sensing. Also discussed are challenges faced by archaeologists with regards to the application of landscape archaeology. The article also considers the applications of ground-based remote sensing, GIS, photogrammetry, satellite remote sensing, and LiDAR in landscape archaeology; ethical issues in landscape archaeology; the problem of archaeological site looting; the use of open source data; and citizen science approaches to landscape archaeology. Finally, it reflects on the future prospects for landscape archaeology.
To examine the broad subject areas of geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, and landscape archaeology, we first need to define these separate yet interconnected terms. Are remote sensing and GIS a formal part of landscape archaeology? Are GIS and remote sensing the same thing, or are they completely different subfields? Does remote sensing cover both satellite remote sensing and ground-based remote sensing? With new advances in satellite and remote sensing technologies, as well as advances in computing, these fields seem to redefine themselves daily based on what is currently possible and will be possible. Practitioners of these fields and their related subfields cannot specialize in all areas: they must have both technical expertise and field-specific specializations. So, how can students familiarize themselves with all the appropriate technical tools they need, and how can archaeologists become more aware of all the tools and technologies at their fingertips to do better fieldwork? A vast array of opportunities exists, but the cost and time needed to learn these new technologies are deterrents, especially to those archaeologists working in countries with little to no fieldwork funding. A single chapter is not enough to cover even one of these three areas, but many books define their histories and general applications (Parcak 2009; Wiseman and El Baz 2007). Instead, this chapter summarizes the current state of play in landscape archaeology, making clear a number of current practices within GIS and remote sensing, including new and exciting developments with light detection and ranging (LiDAR). It is not possible to cover the hundreds of archaeologist projects using these new tools in innovative ways. Instead, this chapter highlights pertinent case study approaches primarily from the past 5 years to suggest best practices for future uses.
Defining Landscape Archaeology, GIS, and Remote Sensing
Before discussing a history of these approaches in archaeology, it is necessary to define them, or, perhaps, redefine them in light of recent technological advances. What is landscape archaeology, and what does it encompass? Although this chapter focuses more on the technology connected to landscape archaeology, there is an entire theoretical body of work that is essential to master (Johnson 2012). Landscape archaeology refers to how modern archaeologists assess, interpret, analyze, and experience ancient landscapes in their modern forms. It covers the invasive and noninvasive ways in which archaeologists obtain their data. It should be noted that archaeologists never “analyze” ancient landscapes, just as archaeologists never “excavate” ancient sites. These sites and landscapes exist as we do, in the present, and we must think of them as remnants. Landscape formation processes are just as crucial to understand as archaeological site formation processes, and affect the ways in which archaeologists can analyze them.
Separating ancient archaeological sites and their associated landscapes is also becoming increasingly problematic. Where does an ancient site end and the landscape begin? First, what we may consider to be the “end/edge” of an ancient site is merely its modern end/edge. In the Middle East, site edges are often defined by the beginning of an agricultural field, which may have cut into the site. Many groups of people lived within the confines of ancient temples, or in their close environs, or still do. Sites also contrast, expand, change, and discontinue at varying rates and through time. Also, countless ancient sites are beneath modern towns. Are those towns considered part of the archaeological landscape or not? I and my colleagues proposed a broader term to encompass this challenge. Instead of separating sites and landscapes, we suggested that archaeologists consider the term “sitescapes,” to encompass a site and its environs and to emphasize the interconnectedness of sites and their associated landscapes (e.g., fields, roads, hamlets) (Parcak et al. 2016). This may only compound the issue because we may never be able to find the true end or beginning of a site. We do, however, need broader terms to define what a total site might be.
GIS is much easier to define: GIS involves the use of commercial or open source tools to aggregate layers of data entered by human agents, at which point they can then be analyzed. Archaeologists use GIS in a myriad of ways to organize their excavation or survey data, input maps, add polygons, record Excel/database information, and compare various datasets. For a number of archaeological survey projects, GIS allows for in-field daily data entry and assessment of current project results with past seasons, which can allow researchers to adapt their in-field recovery strategies. ESRI, the main GIS software package used by archaeologists, has moved a number of its program functions online, allowing its users to share GIS databases as they are being developed. This facilitates global collaboration because multiple users can input datasets. The principle challenge is human-based: if the data entered by archaeologists are faulty, then project results will reflect that. GIS is now rarely used on its own for landscape archaeology because multiple projects add maps generated from ground-based survey or remote sensing. Open source packages like GRASS make it possible for archaeologists unable to purchase ESRI software to use GIS. The interface is not as user friendly and takes additional time to master, but it removes a significant financial impediment.
“Remote sensing” is a term that encompasses a broad range of archaeological tools and entails something all archaeologists do by remotely observing the world around them. Specifically, it refers to the archaeological application of space, airborne, and ground-based tools that allow archaeologists to see or better visualize a range of archaeological features that otherwise would remain unseen. Generally, these tools include but are not limited to satellite imagery, LiDAR, aerial photographs (collected from drones, unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs], airplanes, balloons, kites), ground penetrating radar, magnetometry, and resistivity equipment. The field of ground-based remote sensing is at this moment better defined than space or air-based remote sensing in that the tools available for use are more restricted. Multiple satellites are launched each year (as this is being written the WorldView-4 satellite launch launched in November 2016), and there are no defined methodologies for each of the satellite sensor types for sites across the globe. Even defining a single name for the field of applying satellite imagery to archaeology is problematic. Archaeologists have defined it variously as satellite archaeology, space archaeology, and satellite remote sensing for archaeology. NASA has a specific Space Archaeology program (now nearly 10 years old) to fund scientists applying remote sensing datasets to archaeological sites and landscapes. This name suggests that archaeologists are using imagery taken from space, which is simply misleading: remote sensing scientists use datasets captured from the mid-troposphere. It also suggests that archaeologists might be looking for sites in space, which is also untrue (although a subfield exists for the assessment of debris left in space by astronauts). The name, however, has captured the imagination of the public and has engaged a broader audience with archaeology and archaeological science. The term “aerial archaeology” has long been accepted (with an active aerial archaeology research group, see http://www.univie.ac.at/aarg/), so perhaps “satellite archaeology” represents a solid middle ground.
