Archaeology cannot stand still in the digital age. Computer-aided methods can give archaeologists better tools to record and analyze data. Digital imaging can help us to better display our finds and conclusions.
One of the tools we use at Khirbet Summeily is photogrammetry – the use of photographs to make maps and take measurements. Through a series of overlapping photos and known data points, an area can be accurately mapped, so that the distances are known and measurements can digitally be taken on these maps. Even more, this enables maps to be created in three dimensions.
To be able to use photographs in the production of maps, targets had to be placed in the area. These were distributed fairly evenly across an excavation unit and hammered in place. After that, each target was “shot in” – the exact location of each target was determined through the use of a total station (a surveying instrument). Several overlapping photographs were taken of each area, usually three from the South and three from the North. For that, a camera was mounted on a 5m pole. Connected to a monitor the photographer was able to see pictures the camera took. Spotters ensured that the pole was exactly vertical when photographs were taken.
Back in the office, the surveyor analyzed the photographs and produced a map for each square each afternoon. Particular points of interest were shown on the map after discussions with the supervisor. The supervisor was then able to draw on the map. We usually drew by hand in the field, but lines can also be drawn digitally to delineate features. The system ensures greater accuracy than hand-drawn top plans, and enables more accurate analysis. Additionally, it saves the supervisors quite some time. Instead of drawing top plans, they can focus on other things to aid the excevation (for example relax at the pool).