Physical sciences student Steffen Shaigec presented his research at Student Research Day on April 23.

Locating buried ruins — thousands of miles away

July 26, 2019 | Science

On July 26, 2018, the U.K. recorded the hottest day of the year in Faversham, Kent during a record-breaking heatwave for the region. Due to high temperatures and a lack of moisture in the soil, archaeologists made some incredible finds — buried settlements, burial mounds and crop circles dating back more than 6,000 years.

Steffen Shaigec, a Bachelor of Science student majoring in physical sciences, used light detection and ranging (LiDAR) analysis and satellite imaging to try to detect patterns that could help find undiscovered ruins a half a world away.

Title of work: “Locating Buried Ruins in the British Isles”

About the research

Steffen accessed open source satellite imaging to look at massive crop markings (about 30 to 100 metres across) located in Ireland and Wales, and looked for patterns in finding existing ruin sites to search for new sites that hadn't yet been identified.

How did that work out?

“It's really tough to get the resolution that we need using satellite imaging,” says Steffen. “So I switched to a LiDAR-based method.” Data collected from LiDAR instrumentation on an airplane provided measurements of the differing distances to the ground, and was used to generate a model of the terrain. Steffen used the model to study the shape of the land and search for patterns that could indicate a ruin site.

One thing he noted in his study was that he wasn’t able to identify any patterns because at only one of the two sites was he able to identify a change in topography using LiDAR analysis. “The methods I explored in my paper are valid and functional, but in order for these methods to be used on a wider scale of detecting ruins, you would need a very large sample size to see what those patterns might be.” He adds that if a pattern can be identified, an algorithm can then be programmed to flag information in the existing LiDAR data that meets that criteria, allowing the researcher to do further investigations.

What's next?

Over the summer, Steffen is working as a research assistant at MacEwan, but won’t be continuing this particular research project. “I'll be back in the fall for my final year, during which I'll probably pursue a couple more research studies in different subject areas, like physics and earth sciences,” he says. “Having done one study, I feel the need to do more because it’s been pretty rewarding to work on a large project.”



Share your work

There are many ways to share – and celebrate – work you’re proud of, including MacEwan’s Student Research Day (where Steffen presented his research) and a range of on-campus student conferences and forums.

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