DigitalGlobe Foundation Grant Supports Kosova Survey Project

Hexagon Geospatial teamed up with the DigitalGlobe Foundation to provide licenses of our industry-leading software and high-accuracy, high-resolution satellite imagery to applicants with approved grants.

Grant winner, Erina Baci, is a student at the University of Michigan. She conducted her research as part of our partnership with the DigitalGlobe Foundation, providing her access to Hexagon Geospatial software and DigitalGlobe imagery. Erina’s project used the satellite images she received from DigitalGlobe in a survey project she was a part of last summer. She goes more in depth about her project in the blog below.

Geospatial Analysis and the Archaeological Record – Regional Archaeological Survey in the Peja and Istog Districts of Kosova

By Erina Baci, University of Michigan

When most people think of archaeology, the last thing that comes to mind are satellite images and GIS software packages. Rather, the mind drifts to images of Indiana Jones, Lara Croft, mummies and lost treasure. This vision of archaeology, however, is not accurate (sorry to disappoint), as archaeology is not simply about “digging” or looking for relics. In fact, a major part of archaeology consists of survey and the recovery of artifacts found on the ground surface. Archaeological survey is a powerful tool, as it allows for the canvasing of an area in order to identify archaeological sites. Of course, excavation is also a part of archaeology, and it sometimes allows us to ask more precise questions about the archaeological record. However, sinking units left and right in hopes of hitting “something good” is bad practice. And while in the past, archaeology may have been mostly focused on digging, the field has evolved and branched out, allowing for the integration of new methods such as survey and geospatial analysis through the use of geospatial software. GIS and archaeological survey are well suited for each other because they are both rooted in spatial analysis.

This summer I had the good fortune to participate in a new survey project in Kosova. Aside from walking the fields, my role on the project was to manage and analyze the geospatial data that were collected and created throughout the course of the project. In the following post I will outline how geospatial analysis can be integrated with archaeological survey and the key role it plays in the analysis of archaeological data.

June 2018 marked the first field season of Regional Archaeology in the Peja and Istog Districts of Kosova, i.e. RAPID-Kosova. RAPID-Kosova is an intensive, systematic, archaeological survey project, co-directed by Michael Galaty, Haxhi Mehmetaj, and Sylvia Deskaj, operated by permission of the Kosova Institute of Archaeology, and funded by the National Geographic Society and the University of Michigan. Additionally, RAPID-Kosova is an international collaboration involving archaeologists from Kosova, Albania, Canada, and the United States.

Archaeological survey, following the Mediterranean method, involves walking tracts of land in groups of three or more individuals, spaced at 15-meter intervals. While walking, each member looks for artifacts, counting all artifacts observed and collecting diagnostics (ceramic rims, bases, sherds, lithics, metal or other small finds). Traditionally, data collection in the field was all done by hand, with data entered into a database afterwards. Additionally, the tracts walked were drawn in pencil on a printed-out map and digitized later using GIS software. However, in RAPID-Kosova, the team leaders were equipped with iPads that had FileMaker Mobile and the ArcGIS Collector applications installed so that data entry could be done on the fly, in the field. The “tract” is the main unit of analysis at the field walking phase. A tract is essentially the area that is walked by the field-walkers. The delineation of the tract boundaries is key as it plays a role in the calculation of the density of artifacts in the study area. Each tract has a unique ID that is then used to join the spatial data to the FileMaker data in GIS software such as ArcGIS. Once joined, the FileMaker data can also be displayed visually, and analyzed in order to identify patterns in the landscape. The main form of analysis used in this early stage of survey is the creation of artifact density maps by tract in order to identify “hotspots.” Examples of such maps are shown below.

The tract boundaries were drawn as the tracts were being walked on the ArcGIS Collector application. The outlines of the boundaries were based on the high-resolution satellite images that I received as part of the DigitalGlobe Grant I was awarded in December of 2016. The goal of survey is to gain better understanding of the distribution of sites in a landscape that has not been formally studied. By identifying high density concentrations in the landscape we can delineate the location of potential sites, and select areas to target for further analysis via excavation.

This first season, our three teams walked a total of 1510 tracts, with a surface area of 15.4 square kilometers. In doing so we confirmed and refined the location of numerous sites that had already been identified and discovered several new sites that will be further investigated in the future. In the coming years we will be returning to the Peja and Istog regions of Kosova in order to continue our survey of the region. Our database will continue to grow exponentially as more tracts are walked; however, the base will remain the satellite images from the DigitalGlobe Foundation, which (pun intended) form the foundation of our analysis.

Thanks to Erina for participating in our grant program and for innovating with Hexagon Geospatial software. If you are interested in applying for a grant with the DigitalGlobe Foundation visit our website for more information.

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