The Identification of Land Divisions in the Ancient Mediterranean through Integrated Remote Sensing and GIS Applications

Jamieson C. Donati


This paper explores the advantages of using satellite remote sensing and GIS to identify ancient land divisions in the eastern Mediterranean by studying the organisation of modern agrarian landscapes. Since current land divisions sometimes retain the arrangement of an older system, either wholly or partially, remote sensing methodologies have been successful in distinguishing ancient demarcations, especially Roman centuriation. This study places emphasis on techniques to recover past landscapes around settlements where the correlation between modern agrarian divisions and a potential ancient system is not clear from visual interpretation. Within GIS the dominant orientations of modern agrarian fields are analysed and presented as histograms which show general trends in the organisation of land. These methodologies are applied in two case-studies where the evidence for an ancient urban or rural land division is not well-defined: Mantinea, a classical Greek city in the Peloponnese, and Aphrodisias, a Late Hellenistic foundation in western Anatolia. The histograms identify trends in the organisation of modern fields that might mark the presence of an ancient system of land demarcation. The data from Mantinea show that the majority of modern agricultural fields inside the fortification walls have dominant orientations identical to the alignments of excavated buildings and a series of streets revealed through geophysical survey. Likewise, there is evidence at Aphrodisias that rural land outside the fortification walls share orientations with urban features inside the city. Both examples show that an analysis of the dominant angle frequency of modern land divisions is useful for reconstructing the archaeomorphology of ancient landscapes in the eastern Mediterranean.


Remote Sensing, GIS, Urban History, Land Division, Mediterranean Archaeology

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Copyright (c) 2016 Jamieson C. Donati

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LAC 2014 proceedings - ISBN 978-90-825296-0-9 - is an open access initiative supported by the University Library, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.