National Aeronautics and Space Administration


Date of this Version



Journal of Archaeological Science 38 (2011) 2003e2009; doi:10.1016/j.jas.2010.09.017


During its long history of developing and deploying remote sensing instruments, NASA has provided scientific data that have benefitted a variety of scientific applications among them archaeology. Multispectral and hyperspectral instruments mounted on orbiting and sub-orbital platforms have provided new and important information for the discovery, delineation and analysis of archaeological sites worldwide. Since the early 1970s, several of the ten NASA centers have collaborated with archaeologists to refine and validate the use of active and passive remote sensing for archaeological use. The Stennis Space Center (SSC), located in Mississippi USA has been the NASA leader in archaeological research. Together with colleagues from Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), SSC scientists have provided the archaeological community with useful images and sophisticated processing that have pushed the technological frontiers of archaeological research and applications. Successful projects include identifying prehistoric roads in Chaco canyon, identifying sites from the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery exploration, and assessing prehistoric settlement patterns in southeast Louisiana. The Scientific Data Purchase (SDP) stimulated commercial companies to collect archaeological data. At present, NASA formally solicits “space archaeology” proposals through its Earth Science Directorate and continues to assist archaeologists and cultural resource managers in doing their work more efficiently and effectively. This paper focuses on passive remote sensing and does not consider the significant contributions made by NASA active sensors. Hyperspectral data offers new opportunities for future archaeological discoveries.