Article Highlight | 4-Jun-2024

Guardians of the past: satellite SAR and its role in heritage site protection in Europe and China

Wuhan University

The utilization of Satellite Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) technology is being employed to unveil concealed archaeological features and safeguard heritage sites. The research highlights the significant potential of SAR in detecting buried structures, monitoring environmental threats, and assessing post-disaster impacts. This study showcases various use-cases, including ancient cities and natural reserves across Italy, China, and Russia, demonstrating the versatility and advanced capabilities of SAR in archaeological prospection and heritage conservation.

Remote sensing has long been a crucial tool in archaeology, with optical and radar imaging maturing significantly. However, detecting sub-surface features and monitoring heritage sites under various environmental conditions remain challenging. Addressing these challenges necessitates advanced sensor data, high-performance computing, and automated analysis methods. Comprehensive research is essential to enhance archaeological prospection and heritage site protection.

A collaborative research effort (DOI: 10.1080/10095020.2023.2223603) between Wuhan University and the National Research Council of Italy, published on July 25, 2023, in Geo-spatial Information Science, showcases the latest advancements in using Satellite Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) for archaeological prospection and heritage protection.

The study presents six demonstration use-cases across Italy, China, and Russia, including the Ostia-Portus area in Rome, Wuhan, the Jiuzhaigou National Park, and the Siberian “Valley of the Kings.” The research utilizes a mix of archive and newly tasked medium to very high-resolution SAR and optical imagery, combined with field-based evidence and auxiliary data. Key findings include detecting buried structures in mixed land cover environments, identifying threats to cultural heritage from ground instability, and monitoring post-disaster impacts in natural reserves. For instance, SAR data in Ostia-Portus revealed significant buried features that traditional optical methods missed. In Wuhan, the study highlighted urban development impacts on heritage sites and provided mitigation insights. SAR’s all-weather capability, high spatial resolution, and ability to penetrate vegetation and soil make it a vital tool for archaeological prospection and heritage monitoring.

Dr. Francesca Cigna, lead author from the National Research Council of Italy, states, "This research exemplifies the transformative potential of satellite SAR in archaeology and heritage conservation. By integrating advanced SAR data with traditional methods, we can uncover hidden archaeological features and proactively protect our cultural heritage from environmental and human-induced threats."

The research findings significantly impact archaeology and heritage conservation. Using SAR technology to detect and monitor buried features, especially in challenging environments, enhances monitoring and protects heritage sites from natural disasters and urban development, ensuring their preservation for future generations. This study advances remote sensing applications and interdisciplinary approaches in heritage management.





Original Source URL

Funding information

This work is supported by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the National Remote Sensing Center (NRSCC) – Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) of the P.R. China under [grant number 58113], ESA [contract number 4000135360/21/I-NB, grant numbers 190791 and PP0085498], the German Aerospace Center (DLR) [grant number MTH3764], the Italian Space Agency (ASI) [COSMO-SkyMed license WUHAN-CSK], Planet Labs PBC under the Education and Research Program [grant number 412519], and the National Natural Science Foundation of China [grant number 42250610212].

About Geo-spatial Information Science

Geo-spatial Information Science is an open access journal that publishes research on the application and development of surveying and mapping technology. Geo-spatial Information Science was founded by Wuhan University and is now published in partnership with Taylor & Francis. The journal particularly encourages papers on innovative applications and theories in the fields above, or of an interdisciplinary nature. Geo-spatial Information Science’s editorial committee consists of 21 professors and research scientists from different regions and countries, such as America, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and China. All articles are made freely and permanently available online through gold open access publication.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.