A. Beck

School of Computing, Leeds University, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK -
This paper was presented at the 2007 Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society conference in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. It has been placed on Scribd because the on-line proceedings hosted at Newcastle University have been taken down. Please use the following reference for this paper (note this is in Bibtex format): @inbook{Beck_2007, title={Archaeological site detection: the importance of contrast}, url={http://whatevertheUrlOfTheScribdDocumentIs}, booktitle={Proceedings of the 2007 Annual Conference of the Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society, Newcastle University}, year={2007}, pages={11–14}} Or Beck, A. R., Archaeological site detection: the importance of contrast. In Proceedings of the 2007 Annual Conference of the Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society, Newcastle University, Sept. 11-14, 2007. Retrieved from http://whatevertheUrlOfTheScribdDocumentIs KEY WORDS: archaeology, detection, contrast, multi-sensor, environment, framework ABSTRACT: In recent decades advances in sensor technology have led to a range of ground, airborne and spaceborne imaging instruments that can be applied to archaeological and heritage management problems. However, the development of the techniques associated with these technologies have evolved independently with variable understanding of the physical, chemical, biological and environmental processes that determine whether archaeological residues will be identified in one or any sensor. The long-term aim of this work is to update Crawford’s study of impacts on photographic return to take account of modern sensors and digital image processing techniques. This paper is an initial attempt to bridge this gap and will consider archaeological residues as perturbations to a surrounding matrix which must exhibit some contrast to that matrix in order to be detected. 1. INTRODUCTION 1.1 Background In the UK the practice of using remote sensing techniques for detecting archaeological sites and visualizing archaeological landscapes has traditionally been based on low altitude aerial photography using film sensitive at optical and sometimes near infrared wavelengths. In the 1920s O. G. S. Crawford, the archaeological officer of the British Ordnance Survey, demonstrated that archaeological structures could be identified from shadow, soil and crop markings on panchromatic aerial photography (see Figure 1). Since that time, both oblique and vertical aerial photography have been used extensively for archaeological reconnaissance and mapping all over the world (Donoghue, 1999). Early aerial photographers helped to refine the instruments and establish methods that are still in use today. Crawford in particular established methods of site classification and wrote about the effects of weather, season, soil moisture and crop type on photographic return (Crawford, 1923; Crawford, 1928; Crawford, 1929). Today, aerial photography is accepted as a cost-effective, non-invasive technique for the reconnaissance and survey of monuments. management problems. However, the development of the techniques associated with these technologies have evolved independently with little understanding of the physical, chemical, biological and environmental processes that determine whether archaeological residues will be identified in one or any sensor. Unfortunately, knowledge of which techniques will detect which components of the archaeological domain and under what conditions has not fully permeated the archaeological canon. The long-term aim of this work is to update Crawford’s study on photographic return factors to take account of modern sensors and digital image processing techniques. This paper is an initial attempt to bridge this gap and will consider archaeological residues as perturbations to a surrounding matrix which must exhibit some contrast to that matrix in order to be detected. 2. CONTRAST AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL DETECTION The nature of archaeological residues and their relations with the immediate matrix (or context) determine how easily they can be identified. For example, it is relatively easy to visually identify a feature which has been cut into chalk and then backfilled with soil, whereas it can be much more difficult to identify a feature which has been cut into soil and immediately backfilled with the same soil. It is this very contrast between an archaeological feature and its surrounding matrix that one is hoping to identify when detecting the presence or absence of an archaeological residue. This holds at all levels of archaeological enquiry: when excavating a context a field archaeologists will distinguish between different formation layers using different sensing techniques: touch, colour and even taste (certain waste deposits can leave a salty residue).

Figure 1 Factors leading to the detection of crop, shadow and soil marks
In recent decades advances in sensor technology have led to a range of ground, airborne and spaceborne imaging instruments that can be applied to archaeological and heritage

