Science Service System

Summary of Proposal LAN1881

TitleArchaeological prospection and environmental monitoring of the Nasca region (Peru) with TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X SAR imagery
Investigator Tapete, Deodato - Natural Environment Research Council, British Geological Survey
Team Member
Dr. Cigna, Francesca - Natural Environment Research Council, British Geological Survey
Dr. Masini, Nicola - National Research Council, Institute for Archaeological and Monumental Heritage
Dr. Lasaponara, Rosa - National Research Council, Institute of Methodologies for Environmental Analysis
SummaryThis project concerns the use of TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X SAR imagery from DLR archives to investigate the archaeological features and environmental evolution of the region of Nasca Civilization in Peru, an outstanding heritage to be preserved.
The study area includes: i) the archaeological site of Cahuachi and its surroundings, considered the largest adobe Ceremonial Centre in Southern America; ii) the areas of Palpa, Atarco and Nasca, well known for the Nasca lines and geoglyphs; iii) the ancient remains of open trenches and/or subterranean galleries (puquios), within the dry hydrographic reticulum lying within the desert south of Rio Nazca; and (iv) the drainage basin of Rio Grande and the valleys associated to its tributaries, e.g. Rio Nazca, Rio Taruga and Rio Ingenio. Archaeological investigations in Cahuachi started in 1984 under an Italian-Peruvian mission directed by the Peruvian Center for Pre-Columbian Archaeological Studies, and interdisciplinary activities are currently undertaken by ITACA-Peru and Nasca projects led by CNR-IBAM and CNR-IMAA. The latter integrate multi-scale and multi-temporal remote sensing with geophysical investigations for: i) detection of buried features through archaeological prospecting; ii) reconstruction of palaeoecosystem/landscapes related to mutual interaction between environmental changes and human occupation in Cahuachi and the Rio Nazca drainage basin; iii) assessment of local environmental hazard factors; iv) monitoring impacts of archaeological looting.
Availability of HR and VHR X-band imagery from the TerraSAR-X mission can support this geo-archaeological research thanks to the potentials of these data for analyses on dry sand and desert areas, and their high level of detail and unprecedented spatial and temporal resolutions. Moreover, these data will also integrate and complement the results and evidences being obtained from the processing of both C- and L-band SAR stacks covering the Nasca region since 1992, in the framework of ESA Cat1 project id.11073. The latter is providing interesting insights into environmental and archaeological issues of the Nasca region based on MR radar imagery, which will be surely confirmed and understood further through the analysis of HR and VHR X-band data.
Exploiting amplitude information and respective spatial scale and resolution, TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X SAR data will be processed to enhance, extract and analyze morphological and texture features to retrieve information about the presence of archaeological remains and buried structures, and update the current archaeological maps. The feature extraction will be specifically addressed to the morphological study of the Nasca geoglyphs, and to the discovery and monitoring of the network of ancient puquios.
At the same time, based on the multi-temporality of the available SAR stacks, (sub-)superficial changes will be detected via amplitude-based and interferometric coherence-based change detection, to reveal evolution of the catchment basin of Rio Grande and its tributaries, as well as of the manmade ancient hydraulic networks for water supply. Landscape changes of the environment of the region and its relationship with the human presence will be imaged and better understood. The results will be compared with the outcomes of recent research based on ASTER, Landsat, QuickBird and WorldView data, but also C-/L-band radar imagery, to produce a more complete reconstruction of the basin evolution in recent times. The multi-temporal analysis of the above data will also focus on the monitoring of looting activities and the imaging of their intensification in the last 10 years over the investigated area.
The outcomes of this research will be interpreted complementarily with recent archaeological findings and information from onsite investigations, and published in targeted scientific journals and through web media. No commercial exploitation of the products is programmed.

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DLR 2004-2016