Our trenches in the outworks include a lot of extant masonry, and it has been one of the goals of this season to get a better handle on the different phases of construction by looking at architectural choices, stone type, mortar, and the like. In our effort to do that, we really needed an eye in the sky to help us see the alignments, and more noticeably the lack thereof, of the visible masonry.
Today we had a special treat, as friends of the project David and Annie brought their drone to the site. We had special permission from the Castle team to fly the drone over the outworks, but in general drones are not allowed over the Castle or the Site of Special Scientific Interest (due to biodiversity) that abuts the Castle. Do NOT bring your drone to the Castle, please and thank you.
A drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) whose use can be recreational, commercial, or military. Over the last few decades, we’ve seen an increase in the use of aerial photography via drone in archaeology. Forward-thinking archaeological teams have been using imagery taken at height to search for, record, and monitor archaeological sites for nearly a century. Aerial archaeology in the UK can be traced back to RAF intelligence-gathering and the enduring legacy of O.G.S. Crawford, who pioneered aerial archaeology methodologies starting with the Stonehenge landscape and founded the journal Antiquity. We last had aerial photography taken all the way back in 2013, and here’s an image of us (Constance, Lauren, and Graeme are somewhere in there) caught by the camera nearly a decade ago:
Drone technology has certainly streamlined since then. Getting the photo above was a very involved process, requiring specialised computer equipment to translate the signal onto a teeny, tiny monitor that the supervisors crowded around. This time around? A small four-rotor box (a “quadcopter”), a controller that looked like it came from a video game console, and an iPad. It was a mind-blowingly simple set-up, but years of aviation, video, and wireless technological innovation were needed to bring us to this moment.
Here is a sneak peek of some of the images we captured today: