Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 295–315 | Cite as

Application of remote sensing technologies in detecting prehistoric canals of the Hohokam Period (a.d. 450–1450) in the Middle Gila River Valley, Arizona

  • Stephanie Rost
  • David K. Wright
  • M. Kyle Woodson
Original Paper


This paper summarizes research on the potential of high-resolution imagery downloaded from Google Earth Pro to detect prehistoric canals from the Hohokam Period in the Middle Gila River Valley, Arizona. The potential of the imagery to identify obscured features was evaluated by means of ground truthing reconnaissance as well as a comparative analysis of the Google Earth imagery with the more traditionally employed CORONA and Landsat ETM+ imagery used in analogous studies. This research is presented as a method-based solution to utilize remote sensing in exploratory archaeological research projects facing budget constraints. The conclusion of the research was that Google Earth imagery provided the best spatial resolution for detecting obscured irrigation features compared to the other imagery used. The results of the investigation are summarized as a potential research model applicable in other dryland settings.


Paleohydrology Remote sensing application in archaeology Google Earth imagery Hohokam US Southwest archaeology 



The research on which this paper is based was conducted in conjunction with the Pima-Maricopa Irrigation Project (P-MIP). P-MIP was developed by the Gila River Indian Community, resulting from the community’s administration of US Bureau of Reclamation, Department of Interior funds under the Tribal Self-Governance Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-413), for the design and development of a water delivery system utilizing Central Arizona Project water.

This project would not have been possible if it were not for the support of a number of people. We want to thank Robert C. Hunt Professor of Anthropology (EM) of Brandeis University for initiating and laying the groundwork for the execution of this project and providing the financial support through his Mellon Foundation Emeritus Fellowship. Special thanks to Elizabeth Stone and Matthew Sisk for their support in the initial preparation of this project. The project’s goals were greatly enhanced through discussions with Lynn Simon, GRIC-CRMP cartography manager and Russ Talas and Brian Lewis. Wes Miles also provided valuable insights and assistance in identifying relict canal alignments. Tom Herrschaft made production and copy edits to the report, printed and bound it for distribution. J. Andrew Darling offered his home for Stephanie Rost to stay in while he was on a research sabbatical and stitched together the administrative aspects of the project (without which there would have been no project). Furthermore, the entire staff of the Gila River Indian Community’s Cultural Resource Management Program deserves recognition, many of whom are not listed as contributors but helped in various capacities to complete the project.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephanie Rost
    • 1
    • 4
  • David K. Wright
    • 2
  • M. Kyle Woodson
    • 3
  1. 1.The Oriental Institute of the University of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Archaeology and Art HistorySeoul National UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea
  3. 3.Cultural Resource Management ProgramGila River Indian CommunitySacatonUSA
  4. 4.Department of AnthropologyStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA

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