Using LiDAR, filmmaker discovers “lost city”
Cinematographer Steve Elkins announced last week that by using LiDAR (light detection and ranging), he discovered “what appears to be evidence of archaeological ruins in an area long rumored to contain the legendary lost city of Ciudad Blanca.” The phrasing “lost city” is problematic, however: it’s hard to lose a city when the city itself is a myth.
The mapping project, conducted over 40 hours split between seven flights during April and May, was led by Elkins’ group, UTL Scientific. Participants include the thriller writer Douglas Preston, who is the former editor at the American Museum of Natural History. The project took place in conjunction with the government of Honduras with the help of technicians from the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping and professors from the University of Houston.
Kind of a minor squabble going on, described within. I’m on the side of those who take this sort of thing to be a major innovation. Although it is just another method for gathering data, it’s a tremendous tool for doing so. I agree with the point made that, even though the technology is expensive, it could be cheap in the long run if you get the same mapping data in a couple of days that would ordinarily take weeks or months or even years to accomplish. But, you know, it’s just a tool; you still need to explain the data.
Skomer Island’s ‘hidden’ prehistoric buildings found by archaeologists
A team of archaeologists have found “hidden” remains of prehistoric buildings and fields on Skomer Island, off the Pembrokeshire coast.
Using new technology, they “X-rayed” fields and found buried ditches and structures not visible on the ground.
Dr Toby Driver from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales said they may date back 5,000 years.
He added they are among the best preserved anywhere in the UK.
Interesting little article, apparently mostly uninhabited in historic times(?). I Google Earthed to it and there is a small cluster of buildings in the center of the island, but otherwise there appear to be just some small roads and trails. As they say, whatever is there is at least undisturbed by modern plowing.
Satellites Expose 8,000 Years of Lost Civilization
Hidden in the landscape of the fertile crescent of the Middle East, scientists say, lurk overlooked networks of small settlements that hold vital clues to ancient civilizations.
Beyond the impressive mounds of earth, known as tells in Arabic, that mark lost cities, researchers have found a way to give archaeologists a broader perspective of the ancient landscape. By combining spy-satellite photos obtained in the 1960s with modern multispectral images and digital maps of Earth’s surface, the researchers have created a new method for mapping large-scale patterns of human settlement. The approach, used to map some 14,000 settlement sites spanning eight millennia in 23,000 square kilometers of northeastern Syria, is published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Neat stuff. Being able to accurately recognize sites from space is the real key; once you do that with some facility you can do at least a minimal level of regional survey and get nearly everything. Of course, you still need to date everything but it’s an incredibly useful first step.
Indiana Jones goes geek: Laser-mapping LiDAR revolutionizes archaeology
In the once tech-resistant area of anthropology, high-tech tools are enabling new discoveries on an almost-daily basis. Several years ago, Fisher started out with rugged handheld computers and a few GPS receivers to map the recently-discovered city Sacapu Angamuco in western Mexico, occupied from about 1,000 to 1,350 CE. The Purepechan or Tarascan people had proven more difficult to pinpoint archeologically than had their contemporaries and rivals, the Aztecs. But initial data gathering and geo-referencing allowed Fisher to identify the city at an important moment on the crux of empire, and to do so in a fraction of the time it would have taken with tape measures and grid-plotting. Still, there was more to be done.
Last year, LiDAR enabled Fisher to create a full-fledged picture of the important Mesoamerican capital in greater detail. This included the discovery of several pyramids, ceremonial complexes and thousands of residences and other buildings that no one knew existed in the city. Much is known about the Purepecha at the time of European contact in the 16th century, but little has been uncovered about their origins. This project should help with that.
They’re probably right about it being revolutionary, even though it’s only gotten sporadic use so far. Mainly because of the cost-quality metric: you can probably do a more accurate survey using traditional surveying methods, but that’s time consuming and you need a lot of expertise to do it correctly. With this, you can get a large area done fairly quickly. Plus it will allow you do map places that would be difficult to get to on foot or vehicle.
Googling the past: how I uncovered prehistoric remains from my office
At a stroke and within a very short period of time, archaeologists who were accustomed to working without access to aerial imagery, have had immense landscapes opened up for exploration from their home office. For Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Jordan there is extensive high-resolution imagery; for Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman, high-resolution coverage is more limited but increasing.
The consequences can be measured immediately, although it will be some years before the detailed impact is known.
I’ve been wondering if one could catalog tell sites in Iran. . . .
