Expanding horizons to South America! Mapping the Archaeological Pre-Columbian Heritage

We are excited to announce our partnership with Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) in the context of the project ‘Mapping the Archaeological Pre-Columbian Heritage of South America‘ (MAPHSA), lead by the UPF in collaboration with 7 international institutions, and funded by Arcadia Fund:

The archaeological heritage of South America is facing increasing threats due to the expansion of agricultural activities, such as cattle ranching and industrial scale soy cultivation, infrastructure expansion, illegal wood harvesting in the main forests, and the current fire emergency plaguing the Amazon and other biomes of the continent.

It is clear that the threat to the natural environment goes hand in hand with the damage to the archaeological heritage – with biomes such as the Amazon facing accelerated deforestation over the last years, as documented by remote sensing real-time monitoring. Inevitably, this leads to significant heritage loss, including archaeological sites that have never been properly recorded. Documenting such pre-Columbian sites, in addition to finding new sites and increasing knowledge about their distribution and significance, are critical steps in preserving the cultural heritage and in changing attitudes towards its destruction, which are core aims of the Arcadia Fund.

Areas covered by MAPHSA

In MAPHSA, we will work among seven institutions from four different countries to document the archaeological heritage of about 3.5 million km2 of endangered forest and savanna biomes across Brazil and Colombia. This will be accomplished by a combination of archival work, remote sensing, machine learning, and ground survey.

GIAP (ICAC-CERCA)’s partnership, lead by Prof. Hèctor A. Orengo, will include the development of the algorithms that will allow the remote detection of archaeological features under the rainforest cover, mainly through satellite imagery, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Stay tuned to our channels and MAPHSA’s website to follow the latest news!



Arcadia is a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin. It supports charities and scholarly institutions that preserve cultural heritage and the environment. Arcadia also supports projects that promote open access and all of its awards are granted on the condition that any materials produced are made available for free online.

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