Science and Heritage Programme

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

University of Leeds

Award holder - Professor Anthony Cohn


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

University of Leeds

Professor AG Cohn
Amount Awarded: £534,833.00, 3 Studentships

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 suboptimal 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:

  • Baseline understanding and knowledge about AR contrast processes and preservation dynamics:
  1. leading to better management and curation
  2. providing data to model environmental impact on ARs
  3. enhancing the understanding of the resource base
  • The identification of suitable sensors and conditions for their use (and feedback to improve sensor design)
  • Data fusion techniques (physical models, multi-sensor data and domain knowledge) to improve AR identification
  • An Interdisciplinary network between remote sensing, soil science, computing and heritage professionals
  • 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.


DART Community Workshop

27th April 2011
University of Leeds
Room  9.90 EC Stoner building

This is a free workshop which includes lunch and refreshments. A limited number of bursaries are available to support travel costs.

The online registration form is available here

About The DART Project
Detection of Archaeological Residues using remote sensing Techniques (DART) is a three year, Science and Heritage Programme funded initiative led by the School of Computing at the University of Leeds. To examine the complex problem of heritage detection DART has attracted a consortium consisting of 25 key heritage and industry organisations, academic consultants and researchers.

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 will develop a deeper understanding of the contrast factors and detection dynamics. 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.

We need your help to define outputs which will benefit the whole heritage community.

Aims & Objectives

  • For industry and practitioners to provide feedback on the DART objectives and methods.
  • To identify complementary approaches.
  • To develop a network of excellence across the heritage community.
  • To tailor the research to the needs of the heritage community.
  • To determine if this research can be exploited in other domains.


09:30 Registration and Coffee
10:00 Welcome - Tony Cohn
10:10 Introduction - Anthony Beck
10:40 Why do we need DART? - Dave Cowley
11:10 Break
11:30 Proposed methodology -  Chris Gaffney & Keith Wilkinson
12:00 Philosophical approach - Cameron Neylon
12:30 Potential impact - Tony Cohn
12:45 Lunch
13:45 Science and Heritage  - May Cassar (Provisional)
14:00 Panel: open discussion
14:30 Breakout session 1
14:50 Breakout session 2
15:10 Break and networking
15:40 Discussion and final remarks
17:00 Close

The audience will be split into two groups for the breakout sessions to discuss:
  1. The potential pitfalls of the research
  2. Exploiting this research in your sector


The online registration form is available here.

We look forward to seeing you on the 27th.


Visit the DART Project website

Timelapse video of Mag survey at Quarry Field, Harnhill