The staff of the Tomsk State University laboratory Artefact and specialists from the Hermitage have worked out the technology of remote search for archaeological objects using aerial photography. The use of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) made it possible not only to significantly increase the speed of exploration of the Valley of the Kings in Tuva but also to discover many objects that were not available for fixation from the ground. The results are published in the journal Digital Applications in Archeology and Cultural Heritage (Q1).
– This is the largest project in Russia for the documentation of archaeological sites using a drone. The total area of the survey, carried out in the Turano-Uyuk hollow, was about 200 km2, – says Olga Zaitseva, one of the project participants, head of the Department of Anthropology and Ethnology of the TSU Faculty of Historical and Political Studies and a staff member of Artefact. – A UAV of the aircraft type Geoscan-201 was used for the study. In 10 flights, we have taken more than 20,000 pictures. The search for archaeological sites was carried out using the QGIS software.
Data processing and manual analysis of the entire area captured took quite a long time. As a result, using aerial photography, scientists managed to map 1000 archaeological objects, of which only 265 were previously known. Of these objects, some were invisible and inaccessible for fixation from the ground, for example, plowed mounds.
– After the discovery of the corresponding anomalies in the drone survey, it is necessary to conduct a direct survey on the ground to ascertain whether the structures discovered are indeed archaeological objects. At the same time, the survey of such a huge area without preliminary reconnaissance using a UAV would take several years, – explains Mikhail Vavulin, a staff member of Artefact.
The researchers described their experience of searching for archaeological objects using UAVs in the article “UAV-based Photogrammetry: Assessing the Application Potential and Effectiveness for Archaeological Monitoring and Surveying in the Research on the ‘Valley of the Kings’ (Tuva, Russia)”.
TSU archaeologists intend to use aerial photography to search for archaeological objects in Altai and Khakassia in the summer season of 2021.