EAMENA’s director, Dr Robert Bewley, talks about the advantages of using remote sensing to monitor and protect endangered archaeological sites in the Middle East and North Africa.
The Endangered Archaeology project (EAMENA), which started in 2015, is assessing threats to archaeological sites primarily using satellite imagery and aerial photographs for the Middle East and North Africa. This paper will present the approach, initial results and future strategies for the project, with specific reference to Iraq. An open-access web-based information system (database) has been designed to allow basic information about information each site to be easily accessible for those interested in preserving archaeological sites in the region. For Iraq, the EAMENA team has used information from historical aerial photographic imagery, especially the work of Sir Aurel Stein in the 1930s, and information from previous extensive archaeological surveys to assist with its interpretations from satellite imagery. Examples of the sites that have been recorded, and the threats to them will be presented in the paper. A priority for the EAMENA project is to provide information on archaeological sites that are under threat so that local archaeologists and heritage professionals can monitor them on the ground. The information can also be used to develop strategies so that each site can be better understood, protected and even preserved for future generations to enjoy. As archaeologists we can not hope to protect every site but by recording the existence and nature of the sites we are able to be better informed, in advance of future threats, whatever the agent of change may be. The biggest threats to these archaeological sites are not just as a result of conflict but also agricultural activities, infrastructure projects, looting and the huge increase in village and urban expansion, as a result of the rising populations. The project has been funded by the Arcadia Fund (www.arcadiafund.org.uk) based at the University of Oxford in collaboration with the Universities of Leicester and Durham.