An Overview of the Application of Remote Sensing to Archaeology During the Twentieth Century

  • Stephen J. Leisz
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Archaeology book series (BRIEFSARCHAE, volume 5)


Powered flight was perfected at the dawn of the twentieth century and ­provided us with a bird’s eye view of large swaths of landscape for the first time in human history. Over the course of the twentieth century, this bird’s eye view expanded to space, as the frontier of powered flight was pushed, literally, to the moon. This chapter overviews the role that advances in aerial photography and imaging and spaceborne photography and imaging played in the advancement of archaeological research in the twentieth century. It is noted that through the twentieth century most applications of remote sensing to archaeology have involved data from one remote sensing platform at a time. As the century came to a close, and new remote sensing technologies such as LiDAR were being introduced to archaeology, some started to realize that the most promising aspect of applying these technologies to archaeology may be how they can be integrated.


Remote sensing Twentieth century Aerial photography Spaceborne imagery 


  1. Adams, R. E. W., Brown, W. E., & Culbert, T. P. (1981). Radar mapping, archeology, and ancient Maya land use. Science, 213(4515), 1457–1463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beazeley, G. A. (1919). Air photography in archaeology. The Geographical Journal, 53(5), 330–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blom, R., Clapp, N., Zarins, J., & Hedges, G. R. (1997). Space technology and the discovery of the Lost City of Ubar. IEEE Aerospace Conference Proceedings, 1, 19–28.Google Scholar
  4. Bradford, J., & Williams-Hunt, P. (1946). Siticulosa Apulia. Antiquity, 20, 191–200.Google Scholar
  5. Chapman, V. J. (1945). Air photography in the Far East. Nature, 156(409), 604.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Comfort, A. (1997). Satellite remote sensing and archaeological survey on the Euphrates. Archaeological Computing Newsletter, 48, 1–8.Google Scholar
  7. Crawford, O. G. S. (1923). Air survey in archaeology. The Geographical Journal, 61(5), 342–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Custer, J. F. (1986). Applications of Landsat data and synoptic remote sensing to predictive models for prehistoric archaeological sites: An example from the Delaware coastal plain. American Antiquity, 51(3), 572–588.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Denevan, W. M. (1993). The 1931 Shippee-Johnson aerial photography expedition to Peru. Geographical Review, 83(3), 238–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. El-Baz, F. (1997). Space age archaeology. Scientific American, 277, 60–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Evans, D., Pottier, C., Fletcher, R., Hensely, S., Tapley, I., Milnes, A., & Barbetti, M. (2007). A comprehensive archaeological map of the world’s largest preindustrial settlement complex at Angkor, Cambodia. PNAS, 104(36), 14277–14282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fowler, M. J. F. (1996). High-resolution satellite imagery in archaeological application: A Russian satellite photograph of the Stonehenge region. Antiquity, 70(1996), 667–671.Google Scholar
  13. Fowler, M. J. F. (2004). Archaeology through the keyhole: The serendipity effect of aerial reconnaissance revisited. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 29(2), 118–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Giardino, M. J. (2011). A history of NASA remote sensing contributions to archaeology. Journal of Archaeological Science, 38(2011), 2003–2009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hardy, A., & Nguyễn, T. Đ. (2011). Khảo cổ học Trường lũy: 5 năm nghiên cứu [The archaeology of the Long Wall: 5 years of research] in Những phát hiện mới về khảo cổ học năm 2010 [New archaeological discoveries in 2010] (pp. 17–19). Hanoi: Nxb Khoa học Xã hội.Google Scholar
  16. Holcomb, D. (2001). Imaging radar and archaeological survey: An example from the Gobi Desert of Southern Mongolia. Journal of Field Archaeology, 28(1–2), 131–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jensen, J. R. (2000). Remote sensing of the environment: An Earth resource perspective. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  18. St Joseph, J. K. (1945). Air photography and archaeology. The Geographical Journal, 105(1/2), 47–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kennedy, D. (1998). Declassified satellite photographs and archaeology in the Middle East: Case studies from Turkey. Antiquity, 72(277), 553–561.Google Scholar
  20. Lasaponara, R., & Masini, N. (2011). Satellite remote sensing in archaeology: Past, present and future perspectives. Journal of Archaeological Science, 38, 1995–2002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lillesand, T. M., Kiefer, R., & Chipman, J. W. (2008). Remote sensing and interpretation (6th ed.). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  22. McCauley, J. F., Schaber, G. G., Breed, C. S., Grolier, M. J., Haynes, C. V., Issawi, B., Elachi, C., & Bloom, R. (1982). Subsurface valleys and geoarchaeology of the eastern Sahara revealed by shuttle radar. Science, 218(4576), 1004–1020.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. McCauley, J. F., Breed, C. S., Schaber, G. G., McHugh, W. P., Issawi, B., Haynes, C. V., Grolier, M. J., & El Kilani, A. (1986). Paleodrainages of the eastern Sahara – The radar rivers revisited (SIR-A/B implications for a mid-tertiary trans-African drainage system). IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, GE24(4), 624–648.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Meighan, C. W., Pendergst, D. M., Swartz, B. K., & Wissler, M. D. (1958). Ecological interpretation in archaeology: Part 1. American Antiquity, 24(1), 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Montufo, A. M. (1997). The use of satellite and digital image processing in landscape archaeology. A case study from the Island of Mallorca, Spain. Geoarchaeology: An International Journal, 12(1), 71–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Moore, E. (2009). The Williams-Hunt collection: Aerial photographs and cultural landscapes in Malaysia and Southeast Asia. Sari: International Journal of the Malay World and Civlization, 27(2), 265–284.Google Scholar
  27. Palmer, G. B. (1947). New Zealand archaeology and air photography. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 56(3), 233–241.Google Scholar
  28. Parcak, S. H. (2009). Satellite remote sensing for archaeology. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. Pope, K. O., & Dahlin, B. H. (1989). Ancient Maya wetland agriculture: New insights from ecological and remote sensing research. Journal of Field Archaeology, 16, 87–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ricketson, O., & Kidder, A. V. (1930). An archaeological reconnaissance by air in Central America. Geographical Review, 20(2), 177–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Showalter, P. S. (1993). A thematic mapper analysis of the prehistoric Hohokam canal system, Phoenix, Arizona. Journal of Field Archaeology, 20(1), 77–90.Google Scholar
  32. Thomas, H. H. (1945). Recent developments in air photography. Nature, 156(3962), 409–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ur, J. (2003). CORONA satellite photography and ancient road networks: A northern Mesopotamian case study. Antiquity, 77(295), 102–115.Google Scholar
  34. Wendorf, F., Close, A. E., & Schild, R. (1987). A survey of the Egyptian radar channels: An example of applied archaeology. Journal of Field Archaeology, 14(1), 43–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Wiseman, J. R., & El-Baz, F. (2007). Remote sensing and archaeology. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen J. Leisz
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA

Personalised recommendations