ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEYS ON THE GERMAN NORTH SEA COAST USING HIGH-RESOLUTION SYNTHETIC APERTURE RADAR DATA
Keywords: Wadden Sea, storm surge, SAR archaeology, TerraSAR-X, cultural traces, settlements
Abstract. We show that high-resolution space-borne Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery with pixel sizes well below 1 m2 can be used to complement archaeological surveys in areas that are difficult to access. After major storm surges in the 14th and 17th centuries, vast areas on the German North Sea coast were lost to the sea. Areas of former settlements and historical land use were buried under sediments for centuries, but when the surface layer is driven away under the permanent action of wind, currents, and waves, they appear again on the Wadden Sea surface. However, the frequent flooding and erosion of the intertidal flats make any archaeological monitoring a difficult task, so that remote sensing techniques appear to be an efficient and cost-effective instrument for any archaeological surveillance of that area. Space-borne SAR images clearly show remnants of farmhouse foundations and of former systems of ditches, dating back to the 14th and to the 16th/17th centuries. In particular, the very high-resolution acquisition (
staring spotlight) mode of the German TerraSAR/ TanDEM-X satellites allows for the detection of various kinds of residuals of historical land use with high precision. In addition, we also investigate the capability of SARs working at lower microwave frequencies (on Radarsat-2) to complement our archaeological survey of historical cultural traces, some of which have been unknown so far.