Digital and Remote Sensing innovation at the Halos Archaeological Project

Years: 2019 - 2024

Collaboration with: Vladimir Stissi (Halos Archaeological Project director, ACASA)

Subproject remote sensing in the Voulokaliva: Jitte Waagen, Elon Heymans (archaeologist, Ancient Studies)

Funding: Halos Archaeological Project, ACASA, SNMAP, 4D Research Lab

Supervision: Jitte Waagen / Vladimir Stissi

Concept development: Jitte Waagen / Tijm Lanjouw / Elon Heymans

Concept development remote sensing in the Voulokaliva: Jitte Waagen / Elon Heymans

Technical development: Jitte Waagen / Tijm Lanjouw / Mikko Kriek / Markus Stoffer

Technical development deep learning in the Voulokaliva: Juergen Landauer

Drone photogrammetry at the excavation trench

Project description: This project aims to test and implement various technological innovations in archaeological field research, as part of an ongoing collaboration between ACASA and the 4D Research Lab. The various projects can be split into four main components:

Paperless archaeology implementations at the excavations at the Magoula Plataniotiki.

The concept of paperless archaeology has been developed for a while now, with excavations going completely digital (Boyd et al. 2021).At the same time the majority of digging fieldwork has kept to traditional pencil-and-paper for in-the-field documentation (cf. Morgan and Wright 2018) or is only very gradually adapting some digital innovation. An important aspect of adapting digital approaches is to what extent it changes the primary archaeological knowledge production process under influence of the respective affordances of the technology that is used (Waagen 2019). The paperless archaeology experiments in the Halos project are developed with this specific goal in mind; to explore and evaluate a balance between innovation and archaeological practice. Part of these experiments have been the implementation of various 3D recording techniques, thermal prospection at the excavation, and documentation workflows using tablets.

Drone Remote Sensing at the Magoula Plataniotiki

The Magoula Plataniotiki was occupied from the Archaic to Hellenistic period, probably already starting in the (Late) Iron Age, and with some occasional use in later periods. In addition to the archaeological excavations, various geophysical prospection campaigns have taken place, evidencing considerable subsoil anomalies that can convincingly be interpreted as buried structures belonging to different phases of the ancient habitation. However, a large part of the suspected urban area is inaccessible and/or covered with dense and low vegetation. Various drone remote sensing techniques have been deployed to see how these can complement the already rich dataset, applying a multi-temporal setup to investigate optimal recording moments.

Drone remote sensing at the Voulokaliva

The Voulokaliva is an extensive (ca. 250 ha) burial area near the Magoula Plataniotiki dotted with, often still identifiable, burial mounds (tumuli) dating from the Iron Age to the 6th c. BC. These ca. 30 mounds are in varying states of visibility and preservation, partly still intact (some excavated), partly damaged due to looting, erosion and/or agriculture. During pedestrian field surveys, a rich map of the area and the mounds has been produced, but also evidence of Bronze Age and potentially Early Iron Age habitation (site 35) and individual burials dating from Late Bronze-Age to Hellenistic and maybe even Roman times, have been attested, a picture further supplemented by rescue excavations (notably those along the national highway).. The drone remote sensing operations in the area have focused on the methodological study into the potential of thermographic recording, later supplemented with optical, multispectral and LiDAR recording. A comparative analysis of all data, in parallel with/in the framework of the study and publication of the field survey, is in progress.

Deep Learning approaches to the Voulokaliva

In 2023, a start was made with an experiment using deep learning techniques to inspect the Voulokaliva burial area and see if additional archaeological features could be identified based on a limited training set.


Blog post Voulokaliva drone remote sensing

Paper on the implementation of new technology in archaeological excavation

Paper presenting a comparative perspective on drone thermography


Artec Leo structured light scanner for a digital 3D documentation workflow
Preliminary visual data model of drone LiDAR survey of the Magoula Plataniotiki
1st attempt at a machine learning approach to detect mounds in the Voulokaliva