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Remote Sensing Data to Support Integrated Decision Making in Cultural and Natural Heritage Management - Impasses and opportunities for collaboration in agricultural areas

Rachel Opitz, Eamonn Baldwin, Philippe De Smedt, Jeroen Verhegge, Stefano Campana, Victorino Mayoral-Herrera, Dominic Powlesland, Marco Vieri, Carolina Perna and Daniele Sarri

Cite this as: Opitz, R., Baldwin, E., De Smedt, P., Verhegge, J., Campana, S., Mayoral-Herrera, V., Powlesland, D., Vieri, M., Perna, C. and Sarri, D. 2023 Remote Sensing Data to Support Integrated Decision Making in Cultural and Natural Heritage Management - Impasses and opportunities for collaboration in agricultural areas, Internet Archaeology 62.


A collection of photos showing people participating in workshops and outdoor field visits
Participants in ipaast-czo and Soil Health and Soil Heritage project workshops and field visits provided insight into how they use sensing data, explained their land management objectives, and discussed the potential for coordinated data collection, analysis, and data sharing

Remote and near surface sensing data are widely used in archaeology and heritage management for feature discovery, change detection and monitoring, as an input to predictive modelling, and in the planning process. While global and regional datasets are widely used for some purposes, data are regularly acquired specifically for archaeological projects because of the very high spatial resolution required for feature detection and assessments of archaeological significance and the need for data on subsurface features. The sensing data collected for archaeology cover limited areas and only a few types of sensors, known to produce data efficiently, are regularly employed. Precision agriculture is beginning to produce large quantities of varied sensing data across extensive landscape areas. This situation creates an opportunity to adapt and reuse precision agricultural data for archaeology and heritage work, extending covering and enhancing our understanding of archaeology in contemporary agricultural landscapes. Equally, there is potential for coordinated data collection, collecting data once for multiple applications, and to add value through analyses which bring together perspectives from multiple related domains to model long-term processes in anthropogenic soil systems. This article provides a high-level overview of policy and technological developments which create the potential for sensing data reuse, coordinated data collection, and collaborative analyses across archaeological, agricultural, and agri-environmental applications while underscoring the structural barriers which, at present, constrain this potential. It highlights examples where the development of interoperable data and workflows can promote tighter integration of archaeology and cultural heritage management with sustainable agricultural land management and support integrated decision making.

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  • Keywords: remote sensing, near-surface geophysics, proximal soil sensing, archaeology, sustainability, land management, interoperability, precision agriculture
  • Accepted: 14 November 2022. Published: 23 March 2023
  • Funding: The publication of this article is funded by the European Archaeological Council.
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Corresponding author: Rachel OpitzORCID logo
Archaeology, University of Glasgow

Eamonn Baldwin
Archaeology, University of Glasgow

Philippe De SmedtORCID logo
Department of Environment, Ghent University

Jeroen VerheggeORCID logo
Department of Environment, Ghent University

Stefano CampanaORCID logo
Archaeology, University of Siena

Victorino Mayoral HerreraORCID logo
Archaeology, CSIC

Dominic Powlesland
Landscape Research Centre

Marco Vieri
Department of Agricultural, Alimentary, Environmental and Forestry Sciences, University of Florence

Carolina PernaORCID logo
Department of Agricultural, Alimentary, Environmental and Forestry Sciences, University of Florence

Daniele SarriORCID logo
Department of Agricultural, Alimentary, Environmental and Forestry Sciences, University of Florence

Full text

Figure 1: Participants in ipaast-czo and Soil Health and Soil Heritage project workshops and field visits provided insight into how they use sensing data, explained their land management objectives, and discussed the potential for coordinated data collection, analysis, and data sharing

Figure 2: Geophysical survey data collected at a resolution typical for archaeological survey of 1.2m interline spacing (left) downsampled to 4.8m interline spacing (right). The 4.8m interline spacing represents a compromise between precision agricultural priorities (efficiency of data capture) and archaeological priorities (detecting likely concentrations of features)

Figure 3: A schematic workflow integrating the mowing and ploughing event layers derived from Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 satellite data into a heritage management monitoring workflow. This workflow is an example of the reuse of a data product created for precision agricultural applications in a heritage management application

Table 1: A template for cross-domain requirements planning, used to rank the importance of assessing soil properties for applications in different domains and agreeing group priorities for a project. This template was used for a requirements planning discussion between archaeological, environmental and agricultural stakeholders as part of the Soil Health and Soil Heritage Project

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