The use of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, sparks debate on many fronts.
For one College of Liberal Arts professor,
drones are an innovative component of his
“Drones are a new tool in archaeologists’
toolkits,” says Ian Lindsay, associate professor
of anthropology. Lindsay has been excavating
in the South Caucasus region, which spans
Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, since
2000. Lindsay has long been fascinated by the
pastoral societies that occupied the region
centuries ago. His area of research concerns
how these groups, nomadic in nature,
developed political institutions and engaged
in warfare during the Bronze Age and the
Iron Age, or from 200 to 1500 BCE. To do this
research, Lindsay and his colleagues were
tasked with planning site analyses as well as
unearthing artifacts and structures. Cue
Flying 300 meters from the ground,
Lindsay’s drone recorded a 3:49 minute
video, available on Vimeo. The video
depicts lush, hilly landscapes, giving
Lindsay’s team the necessary insight into
preparing an excavation.
“This will be a collaborative tool for
archaeologists in the region to add and edit
data about field sites,” Lindsay says. “It also
will be helpful to update legacy sites, which
are sites that were identified or excavated but
have not yet been published.” Cheaper than
traditional satellite technology, the drone
footage even allowed Lindsay to count the
numbers of burials on the site.
Beyond the spatial analysis, Lindsay
sought to examine the fortresses and other
structures left behind by the civilization. “We
want to understand how these structures were
used politically, religiously, and socially; we
also want to know about the lifestyle of people
who lived in the shadow of these forts.”
The drone videos give students in a West
Lafayette classroom “a sense of actually being
there at the site. And it’s more engaging than
just looking at a map.”
By Caroline Shanley.
LEFT: Ian Lindsay launches a drone to collect multispectral and thermal images of a Bronze Age cemetery in Armenia. RIGHT: Lindsay and an Armenian
collaborator, Arshaluys Mkrtchyan, modify a DJI Phantom 3 drone to carry a Parrot Sequoia multispectral sensor for use in the aerial survey of sites.
Photos provided by Ian Lindsay.