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Copyright 2006 - UNESCO

Space for Heritage


Decision Support System for Archaeological Sites in Guatemala

Tikal, Guatemala
The Northern part of Guatemala, on the border with Mexico, includes the important archaeological sites of: El Mirador, Uaxactun, Tikal and Naranjo. These are astonishing vestiges of the Mayan civilization, containing superb temples and palaces in the lush heart of the jungle.

UNESCO in partnership with the conservation authorities of Guatemala and NASA, will use AirSar data and satellite images and SERVIR to derive an integrated system to assist Guatemala in planning and managing of eco-archeological protected areas including areas of forest concessions.

Much of the archaeological evidence needed to understand Pre-Columbian societies in Central America comes from features of the landscape. Difficult terrain and logistics have limited collection of ground data. To support research needed to better understand archaeological topics and preserve biological and cultural diversity in Central America, a NASA plane carrying NASA’s AirSar, (Airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar) undertook to capture data from the rainforests of Central America.
Tikal, Guatemala
AirSar’s high-resolution sensors can penetrate clouds, collect data at night and, 'see’ beneath treetops (except dense forest).
The data collected by AirSar will help shed insights into the way modern humans interact with their landscape, and how ancient peoples lived and what became of their civilizations. AirSar has collected data over sites for conservation scientists to measure the structure, biomass and carbon content of the forests, evaluate changes, and support the development of models and methods to mitigate impacts.
AirSar data will assist in better understanding forested ecosystems like those in Central America that cover less than 30 % of the Earths land area, yet contain 90 % of all living species. Such areas serve as a large pool of terrestrial carbon, have substantial interactions with the Earths climate, and have been dramatically impacted by human activities.
Fisherman on the Lake of Atitlan, Guatemala
© UNESCO - Abbe
SERVIR, a project from NASA and partners developed as a Regional Monitoring and Visualization System for Mesoamerica, utilizes satellite imagery and other data for environmental management and disaster support. SERVIR is to be used by scientists, educators and policy makers to monitor and forecast ecological changes and respond to disasters including forest fires, tropical storms, floods, drought and volcanic eruptions.