The latest fashion in aerial photography is paragliding. Strap a motor on your back, inflate your wings, and you’re off.
This has been used to great effect in Armenia, where Professor Hayk Hakobyan, of Yerevan State University appealed for help in carrying out aerial photography in Armenia. Rog Palmer who runs the well-known aerial photography consultancy Air Photo Services in Cambridge came to his help. The British Council stepped in and with the help of a small grant they were able to purchase their own paraglider, pack it into the back of a van and take it out to Armenia. Thus Wings Over Armenia was born, a pioneering project that aims to document Armenia’s archaeology from the air using a paramotor.
Hair-raising though it appears, the paramotor is the ideal tool for aerial photography since the pilot can take off on foot from any nearby field, and fly slowly over a site of interest. Pictures can be taken from altitudes of anywhere between 100ft to 5000ft, depending on requirements and local air traffic laws; in Armenia, its use even got around the
current ban on civil light aviation. The paramotor is also easily transported to isolated areas since it fits in the back of a van. Moreover, despite its tiny size, it can take two people -typically a pilot and a photographer.
The Project aims to teach its members how to recognise sites from the air (Armenian archaeology had previously been confined to digging), how to take air photos, as well as concepts of survey and landscape archaeology.
In the first stage of the project, Wings Over Armenia has been undertaking a systematic aerial photographic survey of the Kasach gorge area, 400 sq km of foothills and plains 20 km northwest of Yerevan. This area includes sites dating back to the Bronze Age, along with archaeological features such as field and road systems that are often best recorded from the air. Since most of the known sites in the Kasach gorge area consist of aboveground structures, it is thought that the aerial photos should reveal sites not yet recognised by Armenian archaeologists.
This will provide a much more comprehensive picture of the archaeological landscape, and will allow archaeologists to get a better idea of land-use and settlement patterns, or even about how past societies might have changed and developed.
For further information, please see www.archaeology.am
This article is an extract from the full article published in World Archaeology Issue 1. Click here to subscribe