International Association of Caribbean Archaeologists (IACA) St. Croix, 2017

Evaluating Amerindian settlement features through close range and remote sensing

Till F. Sonnemann

Faculty of Humanities and Cultural Studies, University of Bamberg

& ERC-NEXUS1492 Project, Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University

Recent research on northern Hispaniola as part of the Nexus1492 project, which included drone photogrammetry surveys and satellite imagery, shows immense potential in the evaluation of indigenous archaeological sites that to some extent could be in incorporated elsewhere in the Caribbean. Low cost and rapid non-destructive survey solutions have helped to interpret a number of activity areas, in the last years identified by field surveys, using new means: the resulting topographic data shows a strong correspondence between the number, and distribution, of multi-use mounds and leveled areas, providing novel ideas on the extent of the sites. It shows that the Amerindians significantly impacted the natural landscape when the settlements were established, transforming the area according to their needs. Together with a profound knowledge on number and location of activity areas in a region, this could lead to new estimates regarding, communication and living arrangements of the former inhabitants of Hispaniola. To aid the field surveys the use of different types of satellite imagery was incorporated in an approach that still encounters challenges. Nevertheless the trial study to semi-automatically identify archaeological sites from space using a direct-detection method on the basis of SAR and multi-spectral data, has brought our understanding of this landscape a step forward.