Detect, Map, and Preserve Bronze and Iron Age Monuments along the Prehistoric Silk Road

Balz, Timo; Caspari, Gino; Fu, Bihong (2017). Detect, Map, and Preserve Bronze and Iron Age Monuments along the Prehistoric Silk Road. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, 57, pp. 211-217. London: IOP Publishing

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Central Asia is rich in cultural heritage generated by thousands of years of human occupation. Aiming for a better understanding of Central Asia's archaeology and how this unique heritage can be protected, the region should be studied as a whole with regard to its cultural ties with China and combined efforts should be undertaken in shielding the archaeological monuments from destruction. So far, international research campaigns have focused predominantly on single-sites or small-scale surveys, mainly due to the bureaucratic and security related issues involved in cross-border research. This is why we created the Dzungaria Landscape Project. Since 2013, we have worked on collecting remote sensing data of Xinjiang including IKONOS, WorldView-2, and TerraSAR-X data. We have developed a method for the automatic detection of larger grave mound structures in optical and SAR data. Gravemounds are typically spatially clustered and the detection of larger mound structures is a sufficient hint towards areas of high archaeological interest in a region. A meticulous remote sensing survey is the best planning tool for subsequent ground surveys and excavation. In summer 2015, we undertook a survey in the Chinese Altai in order to establish ground-truth in the Hailiutan valley. We categorized over 1000 monuments in just three weeks thanks to the previous detection and classification work using remote sensing data. Creating accurate maps of the cemeteries in northern Xinjiang is a crucial step to preserving the cultural heritage of the region since graves in remote areas are especially prone to looting. We will continue our efforts with the ultimate aim to map and monitor all large gravemounds in Dzungaria and potentially neighbouring eastern Kazakhstan.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of Archaeological Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Caspari, Gino


900 History > 930 History of ancient world (to ca. 499)






IOP Publishing




Gino Ramon Caspari

Date Deposited:

19 Sep 2019 09:58

Last Modified:

04 Nov 2019 09:46




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