Detecting and mapping slag heaps at ancient copper production sites in Oman

Alexander J. Sivitskis, Joseph W. Lehner, Michael J. Harrower*, Ioana A. Dumitru, Paige E. Paulsen, Smiti Nathan, Daniel R. Viete, Suleiman Al-Ja, Barbara Helwing, Frances Wiig, Daniel Moraetis, Bernhard Pracejus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This study presents a new approach for detection and mapping of ancient slag heaps using 16-band multispectral satellite imagery. Understanding the distribution of slag (a byproduct of metal production) is of great importance for understanding how metallurgy shaped long-term economic and political change across the ancient Near East. This study presents results of slag mapping in Oman usingWorldView-3 (WV3) satellite imagery. A semi-automated target detection routine using a mixed tuned matched filtering (MTMF) algorithm with scene-derived spectral signatures was applied to 16-band WV3 imagery. Associated field mapping at two copper production sites indicates that WorldView-3 satellite data can differentiate slag and background materials with a relatively high (>90%) overall accuracy. Although this method shows promise for future initiatives to discover and map slag deposits, difficulties in dark object spectral differentiation and underestimation of total slag coverage substantially limit its use. Resulting lower estimations of combined user's (61%) and producer's (45%) accuracies contextualize these limitations for slag specific classification. Accordingly, we describe potential approaches to address these challenges in future studies. As sites of ancient metallurgy in Oman are often located in areas of modern exploration and mining, detection and mapping of ancient slag heaps via satellite imagery can be helpful for discovery and monitoring of vulnerable cultural heritage sites.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3014
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2019


  • Ancient metallurgy
  • Arabia
  • MTMF
  • Oman
  • Slag
  • WorldView-3 satellite imagery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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