Remote sensing is an increasingly important element of archaeological research. Aerial survey, satellite imagery and geophysical surveying are all key elements of modern day archaeology. Since the early twentieth century archaeologists have used aerial photography to study the landscape. In different lighting conditions poorly surviving archaeological monuments can be visible on aerial photography. Crop marks, or differential patterns of growth in crops like wheat, can also be seen best from the air. These traditional approaches largely depend on appropriate lighting, growth and weather conditions.
The ongoing development of remote sensing changes all this. Geophysical survey, such as earth resistivity, radar and magnetometry, produce detailed images of what lies under the ground. Airborne laser scanning techniques, such as lidar, offer huge new opportunities to archaeologists. With this, poorly surviving archaeological sites become visible and detailed landscape scale maps can be generated. Geographic information systems allow these new resources to be examined with other geographic data, improving mapping and analysis of the landscape.
Remote sensing helps monuments to be understood without large scale excavation. Instead small excavations can be targeted to find dating material or environmental evidence. Areas of visibility into and from monuments can also be mapped to consider the significance of the positioning in the landscape. Above all, remote sensing offers the opportunity to understand how people have used and shaped the landscape from the prehistoric period to the present. Above all, remote sensing offers the opportunity to understand how people have used and shaped the landscape from the prehistoric period to the present.