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A remote sensing approach for mapping the development of ancient water management in the Near East.

Rayne, Louise and Donoghue, Daniel (2018) 'A remote sensing approach for mapping the development of ancient water management in the Near East.', Remote sensing., 10 (12). p. 2042.


We present a novel approach that uses remote sensing to record and reconstruct traces of ancient water management throughout the whole region of Northern Mesopotamia, an area where modern agriculture and warfare has had a severe impact on the survival of archaeological remains and their visibility in modern satellite imagery. However, analysis and interpretation of declassified stereoscopic spy satellite data from the 1960s and early 1970s revealed traces of ancient water management systems. We processed satellite imagery to facilitate image interpretation and used photogrammetry to reconstruct hydraulic pathways. Our results represent the first comprehensive map of water management features across the entirety of Northern Mesopotamia for the period ca. 1200 BC to AD 1500. In particular, this shows that irrigation was widespread throughout the region in the Early Islamic period, including within the zone traditionally regarded as “rain-fed”. However, we found that a high proportion of the ancient canal systems had been damaged or destroyed by 20th century changes to agricultural practices and land use. Given this, there is an urgent need to record these rapidly vanishing water management systems that were an integral part of the ancient agricultural landscape and that underpinned powerful states.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
Date accepted:10 December 2018
Date deposited:03 January 2019
Date of first online publication:14 December 2018
Date first made open access:03 January 2019

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