The Detection of Archaeological residues using Remote Sensing Techniques (DART)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Sch of Computing


This project will increase the knowledge about, and build transferable expertise in, the remote sensing (RS) of archaeological residues (AR). Current archaeological RS techniques have evolved with variable understanding of the physical, chemical, biological and environmental processes involved. Thus current detection strategies do not allow systematic AR assessment leading to sub-optimal heritage management and development control. This project will focus on analysing the physical and environmental factors that influence AR contrast dynamics with the overall aim of improving site and feature detection.

Archaeological RS techniques rely on the ability of a sensor to detect the contrast between an AR and its immediate surroundings or matrix. AR detection is influenced by many factors - changes in precipitation, temperature, crop stress/type, soil type and structure and land management techniques. These factors vary seasonally and diurnally, meaning that the ability to detect an AR with a specific sensor changes over time.

Without understanding the processes that affect the visibility and detection of ARs (directly and by proxy), prospection techniques will remain somewhat ad-hoc and opportunistic. Enhanced knowledge of ARs is important in the long-term curation of a diminishing heritage and will provide cost savings to operational works (through more effective mitigation). This is important in environments where traditional optical aerial photography has been unresponsive (e.g pasture and clay soils).

The project is timely considering the recent development of high spatial and spectral resolution ground, air and satellite sensors.
The project involves 4 stages:
1 Identifying appropriate candidate sites and sampling methodology
2 Field measurements and collecting and analysing field samples from sites under different conditions
3 Physical modelling, feedback, knowledge articulation
4 Evaluation
Sites will be chosen on the basis of contrasting ARs, soil and land management conditions etc. Close liaison with curatorial agencies (with excavation data) is necessary to ensure a representative range of AR types is identified. It will be important to include sites with varying environmental conditions and AR types (buried soils, 'negative' features such as ditches, buried masonry and surface materials).

To determine contrast factors strategic samples and measurements will be taken on and around the AR at different times of the day and year to ensure that a representative range of conditions is covered. Field measurements will include geophysical and hyperspectral surveys, thermal profiling, soil moisture and spectral reflectance. Laboratory analysis of samples will include geochemistry and particle size.

Models will be developed that translate these physical values into spectral, magnetic, electrical and acoustic measures in order to determine contrast parameters. Data fusion and knowledge reasoning techniques will be used to develop management tools to improve the programming of surveys. These tools will be used to deploy sensors, including aerial hyperspectral devices, for evaluation purposes.

In summary, this project will impact on and develop:
1 Baseline understanding and knowledge about AR contrast processes and preservation dynamics:
a. leading to better management and curation
b. providing data to model environmental impact on ARs
c. enhancing the understanding of the resource base
2 The identification of suitable sensors and conditions for their use (and feedback to improve sensor design)
3 Data fusion techniques (physical models, multi-sensor data and domain knowledge) to improve AR identification
4 An Interdisciplinary network between remote sensing, soil science, computing and heritage professionals
5 Techniques for researchers to access data archives more effectively

We believe that the results will have national impact and have the potential for transfer throughout the world.

Planned Impact

DART will impact on the primary, secondary and tertiary consumers defined in the Academic Beneficiaries section.

Two workshops are opportunities to engage with all user groups. In addition to describing progress and developments, the workshops will capture how different end-users envisage engaging with the resources. This will provide insights into any capacity building issues, which in turn influences the design of project outputs. Participants from the tertiary sector will be actively sought through involvement with a range of heritage and industry organisations.

Education resources will be developed so that the research can be incorporated into education and learning programmes. The Aerial Archaeology Research Group (AARG) 'Education in Aerial Remote Sensing for Archaeology' will be used as a template for the delivery of open licence exemplar teaching material. Digital material, deposited online (e.g. YouTube, slideshare), will be developed to address capacity building and training issues. These resources will be disseminated to heritage curators at a number of regional/national seminars

More knowledge will be gained about the nature and range of archaeological residues leading to better preservation and management strategies. These will have further impact on other areas of heritage management and its public consumption. The consortium contains many potential beneficiaries and they will disseminate the policy impact through their formal and informal networks.

