Published February 27, 2020 | Version v1
Journal article Open

Aerial and Spaceborne Remote Sensing in African Archaeology: A Review of Current Research and Potential Future Avenues


Africa represents a vast region where remote sensing technologies have been largely uneven in their archaeological applications. With impending climate-related risks such as increased coastal erosion and rising sea levels, coupled with rapid urban development, gaps in our knowledge of the human history of this continent are in jeopardy of becoming permanent. Spaceborne and aerial remote sensing instruments are powerful tools for producing relatively complete records of archaeological settlement patterns and human behavior at landscape scales. These sensors allow for massive amounts of information to be recorded and analyzed in short spans of time and offer an effective means to increase survey areas and the discovery of new cultural deposits. In this paper, we review various case studies throughout Africa dealing with aerial and satellite remote sensing applications to landscape archaeology in order to highlight recent developments and future research avenues. Specifically, we argue that (semi)automated remote sensing methods stemming from machine learning developments will prove vital to expanding our knowledge base of Africa's archaeological record. This is especially important for coastal and island regions of the continent where climate change threatens the survival of much of the archaeological record.