Evaluating the use of IKONOS satellite imagery in lowland Maya settlement archaeology

Thomas G. Garrison, Stephen D. Houston, Charles Golden, Takeshi Inomata, Zachary Nelson, Jessica Munson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


This article presents an extensive evaluation, in several contiguous or near-contiguous areas, of the viability of IKONOS satellite imagery in detecting sub-canopy Maya settlement in Peten, Guatemala. Initial research in and around San Bartolo, Guatemala, led to the conclusion that IKONOS imagery could be highly effective in detecting and predicting Maya settlement of the Preclassic and Classic periods, in zones of dense occupation near swampy lowlands known as bajos. The pioneering methods at San Bartolo are applied here to other regions in the Maya lowlands, but with mixed or unpromising results. Preliminary evaluation indicates that local climate, geology, hydrology, topography, pedology, and vegetation differ dramatically in these other regions, with consequences for wider application of the settlement signature discerned at San Bartolo. Possible reasons for these difficulties are offered in this paper, along with ways to strengthen the use of multispectral imagery in archaeological survey of tropical forests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2770-2777
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2008


  • Climate
  • Maya
  • Remote sensing
  • Settlement
  • Soil
  • Vegetation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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