UF Conference To Offer Researchers A Close Look At Hidden Sites

Published: April 12th, 1996

Category: Architecture, Natural History, Research

GAINESVILLE—Satellite radar imagery is giving scientists a first-ever look at ancient cultures, some buried beneath dense jungle or tons of sand.

NASA radar waves capable of seeing through jungle overgrowth, and even soil, have captured images that give researchers their first clear views of hard-to-reach sites.

Terry Schnadelbach, chairman of the University of Florida’s department of landscape architecture, believes this new technology could be the key to understanding otherwise inaccessible sites.

“The properties of radar have the potential to discover the ecological basis for ancient societies,” says Schnadelbach.

Much of the attention in this rapidly developing field has focused on the ancient city of Angkor in Cambodia, now hidden beneath dense rainforest and shielded much of the year by monsoon rains. However, the ability of radar waves to penetrate clouds and, in some cases, vegetation, has exposed Angkor to the modern world.

“The monuments at Angkor are not unlike the pyramid-like forms in Central America,” said John Stubbs, program director of the World Monuments Fund in New York. “The size and sophistication of Angkor’s great city plan, now enveloped in dense jungle, set this ancient capital apart as the ultimate jungle ruin.”

According to Schnadelbach, the radar images have another value in that they help researchers explain why ancient civilizations settled where they did.

“Radar gives us a basis for why these cultures selected sites and built cities in specific forms to respond to conditions of their environment,” he said.

Researchers studying these computer enhanced radar images captured during the October 1994 flight of the space shuttle Endeavour will come together April 15-19 for a conference at the University of Florida.

The UF College of Architecture and department of landscape architecture will emphasize a “hands-on” approach during the conference. Participants will use UF’s state-of-the-art Geographical Information Systems to examine the value of radar imaging.

The Florida conference will reunite researchers from around the world who met last year at Princeton. After a year of independent work, participants will begin the week by discussing new applications of radar imaging and possibilities for future uses.

Presentations on the use of radar imaging from sites around the world, discussions from workshops and recent discoveries will follow. The week will conclude with a discussion of future applications of radar imaging in cultural archaeology.

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