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Detection of Looting Activities at Archaeological Sites in Iraq using Ikonos Imagery

van Ess, Margarete and Becker, Helmut and Fassbinder, Jörg and Kiefl, Ralf and Lingenfelder, Iris and Schreier, Gunter and Zevenbergen, Adrian (2006) Detection of Looting Activities at Archaeological Sites in Iraq using Ikonos Imagery. In: 18. AGIT Symposium, pp. 669-678. Herbert Wichmann Verlag. Angewandte Geoinformatik 2006, 2006-07-05 - 2006-07-07, Salzburg. ISBN 978-3-87907-437-2.

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Abstract

Uruk-Warka, situated c. 300 km south of Baghdad, is one of the oldest metropolises of the ancient world. It was inhabited from around 4000 BC to c. 400 AD and is known as the city where writing was invented, where the oldest known epic, the Epic of Gilgamesh, plays, and where early state formation and administration were developed. Excavations by German missions, today based at the German Archaeological Institute, started in 1912. They are still on-going, but with interruptions since 2003. Up to date only 5% of the city could be uncovered. Today the city is endangered by illegal digging and destruction by looting, as are many other sites in southern Iraq. As long as the security situation in Iraq remains difficult, it is not possible to study archaeological sites in southern Iraq on the ground. Therefore, the German Foreign Office funded a project to check the feasibility of using high resolution satellite IKONOS imagery to detect illegal digging. In addition, methodologies to support archaeologists in detecting so far unknown sites and better mapping the extent of known excavations were tested. Older aerial photographs, a geographical information system (GIS) of so far unexcavated Uruk-Warka, elevation models and magnetic measurements have been used to help in estimating the state of preservation of archaeological sites and, in cases of unexcavated, destroyed sites, should deliver information about the kind of archaeological structures once present. Object oriented knowledge based software was used to fuse all available information and to assist the archaeologists in extracting the relevant information. The pre-war – post-war comparison of IKONOS images indeed revealed looting activities at one site in the northern outskirts of Uruk. The characteristic of this known looting was used to train the semi-automated image analysis software for use in locating so far undetected looting activities. Though limited by the amount of data and the time available for its evaluation, the study revealed that high resolution space imagery will be of great help in surveying cultural heritage sites and protecting them against damage.

Document Type:Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
Title:Detection of Looting Activities at Archaeological Sites in Iraq using Ikonos Imagery
Authors:
AuthorsInstitution or Email of Authors
van Ess, MargareteDeutsches Archäologisches Institut
Becker, HelmutBayerisches Landesamt für Denkmalpflege
Fassbinder, JörgBayerisches Landesamt für Denkmalpflege
Kiefl, RalfUNSPECIFIED
Lingenfelder, IrisDefiniens AG
Schreier, GunterUNSPECIFIED
Zevenbergen, AdrianEuropean Space Imaging
Date:April 2006
Journal or Publication Title:18. AGIT Symposium
Refereed publication:Yes
In ISI Web of Science:No
Page Range:pp. 669-678
Editors:
EditorsEmail
Strobl, JosefUNSPECIFIED
Blaschke, ThomasUNSPECIFIED
Griesebner, GeraldUNSPECIFIED
Publisher:Herbert Wichmann Verlag
Series Name:Angewandte Geoinformatik
ISBN:978-3-87907-437-2
Status:Published
Keywords:Archaeology, IKONOS, Looting, object-oriented feature detection, magnetic measurements
Event Title:Angewandte Geoinformatik 2006
Event Location:Salzburg
Event Type:international Conference
Event Dates:2006-07-05 - 2006-07-07
Organizer:Zentrum für Geoinformatik G_GIS
HGF - Research field:Aeronautics, Space and Transport (old)
HGF - Program:Space (old)
HGF - Program Themes:W EO - Erdbeobachtung
DLR - Research area:Space
DLR - Program:W EO - Erdbeobachtung
DLR - Research theme (Project):W - Vorhaben Geowissenschaftl. Fernerkundungs- und GIS-Verfahren (old)
Location: Oberpfaffenhofen
Institutes and Institutions:German Remote Sensing Data Center
Deposited By: Gunter Schreier
Deposited On:24 Jul 2006
Last Modified:27 Apr 2009 12:59

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