Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Anthropology (MA)

Degree Level





Jesse Casana

Committee Member

Kenneth L. Kvamme

Second Committee Member

Jackson Cothren


Social sciences, Earth sciences, Aerial survey, Archaeology, Geophysical survey, Prospection, Thermal imaging, Thermography


Aerial thermography is one of the least utilized archaeological prospection methods, yet it has great potential for detecting anthropogenic anomalies. Thermal infrared radiation is absorbed and reemitted at varying rates by all objects on and within the ground depending upon their density, composition, and moisture content. If an area containing archaeological features is recorded at the moment when their thermal signatures most strongly contrast with that of the surrounding matrix, they can be visually identified in thermal images.

Research conducted in the 1960s and 1970s established a few basic rules for conducting thermal survey, but the expense associated with the method deterred most archaeologists from using this technology. Subsequent research was infrequent and almost exclusively appeared in the form of case studies. However, as the current proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and compact thermal cameras draws renewed attention to aerial thermography as an attractive and exciting form of survey, it is appropriate and necessary to reevaluate our approach.

In this thesis I have taken a two-pronged approach. First, I built upon the groundwork of earlier researchers and created an experiment to explore the impact that different environmental and climatic conditions have on the success or failure of thermal imaging. I constructed a test site designed to mimic a range of archaeological features and imaged it under a variety of conditions to compare and contrast the results. Second, I explored a new method for processing thermal data that I hope will lead to a means of reducing noise and increasing the clarity of thermal images. This step was done as part of a case study so that the effectiveness of the processing method could be evaluated by comparison with the results of other geophysical surveys.