The majority of the techniques used in archaeological detection rely on visual interpretation, although a number of algorithms can be used to enhance contrast. Spectral signatures have been used to accurately identify different vegetation and geology types with multispectral scanners. Unfortunately archaeological sites do not exhibit spectral signatures that can be used for generic detection purposes (however, see Altaweel (2005) for use of spectral signatures in a constrained environment). Rather, it is hypothesised that archaeological residues produce localised contrasts in the landscape matrix which can be detected using an appropriate sensor under appropriate conditions. Although this statement sounds self evident it requires an understanding of both the nature of the residues and the landscape matrix within which they exist. For the purposes of this discussion there are two types of contrast measurement: 1. Direct - where a measurement, which exhibits a detectable contrast with its surroundings, is taken directly from an archaeological residue. 2. Proxy - where a measurement, which exhibits a detectable contrast with its surroundings, is taken indirectly from an archaeological residue (for example from a crop mark). In most scenarios direct contrast measurements are preferable as these measurements will have less attenuation. Proxy contrast measurements are extremely useful when the residue under study does not produce a directly discernable contrast or it exists in a regime where direct observation is impossible (for example the residue is buried or under semi-permanent crop cover). It is recognised that some of the contrasts discussed below could fall into either category (for example ramparts can provide a topographic effect as a direct measure but buried and infilled enclosure ditches can still produce a topographic anomaly but as an indirect crop mark measure) but the terms will suffice for this paper. Finally this contrast can be expressed through, for example, variations in chemistry, magnetic field, resistance, topography, thermal variations or spectral reflectance (Bewley et al., 2005; Gaffney and Gater, 2003; Scollar, 1990; Scudder et al., 1996). 2.1 Environmental and ambient conditions Local conditions are a significant factor for site and feature detection. There is no point in trying to detect crop marks (proxy residue type) using a hyper-spectral sensor dedicated to identifying crop stress (appropriate sensor) when there is no crop on the ground (unfavourable environmental conditions). A whole range of natural and anthropogenic factors play a part in how much contrast an archaeological feature, or its proxy, may exhibit (for example soil type, crop type, diurnal temperature variations and soil moisture content). Natural factors can be exacerbated by anthropogenic factors, particularly local land management practices. For example, irrigation may make crop features appear earlier; conversely any increased soil water content may reduce the visibility of soil marks. Agricultural intervention has been seen to cause a significant disruption to magnetometry surveys (Maria Beck pers comm.). The challenge in this context is to garner an appropriate understanding of the localised natural and anthropogenic

factors that may impact upon contrast detection for different residues with different sensors. 2.2 Sensing devices Sensors fall into two main categories: passive and active. Passive sensors are the most common form of sensor, and record naturally occurring radiation that is reflected or emitted. Active sensors bathe the terrain in artificial energy and then record the amount scattered back to the sensor. The underlying premise of remote sensing is that interpreters can extract information about objects and features by studying the readings measured by a sensor system. However, every sensor has limitations: most limitations are based on the resolving characteristics, or resolution, of the sensor. Each remote sensing system has four major axes of resolution: 1. Spatial resolution. 2. Aspect resolution 1. 3. Radiometric resolution. 4. Temporal resolution. Spatial resolution is dependent upon the resolving power of the sensor, the distance from the object and the size of the object to be identified. Many systems now represent this relationship as simply the ground dimension in metres for each pixel. Aspect or for the purposes of this paper, spectral resolution (see Figure 2) refers to the dimensions and number of specific dimension units for which a sensor is sensitive. Panchromatic imagery is normally sensitive to a broad spectral range normally in the visible and NIR wavelengths. In comparison, the multispectral scanner of Landsat Thematic Mapper contains 7 bands covering discrete wavelength ranges over different parts of the spectrum. Hyperspectral scanners can collect data in many very narrow band passes. For example, the AVIRIS sensor can collect approximately 224 bands between 0.4 and 2.5 μm at 10 nm intervals. Thus, spectral resolution can be seen to increase from a ‘broad band’ panchromatic to the very narrow bands of hyperspectral. Increasing spectral resolution at the appropriate areas of the electromagnetic spectrum may help to improve image interpretation and classification.


Aspect resolution is used as a generic term to cover the dimension in which the sensor measures: the default examples are given for the electromagnetic spectrum but could easily be electric current (Ohm) or magnetic flux density (nanotesla (nT))

Figure 2 Contrasting spectral resolutions of AVIRIS, Landsat and Panchromatic imagery. Note how closely the bands in Landsat follow the AVIRIS bands.
Radiometric resolution determines the sensitivity of the sensor to differences in received signal strength. The data are normally quantised into bits (power of 2). Radiometric resolution can have a significant impact on the ability to measure and discriminate objects. For example, in 8 bit (256 values) imagery bright areas may be overexposed and dark areas in shadow whereas with 11 bit (2048 values) imagery it may be possible to distinguish objects within these bright and dark areas. Sensors with high radiometric resolution require image manipulation to appreciate the increase in data quality. This is because the human eye can only discriminate between 20 to 30 shades of grey under normal viewing situations. Under the same conditions the eye can discriminate a much larger number of colours. Temporal resolution refers to how often a sensor system records a particular area. For all platforms except satellite this value is likely to be infrequent. However, satellite imagery tends to cover the same area at the same time of day whereas all other sensor platforms can cover an area at different times of day. This is particularly significant for some forms of contrast which occur at different times of day (such as shadow marks or diurnal temperature variations) or under specific conditions. 2.2.1 Multi-sensor approaches

