Full text: Remote sensing for resources development and environmental management (Vol. 2)

Symposium on Remote Sensing for Resources Development and Environmental Management / Enschede / August 1986 
Abandoned settlements and cultural resources remote sensing 
Aulis Lind 
University of Vermont, Burlington, USA 
Noel Ring 
Big Ben Community College Overseas Program, New York, USA 
ABSTRACT: It is becoming increasingly clear that resource planning and management in many countries of the 
World includes a range of settlement features having origins from prehistoric times. Such features, which are 
collectively termed cultural resources, may be endangered by the continued development of other resources and 
thus need to be included in monitoring aspects of land use studies. In addition, there is the need to survey 
developable and remote areas for such resources relating to former human settlements whether agglomerated or 
dispersed. Remote sensing applications involve the discovery, survey, mapping, and analysis of the abandoned 
landscape elements as well as the current functional elements. The existing variety of remote sensing tools 
provides the promise of identifying new cultural resource landscapes or districts. At the same time, archival 
sources of data, such as old aerial photographs, are particularly valuable. Thus, thematic mapping with empha 
sis on cultural resources, becomes a multisensor task with numerous other remote sensing dimensions including 
data from satellites, aircraft and baloons. Examples of applications from the U.S., Europe and S.E. Asia are 
presented to illustrate the complexity and scope of the remote sensing challenge. 
News of an exciting discovery has recently emerged 
(Begley S. and S. Katz, 1986) which describes aNew 
World Pompeii on the slopes of the Costa Rican vol 
cano Arenal, where airborne radar, lidar and color- 
infrared photographic sensing were employed to locate 
abandoned settlements and appropriate sites for 
archaeological excavations. The advantages of the 
aerial perspective and aerial photography to docu 
ment abandoned settlements are well known to students 
of past landscapes. As the search for abandoned set 
tlements and the study of relict landscapes pro 
gresses, the roles played by remote sensing continue 
to expand due to ongoing research, development and 
application of new remote sensing tools and methods. 
Satellite remote sensing programs such as LANDSAT, 
the Spaceborne Imaging Radars-SIR A, B, and the newly 
launched SPOT system offer some new and challenging 
directions for past landscape analysis (Olsen, 1985) . 
Ancient settlement patterns are often submerged in 
the landscape of recent history, and these overlap 
an environmental matrix of resource significance. 
The inventory and analysis of these spatially over 
lapping patterns forms a significant focus for several 
fields of study including, for example, environmental 
archaeology, historical-cultural geography and human 
ecology. Emerging from the application of remote 
sensing techniques within these fields, and within 
site-oriented archeaological surveys, is an expanding 
and increasingly significant area of investigation 
which has appeared as "cultural resources remote 
sensing". The application of satellite remote sensing, 
radar, multispectral imaging and the tools of the 
computer and space age offer to greatly increase 
information about bygone populations and their works. 
Perhaps more importantly, abandoned settlements as 
well as such features as ancient agricultural tracts, 
early irrigation and transportation canal networks, 
fortifications, and religious centers are considered 
to be resources which specifies that they are a matter 
of inventory, conservation, and management as mean 
ingful parts of the economy of nations, states, 
regions, or locales. Conserving and managing the 
current mass of cultural resources (Reichstein, 1985) 
and providing for new organizational and planning 
schemes to handle such features as historic districts 
and relict landscapes (Melnick, 1984) are of major 
concern due to the destructive threats of such pro 
cesses as urban expansion, reservoir construction, 
mining and the landscape manipulations associated 
with modernization of agriculture and forestry. 
Remote sensing's role within cultural resources 
management will continue to receive increasing atten 
tion since its approach is archaeologically and envi 
ronmentally non-destructive and this is an increasingly 
important attribute. Moreover, Federal laws in the 
U.S. at least require surface surveys to be made. 
But, the amount of effort expended and the rate of 
progress achieved ultimately depends on the amount 
of funding available, the interest level of investi 
gators and the relative importance given to cultural 
resources as a whole by society. Cultural resource 
managers sometimes view remote sensing studies with 
skepticism, but that is mainly the result of improper 
or misapplied use and interpretation of remote sensing 
data, or simply a lack of knowledge regarding remote 
sensing methods and techniques. Both of these problems 
become a matter of education and training within the 
appropriate sub-disciplines. 
What are the remote sensing elements and challenges 
in the development and management of cultural resources 
that may offer global societies some understanding of 
their evolution? Posing this question from time to 
time seems necessary to assess the nature of the 
challenges lying ahead, especially as rapid advances 
in remote sensing technology ultimately impact on 
methodological approaches. This paper attempts to 
examine that question by: a) surveying major cultural 
resource tasks within the context of a scaled approach 
and b) exploring the nature of remote sensing applica 
tion potentials within selected regional contexts. 
Application of remote sensing techniques to cultural 
resources problems involves a potentially broad spec 
trum of scales and sensing tools. It might be diffi 
cult to find another field of study which requires a 
range of remotely sensed data stretching from scales 
of about 1/1000 to 1/1,000,000. An examination of 
scale in a bivariate context is a convenient way to 
identify application dimensions, along with other 
characteristics of cultural resources remote sensing. 
This is attempted in Table 1 to follow. While scale 
speaks for itself, definition of the major tasks and 
an indication of the tools generally used is required

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