Jason Nesbitt

Advisor: Richard Burger


The primary goal of this project will be to assess the applicability of ASTER (Advanced Space Borne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer) to the analysis of archaeological data. Geographically, I will focus my study on the Huánuco region of central Peru, which has been subjected to intensive settlement pattern research and stratigraphic excavations by the University of Tokyo. More recently, Yuichi Matsumoto (Anthropology, Yale University) and I have become interested in developing a project that will examine these sites from a landscape archaeology perspective.

The goals of this project are as follows:

  1. To create an accurate digital elevation model (DEMs) of the Huánuco Basin. The creation of a 15 m DEM will provide a sufficient terrain model for the exploration of site patterning. Furthermore, I am interesting in exploring the creation of 3-D images (using ENVI) in order to experiment with alternative ways of visualizing archaeological landscapes.
  2. The relationship of archaeological sites to the natural landscape. ASTER images are particularly useful for identifying and examining natural features on the landscape, including vegetation, rock types, and soils. For this reason it would be interesting to conduct a land classification study relating the location of soils, vegetation, and local geology to the location of archaeological sites.
  3. The possibility of locating cultural features on the landscape. In a recent visit to Huánuco, I identified a possible relict canal system near the site of Sajarapatac. My current (untested) hypothesis is that the canal (or a number of canals) links a series of sites in the region. The use of satellite imagery would be an ideal way to verify this hypothesis. For this reason, I would like to conduct a preliminary exploration into the feasibility that such features can be either identified directly (the actual canals) or indirectly (increased soil moisture near relict canals or proximity of agricultural fields). In one of the few applications of ASTER to archaeology, Altaweel (2005) was able to identify ancient canal systems and other archaeological features in northern Iraq.

Currently, I am considering the use of two ASTER images, which together cover most of the study region. In addition, I have a complete set of aerial photographs of the Huánuco Basin, as well as 1:50,000 topographic maps. The archaeological data is of excellent quality consisting of GPS positions, elevations, and site descriptions.

In sum, it is my hope that this research project will demonstrate the utility of ASTER data to archaeological research. In this regard, it would be interesting to compare these results with other types of remote sensing research in archaeology.