Geospatial integration in mapping pre-Hispanic settlements within Aztec empire limits




Mesoamerican Postclassic, Aztec Empire, Sentinel-2 optical sensors, Digital Aerial Photogrammetry (DAP), Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)


Mexico’s vast archaeological research tradition has increased with the use of remote sensing technologies; however, this recent approach is still costly in emerging market economies. In addition, the scales of prospection, landscape, and violence affect the type of research that heritage-culture ministries and universities can conduct. In Central Mexico, researchers have studied the pre-Hispanic Settlement Pattern during the Mesoamerican Postclassic (900-1521 AD) within the scope of the Aztec Empire and its conquests. There are settlements indications before and during the rule of the central empire, but the evidence is difficult to identify, particularly in the southwest of the capital, in the transition between the Lerma and Balsas River basins and their political-geographical complexities. This research focuses on a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based processing of multiple source data, the potential prospection of archaeological sites based on spatial data integration from Sentinel-2 optical sensors, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), Digital Terrain Model (DTM), Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and field validation. What is revealed is the relationship between terrain morphologies and anthropic modifications. A binary map expresses possible archaeological remnants as a percentage; NDVI pixels and the morphometry values were associated with anthropic features (meso-reliefs with a tendency to regular geometries: slope, orientation, and roughness index); they were then interpreted as probable archaeological evidence. Within archaeological fieldwork, with limited resources (time, funding and staff), this approach proposes a robust method that can be replicated in other mountainous landscapes that are densely covered by vegetation.


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Author Biographies

Raúl Miranda-Gómez, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México

Facultad de Geografía, Doctorado en Geografía y Desarrollo Geotecnológico ; Coordinación de Arqueología, Centro Universitario Tenancingo

Héctor V. Cabadas-Báez, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México

Facultad de Geografía

Xanat Antonio-Némiga, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México

Facultad de Geografía

Norma Dávila-Hernández, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Facultad de Geografía


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How to Cite

Miranda-Gómez, R., Cabadas-Báez, H. V., Antonio-Némiga, X., & Dávila-Hernández, N. (2022). Geospatial integration in mapping pre-Hispanic settlements within Aztec empire limits. Virtual Archaeology Review, 13(27), 49–65.