Preserving and recording the findings from a dig site is a tricky business, as the integrity of many archeological ruins have been jeopardized by humans and environmental factors over the years.
Due to the risks that come with using traditional preservation methods, more archaeologists are looking at the past through the eyes (in the sky) of the future: drones.
In Chepèn, Peru, Luis Jaime Castillo Butters, Peru’s vice minister of cultural heritage, is utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles to unveil the secrets of the past.
Castillo pilots a small remote controlled drone that allows him to study and photograph the unstable ancient ruins of the Moche civilization, which were built over a thousand years ago.
Drones allow researchers to protect more than just the site integrity; they can also find, and subsequently protect, treasures.
In New Mexico and The Middle East, archaeologists are equipping UAV’s with thermal-imaging cameras which can track and locate potential looters. Morag Kersel, an archaeologist from DePaul University, says this type of technology “is allowing for the identification of new looting pits and determinations of whether any of the looters’ holes had been revisited,” according to the New York Times.
In Peru, an area rich with about 100,000 historical preservation sites, archeologists like Castillo are facing similar challenges. These dig sites are subject to encroachment from looters, land traffickers, and squatters; all of whom could threaten to destroy important historical findings before they are recorded.
Just last year, a 4,000 year old pyramid in Lima, Peru, was illegally demolished and the land harvested for a new development; falling with this pyramid was thousands of years of history.
Dr.Castillo and his team, while under heavy time constraints and a limited budget, are working diligently to record the remnants of history before they are destroyed by these human threats.
By using drones, Dr.Castillo is able to cover more ground in less time than possible by an on-foot team, while also leaving the remains virtually untouched.
For Castillo and other archaeologists worldwide, preserving history is a race against time–and one that drones could help them win.