Archaeology & Gis: Geospatial World Forum 2011

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Archaeologists are increasingly finding greater uses of geospatial technologies to enhance the efficiency of their processes and value add to the findings. The use of remote sensing offers archeologists the opportunity to detect the impacts of human action upon the environment, a significant component in tracing human history, which are often invisible to the naked eye. The interrelationship of land and cultural aspect has led to the use of space technology in conjunction with GIS and GPS for archaeological application, says M.B. Rajani, Research Scholar, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, India. She adds that the synoptic viewing ability of the space observations facilitates understanding of sites in context of their surrounding and also has the potential to discover new sites. Today’s space-based remote sensing has a broad range of imaging capabilities in terms of spatial, spectral, radiometric and temporal characteristics. The imageries, after digital and visual analysis to identify features, can be integrated into GIS. GIS also facilitates analyzing remote sensing data together with ground truthing to derive archaeological information and project the same in the form of thematic maps, while GPS allows navigating and locating sites accurately. Magnetometry, GPR, resistivity, LiDAR and ground-based lasers are also finding place in archaeological processes.

Elaborating on the benefits of geospatial technologies in such expeditions, Professor Vincent Gaffney, Director of Research and Knowledge Transfer, The College of Arts and Law, University of Birmingham, UK and head of the expedition, says that principal benefits include exponential increase in data acquisition through enhanced loggers and better integrated arrays and enhanced spatial accuracy through GPS integration. This provides better data with greater confidence in the validity of results.

Also, area coverage is vastly increased as is data density. Corroborating the makeover that the archaeological expeditions are receiving with increasing usage of geospatial technologies, Prof Vincent quips that that no digging was involved in the project, only remote sensing in its various guises. The technologies offer benefits beyond just doing away with shovel and spade. The team, which collected 180 GB of point and volume data over many hectares, asserts that they could never have dug this much. Furthering the project, the team will survey a total of 14 km of area providing an unparalleled remote sensed data set. This will be integrated with a gaming front end to provide an ambient interface to the GIS, informs Prof. Vincent. The benefits are evident elsewhere too. Location of Maya ruins in the dense forests of Yucatán Peninsula and detection of ancient canals under the forest canopy of Angkor in Cambodia are some early examples of remote sensing applications to archaeology, Rajani highlights. In India too, there have been several initiatives to promote use of geospatial technologies for archaeology. In the past few decades, large amount of work has been carried out to map palaeochannels in northwest India using multi-sensor satellite data and to understand their migration and evolution. This work has been further extended to study the distribution of Harappan sites at different time periods along these palaeochannels.

Heritage management is a significant aspect of archaeology, and geospatial technologies offer benefits here as well. A major project of preparing GIS database of Hampi in Karnataka was undertaken for heritage reservation and management. Remote sensing, together with GIS, has proved useful in identifying the layout of the old settlement in the midst of today’s bustling Bangalore city. Similarly, integration of different forms of geospatial technologies has helped in deciphering landscape features of the layout of the ancient township of Talakadu in Karnataka, which is now buried under huge sand dunes.

Now more than ever, archaeological research is interdisciplinary. Future decision making affecting the planet requires understanding of how people have been adapting to regions and changes around them – this calls for interaction with disciplines like botany, forestry, soil science and hydrology. As geospatial technologies have been successfully applied to these disciplines, it becomes imperative that the technologies find their stronghold in archaeology too. With archaeologists gradually realising the benefits of geospatial technologies and an increasing number of projects utilising the technologies, geospatial technologies are fast becoming an integral component of archaeological expeditions. Collaboration between space research organisations, archaeological expeditions and academic institutions can contribute to a successful application of these technologies in archaeology.

About Geospatial World Forum 2011

The conference is a step towards defining the geospatial industry and its relevance in tomorrow’s world. The conference will witness some great speakers like Mr. Kapil Sibal, Hon’ble Minister for Science & technology, Earth Sciences, HRD and Telecom, Government of India, Shri Narendra Modi, Hon’ble Chief Minister, Government of Gujarat, and Shri. N.Kiran Kumar Reddy, Hon’ble Chief Minister, Government of Andhra Pradesh. The Department of Science and Technology, Government of India is Principal Government Partner for the event. The conference will be held from 18-21 January, 2011 in Hyderabad, India. For more details about the conference visit



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