There is no question that archaeology today is not only digging holes in order to discover the traces of past people and cultures, there are so many other ways to get clues about what is underground. And I am all about testing new methods, especially, non-destructive methods, while working towards appropriate methodological approaches in the archaeological field-studies. Therefore, when my dear friend and colleague Dr Daniel Löwenborg from Uppsala university suggested testing photographing the site of Sa 14.9 with the help of aerial drone, there was no hesitation to whether we should give it a try.
Drones – unmanned aerial vehicles operated with radio-controlled handsets – are becoming increasingly popular in many kinds of scientific research and the use of drones has proven to be a great tool for, among other things, identifying archaeological sites. Drones allow archaeologists to cover huge areas of investigation very quickly meaning that f.ex mapping things can become a fairly fast and much simpler process with the help of drones. Now, it is not the drone itself that is working the miracle, it is the stuff strapped onto the drone that is the most important thing; and archaeologists are attaching cameras, video cameras, infrared sensors, magnetometers, barometers and GPS devices on drones to assist in their work.
However, we just tested the potential of using a drone photographing at Kvarnbo, because vegetation at the site right now is not really suitable for the simple aerial photographing as the field is not harvested yet and the crop is too high. Thus, it was not a work but a mere pleasure taking to the skies. In any case, as a result of “playing around” with the drone-driven camera we did come to the conclusion that the device will be used at the site later on when the conditions are right for aerial photographing in order to see hidden features. F.ex stone walls that lie beneath the surface often hinder the plants that grow above them and their outlines may be seen where plants are not growing very well. Unfortunately, this is not really the case when the season is rainy and this summer on Åland so far has not been characterized by drought. Thus, the drone and its operator will be back on Åland and taking to the skies might become a habit at Kvarnbo 😉