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Session ‘Geomorphometric approaches in archaeology’ at CAA 2012

Session Code: Geo5
Geomorphometry is a branch of the geo-sciences that is relatively young. It uses quantitative methods and techniques to characterize the earth’s surface from digital elevation models. It is especially concerned with the quantification of land-surface parameters and the extraction of landscape features from DEMs. Geomorphometric methods are attractive to many disciplines, including soil science, hydrology, and ecology (see
Archaeologists have used DEMs for a long time to analyse the landscape and the position of archaeological sites in it. They are probably among the most avid users of the high-resolution LiDAR-based elevation models that are increasingly available in many parts of the world. The level of detail available in DEMs nowadays allows archaeologists to use elevation models as tools for prospection: individual archaeological sites and features may be detected directly from the images, as if they were aerial photographs. Archaeologists will usually try to identify and delineate objects of interest (archaeological features and/or landform units) by means of visual inspection and manual digitizing. Hillshading and colour manipulation will be the major analytical tools used for this. Filtering techniques to better recognize the micro-relief typical of archaeological features have been applied with reasonable success, especially in forested areas.
Advanced geomorphometric analysis techniques however have not attracted much interest in archaeology. The multi-scalar landform classification routines available in LandSerf have been used as additional parameters to analyse and predict archaeological site location. The rate of success of geomorphometric approaches in automatically identifying archaeological features however seems to be limited to specific cases such as round barrows. Only limited successes with regard to the automatic recognition and delimitation of specific landforms containing archaeological sites have been reported. It therefore seems to be difficult to automate the process of landform recognition in a way that is useful for archaeologists. The question is why: are archaeological landform ‘objects’ more difficult to recognize, and therefore more difficult to translate into formal, quantitative rules? Are we perhaps interested in different scale levels than geomorphologists or soil scientists? Does the available software provide us with the right kind of information?
This session invites papers that explore the wider potential of geomorphometric approaches for archaeology, both from the point of view of detecting individual archaeological features, as well as for analysing landform for purposes of predictive mapping and landscape archaeological studies.

Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology 2012
Avenue Campus, University of Southampton March 26, 2012 – March 29, 2012
United Kingdom