Riverine legacies and cultural heritage at risk in INQUA2023

Today, postdocs Francesc C. Conesa and Navjot Kour are in Rome presenting at the XXI Congress of the International union for Quaternary Research ”Time for Change”. The conference is taking place from the 14th to the 21st July 2023 at the Sapienza University of Rome, in Italy.

Computational approaches to map Cultural Heritage at risk by recent anthropic activities: examples from South Asian drylands

Francesc C. Conesa, Hector A. Orengo, Agustin Lobo, Cameron A. Petrie

The remote assessment and analysis of disturbances and damage affecting the preservation of Cultural Heritage (CH) have become particularly important over the past decade, and has benefitted from improvements in the availability of global geospatial data and innovations in software and satellite to UAV image processing techniques. Moreover, the consolidation of cloud-based data analysis and visualisation platforms, such as Google Earth Engine, offers a game-changing scenario in CH documentation and (geo)archaeological landscape investigations, particularly in remote areas with little or almost no ground information.

In this paper, we will present ongoing satellite-based developments and ready-to-share algorithms aiming at the rapid mapping and monitoring of activities of anthropic origin, such as agricultural development and urban growth, as well as geohazards that pose an urgent threat to site preservation. We will focus on applying AgriExp, a new algorithm and method workflow that uses free and open-source Sentinel-2 satellite imagery to automatically map sites at risk of encroachment by recent agricultural expansion. The algorithm is tested in the fragile archaeological landscape of the Cholistan Desert in eastern Pakistan. The area was central to the development of the Indus Civilisation (c. 3500-1600 BC), and is home to hundreds of well-preserved archaeological mounds. As with many other drylands elsewhere, recent developments in irrigation schemes are threatening the preservation and visibility of many archaeological locations, and often, such new developments are undetected. We will discuss the case study of Cholistan in the context of new appraisals for data sharing and method reproducibility. The availability of the code ensures that this and other similar methods can be rapidly integrated for large-scale new heritage policies on site conservation in similar South Asian drylands and elsewhere. 

Riverine legacies and the archaeology of Jammu in North-western India: a geoarchaeological and remote sensing approach

Navjot Kour, Francesc C. Conesa

This paper will present the ongoing work of RIVERINE, a research project that aims to investigate the long-term land use and settlement dynamics that shaped the outer plains of Jammu in north-western India. The fluvial complexities in the region are volatile, owing to the erratic and ferocious rivers of the Indus system and its tributaries that drain its vast area. Although these rivers are generally destructive, they are also a major source of fertile alluvium, which contributes to the dense population concentration in these areas. The combination of urban expansion, mechanised agriculture and continuous river shifting and aggravation poses severe threats to the preservation of dozens of archaeological mounds that attest for a long-span occupation ranging from the Early Historic period to medieval times, with the earliest occupation dating back to the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods. The project integrates 1) archaeological legacy data, in the form of published and unpublished archaeological literature, 2) legacy spatial data, such as historical topographical maps and declassified satellite imagery, coupled with 3) remote sensing observations, to accurately detect the location of ancient mounds and to map and monitoring short to long-term land cover trends, including landscape dynamics such as seasonal flooding, river migration and associated paleochannels. We will discuss our remote-based efforts with the preliminary results of new geoarchaeological and ground-truth surveys, aiming at providing a better understanding of the spatial and chronological relationships of ancient settlements and rivers in the region and in the broad riverine landscapes of South Asia. 

Francesc C. Conesa is a Beatriu de Pinós postdoctoral fellow with the project Automated detection and monitoring of endangered archaeological sites at global scales using Big Earth Data, cloud-computing workflows and Artificial Intelligence. (2020 BP 00203). Beatriu de Pinós, Agaur, Generalitat de Catalunya.

Navjot Kour is a PCI postdoctoral fellow with the project RIVERINE: Mapping archaeological mounds and long-term socio-ecological transformations in riverine monsoonal plains. (PCI2021-122026-2B). AEI, PCI: Proyectos de Colaboración Internacional

Tags: , , , ,