DETECTION OF MAYA SACBEOB (SACBES) USING OPTICAL AND SAR IMAGERY IN NORTHERN PETÉN, MEXICO
Keywords: Mayas, Archaeology, Sacbes, Landsat, Alos-1 PalSAR, Sentinel-1
Abstract. The pre-Contact Maya peoples build roads (Sacbeob) to facilitate movement between and within cities and surroundings. Given the dense forest cover in the Lowland Maya region now known as Yucatan, ground surveys of sacbeob are time-consuming and challenging to perform. Remote sensing can be a good alternative as it offers the advantages of extensive regional coverage, zero disturbances to cultural resources, and an opportunity to acquire data in less accessible areas on a cost-effective basis. LiDAR technology is highly valuable to detect man-made structures, but this technology is costly and is time-consuming to acquire data over a large area. Satellite imagery presents an alternative for mapping large areas. Previous studies documented linear features that could represent sections of sacbeob between Calakmul and El Mirador using Landsat-5 TM green, red, and near-infrared images (Folan et al. 1995). This study used Landsat-7 and Landsat-8 optical images having more bands and radar imagery (Sentinel-1 C-VH&VV, and Alos-1 PalSAR L-HH&HV) to connect sacbeob mapped by Folan et al. (1995) between three ancient Maya cities (Calakmul, El Mirador, and Uxul). Our results suggest that radar images with the capacity to penetrate dense forest cover can contribute to the identification and documentation of ancient road systems. Such a study provides an ideal starting point for targeted ground verification.