The use of aerial drones to survey the archaeological landscape is a burgeoning technique in archaeological investigation, recording, and analysis. Aerial photography has a long and important history in the archaeology of Britain, as attested to by the discovery of Yeavering and other sites in Northumberland through cropmarks, parchmarks, and soilmarks. One of the primary down-sides of traditional aerial photography is the cost and training required to either commission flights or to undertake the training to be a pilot. The growth in UAVs over the last decade has provided a more affordable way to conduct aerial surveys, and has only recently been incorporated into archaeological methods and practice. Darren’s work at Yeavering is concentrating on examining the archaeological landscape by focusing on taking photography outside the visual spectrum and investigating the reflectivity of the vegetation to identify archaeological features. He has conducted a systematic survey of the site by conducting flights every month throughout the year to determine if seasonal changes to vegetation and weather affect the visibility of archaeological features. Although additional burial evidence has not been identified through these surveys, new anomalies that are potentially related to the archaeological heritage of the site have been identified through his work at the site.
It was my first time seeing a UAV in action, and I was impressed at the abilities of the drone to survey the landscape both efficiently and quickly. As well as the ability to take high resolution RGB photos and multi-spectral images, drone photography can be used to model the topographic elevation of a landscape utilising photogrammetry. In addition, drones can be adapted to use LiDAR scanners in order to produce highly-detailed elevation models. Many thanks are necessary to Darren for demonstrating his drone and for his work at the site, which will be invaluable for understanding the archaeological environs of the site. Darren has taken drone flights at other archaeological sites in the region, and is keen to continue this work after his degree is finished at Durham for any other archaeologists working in Britain that would benefit from these techniques.
You can see more of Darren’s work at: https://sketchfab.com/dojpot
Knowles, David, and John Kenneth Sinclair St Joseph.Monastic sites from the air. University Press, 1952.
Hope-Taylor, Brian. Yeavering, an Anglo-British centre of early Northumbria. HM Stationery Office., 1977.