Landscape Archaeology Challenges
Archaeologists currently face many challenges connected to the application of landscape archaeology. Specifically in Europe and North America, cuts to social science programs and government funding for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) mean that archaeologists have had to turn to private funding for fieldwork and lab support. When US archaeologists apply to the National Science Foundation, they have a 5–10% chance of being funded. Thus, innovative approaches to archaeological survey are even more important to increase chances of funding support. Kickstarter and GoFundMe (and other sites like them) have been a boon (there is one archaeology-specific crowdfunding website, http://digventures.com/crowdfunding/), and using new technologies like satellite imagery can only help with fundraising. With limited funding, archaeologists need to have a laser-like focus for their fieldwork. Even ground-based remote sensing tools, which can be expensive, cannot be used until archaeologists know exactly where to work.
Departments are also under siege, with the Republican Party in the United States strongly against any disciplines outside the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. The areas described within this chapter show how connected STEM disciplines are to archaeology, and this supports the idea of archaeology as firmly bridging social science and science as a field. Discoveries made using satellite imagery, LiDAR, and other noninvasive tools have generated multiple news headlines, attracting students into archaeology classes, and giving academics more fuel for fundraising. Academics know that articles and books form the primary method of assessment for promotion, tenure, and departmental assessments, yet university PR offices are playing even stronger roles on campuses globally. With full introductory classes, more majors, and good PR, departments with archaeology components can push back against funding cuts.
Challenges extend beyond the classroom. With urbanization, climate change, war, and looting, many archaeological research projects have morphed into rescue projects. Many conference presenters now begin with, “We had one project focus in mind, but because of looting/ground water rising/conflict/a site being slated for partial bulldozing, we had to shift priorities.” This shows no signs of abating. The only way archaeologists can prepare fully for these increasing challenges is to have a more complete understanding of their sites and associated landscapes prior to their season starting, allowing them to adapt as needed. Having a Plan B is no longer enough: archaeologists now need plans C through Z. Longer term planning to protect archaeological sites and landscapes from looting activities is also a necessity. Without a good global database of archaeological sites, or even countrywide or regional databases, how can archaeologists monitor looting at sites? Putting together such databases is time-consuming and expensive, yet it is essential at a time when organizations like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have looted countless sites. Differentiating between ISIL’s looting and the looting of the Assad regime prior to 2011, for example, would assist international entities in monitoring art markets for illegal antiquities and their association with terrorism funding.
Obtaining expertise in archaeological remote sensing and GIS for landscape archaeology, as well as for ground-based remote sensing, is not easy. It may require a specific MA or PhD, and it certainly requires countless hours in a lab learning software, which then needs to be tested in the field. For ground-based remote sensing, many hours of practicums are needed, with hours spent in the field learning appropriate landscapes in which specific types of ground-based remote sensing tools might be needed. It can take 2–3 years to become proficient in the application of satellite remote sensing datasets, and GIS takes just as long to master. Classes only provide a fraction of the required expertise as each archaeologist learns how to apply datasets in his or her own region(s) of speciality. (Typically, archaeologists do not code and create their own algorithms; standard software packages are sufficient at present.) It is rare to work with archaeologists who are experts in the application of both GIS and satellite remote sensing tools. Although related, they are certainly separate, yet both are essential for good landscape analyses. Many job applications for university positions request expertise in landscape archaeology, making time spent learning remote sensing tools invaluable. Both form part of landscape archaeology, but a broader spectrum of approaches is needed, all dependent on landscape variables, permits, and budgets.
A Brief History of Landscape Archaeology
The study of ancient–recent landscapes has deep roots. Explorers and travelers in the past were intensely interested in our human heritage, including such ancient travelers as Pausanias (2nd century AD) and others (e.g., Herodotus, Strabo, Pliny) who sought out ancient landscapes in which notable events and construction had occurred (de Selincourt 1972). This tradition continued with many subsequent explorers (notably Ibn Battuta) and was revitalized during the Age of Exploration (beginning in the 16th century). It was later represented particularly by many Western travelers, including the British concept of a “Grand Tour” (c. 17th century) (Gkiasta 2008). A keen interest in locating ancient sites and events from the Bible and other works (e.g., classical accounts) led many early searchers in the 16th century and later to utilize topographic descriptions and place names in reconnoitering and locating historical sites (Gkiasta 2008). The Holy Land had long attracted travelers and pilgrims, many of whom had a keen interest in visiting, identifying, and sometimes recording key places of note, including F. J. Zuallart’s 1585 book illustrating landscapes, structures, and towns in the Levant; H. Maundre’s 1697 A Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem at Easter; and R. Pococke’s Description of the East (1743–45). Although professional interest in and investigation of past landscapes have evolved alongside the realization of how our planet and species have changed over time (e.g., Hutton’s 1785 Theory of the Earth; Lyell’s 1833 Principles of Geology; Darwin’s 1859 On the Origin of Species) and the emergence of archaeology as a discipline (e.g., de Perthes’ 1841 demonstration of the antiquity of humanity; Thomsen’s 1848 establishment of a “Three Age System”), landscape archaeology did not mature until the 1960s, with the birth of the New Archaeology concept and more scientific techniques for studying our past global heritage (Renfrew and Bahn 2016). The Napoleonic expedition to Egypt in 1798–1800 represents one of the earliest and most extensive attempts to study, map, and record a broad range of past sites, monuments, and other aspects of pharaonic Egypt and later periods (Napoleonic Expedition 1809). Likewise, the Levant continued to be explored and mapped more extensively by such key figures as Seetzen (1805–07 surveys); J. L. Burckhardt (1810–12), who rediscovered Petra; E. Robinson, who published a major geographic and archaeological survey in 1843, Biblical Researches in Palestine, Mount Sinai and Arabia Petraea; and others (e.g., Wilkie, Roberts, Lear) (Moorey 1991: 21–29). During the early to mid-1800s, in Mesopotamia, early pioneers such as C. J. Rich, H. C. Rawlinson, A. H. Layard, and many others contributed their travels, records, and findings in this region to the development of Assyriology (Lloyd 1980).
Today, landscape archaeology considers a broad range of aspects regarding diverse types of past human interactions with the environment (e.g., habitus, symbolic and cognitive landscapes, social organization, subsistence strategies, overexploitation and depletion of resources), multidisciplinary approaches (e.g., geoarchaeology and environmental change, climate, winds, sea level and coastlines, fluvial systems, macro and micro flora and fauna, other resources), data collection techniques (e.g., extensive surveys, excavation, coring), and analyses (e.g., settlement pattern studies, dendrochronology, pollen cores, soil micromorphology, GIS, simulation modeling) (Renfrew and Bahn 2016).
