We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.


View Profile

Mrs Emma Cunliffe

(email at

Research Topic

Satellites and Site Destruction: An Analysis of Modern Impacts on the Archaeological Resource of the Near East.


Every year a large number of sites, both known and as yet unidentified, are destroyed across the Near East. These sites date from the earliest human settlements, through to the formation of the first cities, right the way through to Roman and Islamic times. Factors including war, looting, agriculture, urban development, and even geological processes such as erosion are all contributing to their destruction.

Funded by the AHRC, my research sits within the Fertile Crescent Project, which seeks to understand the rise and fall of Bronze Age states in Northern Mesopotamia. Using a combination of sequential satellite imagery taken over the last 40 years, and modern Google Earth imagery, my research aims to identify and quantifiy the key causes of site damage and destruction, both cultural and physical, taking recent history and current policy into account, as well as geological processes. Using key survey areas, it is hoped to judge the various effects on landscape transformation processes and site preservation.

Ultimately it is hoped that this research will enable the identification of patterns relating to site destruction, and the quantification of risk to the remaining sites. This would then feed into work with the local antiquities authorities, assisting them in the creation of robust evidence-based policies and strategies designed to protect the archaeology of the ancient near east.

I am currently organising an interdisciplinary project with the ultimate aim of protecting cultural heritage during and after the construction of dams.  Whilst acknowledging the need for power and water, this research project brings together specialists and interested parties to encourage practical discussion about minimizing damage to cultural heritage during the construction of dam projects. The ultimate aim of this project is the production of a practical set of best-practice guidelines for cultural heritage management in dam construction, aimed at developers, foreign contractors, and policy-makers, and the direction of limited resources to where they can be of best use.

How to Build a Dam and Save Cultural Heritage -
First event - How to Build a Dam and Save Cultural Heritage Workshop: 6th - 7th July 2012 -

Research Groups

Department of Archaeology

Research Projects

Department of Geography