Peter Coutros

Advisor: Roderick McIntosh


The region surrounding modern day Timbuktu contains some of the most inhospitable and unforgiving terrain on the planet.  Temperatures in this region regularly reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with daily dust storms during the dry season and zero precipitation for half of the year.  Agriculture is relegated to the floodplain of the Niger Bend, and the population is struggling.  However, this is not how it has always been.  Recent archaeological research has uncovered evidence for large urban clusters, possibly dating as far back as 500 BC, located along and between many of the dried up river beds. 

The purpose of this study is twofold. To locate new sites in the vast landscape of the Sahel without the high temporal and financial cost of initial ground surveys.  Aster images were chosen for this due to their high spatial resolution in several bands.  Also, a geomorphologic map for the region will be created in order to better understand the local climatic oscillations.  This will include a landcover classification defining the typology and directionality of dune formations and riverbeds as well as modern and prehistoric anthropogenic modifications to the region.  In conjunction with the archaeological record, this climatic information will aid in the understanding of significant changes in the sociopolitical structure of the ancient Malians including their ultimate disappearance around 900 AD.