Ground-Based Remote Sensing and Landscape Archaeology
Ground-based remote sensing resembles airborne and space-based remote sensing in that all possible features must be investigated by excavation and coring to confirm their existence (Corsi, Vermeulen, and De Dapper, 2012b; Wilken et al. 2016). Archaeological teams must choose the most appropriate ground-based tools to detect possible features (Urban, Leon, and Manning 2014c). In most cases, it is necessary to utilize more than one sensor or more than one type of sensor because geological conditions can vary greatly over a site or a landscape (Matera et al. 2015; Pueyo et al. 2016; Schneider et al. 2016; Ullrich et al. 2016). One sensor may not help a team locate a feature while another one may (Martínez et al. 2015). Sensors are now sensitive enough to help archaeologists identify changing household composition over time (Thompson, Marquardt, and Walker 2014). Differentiating a true signal from noise is an ongoing issue for many projects (Majumder 2015), but with various tweaks to in-field surveys, in some cases archaeologists may not need to dig to gain a good sense of what lies beneath the surface (Bruseth et al. 2007). In other cases, ambiguous data due to poor soil conductivity or other issues may require future investigations with additional sensors (Barille, Bilotta, and Meduri 2013; Leucci, De Giorgi, and Scardozzi 2014). One recent study at Portus near Rome showed how varying space- and ground-based sensors revealed different features (Keay, Parcak, and Strutt 2014).
Unlike other sensors, ground-penetrating radar (GPR) offers a way for archaeologists to visualize subsurface data in three dimensions (3D; Leucci et al. 2016). Features previously obscured by infilling (Duke et al. 2016) or saturated clay-rich soils (Zhao, Tian, and Wang 2013a; Zhao et al. 2013b can be revealed by GPR, as can features obscured by reconstruction or tourism development (Armit et al. 2012; Odah et al. 2013). Different landscape types can greatly affect GPR results because there can be many obstacles in the form of modern vegetation or topography (Urban, Rowan, and Kersel 2014b). Simply lowering the antenna frequency of GPR produced positive results at a site in Cyprus (Urban et al. 2014a).
Noninvasive tools can map an entire city (Novo, Solla, and Fenollós 2014), using appropriate tools to reveal features of varying size, such as walls or city streets (Millaire and Eastaugh 2011; Mozzi et al. 2016). Ultimately, archaeologists need to input their remote sensing results into a GIS to integrate aerial and below-surface results (Corsi, Johnson, and Vermeulen 2012a), with the aim of mapping and protecting archaeological resources (Masini, Persico, and Rizzo 2012; Persico, Ciminale, and Matera 2014).
GIS and Landscape Archaeology
Although it is debatable whether satellite remote sensing is now part of the standard archaeological toolkit, GIS is very much a part of a majority of archaeological and anthropological projects (Codding and Jones 2013). It can both be a repository for archaeological data and a way to perform a myriad of statistical and other analyses on site and landscape data. One of the key areas where archaeologists use GIS is predictive modeling to narrow down the location of sites in large areas (Rogers, Fischer, and Huss 2014). This has helped to locate 13 new sites in Wyoming (Stim 2014). GIS can also be used to assess settlement patterns (Bevan and Conolly 2002–2004; Sadr and Rodier 2012) and model archaeological resource potential (Carleton, Conolly, and Ianonne 2012). How ancient peoples moved through their landscapes is something that is best understood through spatial network analyses (Early-Spadoni 2015; Wernke 2012). Site visibility has proved a factor for ancient peoples choosing specific places for their monuments (Dederix, 2015), and this can best be analyzed within a GIS. In the field, many archaeologists now record data directly into their project GIS (Tripcevich and Wernke 2010) via iPads or iPhones, which facilitates in field research design.
For years, archaeologists debated the use of aerial photographs versus satellite imagery (Parcak 2009). Although aerial photographs have a better resolution than satellite imagery (Gojda 2012; Gould 1987), prior to the advent of UAVs and drones, they could be difficult to obtain and relied on weather and seasonality. They could not be processed in the same way as multispectral or hyperspectral satellite imagery. Other imagery datasets, like CORONA, taken in the 1960s and 1970s as part of Cold War surveillance projects, now offer archaeologists the ability to see at a high resolution landscapes that are either destroyed or largely altered (Challis et al., 2002–2004; Conesa et al. 2015). Today, archaeologists are revisiting historic aerial photographs and reassessing them using digital photogrammetric techniques or using infrared aerial photographs in innovative ways. For example, in western Thessaly, archaeologists discovered hundreds of features not discoverable by conventional remote sensing (Horengo et al. 2015). Cropmarks are still relatively easy to identify from standard aerial photographs (Gojda and Hejcman 2012), which may be more cost efficient than satellite imagery analyses. Environmental aerial photographic archives have also provided rich archaeological data (Bennett et al. 2013), but these must be assessed using new workflows (Bennett, Cowley, and De Laet 2014). With UAVs (Mozas-Calvache et al. 2012), data can be collected quickly at a far lower cost (Thomas 2016), especially with the use of video thermal radiometers that can detect features impossible to see from aerial photographs (Ben-Dor et al. 1999). Drone imagery can be used to create high-resolution 3D models (Dubbini, Curzio, and Campedelli 2016; Ortiz et al. 2013). New workflows allow for more rapid assessment of these data (McCarthy 2014; Sevara 2016).
For specific site or feature assessment, the ability to visualize and recreate archaeological features and entire sites has been greatly expanded with new GPS mapping equipment, photogrammetry, and open source 3D modeling software, all of which can be imported into GIS (including underwater features; see Jaklič et al. 2015). Using a differential GPS (DGPS) that has a horizontal accuracy of a few centimeters and a vertical accuracy of a few millimeters, an archaeologist can create a topographic map of an entire landscape in the time it takes to walk the requisite transects. Once uploaded to an open source 3D modeling platform such as SketchUp, a topographic surface can be rendered with such accuracy that even the smallest of topographic features becomes visible. This process is superior to LiDAR in that it does not incur the cost of a specially tasked airplane and there is no error due to dense vegetation. However, it is only viable in easily accessible areas that are suitable to ground survey. Using the same equipment (DGPS), a surveyor can also record the points of an individual feature so that it can be recreated with the utmost accuracy in three dimensions. Such precision saves time for archaeologists in the field (thus limiting the need to sketch and record features by hand) and also builds the foundation for a 3D model of the feature. This model can then be used for educational visualizations as well as for future research and to better understand the placement of the feature in its larger landscape (e.g., for both interior features like caves and surrounding landscapes; Hoffmeister et al. 2016).
