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Remote sensing ancient Maya rural populations using QuickBird satellite imagery

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The research presented in this article tests a methodology for estimating ancient Maya populations through the use of an ISODATA unsupervised classification of QuickBird imagery. The aim of this research was to expand the results of ground surveys in jungle environments in a cost-effective manner. The lowland jungle of Guatemala is composed of a mosaic of vegetation classes and geomorphological catenas. The ancient Maya exploited the ecological niches present in the landscape but chose to build their residences predominantly on well-drained uplands. Upland terrain and vegetation can be accurately isolated from the rest of the landscape using an unsupervised classification of aggregated multispectral QuickBird data. By testing a 25 km2 research area near San Bartolo, Guatemala, the study found that this methodology presented similar results to archaeological surveys conducted elsewhere in the Maya area at a much greater cost and allowed for comparable population estimates.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World/Department of Anthropology, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA

Publication date: 2010-03-01

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