October 17, 2009

Mapping archaeology

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 10:04 am

Not an article, but this is what I’ve been up to lately. We’re assembling the monograph for Kom el-Hisn which was explored and excavated several times through the last hundred years or so. Mapping has been something of an issue; lots of survey points were shot in over the three years of the current work, but only one real map has been produced, by me, using some odd XYZ points created. It’s complicated, and I did it all in a surface mapping program called Surfer. So I can pretty well create a good topo map with all of our excavation units and major landmarks on it:

Full image.

Now, two things we’d like to do with this is first, overlay our excavation units on a sat photo, either an older LandSat one or a just plain Google map shot:

Full image.

And second, overlay some old excavations from the late ’40s and early ’50s by Hamada, el-Amir, and Farid. They excavated some habitation areas, but mostly an extensive cemetery. So we really wanted to show how our excavated areas related to theirs. Trouble is, there’s no way to tell now (or in the 1980s when we were there) where their excavations were. But we do have an old map that they published:

Full image.

Fortunately, there is a way to overlay all of these with at least a decent accuracy. If you notice on the first map, about in the center, offset a bit to the left, is the “Rest House”. If you look directly south of that, you see a “Tomb”. The latter is the tomb of Khesu-wer, a smallish stone tomb. Now, the Hamada and Farid map (the third one), fortunately, has both the tomb and the rest house, so I was able to put them both into a graphics program (Corel Draw) and resize them until the field house and the tomb matched:

This one has the actual H&F map removed and I traced over their excavated area outlines. Admittedly, it’s only two known points that I used as landmarks; three would have been better. Also, I am assuming that both “rest houses” are the same, but I think it rather unlikely that a second one would have been built in different places within 50 years. Thus, I’m pretty confident that it’s at least accurate to within a couple/few meters.

The sat photo is a little more complicated because there’s only one landmark readily identifiable, the field house. If you look at that photo, the tomb is not readily apparent unless you know exactly where to look. But the village is there and based on the other two maps the tomb building ought to A) be visible in the sat photo, and B) Just about directly south of the field house. I put the sat photo over the H&F map and did the same futzing to line up the field house and what I thought should be the tomb:

I labeled both the rest house and the tomb in that image which you can barely make out. Again, not terribly precise, but good enough to within a couple of meters and it gives people a pretty good idea of where stuff is.

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