Aerial Archaeology

The ever changing landscape of aerial photography has found traction in yet another profession.  Archaeologists around the world are now finding use in modern technology, using aerial drones as a means of complementing their traditional tools and carrying them into the future.  The application of drones and aerial photography is helping to defend against looters and land traffickers worldwide.  The struggle to protect the extraordinary archaeological riches of Peru exemplifies this fight.

Peru’s vice minister of cultural heritage, Dr. Luis Castillo, is one of the many archeologists on the front lines leading an army of drones into battle.  The use of drone technology appears to have accelerated most in Peru, where Dr. Castillo’s air force is mapping, monitoring, and safeguarding his country’s ancient treasures.  While Peru seems to be ideal grounds to implement these new practices and technological advancements, the use of drones is not exclusive to Peru.

ben sheey aerial photography peruArchaeologists in New Mexico are also putting this into practice.  If simply taking aerial photos was not enough, experts are now fitting drones with thermal-imaging cameras to track the walls and passages of the ancient Chaco Canyon settlement.  Researchers in the Middle East are finding drones extremely useful in their efforts to survey ancient sites as well as aiding in the fight against looting.  “Aerial survey at the site is allowing for the identification of new looting pits and determinations of whether any looters’ holes had been revisited,” said Morag Kersel, an archaeologist from DePaul University.

These technological advances now allow researchers to convert aerial footage into 3-D images and highly detailed maps.  By developing these maps, researchers can establish legal boundaries and use them in court should anyone damage or begin development on the ruins.

While these advances in technology are not without complications, it is inspiring to see the landscape of archaeology, aerial photography, and drone technology evolve so quickly.  From the aerial perspective itself, to the introduction of special imaging lenses, these technological advances are opening new doors for older professions.  It would appear as though drones and aerial photography have limitless potential to those who dare to explore.

Read more in the New York Times article