Photogrammetry facilitates another aspect of the potential of 3D visualization (Olson et al. 2013). Because this process uses several images of the same object or feature taken from different angles to create a point cloud based on the variable reflectance of corresponding pixels in each image to determine distance and therefore shape (Spring and Caradoc 2014; Thomas and Kennedy 2016), it is helpful at both macro and micro scales (Arav et al. 2015). At macro scale, archaeologists can use this tool to create 3D models of a landscape or feature using aerial photography from a drone. This lacks the geographic precision of DGPS but collects millions more reference points as well as the reflective value for each pixel (and therefore object) in the image. The accuracy is therefore only limited by the resolution of the camera and the number of points in the cloud a computer can process. At micro scale, photogrammetry allows archaeologists to recreate whole objects in the lab, including large statues (Miles et al. 2014), or to perform spectroradiometric analyses on specific objects (Lysandrou et al. 2016). In countries where objects are strictly unable to leave the site or the country, an archaeologist is usually limited to working with those objects while in the field. However, using photogrammetry, one could theoretically make a 3D model of the object precise enough to be printed out and studied as an exact replica down to the smallest detail.
Satellite Remote Sensing
Geophysical tools are now a standard part of the archaeological toolkit and have been for some time. With conference panels, dedicated journal issues, books (Lasaponara and Masini 2014; Parcak 2009), grants, and increasing numbers of publications in top journals dedicated to it (Lysandrou et al. 2016; De Laet 2013), it is tempting to suggest that satellite remote sensing is now a standard archaeological practice. However, there are no standardized approaches yet and may never be. With dozens of satellites, specific approaches per landscape or culture type, new satellites launching every year, and thousands of new satellite images captured every day, it has not proved possible for archaeological publications or specialists to keep pace with the data. One can suggest that it is now standard to include some form of satellite imagery in conference presentations and research projects to show an increased awareness of the technology. What is debatable is the actual usefulness of these data in various projects. I and my colleagues have attended a number of conference presentations where the presenters have not used appropriate satellite imagery from the correct time of year to locate sites/features. Some dismiss the usefulness of the imagery without realizing that their research design was faulty. This is slowly changing with better training of graduate students and the increasing quality of academic research papers. As a whole, archaeological remote sensing is generally reactive, taking remote sensing tools developed for environmental and geological analyses and testing them for site location.
Initially, there was overenthusiasm for what satellites might be able to do for archaeology (as with any new archaeological technology). An exploration period has existed for the past 15 years, in which archaeologists have consulted dozens of datasets to test their usability in diverse global projects. We have made much progress, yet we are still discovering how even coarse and free datasets like Landsat (Zeng, Shen, and Zhang 2013) might assist with archaeological discovery (Showalter 1993). There remain large areas of the world where satellite remote sensing is not used due to its cost, poor Internet access for downloading free data, lack of storage for imagery, and the cost of remote sensing programs. It is more widely used in some fields, such as archaeology in the Middle East versus the North Atlantic. With new collaborations, this is slowly changing. Integrated approaches have become essential for remote sensing. Archaeologists are now using multiple datasets in combination with ground approaches. There is far greater criticism about which methods do and do not work since there is no one-size-fits-all solution to locating or mapping features in a landscape.
Satellite remote sensing analyses will be affected primarily by data availability and the landscapes in which one is working. One technique for a given satellite image is no longer sufficient: archaeologists must use multiple sensors and different resolutions from varying seasons and must often fuse different datasets (Wang, Shi, Atkinson, and Zhao 2015). Scale is also a major issue. With small to large landscapes being evaluated, coarser resolution imagery may be the most cost efficient way to approach site detection (Menze and Ur 2012). Archaeologists must test dozens to hundreds of algorithms to see which, if any, form a “best fit” for the landscapes or sites in question. Techniques like NDVI (Agapiou, Hadjimitis, and Alexakis 2013a; Agapiou et al 2013b; Keeney and Hickey 2015), principle components analysis (Aqdis, Hanson, and Drummon 2012), band ratioing (Vining 2015), and object-oriented classification (Lasaponara et al. 2016) are popular approaches for many projects. Whether a researcher is looking specifically for more general features (Ross et al. 2009), burial mounds (Oltean 2013), quarries (De Laet 2015), or longer term environmental changes (Hritz 2010), archaeologists must adapt their approaches accordingly and can learn much from similar remote sensing analyses from other fields in the same geographic zones. Radar imagery, in particular from new missions like Sentinel-1 and ALOS-2, is also valuable for buried feature detection (Barett et al. 2014). It functions best in desert environments like Sudan (Dore et al. 2013) or Mongolia (Holcomb 2001), but offers many exciting new avenues for archaeological research (Lasaponara and Masini 2013; Tapetem and Cigna 2016).
Hyperspectral sensors are becoming increasingly important (Doneus et al. 2014) as archaeologists tease out specific spectral signatures for mining sites (Savage, Levy, and Jones 2012) or ground sites using handheld spectroradiometers for correlation purposes (Agapiou et al., 2012). Using specific parts of hyperspectral sensors to detect chemical signatures for activities or building materials that can be dated to a specific time period is a major challenge right now. We cannot date sites from space unless we detect them in relationship to other known sites from exact time periods or with sufficiently defined features approximating other known features from specific time periods. In the future, we may be able to see chemical signatures mixed from different times periods, much like we do with landscape cover classifications. With very-high-resolution satellite imagery, we may eventually be able to read the chemical signatures of pottery or activities dating to specific time periods.
