Day 4

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Paper title Declassified satellite imagery as new baseline data products for archaeology and cultural heritage management: the U.S. CORONA missions
  1. Benjamin Ducke Deutsches Archäologisches Institut
  2. Markus Metz mundialis GmbH & Co. KG
  3. Guido Riembauer mundialis GmbH & Co. KG Speaker
Form of presentation Poster
  • D2. Sustainable Development
    • D2.12 Cultural and Natural Heritage
Abstract text Remote sensing technologies and data products play a central role in
the assessment, monitoring and protection of archaeological sites and
monuments. Their importance will only increase, as the correlated
effects of climate change, socioeconomic conflicts and unmitigated
land use are set to increase pressure on much of the world's known
and buried archaeological heritage.

In this context, the declassified satellite imagery produced by the
U.S. CORONA missions (late 1950s to early 1970s) are of particular
value. Not only are they in the public domain and obtainable at
very low cost (both of these are key factors for disciplines as starved
for resources as archaeology and cultural heritage management).
But they also represent photographic memories of some of mankind's
oldest centres of civilization, prior to the full impact of industrial
agriculture and modern infrastructural developments. In some cases,
these images are of spectacular quality, portraying ancient sites
and monuments of the Near and Middle East, Central Asia and North
Africa before the advent of modern irrigation, the construction of
hydro dams, urban sprawl and other processes that would inevitably
damage or destroy much of the global archaeological record.

While the value of historical satellite imagery has been recognized
for a long time, processing and providing these precious sources of
information at a ready-to-use level (i.e. as georeferenced and
orthorectified data products) has long been confined to local
and regional case studies. After all, there is little commercial
value in the images themselves, and customized solutions are
required to compensate for the extreme geometric distortions
produced by panoramic cameras of the CORONA missions.

More recently, however, open source GIS solutions have been developed
that allow efficient processing and publication of CORONA scene
images. These developments were made possible by a cooperation between
the German Archaeological Institute and the German GIS company
mundialis GmbH, with generous funding by the Federal Foreign
Office of Germany, resulting in a implemenation of the efficient
orthorectification of declassified CORONA satellite scene in open
source GRASS GIS that has been thoroughly tested and is now used for
mass analysis of declassified CORONA satellite scenes. The long-term
aim of these investments is to provide open methods, tools and data
products that will establish CORONA and other sources of declassified
imagery as convenient baseline products in the domains of archaeology
and cultural heritage management.