the identification of appropriate sensors to detect contrast and timeframes when this potential contrast is more likely to be detected. This knowledge will also allow the user to determine which aspects of the archaeological domain are unlikely to be detected during a survey. 3. CONTRAST AND VISUAL ENHANCEMENT The data in the archaeological domain can be visually identified directly within the raw data or by employing relatively simple histogram manipulations. However, although the feature has been detected it may be masked within the structure of the image. In such instances digital processing techniques are required in order to express the, sometimes subtle, differences or contrast. This is particularly true for data with a medium to high radiometric resolution. When one has an understanding of the nature of the archaeological residue, the impact of natural and anthropogenic factors over time and the sensor characteristics one can model how the archaeological feature will express contrast against any background value. This information can be exploited to develop contrast enhancement algorithms to improve recognition and identification. 4. CASE STUDY: HOMS SYRIA The project Settlement and Landscape Development in the Homs Region, Syria (SHR) was designed to investigate longterm human-landscape interaction in three adjacent but contrasting environmental zones, located in the upper Orontes Valley near the present-day city of Homs, Syria (Beck et al., 2007; Philip et al., 2005; Philip et al., 2002a; Philip et al., 2002b). Each zone is typical of a larger area, and initial study suggested that they differed substantially in both their settlement histories and in the nature of their archaeological records.

In most cases only a small component of the image domain from a sensor has archaeological significance (see Figure 3). Different sensing devices with different aspect resolutions capture different elements of the archaeological domain. Therefore, to gain a greater understanding different detection techniques can be used. The utility of multi-sensor approaches can not be stressed enough because combined sensor responses offer much finer granularity than the sum of their independent responses (although the problem of finding boundaries between regions of interest and background is exacerbated). Multi-sensor approaches are particularly pertinent to those countries that have poorly developed national archaeological inventories and intend to use remote sensing techniques for rapid survey. In such situations a thorough understanding of the natural and anthropogenic factors that impact upon feature contrast is required for the most comprehensive survey.

Figure 4 Comparison of Corona KH-4b photography and Ikonos MS imagery (archaeological sites are numbered) Figure 3 Conceptualised archaeological domain
2.3 Measuring archaeological contrast The issue here is to devise a framework within which the relationship between an archaeological residue and its immediate matrix can be modelled. This framework will allow The project has principally employed a combination of Corona and Ikonos satellite imagery for site detection (see Figure 4). The Corona KH-4b missions used panchromatic film sensitive to the spectral range 400-700nm – the visible and Near InfraRed (NIR). The Corona missions occurred between 1959 and 1972 and the photography archive is available online from USGS (2003). All Corona KH-4b mission imagery

intersecting the study area were purchased prior to analysis. Once digitised and georeferenced this imagery had a nominal ground resolution of approximately 2m. Ikonos is a commercial satellite providing georeferenced imagery in both panchromatic (1m resolution and spectral range 400-900nm) and 4 band multispectral (4m resolution blue, green, red and NIR) modes. Bespoke Ikonos imagery was purchased based upon our understanding of the physical, chemical and biological properties of the study area as discussed below. The marl zone will be the focus for this case study. In this zone the majority of the archaeological residues take the form of tells and low relief soil mark sites. Tells are prominent landscape features and, unless heavily eroded, are easy to detect: the majority of tells have already been mapped and recorded. On the other hand soil mark sites are very difficult to spot on the ground and have traditionally been located using intensive surface survey programmes. Prior to this study only a small portion of soil sites had been mapped. In this zone soil sites have a minimum size of c. 25m 2 hence the spatial resolution of both Corona and Ikonos sensors is appropriate for their detection. 4.1 Contrast and soil marks in the marl zone After an initial field visit and analysis it became apparent that sites could be detected in the historic Corona imagery (Philip et al., 2002a). However, the project had the funding to purchase bespoke Ikonos imagery and needed to determine the most appropriate time frame and conditions for archaeological detection. In order to detect the archaeological residues we need to understand not only how any contrast would be expressed but also the physical causation of that contrast. It was postulated that these sites represent the decayed and thoroughly ploughed remains of abandoned settlements originally composed of mudbrick structures (Beck, 2004; Wilkinson et al., 2006). If this were the case then the soil associated with each archaeological site could in theory be differentiated from the localised soil by some difference in grain size, structure, moisture content or chemical/biological composition due to the degraded building material. This may give rise to different soil and/or crop properties that can be detected using satellite imagery. Initially soil colour was recorded against a Munsell chart. Soil colour is one of the most obvious and easily determined attributes of soil, and is a primary element widely used by soil scientists in the identification, field description, characterisation and classification of soils (White, 1997). It was established that, when dry, archaeological residues were significantly lighter in colour (reflecting an increase in chroma) than the surrounding off-site soils, but that the two soils were indistinguishable by eye when wet. The inspection of Corona imagery from different seasons revealed that the colour differences between archaeological and nonarchaeological soils were most evident during peak aridity (September to November), although sites were also readily detectable during periods of drying-out following rainfall. This presumably reflects differences in the capacity of archaeological and non-archaeological soils to retain moisture. This simple observation provided enough information to determine that for optical satellite imagery the archaeological residues in this environmental zone would exhibit the most contrast during periods of peak aridity. However, we wanted