Archaeological projects with the best overall results tend to use a combination of satellite remote sensing, LiDAR, geophysics, coring, excavation, and survey (Sarris et al. 2013). There are things one can see from space that you cannot visit or check on the ground, and this can hinder archaeological exploration. Thus, it should be noted that not all approaches are possible: war, land access, time on the ground, funding, survey size, and other issues all affect fieldwork, which can make noninvasive approaches crucial. Archaeologists discovered an early Roman fortification system in northeastern Italy using LiDAR, GPR, and ground survey (Bernardini et al. 2015). In Austria, using airborne imaging spectroscopy, electromagnetic induction, and GPR, archaeologists mapped large parts of the Roman town of Carnuntum and used these data in town reconstruction (Neubauer et al. 2014). Roman sites tend to be large and often occur in landscapes where integrated approaches are possible. Areas where sites exist from multiple periods of time may also benefit from integrated approaches because each technique may assist with finding a different site type (Fall et al. 2012). Historic data can play a key role: archaeologists used 1950s aerial photographs, Landsat, and Quickbird imagery to identify a chinampa system in the northern Basin of Mexico (Morehart 2012). Assessing archaeological and environmental data in tandem makes this approach important (Schaan et al. 2012), as shown by a project focusing on the Bakong temple by Lake Tonle Sap in Cambodia, which used aerial photographs, ground surveys, GPR, and high-resolution satellite synthetic aperture radar (Sonnemann 2015). The discovery of ephemeral features like roads can come from old census data used together with satellite remote sensing and GIS (Luo et al. 2014).
LiDAR and Landscape Archaeology
No current remotely sensed dataset is having a greater impact in landscape archaeology than LiDAR. This sensor system can be flown on a helicopter, airplane, or UAV. LiDAR is a laser system that sends down hundreds of thousands of pulse beams of energy to the surface of the earth. The return readings of the sensor system allow scientists to create point cloud datasets of landscapes and the vegetation atop them. Each return captures the tops of the varying levels of vegetation, down to the surface. Using LiDAR software, archaeologists can visually remove overlying vegetation to create what is known as a bare earth model. This model can assist teams in finding archaeological features that would otherwise be nearly completely obscured. It works better in detecting larger monumental features, where the vegetation is not so dense that smaller features may actually be removed during data processing. The principle barriers to its broader application are cost, permissions, and expertise needed to process the data. Typically, LiDAR costs about $1,000 per square kilometer, although reduced rates can be obtained with companies that collect the data for larger tasked areas. In countries in the Middle East or elsewhere, it may be impossible to obtain military permissions for LiDAR data. As well, one must have the appropriate software to analyze the data because subtle features may likely only appear after processing.
Multiple LiDAR projects have made headlines, making the general public more aware of its applicability and usefulness. The first major project to gain this attention is under the direction of Diane and Arlen Chase at Caracol in Belize. The Chases used LiDAR to reveal hundreds of previously unknown sites and features at Caracol and its environs (Chase, Chase, and Weishampel 2010; Chase et al. 2011; Chase et al. 2012a; Chase, Chase, and Weishampel 2012b). One artist created a thoughtful reconstruction of one particular set of pyramids, showing how much data it was possible to recover from LiDAR. These data have helped archaeologists to visualize the density of occupation surrounding Caracol. The work there continues, with an even larger dataset currently being analyzed by the Chase’s team. If the previous results are indicative, then they will likely find thousands of previously unknown sites and features. The findings how show how intensively the Maya occupied their landscapes and will certainly help to shed light on the Maya civilization’s growth and collapse. This research has led to other studies using LiDAR in Central America, such as at the Maya site of Uxbenká, which found hilltop modifications and small residential structures (Prufer, Thompson, and Kennett 2015). In southern Mexico, LiDAR aided archaeologists in determining Pre-Columbian settlement patterns and land use (Golden et al. 2016). In northern Yucatan, it helped in the location of low stone residential platforms (Hutson 2015), while in Copan it assisted in the creation of better site maps (Von Schwerin et al. 2016).
Another region that has received much attention regarding the application of LiDAR data is Angkor Wat (Hendrickson and Evans 2015). The mapping and analysis conducted by Damian Evans and his team (Evans et al. 2013a; Evans, Hanus, and Fletcher 2013b) have revealed numerous new structures and features, showing a more formally planned urban landscape and that the site was much bigger than previously assumed (Evans and Fletcher 2015). The LiDAR work also revealed lower density occupation within the temple complexes (Stark, Evans, Rachna, Piphal, and Carter 2015). Mapping in the region of Angkor has been difficult for archaeologists due to the dense vegetation cover as well as the colossal size and number of the temples. The LiDAR data shows how intensively the inhabitants of Angkor Wat modified their landscapes to manage natural resources (Evans et al. 2013a; Hanus and Evans 2016; Penny, Chevance, and Tang 2014). Closely related to this work is an analysis of the biomass in the environs of Angkor, which assisted the researchers with longer term planning (Singh, Evans, and Friess 2015a; Singh et al. 2015b).
Now that archaeologists have gained a better understanding of the application of LiDAR to landscapes (Risnol et al. 2013; Štular et al. 2012), broader uses are possible, especially with new techniques for pixel-based and object-oriented data classification (Sevara et al. 2016). Additional studies with LiDAR have taken place in the United States, Caribbean, South Pacific, and Europe. In the United Kingdom, LiDAR has assisted archaeologists in landscape modeling (Bennett et al. 2012), tracing modern contamination from older industrial sites (Kincey et al. 2014), and locating 285 previously unknown features in northern Ireland (McNeary 2014). In Spain, LiDAR has assisted archaeologists in analyzing hydraulic engineering techniques from Roman period mining (Fernandez-Lozano, Gutiérrez-Alonzo, and Fernández-Morán 2015). LiDAR also aided archaeologists in locating Roman period fortresses in northeastern Italy (Bernardini et al. 2013). For underwater archaeologists, LiDAR offers an exciting way to locate shipwrecks, as seen from the discovery of four ships off Dongsha Atoll in the South China Sea (Tian-Yuan, Chen, and Chen 2014) and a Roman villa off the northern Adriatic coast (Doneus et al. 2013). Publicly available data in the United States have provided a cost-efficient way for archaeologists to use LiDAR to locate sites in New England (Johnson and Ouimet 2014) and generate better archaeological maps in Florida (Pluckhahn and Thompson 2012), as well as to relocate shell mounds there (Randall 2014). In tropical locations, archaeologists have used LiDAR to visualize sites and features (in Montserrat, see Opitz et al. 2015). They have also used automated feature extraction techniques in Tonga, where they found 10,000 mounds (Freeland et al. 2016). Regardless of the features located, LiDAR surveys still require on-the-ground survey and testing (Krasinski et al. 2016; Schneider et al. 2015).
