Abstract: Spying on the Ancients: Remote Sensing and GIS in Archaeology


Throughout its impressive history, the landscape of the Middle East has both influenced people’s activities and been reshaped by them.  In order to understand its people, their societies, and how our world continues to develop, it is vitally important to understand how the Middle Eastern cultural and natural landscape has evolved over time.  This lecture explores how modern technologies such as Geographical Information Systems, as well as declassified photos taken by U.S. spy satellites in the 1960s, have vastly transformed the way we look at the land and the types of questions we ask about it.  Archaeologists employ resources such as satellite imagery, historical maps, and NASA space shuttle radar mapping to relocate and reconstruct ancient towns and cities, model roads and waterways, and even experience how ancient peoples might have perceived the world around them.  Discover how researchers of the Middle East are using the extraordinary potential of these techniques to “spy on” and better understand both the ancient and the modern worlds.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

Branting, Scott, and Joshua Trampier. "From Breasted to the Internet:  The Role of the Oriental Institute in Archiving and Conceptualizing the Middle Eastern Landscape." In Space – the Final Frontier? An Intercontinental Approach, ed. R.B. Salisbury and D. Keeler. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2008.

Branting, Scott, and Geoffrey D. Summers. "Modeling Terrain: The Global Positioning System (GPS) Survey at Kerkenes Dag, Turkey." Antiquity 76 (2002): 639-40.

Kouchoukos, Nicholas. "Satellite Images and the Representation of near Eastern Landscapes." Near Eastern Archaeology 64, no. 1-2 (2001): 80-91.

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