Journal of Archaeological Science vol:55 pages:286-300
Although the study of stone quarries is gaining increasing importance in Egyptian archaeology, quarry logistics, particularly as concerns transport facilities, has hitherto hardly been investigated. In the case of the quarry roads in the greater Dayr al-Barshā region (Middle Egypt), distinguishing between roads related to quarry exploitation from those resulting from other periods of use (in this case mainly related to funerary cult and Late Antique–Early Islamic Period monastic communities) poses another methodological problem. In this paper the use of very high spatial resolution satellite (VHSRS) technology is combined with archaeological methods to investigate the interplay between limestone quarries and roads in the study region. Remote sensing affords significant advantages over traditional survey techniques by visualizing the spatial context, whereas the spectral information content of the imagery adds information on road characteristics.
Results indicate that spectral content is of less importance for road detection in desert-like conditions than the spatial resolution of the imagery. Filtering techniques have an additional value, but in general enhancement techniques such as histogram equalization are most important for mapping road networks in the greater Dayr al-Barshā region. Based on spectral and morphological characteristics, six road types could be identified, a seventh being located using traditional techniques. Ground verification in conjunction with archaeological evidence clarified the spatial context and functions of the routes in the pharaonic and later periods, serving cemetery, quarry and settlement logistics.
Apart from one Middle Kingdom processional road, most roads have their origin in New Kingdom quarry activities. The road pattern we discovered provides important indications on how the stone transport was organized in a practical way. Many quarries in Dayr Abū Ḥinnis were not connected to harbours along the Nile, but to a long desert road that facilitated talatat transport to an area in northern Amarna. When the abandoned quarry complexes were turned into settlements in the Late Antique–Early Islamic Period, the resident communities selected parts of the existing road system for inter-site transport and transport from and to the Nile Valley. New paths were only rarely developed.
These observations demonstrate that remote sensing techniques hold great potential for surveying road patterns over large distance in desert-like conditions.