Landscape Archaeology and Ethics
With remotely sensed data becoming easier to obtain and use, archaeologists need to consider related ethical issues. It seems likely that looters are now using satellite imagery tools like Google Earth to locate sites and find features on them. I have had many individuals contact me from regions like the Middle East with requests to verify features and sites using satellite imagery. It is possible that many of these requests are innocent, yet most come from email accounts with suspiciously random user names that I suspect are an attempt to conceal their identities. It is harmful and unethical to publish the exact locations of new sites because looters search online publications for location data. This is a well-known problem in Egypt, for example, where the publication of rock inscriptions in the eastern desert of Egypt (with associated GPS data) have likely led to their removal and destruction. Many archaeologists include an offset in any mapping data or furnish general site locations only, with password-protected maps available only to members of the academic community. Many academic publications maintain firewalls (which is problematic in and of itself) and thus may protect maps with sensitive location data, yet many authors still display otherwise protected publications with such data online on their websites or on academic websites like academia.edu.
Resolution improvements on satellite imagery are also becoming an ethical issue. Every 2–3 years, satellite imagery improves by 0.1–0.2 meters. It is now possible to get imagery at a resolution of 0.3 meters, which makes it possible to see most architectural features at most sites. It seems likely that we will see a resolution of 0.1 m imagery in the next 5 years, which will begin to show things like large statues clearly and certainly all architecture. Following Moore’s law, we will continue to see additional improvements of imagery over time. What will happen when we can zoom in from space and identify potsherds or other small objects? What happens when we can catch people in the act of looting? Will there be enough identifying details in the imagery (e.g., license plates on cars) to prosecute individuals? And can this type of data be used as evidence in criminal courts?
Upon hearing rumors of a major discovery, it is now possible for anyone (archaeologist or otherwise) to order high-resolution imagery as it is being excavated. Should archaeologists work under tarps or shelters to prevent this from happening, to prevent scoops from occurring (i.e., theft of intellectual property)? If anyone attempted to publish on a so-called discovery made using this claim-jumping method, one might expect that most journal editors would refuse to print it. However this would not prevent unethical or unwitting reporters from showcasing the imagery, which could affect site security. Looters can also easily purchase satellite imagery via legal means. Even though satellite imagery companies run basic security checks on their customers, it is impossible for these companies to know the ultimate goals of purchased imagery. These the types of issues that practitioners of landscape archaeology must increasingly consider. More broadly, archaeologists must also consider ethical issues in the field specifically related to Institutional Review Board criteria for human subjects. Human subjects must never be put at risk, and universities review research projects to make sure that they adhere to the highest ethical standards. This has become an issue with regard to remotely sensed data, to ensure that those reporting site looting are not subpoenaed.
How archaeologists should share data and maps is currently being hotly debated. Some have argued for open online repositories, while others insist that such repositories must be password-protected and secure. Both sides have merit, but, ultimately, site data must be protected. Ministries of Culture often do not have countrywide site data, or, if they do, it is incomplete. One wonders how any country can protect its sites efficiently without such data, and it is important to have these databases available for researchers and security forces to consult. There is a balance to be maintained between site data accessibility and site protection. Perhaps a password-protected database is the way to go, but one cannot guarantee data security, and it is hard to say where these data should be housed.
Looting Detection and Site Monitoring
Across the globe, but specifically in the Middle East and North Africa, archaeological site looting has intensified. Archaeological looting and theft are not new issues: there are countless examples of ancient cultures stealing, sacking, or reusing material culture and building materials. Given increasing urbanization, deforestation, global warming, poverty, and violence, looting apparently is on the rise, yet there is no acceptable countrywide or global looting monitoring or site damage system in place. In general, archaeological looting is fairly standard at sites: small gangs of looters (typically youths) dig holes randomly. They normally do not locate many antiquities. If security is not present at a site, over the period of a few weeks, larger gangs typically start more organized and systematic looting. It is rumored that some looting gangs have used GPR to locate buried tombs and walls to follow and may in fact be using satellite imagery. This is ironic: Tom Sever warned us in 1984 that if we did not develop systematic protocols to protect sites using geospatial data, the “pot hunters will beat us” (Sever and Wisemen 1984).
Looting is easy to recognize from high-resolution satellite images: in general, imagery reveals a dark pit or square surrounded by a donut-shaped embankment of earth. It sometimes can be easy to confuse excavation units and looting pits, so it is essential to build a good GIS using previous excavation and survey data to differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate work. In cases of looting, utilizing time series data is recommended: a single satellite image can only show activity at one time, whereas images taken over time will show activity intensification. Without good site databases, it can be hard to locate ongoing site looting at well-known, little-known, or poorly guarded sites where looting may be worse. (Illegal site construction can actually be far worse than looting for site preservation, whether it involves adding physical structures, garbage pits, or sewage pipes.) These sorts of activities can all be detected using high-resolution satellite imagery, most of which is open source via Google Earth or Bing. Archaeologists can use these data to create risk assessment maps for sites to suggest which parts may be affected by future development. This, in turn, may affect long-term site preservation and protection plans.
Archaeologists have used satellite data to detect looting within many countries, including Peru (Coluzzi, Lasaponara, and Masini 2010; Contreras 2010; Lasaponara et al. 2014); Iraq (E. Stone 2008; P. Stone 2009), Afghanistan (Thomas 2004; Thomas et al. 2008), Jordan (Contreras and Brodie 2010), and Syria (American Association for the Advancement of Science 2014; Casana and Panahipour 2014; Tapetem, Cigna, and Donoghue 2016). One recent study used high-resolution open source satellite data across Egypt to identify 250,000 looting pits at nearly 300 sites, using 12 years of data acquired from thousands of sites (Parcak 2015; Parcak et al. 2016). Through the results of this project, the team proved that long-term trends in looting can be connected directly to global economic issues, with looting increasing dramatically following the global recession of 2009. Ongoing studies have also shown the extent and scale of archaeological site damage and associated looting at sites in Iraq, Syria, and Libya by groups like ISIL. One cannot use satellite imagery to show exactly what looters stole from sites, but the location of the looting pits and the sites where archaeologists observed them may suggest the date ranges, types, and quantities of objects taken based on previous work at these sites and areas within these sites. This information can be used by authorities to estimate the probable value of what may have been taken, as well as to monitor auction houses for the extrapolated types of looted objects. Satellite imagery has much to offer the field of heritage management generally, but these approaches are in their infancy compared to those developed for remote sensing discovery and mapping research. Groups like UNESCO would do well to adopt more satellite imagery analyses in their efforts to monitor ancient sites and landscapes.
