Down to the last Pixel - Multiband use for direct detection of Caribbean indigenous archaeology

Till Frieder Sonnemann, William Megarry, Eduardo Herrera Malatesta, Douglas Comer


The use of satellite imagery has been so far very limited in detecting pre-colonial settlement archaeology in the Caribbean. Most superficial evidence of building structures has long perished. What remains are slight topographic modifications, house platforms and small mounds predominantly made of midden and soil that also include ceramics and lithic assemblages. The altered topography together with the surface scatter may however serve as quantifiable indicators to represent an archaeological site.
With the precise location of known sample sites, and the information of areas with no archaeological evidence, the authors use a variety of available data sets, a combination of multispectral bands (Worldview-2, Aster, LandSAT) and SAR (UAVSAR L-band, TanDEM-X) to feed a direct detection algorithm developed at CSRM and Johns Hopkins University. The pre-processed very diverse data has to be exactly matching in resolution and location, feeding a semi-automatic process to cross-correlate the datasets that requires supercomputing. Resulting maps present quantifiable statistical results of areas with similar pixel value combinations, with high probability of archaeological evidence.
Three trial areas with sufficient diverse image coverage were chosen on the island of Hispaniola, representing different types of environments and crossing country boundaries, situated in Dominican Republic and Haiti. All areas have a number of sites identified through non-systematic surveys. A fourth region where a systematic survey was performed over a smaller area is used as a reference to validate the method.