Lunch Meeting: Quantifying Looting – Hybrid Research Using Google Earth and ArcGIS

Thursday Nov 6, 2008 12-1pm
Stanford Humanities Center, Board Room

Lunch will be provided. Please RSVP (cengel at stanford)

Dan Contreras, Lecturer at the Dept. of Anthropology:
“Quantifying Looting – Hybrid Research Using Google Earth and ArcGIS”

International response to the problem of looting of archaeological sites has been hampered by the difficulty of reliably quantifying the damage done. The scarcity of reliable information about the scale of archaeological site looting hampers professional and public policy making, making consensus about the scale of damage from looting and the effectiveness of policy responses difficult to achieve. Dan Contreras and Neil Brodie have been exploring the use of publicly-available remotely-sensed imagery for quantifying damage done by looting of archaeological sites in Jordan, resulting in a GIS database of looted sites. The ease of use and affordability of such imagery as that provided by Google Earth make the identification, quantification, and monitoring of archaeological site looting possible at a level previously unimagined; however, Google Earth is most effective as a research tool if combined with true GIS software. This talk will focus on the process of using Google Earth and ArcGIS in tandem, highlighting our eventual successes as well as salient difficulties.

Daniel Contreras is currently a Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology and the Archaeology Center at Stanford. He received his PhD in 2007, with a dissertation entitled Sociopolitical and Geomorphologic Dynamics at Chavín de Huántar, Peru. He continues to carry out research on landscape change and human-environment interactions at Chavín, is also involved in research into the consumption and procurement of obsidian at that site and its primary obsidian source some 600 km away, and maintains a strong interest in the use of digital tools in archaeological research. In addition, he is investigating the use of publicly-available satellite imagery to monitor and quantify looting damage at archaeological sites.

What Others Are Saying

  1. dcontre Nov 7, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    If anyone is interested in the various methods I talked about, here are the relevant bits of my notes:

    -ArcScript that exports .shp files as .kml (Export to KML Version 2.5.3, by Kevin Martin of the Portland Bureau of Planning: http://arcscripts.esri.com/details.asp?dbid=14273)

    -For borrowing imagery from Google Earth:
    1) Establish corner placemarks, record those coordinates, and use them to manually georeference an imported image in ArcGIS.
    2) Use the worldfile thus created to shortcut the georeferencing of a placemark-free (and generally clean) version of the same image (simply rename the .jgw).
    3) Also, record all the metadata you can at this stage; there’s no telling when Google may update its imagery and the image you’ve downloaded disappear.
    4) The Primary Database–>More–>DigitalGlobe Coverage layer in Google Earth will give you footprints of various images (and, for any selected image, the relevant metadata), and the Status Bar will, when you’re zoomed in, tell you the date of the imagery you’re looking at.
    -Full instructions for Nico Tripcevich’s (slightly different but conceptually equivalent) version of this are on the web: http://mapaspects.org/courses/gis-and-anthropology/weekly-class-exercises/week-3-acquisition-digital-data#ge. I’d recommend placemarks rather than the graticule, myself, and keeping systematic track of the placemark coordinates.

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