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Archaeological Aerial Thermography in Theory and Practice

  • Jesse Casana (a1), Adam Wiewel (a2), Autumn Cool (a3), Austin Chad Hill (a1), Kevin D. Fisher (a4) and Elise J. Laugier (a1)...
Abstract
ABSTRACT

While a long history of experimental data shows that aerial thermal images can reveal a wide range of both surface and subsurface archaeological features, technological hurdles have largely prevented more widespread use of this promising prospecting method. However, recent advances in the sophistication of thermal cameras, the reliability of commercial drones, and the growing power of photogrammetric software packages are revolutionizing archaeologists' ability to collect, process, and analyze aerial thermal imagery. This paper provides an overview of the theory behind aerial thermography in archaeology, as well as a discussion of an emerging set of methods developed by the authors for undertaking successful surveys. Summarizing investigations at archaeological sites in North America, the Mediterranean, and the Near East, our results illustrate some contexts in which aerial thermography is very effective, as well as cases in which ground cover, soil composition, or the depth and character of archaeological features present challenges. In addition, we highlight novel approaches for filtering out noise caused by vegetation, as well as methods for improving feature visibility using radiometric thermal imagery.

Si bien una larga historia de datos experimentales muestra que las imágenes térmicas aéreas pueden ser utilizadas para detectar una amplia gama de rasgos arqueológicos tanto superficiales como subsuperficiales, los obstáculos tecnológicos han en gran parte impedido la adopción generalizada de este prometedor método de prospección. Sin embargo, los recientes avances en la sofisticación de las cámaras térmicas, la fiabilidad de los drones comerciales y el creciente poder de los paquetes de software fotogramétricos han puesto al alcance de los arqueólogos la capacidad de recopilar, procesar y analizar imágenes térmicas aéreas. Este artículo ofrece una visión general de la teoría detrás de la aplicación de la termografía aérea en la arqueología, así como una discusión de un conjunto emergente de métodos desarrollados por los autores para llevar a cabo prospecciones remotas. Se resumen las investigaciones realizadas en sitios arqueológicos de Norteamérica, el Mediterráneo y el Cercano Oriente, cuyos resultados ilustran casos en los que la termografía aérea es muy eficaz, así como contextos en los que la cubierta vegetal, la composición del suelo o la profundidad y características específicas de los rasgos arqueológicos presentan desafíos. Destacamos nuevos avances para filtrar el “ruido” causado por la vegetación y métodos para mejorar la visibilidad de los rasgos arqueológicos utilizando imágenes térmicas radiométricas.

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References
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