Thursday, February 18, 2016

Contributions of GIS to Landscape Archaeology in the Middle East

Landscape approaches and geospatial tools are increasingly being used in Middle Eastern archeology.  These approaches are particularly valuable here because of this geographic region’s “millennial-scale occupational history.” (p.230)

GIS has empowered Middle Eastern archaeologists in many different ways, “High-resolution, panchromatic, and multispectral images have made it possible to view entire regions from afar and conduct a virtual survey of ancient landscapes. On a practical level, this broad spatial perspective facilitates the identification of archaeological sites and off-site features over broad areas when ground access is not possible.” (p.255)

One of the applications GIS has had for archeologists is applying multi-spectral and elevation remote-sensing datasets  to reconstruct settlement patterns in northern Mesopotamia and other nearby regions. Through an algorithm that automatically identifies these archeological features based on elevation. They verified identifications against ground survey data and multispectral and multitemporal satellite imagery. (p.257)

However, satellite-based remote-sensing datasets were not equally helpful across the region. “High-resolution imagery proved useful for archaeological site prospection in lowland alluvial landscapes such as the Tigris–Euphrates and Nile River valleys. These datasets have been less beneficial in the mountainous highland areas of Turkey” (p. 249). Thus, as we can see in Fig. 3 most of the sites where the remote-sensors were utilized are located in extended low-lands or low elevation regions. Still, the combination of this approach along with ground surviving  and other documentation methods provide  great tools for Middle Eastern archaeologists “managing cultural heritage and documenting archaeological site destruction across the region.” (p. 266)

Source: Hritz, C. (2014). Contributions of GIS and satellite-based remote sensing to landscape archaeology in the Middle East. Journal of Archaeological Research, 22(3), 229-276.

I have acted with honesty and integrity in producing this work and am unaware of anyone who has not. -Ilka Vega


  1. It makes sense the mountains would be more difficult, given they're harder to transverse and so there may be fewer sites. I wonder if geological surveys of known sites could give insight as to more specific conditions to search for in mountain sites.

  2. Did they explain why remote-sensing was more accurate at lower elevations than at higher elevations? I wonder if there are different environmental factors that cause this.