Exploring the Ethics of Archaeological Site Prospection in Google Earth

Author(s): Daniel Thompson

Year: 2015


With the release of Google Earth for consumer use, archaeologists were an early professional group to begin exploiting this resource for identifying potential archaeological sites around the world. However, it seems as though the ability to detect sites using this powerful tool might have advanced faster than the ethical considerations of site detection, validation and protection that most countries require today. This paper will explore the history of site prospection via Google Earth and the ethical considerations that arise when potential archaeological sites are detected using this widely accessible platform. Case studies will be presented in which such work is conducted within the framework of legitimately permitted surveys as well as examples where potentially significant sites have been identified without any official permission at all. The ultimate goal will not be to present a set of ethical guidelines for those who use Google Earth for site prospection but rather to begin a conversation to determine what those ethical guidelines might be moving forward as the satellite imagery improves and the ability to identify potential sites increases.

SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload your paper, poster, presentation, or associated data (up to 3 files/30MB) for free. Please visit http://www.tdar.org/SAA2015 for instructions and more information.

Cite this Record

Exploring the Ethics of Archaeological Site Prospection in Google Earth. Daniel Thompson. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397684)

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Geographic Keywords
West Asia

Spatial Coverage

min long: 25.225; min lat: 15.115 ; max long: 66.709; max lat: 45.583 ;