The increasingly intensive use and modification of the landscape as a result of modern demands for efficient infrastructure and land use (agricultural production, mining, energy sources, leisure/tourism facilities) exerts growing pressure on areas and sites associated with our cultural heritage. The use of modern support technologies is imperative if such rapid changes are to be balanced against the sustainable management of this resource.
In order to match the political intentions of updated and sustainable cultural heritage management, a necessary first step is to create a representative picture of the resource that has to be managed. In Norway, where extensive white areas are still to be found on cultural heritage maps; where the registered cultural heritage sites display an unrepresentative concentration in areas with high human activity; and where the registered positions of the sites can easily be 30-40 meters from their true location, it is obvious that something has to be done in order to achieve even this basic goal.
In recognition that a) it will never be realistic to obtain funding for thorough survey and monitoring of the enormous tracts in question using traditional field-survey methods, and b) there is a demand for access to representative and comprehensive cultural heritage data to create a basis for the development of a flexible and up-to-date cultural heritage management, the Norwegian Space Centre (NRS) and the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage (RA) decided to support a pilot project designed to prepare the ground for the development of survey and monitoring methodology involving multispectral satellite data.
This project directly addresses the mentioned issues by initiating the development of a basis for a sustainable, up-to-date and cost-efficient decision-support methodology which relies upon satellite remote-sensing, mapping and monitoring of cultural heritage sites.
The project's aim is to develop a cost-effective method for surveying and monitoring cultural heritage sites. The costs of systematically surveying areas of the scale involved here by means of conventional fieldwork provides the incentive for the development of alternatives. Depending on which field methods are employed, and the type of landscape surveyed, costs for conventional fieldwork will normally be around 250,000 Norwegian Crowns (NOK) per square kilometer. In comparison, high-resolution satellite data cost less than NOK 1,000 per square kilometer, a fraction of conventional fieldwork costs.
Even though the costs connected with the processing of the satellite data will not be insignificant, and fieldwork can probably never be entirely replaced by high-technological methods, it seems plausible that an essentially cheaper, and possibly even qualitatively better, method for the surveying and monitoring of cultural heritage sites can be developed by using multispectral satellite data to target the fieldwork to a degree not possible today.