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“Space Archaeology” to explore ancient sites.

by Rohit Kumar

Archaeology can take you to the past as archaeologist finds the remnants of ancient civilisation and spend years to dig them. But it is a time taking process as archaeologists have to depend upon literature reviews and field data. Sarah Parcak is founding director of the University of Alabama in Birmingham`s Laboratory for Global Observation. She uses Satellite data to explore ancient civilisation. According to her, only 10 % of the Earth's surface has been explored, so she is leading the way to speed up the search. She uses Space archaeology or Aerial archaeology technology to locate ancient sites. Space archaeology is the study and use of satellite images for mapping ancient archaeological features and environmental features by looking at different part of light spectrum. 

Recently, Dr Sarah Parcak team found 3,800 years old tomb using satellite imagery. They have excavated fragments of pots, stones and limestone rock tablet with the name Intef from afarm field near the ancient Roman city of Portus. Now the question arises that how satellite imagery can be used to find these ancient sites.

                                            Dig site in afarm field near the ancient Roman city of Portus. © CBS News

Infrared images from DigitalGlobe are used to find out shapes that indicate human activity. As erosion and deposition are continues process, so it covers so many sites in the world, over which vegetation or different kind of soil developed.  And all of those things are going to be affected in different ways by what's buried beneath the ground depending on whether it's a ditch or a stone wall or a mud brick building.

Image processing is carried out to find out different characters of soil and vegetation. In farm (dig site) area, orange colour vegetation is observed that's less healthy than the surrounding crop because of the stones that lie beneath.A field survey was carried out on the farm at the same latitude and longitude and archaeologist found several remnants.  


                                                Orange colour vegetation observed in thesatelliteimage. © CBS News

Satellite imagery has been also used to find out how ancient sites are looted. Sarah Parcak used 2010 and 2013 images and concluded that the dark spots in the image are looting pits, either robbed by local or professional robbers. The objects stolen by modern looting can be bought from ritzy galleries, auction houses and through online sites.


                                              Dark spots in the image are identified as looting pits. © DigitalGlobe

SATPALDA is a privately owned company and a leading provider of satellite imagery and GeoSpatial services to the user community. Established in 2002, SATPALDA has successfully completed wide range of photogrammetric and Remote Sensing Projects.

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