to gain an understanding of how any contrast could be observed in sensors outside the visual wavelengths and the actual causation of any contrast. Soil colour is almost entirely an indirect measure of other more important characteristics or qualities that are not so easily observed. Surface colour that differs from that of the parent material is usually an indication of the processes involved in soil formation and may also be indicative of anthropogenic actions which have disturbed a localised soil matrix. Myers (1983) and Horvath et al. (1984) state that the most important factors influencing soil colour are mineralogy, chemical constituents, soil moisture, soil structure, particle size and organic matter content. In order to determine the underlying cause of the soil colour change a number of individual soil samples and soil sample transects were taken (Beck, 2004; Wilkinson et al., 2006). The following laboratory analyses were undertaken on those samples (see Figure 5): • Moist and dry spectro-radiometer readings • Particle size measurement • Magnetic susceptibility • Geochemical analysis

Figure 5 Site 339: How it varies under crop, the location of soil sample points overlaying an Ikonos MS (4,3,2 false colour composite) and comparison of curve profiles for a number of attributes
Wilkinson et al. (2006) concluded that differences in spectral reflectance at soil sites were due to variations in moisture, grain size and soil structure between on and off-site soils. This understanding of the physical nature of the archaeological contrast allows one to rapidly simulate the effectiveness of sensors with different sensing characteristics and how direct and proxy contrasts might be exhibited in a range of different environmental conditions. It is assumed that crop marks will not be detected by satellite imagery: although it is theoretically possible to detect crop

marks from satellite imagery the likelihood of programming a scene that will intersect with crop mark formation is low. This is exacerbated by the fact that crop marks form at different times depending upon localised environmental conditions and the type of crop. This is a limitation of the spectral and temporal resolutions of the satellite sensors and not of the underlying theory. With these factors in mind Ikonos imagery was booked for collection between October 2001 and January 2002. This timeframe covers the driest months and the start of the winter rains. There is limited or no crop cover at this time. Due to a number of factors outside our control the imagery was finally collected in February 2002. Although this time frame was not ideal the heavier rains had not commenced. It could be argued that the light rains improved image fidelity buy helping to remove atmospheric dust. 4.2 Contrast enhancement algorithms As has been postulated and then demonstrated (see Figure 5) archaeological residues in the marl zone do not exhibit a unique spectral curve. Anthropogenic action associated with the use and destruction of a site alters the underlying soil properties. This in turn produces the difference in reflectance in the optical wavelengths which mean that this site can be detected using optical satellite sensors. In this environment we can generalise that archaeological soil mark sites share similar spectral signatures to the local soil but have higher reflectance characteristics. The difference in reflectance provides the contrast which allows the sites to be detected. In many instances the visual contrast of the archaeological residues could be enhanced by simple histogram manipulations (i.e. density slicing, contrast stretching or using false colour composites). These enhancement techniques tend to be image based meaning that the global statistics for the whole image determine the enhancement. This may mean that histogram enhancements could mask subtleties as local variations are lost to global image characteristics: since target features only account for a very small percentage of the data in an image, their signature characteristics can be masked by the global statistics of the dataset. A greater understanding of the underlying processes that produce the contrast allows more effective visual enhancement algorithms to be produced (Beck, 2004). One technique that was developed treated archaeological residues as localised background soil variations. As archaeological sites display a measurably different reflectance value to the local soils, subtracting an averaged background soil pixel will theoretically produce a positive value. It was decided to apply a moving average kernel to the Corona and Ikonos imagery in order to evaluate whether residues were easier to locate in the resultant statistical surface. In theory, after processing, areas of unmodified soil should have an average approaching zero (i.e. minimal bias). Features that significantly deviate from these background values, such as archaeological residues, roads, buildings, crops and water, should exhibit positive or negative values. The only problem was determining the size of the kernel. After empirical trial and error approaches to define an appropriate radius for the averaging kernel, a compromise of 200m was reached. This provides a large enough area that extends beyond the outlines of most sites and can be processed in a reasonable time frame. The results of the averaging kernel on all the imagery were excellent. Figure 6 compares a 3,2,1 false colour composite of the 200m kernel average and unprocessed Ikonos MS imagery.