Open Source Data
Open source tools like Google Earth and Bing, as well as NASA satellite data, have had enormous impacts on the types of landscape archaeology practiced globally. They have made satellite imagery easy to use, with a majority of archaeological projects utilizing them to examine sites, site layouts, and environs. Even archaeologists who may consider themselves technologically challenged have few problems opening Google Earth and zooming in to their sites. For those countries with good Internet access, open source data make monitoring sites easier because many parts of the world have multiple images (while other regions do not, or only have poor resolution data). Aerial photographs with a resolution of 0.2 meters are available on Google Earth for large parts of the United States. However, beyond zooming in and out, it is not possible to do any other remote sensing analyses with Google Earth or Bing. As a result of their ease of use, users in the general public regularly post interesting screenshots of things they have “discovered,” including archaeological features. I and my colleagues receive emails on a weekly and sometimes daily basis with diverse inquiries: most questions appear innocent, and some reflect true discoveries, although whether they represent “new” findings may be disputed. About 20% of these received emails are from the “fringe,” from people who claim to have found such things as ancient glyphs hidden in modern landscapes to evidence of ancient alien terraforming. (These claims also included some so-called pyramids in Egypt that are actually common, natural geological formations.) When scholars gently point out that many of these discoveries are not real, there is often negative pushback from the individuals involved. More tools need to be made available to educate the public on archaeological remote sensing, which the new crowdsourcing tool from GlobalXplorer will hopefully do. More concerning issues include emails received from the Middle East and Southeast Asia with queries about site locations and associated archaeological findings. The general advice is not to respond if one is uncertain regarding the identity of the persons making the inquiry (although nothing prevents these individuals from confirming their speculations or discoveries on the ground with GPS units). We do not suggest that Google Earth is allowing looting to take place via new or known site locations, but, given the rise in the amount of looting in the Middle East at hard to reach ancient sites, it looks suspicious. We know that publishing site locations and their coordinates does lead to looting, so it is not beyond belief to suggest this. Archaeologists must take a harder stance on concealing site location data, especially with online and open access maps.
Citizen Science Approaches
Given the widespread availability of high-resolution data on open source platforms like Google Earth, Bing, and others, new approaches are being developed that include crowdsourcing. There are both tremendous advantages and disadvantages to citizen science approaches, with the primary challenge being that we are still in the infancy of citizen science in the field of archaeology. If approached correctly, it could offer much to the field, but great caution must be exercised to protect archaeological sites from looters and others who would seek to damage or destroy them. Also, at present, the citizen science projects presented have either been slick looking yet archaeologically and scientifically problematic (e.g., the Genghis Khan project), or technologically more savvy yet problematic in their end application (e.g., Terrawatchers, primarily due to data availability and ground conflict). Sites unknown to the archaeological community and about which we know nothing are at major risk of being looted. Their “undiscovered” state has proved less capable of aiding their preservation than we would have hoped. Until we know where they are, there is very little we can do to stop their ongoing destruction.
The Genghis Khan project (Lin et al. 2014) started in summer 2010, funded by National Geographic, and used standard color satellite imagery from DigitalGlobe in a large-scale crowdsourcing effort. Nearly 220,000 users participated in the online search, with (according to the website) over a million tiles processed. The imagery primarily came from the Geoeye and IKONOS satellites (with 0.5 m and 1 meter resolution, respectively). After logging in, users could tag a road, river, modern structure, ancient structure, or “other.” The primary purpose of the project, as stated on the project website, was to identify the tomb of Genghis Khan and other archaeological features. The website is easy to use, works well, and can be visited quickly. Although users identified numerous features, the project only included unprocessed visual satellite data. This presented a major archaeological remote sensing issue: although numerous archaeological features are visually apparent on Google Earth (as discussed elsewhere in this chapter), additional processing (using vegetation indices, classification, edge detection, ratioing, or numerous other techniques) can make many more otherwise invisible features appear. Batch processing the imagery and then uploading it would have clearly made many hidden features visible. If the Genghis Khan team had taken more time to test remote sensing methods on known burial mounds to see what worked best, they could have better focused their efforts with batch processing. Their article claims that the crowdsourcing efforts located a few potential features, but a lack of archaeological and remote sensing expertise made this a missed opportunity, especially given the terrain covered and that many more features should have appeared. Searching for “missing” large and well-known tombs also misses the primary point of archaeology: it is not about a search for single historic figures, but about bigger questions. The good news is that many lessons were learned, and the platform shows that the world is ready for archaeological crowdsourcing using satellite data.
The Terrawatchers (TW) crowdsourcing project (http://terrawatchers.org/), run via the University of Arizona, was set up in response to the looting and site damage crisis in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. With large numbers of private and university projects mapping looting across the region but focusing on specific areas or specific types of site damage (looting vs. intentional damage), it proved necessary to do a larger scale project that involved the general public. The TW project not only recorded site looting, but also air defense sites, military trenches, dug-in military hardware, bomb damage, and other impacts of military activity. Unlike other looting mapping projects, TW mapped the overall presence of military impact or looting versus the total amount of looting. The site is already seeded with data, with nearly 300 spots identified so far in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. User training is lengthy, taking a specialist about an hour to read through, but it is impressive in its detail. Users can zoom in or out. Even though there is nothing in place to mask the data, this is the only way to have multiple eyes focus on different types of site damage.
GlobalXplorer is a citizen science platform with the stated mission of using satellite imagery to monitor archaeological looting, track encroachment at sites, and discover unknown sites around the world before they are affected by either problem. To do this, the platform uses the power of the crowd to filter through millions of square miles of high-resolution satellite imagery (30–50 centimeters) in a fraction of the time it would take a trained team of archaeologists. To accomplish the stated goal, the online community of volunteers is taught how to recognize looting, encroachment, and undiscovered anthropogenic features. To ensure that looters are not able to use the platform, all location information about the image has been removed. As the users work through the tiled satellite images, they mark any images “positive” that show signs of damage or undiscovered features. A crowd-ranked algorithm then compiles all the users’ responses about an individual tile. If a large number of users agree that a tile shows looting or a new feature, then it is saved for further review by a satellite remote sensing specialist. This filter of “uninteresting” tiles represents the full power of the crowd: it is not to remove the specialist from the process, but to utilize better his abilities in checking the limited results of the crowd. Once a consensus has been reached by the crowd for the entirety of the study area (i.e., a single country or archaeological region), then the preservation phase begins.