Aerial archaeologist’s bird’s eye view of Fens.
Slooooow loading video, I never got to view it.
Or cheap aerial photos? Tiny Drone Reveals Ancient Royal Burial Sites
A miniature airborne drone has helped archaeologists capture images for creating a 3-D model of an ancient burial mound in Russia, scientists say.
Archaeological sites are often in remote and rugged areas. As such, it can be hard to reach and map them with the limited budgets archaeologists typically have. Scientists are now using drones to extend their view into these hard-to-reach spots.
“There are a lot possibilities with this method,” said researcher Marijn Hendrickx, a geographer at the University of Ghent in Belgium.
Here’s what it looks like:
This possibility occurred to me recently for two reasons. First, the local news did a similar story of a moving picture camera installed on a similar device. They were creating it mostly for emergency use — checking out disaster areas for example — but I was thinking it would be a good idea for getting aerial shots of sites. Second, does anyone else’s shopping mall have a constant kiosk with those little battery-powered remote control helicopters? They’re always demonstrating them and I starting thinking how cool it would be if you could put a small real-time camera in one and be able to “pilot” it via a viewscreen like you were sitting in the copter yourself. Think of the spy possibilities!
Errr, *ahem*. This might be a tad moot anymore since we can call up Google Earth images of a lot of stuff, but often those aren’t of high enough resolution and can be out of date, not to mention not capturing excavations in process. Grab yourself a mini helicopter and take a bunch of shots of your site from directly above and you can have your own aerial photos to study at whatever altitude you want. I’m guessing because of the vibration from the motors, you probably couldn’t use a standard commercial/entertainment one, but maybe something similar is already being produced for consumer use?
Google Earth reveals Nazca-like structures in Arabia
Kennedy says that many countries in the Middle East will not provide aerial photographs or permit flights for archaeological research, so Google Earth provides the only way to analyse the region.
Earlier this year, he identified almost 2000 potential archaeological sites in Saudi Arabia from his office chair using Google Earth’s satellite images. Expanding his virtual exploration to cover the entire Arabian peninsula he has now found over 2000 “kites” – stone structures with a roughly circular head and tails hundreds of metres long. Thought to be animal traps, the tails may have funnelled in gazelle and oryx, leaving them stuck in the head.
As you can tell by the quote, the headline is rather misleading. Worth going over to the little slide show they link to, as it shows other features viewed from above all around the middle east. They make the excellent point that some of these places are simply inaccessible and the only way to view things from the air is via Google Earth, since many countries don’t allow aerial photos. Also good for very remote areas. Of course, the trick is not to just identify possible sites but to actually go check them out. I’m wondering if you can identify things like kurgans in the remoter parts of eastern Europe.
Radar helps find long-buried bodies
Archaeologists rolled a digital device across Kirkland Cemetery at Rookery Bay on Friday, searching for corpses.
Rich Estabrook, director for the Florida Public Archaeology Network’s central region, pushed a $20,000 ground penetrating radar machine up and down rows on an 18-foot by 18-foot plot at the Naples cemetery, part of a historic shell mound.
“This allows you to find resources without disturbing the ground, which in the case of a cemetery is very important,” said Fort Myers resident Gloria Sajgo, a volunteer for FPAN’s southwest regional office, based at FGCU.
Couldn’t tell at first whether this was a Euro-american cemetery or a shell midden Amerindian thing because of the “historic shell mound” bit. Is it a shell midden that was used as a cemetery later on? I’d love to get my hands on one of those machines for a day or so to see how it works on a recent cemetery.
Slide show doesn’t appear to have any captions and is only of marginal utility.
Bid to use sonar to map Civil War, WWII shipwrecks
World War II shipwrecks off North Carolina and Civil War shipwrecks in Virginia are being analyzed with sonar technology so sophisticated that the public could one day view near photographic images in detail even better than diving at some of the sites could provide.
Federal researchers are using sonars to gather data that will result in vivid, three-dimensional images of the shipwrecks that will likely end up online, in museums and as part of other programs designed to promote American maritime heritage.
“Not everybody dives, and so that’s why we embrace technologies like this that are cutting edge, cost effective and give you a three-dimensional sense of that ship on the bottom,” said James Delgado, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Maritime Heritage Program. “The kinds of imagery — it’s almost photographic.”
I dunno, from what they present there it’s not exactly like You Are There or anything. There’s a set of four images, two of which show sonar images which . . . well, don’t look like much to me.