GIAP participates at the 25th International Conference of the European Association for South Asian Archaeology and Art… in Barcelona! 

From Monday to Friday this week, GIAP (ICAC)’s ongoing research will be well represented at the European Association for South Asian Archaeology and Art (EASAA), starting today at the Ciutadella Campus of the University Pompeu Fabra at the very heart of Barcelona. 

EASAA is one of those must-attend conferences for many of us! It has been organized biannually for decades around Europe, and it offers a unique setting to share ideas and debates with colleagues worldwide. There’s always plenty of delicious local food and vibrant trip excursions too! The 25th edition was originally scheduled to be held in Barcelona in 2020. However, it was postponed until finally, this year, we will enjoy a hybrid format that accommodates all the various needs of researchers in this post-pandemic world we live in.

From our GIAP side, Francesc C. Conesa and Navjot Kour will present their current research in the Cholistan Desert in Pakistan and the Jammu plains in northern India, respectively. GIAP remote sensing contributions will also be part of the engaging conference’ programme, with co-authored contributions from Hector A. Orengo and Arnau García-Molsosa showing the teamwork carried out within the MAHSA project (funded by Arcadia Fund), together with our partners Dr Cameron Petrie (project PI, University of Cambridge) and Dr Marco Madella (University Pompeu Fabra).

See the presentations and abstracts below, and follow our media for more conference updates! 

Wednesday 06th July
Understanding the landscape adaptive strategies of early settlers in the Outer Plains of Jammu India
Navjot Kour 

The historiography of Jammu region in northern India, is a later phenomenon which essentially encompasses the cultural processes of the medieval period. Archaeology therefore as a tool in reconstructing the early history of the area is significant. The evidence of early historic settlements in the area from two apparent zones – RS Pura and Akhnoor – has greatly added to the antiquity of the area. The pattern of occupation in the initial phases of the early Historic period of these two zones however differed from each other in terms of distribution of sites. The current paper therefore aims to bring a new understanding of the area by setting the chronology based on tangible evidence and seeking the reasons to understand these selected preferences of one zone over the other. The untangling of this complex land-people relationship can be achieved when the physical landscape is studied vis-à-vis cultural developments. The process of cultural developments therefore is reconstructed using the data gathered for four seasons of exploration in the area by the researcher in addition to the data accumulated by the surveys done by Archaeological Survey of India. This will help to understand the land usage pattern by the early settlers of Jammu plains in a new light.

Thursday 07th July
A multi-method workflow for carrying out large-scale mapping and surveying in the Indus River basin in South Asia
Cameron A Petrie, Hector A. Orengo, Adam Green, Arnau Garcia-Molsosa, Francesc C. Conesa, Marco Madella, R.N. Singh et al. 

Pakistan and western India are extremely rich in archaeological and cultural heritage sites, which span in date from the earliest villages, through several phases of urbanism, the rise and fall of numerous historical states and empires, and up to the colonial and modern periods. Today, many areas are densely occupied and undergoing rapid development, and while archaeological and cultural heritage sites and monuments in Pakistan and India are protected in principle, in practice they are often viewed as impediments and obstacles. Many sites are at risk, typically from factors including erosion, large-scale development, looting, and perhaps most significantly, the expansion of extensive irrigation agriculture and the concomitant levelling of large tracts of land. Site destruction has been observed in the field and is ongoing, and the level and rate of site lost is not being monitored. Building on the foundations established by the collaborative Land, Water and Settlement and TwoRains projects, a multi-method and multi-scalar workflow has been developed that incorporates the comprehensive assessment of the published data on archaeological site locations, and the associated field data, research, and bibliographic information. These data can then be expanded through the identification of the ‘signatures’ of previously unidentified and unrecorded archaeological and cultural heritage sites that can be identified using the systematic analysis of: a) historical maps; b) publically available satellite and remote sensing imagery; c) high-resolution digital elevation models, and; d) machine-learning based automatic site detection algorithms. These sources are assessed using Open Access digital tools including QGIS and Google Earth Engine. This multi-method approach will make it possible to identify sites that have not previously been documented, highlight sites that are in danger, and monitor the impact of development.

Friday 08 July
Use of multi-temporal satellite data to monitor endangered archaeological mounds and recent agricultural expansion in the Cholistan Desert
Francesc C. Conesa, Hector A. Orengo, Cameron Petrie

This paper will present a novel approach that combines into a single, reproducible and exportable workflow 1) the multi-temporal remote monitoring of agricultural expansion using Big Earth Observation datasets; and 2) the automatic detection of potentially endangered cultural heritage and archaeological sites by recent encroaching with new irrigation developments. Our approach primarily benefits from the optimal temporal and spatial resolution of the free and open-source Sentinel satellite missions, and the performance reliability of multi-spectral indexes for the remote assessment of vegetation phenology and seasonality. We move forward from standard change detection approaches by analysing multi-temporal and cumulative yearly vegetation changes. We use Earth Engine as a cloud-computing platform for rapid access to the latest image data catalogue and effective image processing, but also for importing and integrating external vector files, such as archaeological and heritage data gazetteers and inventories. 

The algorithm is tested in the fragile archaeological landscape of the Cholistan Desert in Pakistan. The area was core for the development of the Indus Civilisation (c. 3500-1600 BC), and it is home to hundreds of well-preserved mounds. Like many other drylands elsewhere, recent developments on irrigation schemes put at severe risk the preservation and visibility of many archaeological locations. The results of the analysis are evaluated and discussed with distinct historical and present-day geospatial datasets that are available for the study area, such as Survey of India maps and the new PlanetScope high-resolution satellite imagery. We finally discuss the opportunities and limitations for the global implementation of the algorithm in the context of new appraisals for data sharing and method reproducibility in remote-based archaeological investigations.

Research funded by:

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