Sharma Centre for Heritage EducationSharma Centre for Heritage Education

Research, Education and Legal Issues in India's Cultural Heritage
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Satellite Remote Sensing for Archaeology

Satellite remote sensing was used effectively for both research and heritage management programs for prehistoric archaeology in Tamil Nadu. You can read more in our Research publications. This project was undertaken in collaboration with ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation)-RRSC (Regional Remote Sensing Centre-South)

Differing resolutions of satellite images (IRS 1D LISS 3 of 23 m, IRS 1D PAN + LISS 3 merged satellite data of 5.8 m, IKONOS 1 m) were used to generate thematic maps. To study the area around the famous site of Attirampakkam in greater detail we chose high resolution IKONOS 1 m satellite data (April 15th, 2005), which was georeferenced using a DGPS survey.


In combination with field and laboratory studies we were able to investigate the distribution of prehistoric sites over an area of around 8000 km2, in northern Tamil Nadu in relation to geological and geomorphological features, drainage (including palaeochannels), elevation and other natural features. We were also able to demarcate raw material sources, and explore these patterns in relation to the distribution of sites of differing time periods. Around 200 sites/sections were studied in detail, ranging in age from the Acheulian to the microlithic. Studies of the nature of the lithic assemblages, geomorphology and chronology are in progress.

Impact Assessment Studies

Sites are being rapidly destroyed by infrastructure development and mechanised agriculture. Owing to this purpose we included a component of impact assessment and heritage management planning in our project. For this purpose, we quantified the nature, intensity and area of modern landuse patterns impacting sites from both field studies and from satellite images. This was done at several levels:-at the exact site area, and within buffer radii of 50 m, 500 m and 1 km around the site) to assess immediate and potential impacts. Impact indices aided in classification of sites based on their level of destruction. Overlays of georeferenced village cadastral maps on rectified high resolution IKONOS data provided exact landuse and ownership details, to suggest site-specific conservation strategies.