Although the UK has a high quality cultural resource management record there are many other countries throughout the world which do not. These countries will use remote sensing techniques to provide the initial foundation of any incipient Cultural Resource Management dataset. It is therefore imperative that they have tools that allow them to develop an effective detection strategy. This research will support a number of further research and management strands within Europe and the rest of the world. DART will develop information packs aimed at National Heritage and other international organisations (e.g. UNESCO, CIPA, ICOMOS). DART will collaborate with NET-HERITAGE ( concerning the creation and dissemination of method and policy material.

From a practice perspective the proposed framework will facilitate more reliable and robust survey methods leading to increased information about poorly-understood landscapes. It is expected that this will result in a quantitative gain in the number of AR observations (including 'new' observations) and a qualitative gain in the content of the observations. This will have a direct impact on curatorial officers working within development control and the planning process. In addition, heritage consultants will be more aware of the science underpinning remote sensing and the range of conditions under which it is appropriate. This knowledge will have direct impact on development advice and lead to evidence-led mitigation policies. DART will collaborate with National Heritage Organisations, local Councils and the Regional Development Agencies to develop best practice material for these user groups.

The data, models and services made available through DART will provide baseline resources for heritage-focussed studies in environmental change and condition impact. These studies will also have a policy dimension. DART will collaborate with other researchers, national heritage organisations and heritage consultants to raise awareness about the digital resource.
Description The DART project was initiated in 2010 in order to investigate the ability of various sensors to detect archaeological features in 'difficult' circumstances. DART had the overall aim of developing analytical methods for identifying and quantifying gradual changes and dynamics in sensor responses associated with surface and near-surface archaeological features under different environmental and land management conditions. Through this work DART has amassed a large corpus of well provenanced data. The majority of these data, and other research objects, have been made available through a repository framework ( A spatio-temporal database is used for integrated analytics and data mining purposes. Enhanced knowledge of archaeological residues is important for the long-term curation and understanding of a diminishing heritage. There are certain geologies and soils which can complicate the collection and interpretation of heritage remote sensing data. In some of these 'difficult' areas traditional detection techniques have been unresponsive. DART has developed a deeper understanding of the contrast factors and detection dynamics within 'difficult' areas. This provides a framework for the identification of appropriate sensors and conditions for feature detection. The successful detection of features in 'difficult' areas will provide a more complete understanding of the heritage resource which will impact on research, management and development control.
Exploitation Route Our findings could influence the manner in which future archeological prospection could take place using remote sensing techniques. It has also opened up opportunities for further research, particular given the open dataset of the DART raw data at -- DART has been strongly commited to Open Science we hope that DART will provide a model for other projects -- at the AHRC Science and Cultural Heritage Final Conference in 2013 this aspect of the project was particularly well received.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Construction,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Transport

Description The lessons learned from Dan Bodicce's monitoring stations have now been implemented in a long-term monitoring station installed at Bristol Water as part of the Assessing the Underworld project
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Construction
Impact Types Economic

Description ARSF in kind flights
Amount £40,000 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2011 
End 12/2011
Title DART CKAN portal 
Description A repository of all the raw data collected for the two test sites (4 fields) over 1 year. All data has been made publically available through DART's commitment to open science. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2013 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Description British Festival of Science 2011 Bradford 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation at British Festival of Science 2011, Bradford. Part of the "Day of Archeology". See presentation at:
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
Description DART horizon scanning day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A Horizon Scanning workshop was held near the end of the DART project with invitees from the wide community, academic, but also from across the cultural heritage community with which DART aimed to engage with. Around 30-40 people attended the workshop.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
Description DART twitter account 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The DART project created its own twitter account (@DART_Project) with 660 tweets and 211 followers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009,2010,2011,2012,2013,2014