Our next meeting will be January 19, 2021 via Zoom

The January 19, 2021 program will feature Leila Character speaking on

Machine learning applications in geoarchaeology: Using remotely sensed imagery to model locations of archaeological features.

This project entails creating a series of supervised machine learning models to predict the locations of archaeological features using remotely sensed imagery. The goal of this work is to bridge the gap between the field of machine learning pursued by computer scientists and the types of on-the-ground projects of interest to geoarchaeologists.

This project began in 2018 with the goal of creating a targeted method of finding cave entrances at Maya archaeological sites located in the dense tropical forests of Guatemala and Belize. In 2019, we used a random forest classifier, airborne laser scanning (ALS) data, and a training dataset of known caves to successfully identify several previously undocumented caves in northwestern Belize. Two of these caves contained archaeological materials. Building on this work, modeling has been expanded to include other types of hidden and obscured features that colleagues are interested in studying. These include ancient Maya archaeological features in Guatemala and Mexico, shipwrecks off the coast of the United States, and ancient burial mounds in Romania.

The models for the archaeological features take ALS, sonar, and multispectral imagery as input, are based on existing convolutional neural network architectures, and make use of transfer learning. These models can be used to create more accurate maps of archaeological features to aid management objectives, study patterns across the landscape, and find new features. Such models can easily be adjusted to identify other types of features and accept different types of imagery as input. This work seeks to make machine learning methods accessible to non-computer scientists interested in study, management, and conservation of archaeological heritage.

The project is being carried out with UT colleagues Tim Beach, Cody Schank, and Adam Rabinowitz, University of Arizona anthropologist Takeshi Inomata, and Agustin Ortiz Jr. of the Naval History and Heritage Command .

Leila Character (previously Donn) is a third year PhD student in the Department of Geography and the Environment at the University of Texas at Austin focused on using machine learning and remotely sensed imagery to identify archaeological features. Her work seeks to bridge the gap between earth scientists with on-the-ground problems and computer scientists that are working on cutting edge technology that can help address these problems.

Leila’s work includes partners from academia, federal government, and private industry. Her current archaeology-focused projects include a shipwreck identification model being completed in partnership with the US Navy, a Maya archaeological feature identification model being completed in partnership with a group of archaeologists that work in Guatemala and Mexico, and an ancient burial mound identification model being completed with a group of archaeologists that work in Romania. She also works at an artificial intelligence start-up on a project to create a multi-species tree and health status classifier using hyperspectral imagery collected by drone.

Prior to beginning her PhD, she completed a master’s degree in the same department focused on the use of lidar and geoarchaeological methods to study the land-use patterns of the ancient Maya in north-central Belize. Her B.S. is in geology with a minor in anthropology focused on archaeology. Between receiving her B.S. and M.A. she worked for five years as a geologist and environmental scientist in Alaska, Texas, and Tennessee.

You can contact Leila at leiladonn@utexas.edu, check out her website at https://leiladonn.wixsite.com/leiladonn, and follow her on Instagram for research updates at @leiladonn.

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When conditions allow, the next regular meeting will be held on our usual schedule, the third Tuesday of the month at 7pm at Santa Rita Cantina's central location, 1206 W 38th St (26 Doors shopping center). Meetings are held on the third Tuesday of each month, except June and December. They are free and open to the public. For those who wish to come early, we gather around 5:45 PM for dinner, drinks, and fellowship. The short business meeting starts at 7:00 PM, followed by the guest speaker's presentation.


No in-person events are planned at this time. Check our Facebook page or join our mailing list for information on virtual meetings and online resources.