African Archaeological Review

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 163–182 | Cite as

Satellite Remote Sensing of Archaeological Vegetation Signatures in Coastal West Africa

Original Article

Abstract

This article discusses how archaeological sites in Sierra Leone, and by extension much of West Africa, can be identified through vegetation patterns (vegetation signatures) detectable in very high-resolution (VHR) multispectral satellite imagery. Settlement sites typically have a differing pattern of vegetation from the surrounding landscape, including concentrations of very large trees with sociocultural and historical significance: cotton (Ceiba pentandra) and baobab (Adansonia digitata). These features are conspicuous elements of the landscape both from the ground and in aerial imagery. Two complementary methods of using VHR multispectral satellite imagery are discussed in this paper: visual interpretation and semi-automated subpixel classification. These techniques are aiding ongoing archaeological survey of the Sierra Leone River Estuary. The impact of recently renewed industrial activity at a site of probable archaeological significance is also assessed through visually interpreted VHR satellite imagery.

Keywords

Remote sensing Survey WorldView-2 Vegetation signatures Sierra Leone West Africa Satellite archaeology Baobab 

Résumé

Cet article traite de la façon dont les sites archéologiques en Sierra Leone, et par extension dans une grande partie de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, peuvent être identifiés grâce à leur type de végétation, détectable par l’imagerie satellite multispectrale à très haute résolution (VHR). Les sites de peuplement ont généralement un modèle de végétation différent de celui du paysage environnant, comme la concentration de très grands arbres ayant une importance socioculturelle et historique: le fromager (Ceiba pentandra) et le baobab (Adansonia digitata). Ces arbres sont des éléments remarquables du paysage à la fois au niveau du sol et dans l’imagerie aérienne. Deux méthodes complémentaires de l’utilisation de l’image satellite multispectrale très haute résolution sont traités dans le présent document: l’interprétation visuelle et la classification semi-automatique sous-pixel. Ces techniques apportent une aide à l’étude archéologique en cours dans l’estuaire de la rivière Sierra-Leone. L’impact de l’activité industrielle récemment renouvelée, sur un site archéologique ayant probablement une importance significative, est également évalué grâce à l’interprétation visuelle de l’imagerie par satellite VHR.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologySyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA

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