Kites and archaeology


Maybe you never thought of it that way, but kites can be important tools in archaeology. At the Tell el-Hesi Regional Survey we used them to map sites and take aerial photos. Kites with good flying qualities are launched near the site to be mapped. They usually have a very steady flight. About 20m below the kite, a camera cradle is attached to the kite string. A digital camera is mounted in that cradle. It is set to take pictures every 10 seconds. The camera is pointed downwards and the cradle ensures that its directions always stays the same. The elevation of the kite depends on the size of the site, but I think about 100m would not be unusual. As the person flying the kite only sees the camera from one direction, it’s difficult to judge whether the camera is actually above the site. Therefore, spotters are positioned at right angles to judge whether the camera is above the site. With hand signals they indicate whether the person holding the kite has to move in a certain direction. After about half an hour in the air, the camera has taken hundreds of pictures. Most of these will not be useable. But some will be.


Images are downloaded onto a computer and overlapping images are used to create a photogrammetric map. A few fixed points are needed to convert the pictures into maps. We used tiles, which we laid out in a grid across the site. The exact three dimensional location of the tiles were determined through the use of a total station. The resulting map ties in with the national and international grid.
If you want to know about this mapping, go to the website of Digital Mapping.

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