All data about site destruction are shared with relevant national agencies tasked with site protection so that they may both ground-truth the data and institute action plans to intercept looters and prevent further loss. Information about new potential features is also shared with appropriate agencies and trusted, professional archaeologists who work in the area. They are tasked with verifying any potential discoveries with the community via social media and carrying out any landscape surveys and excavations. Only once a government and the archaeologists are prepared to share the location of the new sites will they be shared. To guarantee the long-term survival of these sites, the final step is to engage with the local population. The goals here are twofold: to create a heritage connection between the local communities and the site via education and inclusion in the process and to remove or diminish the economic imperative and necessity to loot to survive.
The Future of Landscape Archaeology
What, then, does the future hold for approaches in landscape archaeology? In the Middle East, looting and site destruction are rampant. In Egypt alone, if looting continues at its current rate, all sites will be affected by looting and damage by 2040 (Parcak et al. 2016). Other countries likely have similar challenges. It is interesting to note that this projected 2040 figure matches the known “tipping point” for global environmental destruction as well. Archaeologists have a primary responsibility to protect and preserve our shared heritage for future generations, but they cannot do it without using state-of-the-art technologies in an equally responsible way. Using iPads, iPhones, and Android devices, it is now easier than ever to record data as it is being uncovered in the field for ongoing analyses as well as for sharing with colleagues. Real-time survey will have much to offer the field versus standard paper recording because archaeologists can examine processed data while working. For example, I processed WorldView-2 multispectral satellite imagery in a landscape of northern Iceland in order to discover possible medieval and Norse structures buried in fields. Initial efforts located possible buried structures, but, without the benefit of previous fieldwork and knowledge of the local landscapes, it seemed the structures were missed. Once I visited the landscapes in question, I reprocessed the data with the assistance of the survey team, and they helped me to interpret the data. Subsequent coring revealed multiple ephemeral Norse structures. Without prior landscape knowledge, it is likely that many features would have been missed.
With hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of undocumented archaeological sites across the globe, archaeologists now have sufficient tools and technologies available to detect and protect these sites, but not enough is being done. The question of creating a global archaeological site database is one that should be considered carefully, yet how these data would be protected from looters is of the utmost concern. With ongoing developments in the field of automation and feature detection, many sites could be discovered almost instantly from across an entire country or region. Currently, most remote sensing archaeological specialists mistake semi-automation for proper automation (classification and object-based detection are not pure automation, but semi-automation), yet future studies may offer a path ahead. Real-time data capture is not possible at present: there is a lag of a few days to a few months from placing an order to receiving satellite data. The US government and military have priority for receiving US-based high-resolution imagery; other sensors, like Pleiades, can be received within a few days but are extremely costly. New “doves,” or small sensors, offer exciting potential, but the resolution is 20 times less than high-resolution imagery (and is not multispectral) and simply is not of high enough quality to use for site detection and monitoring. Most sites near urban areas generally are imaged several times a year, making site monitoring possible for sites in these locations. If site detection is desired, especially with so many high resolution sensors, in general one can find what one needs for satellite processing. Perspective is also needed: 15 years ago, a single high-resolution satellite image cost $5,000. Now, the same image can be obtained for as little as $250.
Current research with UAVs and multi- and hyperspectral imagery has begun to hint at what will be possible with hyperspectral cameras on drones. If archaeologists can image their sites at the right time of day, in the right season, with optimal weather conditions, then many additional subsurface features will become apparent. Space-based high resolution LIDAR is another consideration. Stand-alone systems would cost tens of millions of dollars (if not more) to develop—but what if scientists instead partnered with commercial airlines? There are many thousands of sites still to be located in Central and South America, Southeast Asia, and central Africa, as suggested by the hundreds of additional features discovered by scientists in the past 5 years alone. Our assumptions about these landscapes and their intensity (and density) of past occupation have been proved wrong time and time again.
A major hurdle to overcome is access to tools for state-of-the-art landscape archaeology, combined with local buy-in for site protection and preservation by those who are living on or next to vulnerable sites. Our modern archaeological palimpsests are more often a result of our ignorance. Locals almost always know if they are living atop an ancient site, even as foreigners claim they have “discovered” an ancient site in the same place. We need more landscape training programs for archaeologists globally, connecting them to each other as well as to the myriad of open source tools that now exist. All Western archaeologists who are fortunate enough to have permits to work in foreign countries should offer training programs. This is most often achievable via joint archaeological missions, where each can learn from the other. The same problems exist almost everywhere for site protection, and unless we start sharing resources and ideas, they will only get worse.
Inspiring the next generation of landscape archaeologists is another area that merits consideration. We can see the great popular appeal of landscape archaeology on TV, with series like Digging for Britain and Timeteam regularly using a range of remote sensing and noninvasive exploration tools. Many students in the United Kingdom cite these shows as inspirations for choosing archaeology courses at universities. Shows on the BBC and the Discovery Channel, like “Egypt’s Lost Cities,” “Rome’s Lost Empire,” and others, have brought remote sensing to a more worldwide audience. Perhaps archaeology should follow other scientific fields and have regular archaeological hackathons, inviting schoolchildren to come up with innovative tools to map and protect sites. The GlobalXplorer project will get many thousands of schoolchildren involved with landscape archaeology globally, but the long-term effects of this project will not be understood for years.
Google has an entire division dedicated to “moonshots”—those great ideas that may seem impossible—yet archaeology has no grants or awards for similar projects. We could not have predicted the advances in landscape archaeology 10 years ago, when high-resolution imagery was only beginning to be made more broadly available. Where, then, will we be in 10 more years? What if archaeologists could send microscopic bots or sensors into an area to create the equivalent of a magnetic resonance image (MRI) for an entire site? These bots could collect and send chemical samples back to archaeologists in the lab. Microdrones could map a whole landscape in 3D, collecting hyperspectral data at the same time. While this might seem to be in the realm of science fiction or fantasy at present, consider your cell phone, which is emblematic of the great advances in computing made over the past 50 years. Perhaps, then, our field needs to create an ArchaeoX team, a team of top archaeologists, engineers, and scientists who meet regularly to invent, hack, and create new solutions for mapping and surveying. Other related fields, like palaeoanthropology (O’Regan, Wilkinson, and Marston 2016), have only just begun to explore the use of remote sensing. What we hope to achieve via landscape archaeology will be influenced by both the possibility of new technologies and the threats to archaeological sites. The hope is that we can work fast enough to map and protect our ancient heritage and treasures before they disappear.
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