CAMEL (Center for Ancient Middle Eastern Landscapes) is a research laboratory at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago that is dedicated to the long-durée study of Middle Eastern landscapes, environments and cultural heritage, primarily through archaeological fieldwork, satellite imagery analysis, and spatial analysis within Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

The CAMEL component of the Oriental Institute’s Integrated Database makes geospatial data available for public search and download.

CAMEL Search Bar.JPG

CAMEL’s database includes over 20,000 unique objects of spatial data that relate to the archaeology, anthropology, and history of the Middle East. The main strengths of our collection are:
  • Digitized and georeferenced versions of historical maps held by the Oriental Institute
  • Historical aerial photographs of particular archaeological sites and landscapes
  • Georeferenced historical satellite imagery covering large swaths of the Middle East, primarily from the Cold War-era Corona spy satellite program

Some data held by CAMEL is not publicly distributable because of copyright, donor wishes, and active research projects. The data searchable and downloadable online is therefore a subset of our holdings, right now just over 6000 datasets. As the database has just gone public, we are continually reviewing our data access settings and making more data available. This process will continue through January 2017.

If you are familiar with other online geospatial data repositories, you will be used to searching for maps and GIS data via a map interface or some other type of spatial search. Due to funding constraints, we have not yet been able to implement a spatial search function in the Integrated Database. It is thus necessary to use text-based queries to locate data. Once you have located a georeferenced dataset of interest, an interactive map with up-to-date satellite imagery embedded in the dataset’s page will allow you to see the spatial coverage of the dataset.

By selecting from the second drop-down menu, specific searches can be conducted on the following fields:

  • Keyword
  • Spatial Type
  • Category/Subcategory
  • “Type”: searches for only category, subcategory, or “image” (individual map/satellite image/vector dataset) records
  • “Creation Date (Year)”: year a map was published or year a remote sensing dataset was captured
  • “Language”: language(s) present in a map
  • “Multimedia”: yes/no, whether or not data is attached to a record and available for download
  • “Projected/Rectified”: yes/no, whether or not the dataset is georeferenced.

*Please note that CAMEL retains ungeoreferenced copies of all datasets in its database, so if you are interested in downloading a georeferenced version of a dataset, double-check that you have the right record. Most (but not all) of CAMEL’s datasets are georeferenced

After an initial search, the results page provides you with a second opportunity to refine your search. Many of these are the same as above. A brief description of two additional options is below:
a.“Resolution”: scale of a map or on-the-ground pixel size of a remote sensing dataset. (Multispectral imagery will have multiple bands of varying resolution)
b.“Visibility”: for remote sensing datasets only; ranks the clarity and cloud cover of aerial and satellite images on a scale from one (less clear/most clouds) to four (most clear/no clouds)

If you wish to download a dataset, click on that dataset’s name in the result list to access its record. If the dataset is georeferenced (Projected/Rectified=yes), then an embedded interactive map on the record will show the spatial coverage of the dataset in the lower right. Below a preview image of the dataset on the right side, you will find a link for downloading files. A zipped file should download to your machine. This download will include metadata (citation information, etc) for the dataset in a txt file. If you do not see an interactive map on the dataset’s record, it is likely that you have accessed the record for the non-georeferenced version of the dataset or that the dataset has never been georeferenced. Click the "View Associated Images" link at the bottom of the page. This will display any georeferenced versions of your search result. Or return to the results list and select "Yes" under "Projected/Rectified" to locate the record for the georeferenced version, if it exists.