On April 26, 2007 NCPTT and the Archaeological Preservation Technology Research Consortium (APTRC) will host a symposium on archaeological remote sensing at the 72nd annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology. The APTRC was created with support from NCPTT, and its mission is to foster technology-oriented collaborations between universities and federal agencies with the intent of resolving critical archaeological preservation issues. One of the APTRC’s primary topical foci since inception has been remote sensing, particularly geophysical techniques.

At meetings in Tempe in 2005 and San Juan in 2006 APTRC members focused on ways in which remote sensing technologies and methods could achieve greater visibility within archaeology as a discipline. Members perceived the need to change public, academic, and commercial perceptions of remote sensing as a basic standard of investigation, rather than an esoteric specialty; advocated the adoption or sponsorship of data collection standards and best practice methods; and urged members to foster new consortium-based research as a way to heighten the archaeological community’s awareness of the APTRC. “Advancing Remote Sensing Technology…” arose from the APTRC discussions.

As part of a larger agenda, the symposium consequently intends to do more than serve as a venue in which remote sensing practitioners can disseminate their disparate findings to the archaeological community. Remote sensing sessions at national or regional conferences are, after all, relatively common. Jay Johnson and Marco Giardano hosted a notably successful geophysics workshop at the annual Southeastern Archaeological Conference in 2002, for instance, and, closer to home, this symposium is but one of four events at the upcoming SAA meeting that highlight the topic. What can NCPTT and APTRC contribute to this robust dialogue?

We envision hosting a symposium coherently oriented around a policy-level synthesis of the history of remote sensing, the challenges facing current practice, and its role in the future of archaeology. As Jay Johnson (2006:1-3)i put it in his recent publication on geophysics, “remote sensing, especially the geophysical techniques, has reached the point where it can make a substantial contribution to the dirt archaeology…,” but the technology of remote sensing is rapidly changing, European remote sensing has far outpaced us in applications, and most North American archaeologists have a poor understanding of what constitutes an appropriate use of geophysical techniques. It is in this context that we may make a contribution.

Participants will use practical examples drawn from their own research in order to frame discussions around the concerns raised by Johnson, the APTRC, and our other colleagues in the field, such as:

  • The need to understand the impact of cultural resource management policies and law, financing, and actual project development and implementation on remote sensing;
  • The need for and difficulties involved with the creation of protocols for best practices, data and software integration, and data archiving;
  • Issues involved in changing public, government agency, commercial, and academic perceptions of remote sensing as a basic standard of archaeological investigation;
  • Issues involved in overcoming the perceived or real limits imposed on the integration of remote sensing into basic archaeological investigation;
  • Technological dilemmas faced by remote sensing practitioners today that should be targeted for research and development funds in the future;
  • Areas of remote sensing research that appear to hold promise for future developments;
  • Strategies to infuse knowledge and use of remote sensing technologies into archaeological training and education programs.

Please join us at the meetings and contribute to this valuable dialogue!


iJohnson, Jay K.
2006 Introduction. In Remote Sensing in Archaeology: An Explicitly North American Perspective, edited by J. K. Johnson, pp. 1-15. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.

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