Archaeological landscape characterization in Qatar through satellite and aerial photographic analysis, 2009 to 2010


  • Paul Breeze
  • Richard Cuttler
  • Paul Collins


Between 2008 and 2010, archaeologists from IBM VISTA at the University of Birmingham undertook research into the potential for rapid remote prospection for archaeological materials within the state of Qatar. Two seasons of work were carried out, the first components of a national mapping programme projected to last five years. Investigations utilized recent high-resolution aerial and satellite imagery as the primary prospection datasets, contextualizing identified responses temporally using Corona and Gambit satellite photography from the 1960s. Additional datasets contextualized responses further, and interpreted features were recorded in detail within the Qatar National Historic Environment Database. Investigations in 2008-2009 covered 20% of the country, with a further 20% surveyed in 2009-2010 (a total of 2622 km²). The survey covered the northern areas of the peninsula and a transect across the southern central area. Following the initial season, ground truthing of identified responses was performed, along with assessments of interpretive accuracy, allowing refinement of existing data and informing the second season's survey. The survey identified 598 responses interpreted as having a high potential to represent archaeological remains. Recurring responses confirmed as archaeological by field survey defined Islamic-period settlements, intertidal fish weirs, wells, temporary camps, and Late Islamic fortifications, among other materials. However, small-scale ephemeral features, such as prehistoric burial cairns, were not clearly differentiated within the data. Features were distributed in all areas across both the interior and coastal zones, suggesting less northern coastal focus to the national resource than the prior corpus may suggest. The rapid assessment exercise has begun to provide a geographically consistent dataset pertaining to archaeology nationally within Qatar at a known resolution, and has indicated numerous features, with the majority appearing previously undocumented and uncharacterized, in addition to further characterizing known sites. The incorporation of data into the QNHER (Qatar National Heritage and Environment Record) facilitates the management and protection of this resource and further investigation of identified materials.





How to Cite

Breeze, P., Cuttler , R. ., & Collins, P. (2011). Archaeological landscape characterization in Qatar through satellite and aerial photographic analysis, 2009 to 2010. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 41, 13–27. Retrieved from

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