India is a vibrant and culturally diverse country linked by vast geography and history. The evidence of country’s historic accomplishments remains visible in architecture, heritage sites and traditions that are still visited, venerated and practiced. Some of these heritage sites receive enormous global and national attention. However, many of these heritage sites face increasing risk from urbanisation, economic development and implications of unanticipated changes. The conservation of world heritage sites, ancient monuments and archaeological sites is of national importance and also helps in development and promotion of tourism, which is one of the major engines of economic growth.

Ministry of Culture, GOI has taken up a national project for inventory and monitoring of archaeological sites of the country in collaboration with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). This project will help to conserve and manage thousands of heritage sites and monuments of national importance spread across in the country.

The systematic database of these heritage sites and Site Management Plans generated using space technology will help to take appropriate measures in conserving, preserving and monitoring activities of a heritage site. Such systems developed can be operationally used by the authorities responsible for the upkeep of heritage sites like Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) with least effort, time and cost implications.

The primary use of space technology in archaeology applications is in two broad areas:

Inventory of world heritage sites and nationally important monuments in the country and generation of Geo-spatial database using high resolution satellite data

Predictive Locational Modeling for siting prospective archaeological locations

In the present collaborative project, a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) using high resolution satellite data as primary data source and employing state-of the-art Geo-spatial technology and open source tools is developed for operational use by ASI.  It is designed as modular and scalable, allowing the SOP to evolve with the ASI’s changing institutional requirements and mandate. The project is already in advanced stage of completion in the state of Karnataka and soon will be extended to the rest of country.  

Data from Cartosat-1, Cartosat-2 and Resourcesat LISS IV are used for creating the database on heritage sites and monuments. Three management zones (protected, prohibited and regulated) around the heritage site are delineated using GIS tool after locating the site/monument on the satellite image. All the landuse features within each zone are precisely mapped. Other collateral data like total station survey data, revenue village cadastral maps and other maps / attributes related to the inventory, plans etc are geo-referenced and integrated with the satellite data and form part of the geo-database. Other data like ground photographs, different views of the monuments, type of buildings and their heights, street view of the buildings and lanes, open spaces are also part of the database. Smart phone based applications are developed for geo-tagging and uploading by different stake holders and citizens as part of crowd sourcing.

3D  visualization of the Heritage site and Fly-through

The 3D digital models of the sites and monuments are generated and overlaid over the satellite data, which provide virtual reality walk-through and visualisation.  

3D Digital model of Gol Gumbaz  world’s one of the largest dome structure

The following figure/thumbnails depict some of the heritage sites and monuments in the state of Karnataka identified using Cartosat-1 and Resourcesat LISS IV data. Geo-tagging of the sites and other important objects within the protected zones is done using GAGAN based GPS device.