Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Iraq using satellites to monitor archaeological sites

The Tourism Authority, it is reported, has set up a special department to control and monitor areas using satellite imaging. That sounds promising. It is difficult to assess what this means, however, especially as the measure is being presented in the context of complaints about inadequate funding. Satellite monitoring, if it is to be done in a timely enough way to nip looting in the bud, is likely to be quite expensive, and the site monitoring systems being deployed in other countries in the region have turned out to entail image gathering once every six months or so, despite being hyped as anti-looting tools. So if the time series is short, Iraq's new satellite monitoring may well be a valuable way to extend the capabilities of the antiquities police, but we need to learn more. And the cost-benefit analysis needs to be done as well. Are these images going to be costing Iraq money to purchase, or is Google (or whoever the source is) donating them?

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