Remote sensing, shuttle radar topographic mapper data, and ancient frankincense trade routes


Over the last fifteen years, an unusual combination of space technologies coupled with traditional archaeology has given insight into the ancient southern Arabian frankincense trade, including the discovery of the lost `city' of Ubar in present day Oman. Continued research indicates a series of desert caravansaries to the west in modern Yemen. Pliny. the ancient Roman historian, reports that there were `octomansiones' (eight fortresses, or mansions) along the desert frankincense trade route. Our present work seeks to document this, and illuminate the poorly known civilization which supported frankincense trade. We presently have Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) coverage of most of southern Arabia. We also have geographically discontinuous SIR-C and ERS coverage. At present we also have publicly released quicklook SRTM data for the border area between Yemen and Oman, and eagerly await full coverage with SRTM topographic data. Topographic data will provide critical insight into trade routes and fortresses with regards to water sources and routes from the coast and mountains, where people lived, to the interior desert. Given the nature of this research, comprehensive geographic coverage provided by SRTM and Landsat are a fundamental requirement.

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Conference Proceeding

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Journal Title

International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium (IGARSS)