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Reconstructing long-term settlement histories on complex alluvial floodplains by integrating historical map analysis and remote-sensing: an archaeological analysis of the landscape of the Indus River Basin

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jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pAlluvial floodplains were one of the major venues of the development and long-term transformation of urban agrarian-based societies. The historical relationship between human societies and riverine environments created a rich archaeological record, but it is one that is not always easy to access due to the dynamism of alluvial floodplains and the geomorphological processes driven their hydrological regimes. Alluvial floodplains are also targeted for urban and agricultural expansion, which both have the potential to pose threats to cultural heritage and the environment if not carefully managed. Analysis that combines Historical Cartography and Remote Sensing sources to identify potential archaeological sites and river palaeochannels is an important first step towards the reconstruction of settlement patterns in different historical periods and their relationship to the history of hydrological networks. We are able to use different computational methods to great effect, including algorithms to enhance the visualization of different features of the landscape; and for processing large quantity of data using Machine-Learning based methods. Here we integrate those methods for the first time in a single study case: a section of the Indus River basin. Using a combined approach, it has been possible to map the historical hydrological network in a detail never achieved before and identify hundreds of potential archaeological sites previously unknown. Discussing these datasets together, we address the interpretation of the archaeological record, and highlight how Remote Sensing approaches can inform future research, heritage documentation, management, and preservation. The paper concludes with a targeted analysis of our datasets in the light of previous field-based research in order to provide preliminary insights on how long-term processes might have re-worked historical landscapes and their potential implications for the study of settlement patterns in different Historical periods in this region, thereby highlighting the potential for such integrated approaches.</jats:p>



Remote sensing, Hydrology, Geomorphology, Landscape archaeology, Indus civilisation, Punjab

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Heritage Science

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
European Research Council (648609)
European Commission Horizon 2020 (H2020) Marie Sk?odowska-Curie actions (746446)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/P027970/1)
European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (grant agreement no 648609). Global Challenges Research Fund’s TIGR2ESS project (BB/P027970/1).