Drones for archaeology

PhysOrg has more on using drones… not just to find priceless historical sites, but to protect them from looters:

With aerial photographs taken by a homemade drone, researchers are mapping exactly where—and roughly when—these ancient tombs were robbed.

The aerial photography detects spots where new looting has taken place at the 5,000-year-old Fifa graveyard, which can then sometimes be linked to Bronze Age pots turning up in shops of dealers, said Morag Kersel, an archaeologist at DePaul University in Chicago. Kersel, who heads the “Follow The Pots” project, also shares the data with Jordan’s Department of Antiquities, to combat looting.

On a recent morning, team members walked across ravaged graves, their boots crunching ancient bones, as a tiny, six-bladed flying robot buzzed overhead. In recent years, drone use in archaeology has become increasingly common, replacing blimps, kites and balloons in surveying hard-to-access dig sites, experts said.

Chad Hill, an archaeologist at the University of Connecticut who built the drone, piloted it over a part of the graveyard that had not been mapped yet. The drone snapped photographs that allowed Hill to see in great detail how looting altered the landscape.
“We can see the change through time, not just of ‘a huge pit has been dug’ but where different stones have moved,” Hill said. “It’s a level of resolution of spatial data collection that’s never really been possible until the last couple of years.”