Cadalyst

GIS Tech News (#116)

19 Sep, 2012 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin


Archaeologists Dig Up New Uses for GIS

Tech Trends: Researchers apply modern technologies in search for ancient relics.

By Cyrena Respini-Irwin

Archaeology demands patience, perseverance, and often, a strong back. Like their predecessors, modern archaeologists still labor with shovels, trowels, and brushes. In the past decade, however, they have made some notable additions to the toolbox. The khaki-clad figure that once captured aerial photographs from a hot-air balloon now studies detailed imagery collected by satellite-borne sensors. Crates of dusty field notebooks have given way to notebook computers; dog-eared paper maps have been replaced by GIS (geographic information system) maps that provide spatial context to diverse datasets. Digital 3D models give new life to ancient buildings and artifacts, offering revelations that pen-and-ink drawings never could.

These technologies help researchers make new discoveries, collect data with greater speed and accuracy, and effectively share their findings with fellow scientists and the public.

They can also enable research that is completely nondestructive, in contrast to archaeological excavation, said Tom Paradise, professor of geosciences and historic preservation at the University of Arkansas. "Once a site has been excavated, [the effects of the work] cannot be truly undone. The site is exposed and requires conservation, restoration, maintenance, and monitoring. Digital geographic technologies, however, permit us to study, measure, scan, and assess the structures, landscape, and environments in a completely nonintrusive manner."

Paradise and his team use GIS and 3D modeling in their ongoing study of Petra, an ancient Nabataean city in Jordan. "Rather than physically reconstruct a temple or tomb facade, we can digitally reconstruct it for further research and the visitors' enjoyment and education. This astounding architecture then ... may be digitally studied and observed until all other reversible technologies have been exhausted; only then are nonreversible technologies used."

Main photo: Christopher Angel, a doctoral student at the University of Arkansas, uses a handheld Trimble GPS unit to take latitude and longitude measurements in Petra, Jordan. Image courtesy of Tom Paradise. Inset, right: A LIDAR sensor was used to produce very accurate 3D images of findings at an historic cemetery excavation site in Tucson, Arizona. Image courtesy of Pima County Arizona Cultural Resources.
Main photo: Christopher Angel, a doctoral student at the University of Arkansas, uses a handheld Trimble GPS unit to take latitude and longitude measurements in Petra, Jordan. Image courtesy of Tom Paradise.

Inset, right: A LIDAR sensor was used to produce very accurate 3D images of findings at an historic cemetery excavation site in Tucson, Arizona. Image courtesy of Pima County Arizona Cultural Resources.

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Cyrena Respini-Irwin is Cadalyst's senior editor.

Mark Your Calendar: GIS Events

INTERGEO 2012
October 9–11, 2012
Hannover, Germany
Participants of this conference will explore topics such as Open GeoData and energy issues, cloud computing, 3D and new technologies, urban development and property valuation. The congress language is German, but some presentations will be in English. Read more 

2012 Oil & Gas Pipeline Conference
October 22–24, 2012
Houston, Texas
This year's Oil & Gas Pipeline Conference will focus on regulation and compliance; risk and integrity management; integrated solutions development; environmental health and safety; and new construction. The event will be conducted by the Geospatial Information & Technology Association. Read more

Trimble Dimensions User Conference 2012
November 5–7, 2012
Las Vegas, Nevada
This educational, networking, and hands-on training conference will provide insight into how technology can transform the way professionals work to achieve success in heavy civil construction; building construction; survey; cadastral; geospatial; mapping and GIS; transportation and logistics; field service management; energy; infrastructure; utilities and natural resource; and government fields. Read more

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on Cadalyst.com. Are you hosting an event that you would like to include in our calendar? Submit details at least two weeks in advance to news@cadalyst.com.

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