Although from the small scale image it looks like this technique provides no benefit: the image looks grey scale as most off-site values are close to zero in all bands. The close up of the cluster of sites displays how the processed imagery aids visual detection: site 478 (a prehistoric site) is significantly enhanced as is site 458 (an Islamic settlement in the lee of tell site 256). At first glance the small scale image of the standard deviation stretched imagery appears to display more information. However, this stretch helps to identify the broad categories across the global image (i.e. water and different soil types). As a consequence the close up looks saturated and washed out. 5. DISCUSSION In this case study the re-incorporation of degraded mud-brick building material gave rise to changes in the moisture content, grain size and structure of the soil at the site. Having an understanding of the physical nature of this archaeological deformation process allows one to determine what types of sensing device, or other detection technique, and what conditions are appropriate for identifying this contrast.

Figure 6 Image enhancement: moving average kernel compared against a histogram stretch
In this instance the localised reflectance difference expressed in the optical wavelengths was used. In order to achieve the maximum contrast for the archaeological residues the local condition required dry soils with limited crop cover. This choice of conditions and contrast type was determined by the sensor used to detect it – an optical sensor was employed so contrast differences expressed in the optical region are required. However, we could have employed sensors in the Short Wave Infra Red (SWIR) which may be more sensitive to variations in mineralogy and structure. Finally, we can use this knowledge to enhance the visualisation of the anomaly. Once it was understood that in the optical wavelengths the sites did not produce a specific

spectral signature but rather a relative shift to the spectral curve we could develop enhancement algorithms that worked on the local rather than the global level. 6. CONCLUSION Archaeological residues represent modifications of a preexisting landscape and are therefore strongly influenced by the local matrix. If the idea of a spectral signature can be applied at all, it will only work within a consistent background environment and for a specific form of archaeological residue, see for example Altaweel (2005). An inductive approach was used that demonstrated the utility of understanding the physical processes underpinning archaeological contrast detection. This understanding has allowed the collection of imagery at the most appropriate time for detection and facilitated the creation of an enhancement algorithm that has improved the detection of the residues. The techniques presented in this paper will not allow archaeologists to automatically identify all the features of archaeological significance located within the structure of a digital image; rather we argue that appropriate processing methodologies can only be applied when one has a thorough understanding of the nature of the archaeological residues, their relationships with the immediate matrix, the characteristics of the ‘observing’ sensor and the environmental conditions at the time of image capture. It would seem logical that a methodological framework, along similar lines to O.G.S. Crawford’s site classification model, is generated. This will aid archaeological feature detection by suggesting different sensors to detect different archaeological features in different environments under different conditions. It is recommended that a deductive framework is devised based upon field measurement and sampling over a range of archaeological residues in contrasting environments at different times of year. This type of information is essential for regional and national cultural resource managers who need to effectively deploy scarce resources. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The author gratefully acknowledges doctoral research support provided by the Natural Environment Research Council through Award Ref. GT0499TS53 and for the purchase of the Ikonos imagery by their Earth Observation Data Centre. Thanks are due to Drs Graham Philip and Danny Donoghue at Durham University, Dr. Simon Hickinbotham at Leeds University and Maria Beck, their comments have helped to substantially improve the clarity of this paper. The Ikonos imagery includes material © 2003, European Space Imaging GmbH, all rights reserved. Corona data compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey. REFERENCES Altaweel, M., 2005. The Use of ASTER Satellite Imagery in Archaeological Contexts. Archaeological Prospection, 12: 151-166. Beck, A., 2004. The evaluation of Corona and Ikonos satellite imagery for archaeological applications in a semi-arid environment, University of Durham, Durham. Beck, A., Philip, G., Abdulkarim, M. and Donoghue, D., 2007. Evaluation of Corona and Ikonos high resolution

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