• Durham University logo
  • British Council
  • University of Leicester

Endangered Archaeology: Using Remote Sensing to Protect Cultural Heritage

Discover how to use satellite imagery to identify and assess endangered archaeological sites in the Middle East and North Africa.

4,714 enrolled on this course

A black and white aerial photo of a large tell, surrounded by modern agricultural fields and small villages.
  • Duration

    6 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Learn about techniques to identify and monitor heritage sites

The Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa (EAMENA) project has developed a methodology for documenting heritage sites and landscapes, using remote sensing as a key technique.

On this course, you’ll learn about the basics of satellite remote sensing and how to use it to identify and monitor threats to heritage sites and landscapes.

Discover how to assess the condition of archaeological sites and damage through Google Earth

You’ll start by learning to interpret satellite imagery before going through a step-by-step guide on how to use Google Earth Pro to find, record, and monitor archaeological sites.

Once you’ve developed your skills, you’ll look at identifying and assessing damage and threats to heritage sites, such as natural erosion or construction, and then recording your findings.

Explore basic mapmaking as a tool to communicate information

To round out your remote sensing toolkit, this course will take you through the archaeology of the landscapes of mud and stone. You’ll use examples to learn what information you can obtain when looking at these landscapes.

Finally, you’ll look at communicating information through a basic map, and techniques you can use when making maps.

Learn from experts in archaeology and remote sensing at the EAMENA Project

EAMENA Project team members have been at the forefront of remote sensing for archaeology since 2015, and Durham University archaeology has been doing this for over two decades. They use satellite imagery to find new sites, monitor site destruction, and organise heritage management across several countries.

Having trained local archaeologists and heritage professionals, the team is uniquely positioned to guide you through using satellite imagery in archaeology.


  • Week 1

    Using satellite imagery for archaeology: Introduction

    • Welcome to the course

      In these steps we will take you through the contents of Week 1 of the course.

    • How do we use satellite remote sensing in archaeology?

      In these steps we will learn more about using satellite remote sensing in archaeology. We will focus on how it is used to locate and assess the condition of archaeological sites.

    • Any questions?

      Here we review what has been covered in the last few steps.

    • Moving on: Accessing free satellite imagery using Google Earth Pro

      In this section we will learn how to use Google Earth Pro - a freely available platform for viewing satellite imagery - to find, record, and monitor archaeological sites.

  • Week 2

    Seeing archaeology: Identifying sites and features

    • Image interpretation

      Image interpretation is the process of making informed interpretations about features we can see in an image. The use of aerial photos, and more recently satellite images, in archaeology are examples of this approach.

    • But what are we actually seeing?

      So far we have looked at examples of different types of site. Now we can try to understand what are we seeing when we look at an image, and how we might interpret these features.

    • Seeing sites: examples

      In this section we are going to learn about different types of archaeological sites and heritage features by looking at some real examples.

    • Seeing damages: examples

      In this section we are going to learn about some of the different types of threats and damages that can impact archaeological sites and heritage features by looking at some real examples.

  • Week 3

    Seeing damage: Identifying disturbances and threats

    • Disturbances

      In this section you will learn to record disturbances - different kinds of activity which have affected archaeological sites.

    • Threat assessment

      In this section we look at threats to archaeological sites. Threats are activities which haven't happened yet, but which might cause damage in the future. Recording threats can help us decide what to do to prevent this damage.

  • Week 4

    Case study 1: Landscapes of mud

    • Introduction to types of building material in Archaeology

      In this section you will learn about the major types of building material in archaeology and their placements in the wider landscapes.

    • Mudbrick landscapes in the Homs region, Syria

      In this section we will learn how satellite remote sensing can be useful in understanding settlement dynamics and development on a regional scale, using the Marl Landscape of the Homs region of Syria as an example.

    • Mudbricks of Southern Iraq

      The use of mud or clay, usually tempered with additional binding agents such as straw, was used to build most ancient architecture in Mesopotamia. Let's look at this in detail.

  • Week 5

    Case study 2: Landscapes of stone

    • The basalt landscape of Syria

      What form does archaeology take in a stony landscape? What building materials are used, and in what way? We will explore these issues this week.

    • Harrat Deposits of Saudi Arabia

      In this step you will go through some images to understand the volcanic landscapes of Saudi Arabia.

    • Eastern Desert of Jordan

      It is now time for us to look through some examples from another stony landscape of the MENA region - the desert of Eastern Jordan.

    • Some tasks for you

      We have gone through quite a lot of examples from the different stony landscapes of the MENA region. It is now time to see how good you have become at identifying sites and threats from this region.

  • Week 6

    Communicating information: Making maps

    • Making maps

      In these steps you will learn how to make a simple map that includes all the necessary information.

    • Share your maps

      Now you have a chance to share your maps with your peers! Upload your maps to receive and give constructive feedback, and celebrate each other's work!

    • Wrapping up

      Here we'll summarise everything you've learnt.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Perform basic remote sensing tasks with free satellite imaging platforms such as Google Earth Pro
  • Identify basic archaeological processes that influence site formation
  • Identify a range of archaeological sites through satellite imagery
  • Assess threats and damages to heritage sites using remote sensing techniques
  • Create maps using Google Earth Pro

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in archaeology and using remote sensing.

It will be particularly useful for heritage professionals working in countries in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries.

Who will you learn with?

I focus my research on the interactions between the physical and cultural domains of soil science, archaeology and heritage conservation.

I am Assistant Professor (Research) on the EAMENA project at Durham University specialising in the archaeological landscapes of ancient western Asia, and GIS and remote sensing applications.

Postdoctoral Research Associate with the EAMENA project at Durham University

I am an archaeologist who has worked in the Middle East since the late 1970s. I have a particular interest in landscape archaeology, and I am Principal Investigator of the Durham component of EAMENA

I am a landscape archaeologist working in Southwest Asia. I specialise in using computers to understand archaeological datasets, using tools like satellite imagery and geographical information systems

Who developed the course?

Durham University

Durham University is a collegiate university with long traditions and modern values, proud to be an international scholarly community which reflects the ambitions of cultures from around the world.

British Council

The British Council builds connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and other countries through arts and culture, education and the English language.

We work on the ground in more than 100 countries. In 2019-20 we connected with 80 million people directly and with 791 million people overall, including online and through our broadcasts and publications.

University of Leicester

The University of Leicester is a leading research led university with a strong tradition of excellence in teaching. It is consistently ranked amongst the top 20 universities in the United Kingdom.

University of Oxford

Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. It has been at the forefront of understanding the world – and shaping it – for centuries.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Learner reviews

Learner reviews cannot be loaded due to your cookie settings. Please and refresh the page to view this content.

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...