For the uninitiated, the ‘Landscapes of the Dead Research Project’ is an ongoing endeavor for detailed analysis of the Early Bronze Age archaeological scope (from 3500-2000 BC) at numerous sites, including an important one at Fifa, Jordan. To that end, the Fifa site has revealed over thousands of tombs (estimated to be over 10,000) that were used during the high point of urbanization in this Bronze Age – an epoch in human history which entailed the starting of walled settlements and complex spatial organization. In other words, Fifa with its host of ceramic vessels and extant artifacts, can prove to be a quite a fascinating resource for researchers who are studying the pre-ancient urbanized status of the rich Levant region.
But a cruel predicament has risen in the recent times – with the systematic looting of this archaeological site, fueled by the high prices being fetched in the antiquities market. Of course, the archaeologists and custodians of the site are not sitting idly by; they have decided to fight this plundering aggression with the use of technology – drone technology to be more exact. In that regard, an expert in aerial photography (and an archaeologist at the University of Connecticut) Austin (Chad) Hill, had furnished an advanced hexacopter (with six blades) and a remote controlled plane.
Both of these UAV contraptions were used for low-elevation aerial photography that is tailored to stable imaging. This allows the site researchers to monitor the expansive location in a more comprehensive manner, while also aiding in the generation of data for detailed digital mapping.
Of course, just monitoring the looting activities is not enough. And so as a preventive groundwork, Morag Kersel, an archaeologist at DePaul University, has already started teaching workshops that show the legal means of earning money from antiquities – like making replicas and selling them (with stated origins). The drone technology will play its part alongside the grass-root activities, by allowing the researchers to assess the Fifa site at the same time during every year in the future. According to Hill –
We can see the change through time, not just of ‘a huge pit has been dug’ but where different stones have moved. It’s a level of resolution of spatial data collection that’s never really been possible until the last couple of years.
Images Credit: Associated Press