Italy TravelAerial Archaeology in Campania

Aerial Archaeology in Campania
Published on Monday, February 16, 2015 by

dronePerhaps you’ve visited Pompeii and marveled at what was trapped in the aftermath of Mount Vesuviu’s’s A.D. 79 eruption. While that city’s devastation cannot be overestimated, its careful preservation has also given millions of people a window into ancient Roman life.

 Now, thanks to the latest technology, you may soon be able to visit a southern Italian city experts are calling a “medieval Pompeii.” In Benevento, about an hour northeast of Pompeii proper, the city of Cerreto Sannita is being excavated—using a drone.

 The aerial device, nicknamed “Indiana Jones,” uses laser impulses to create a three-dimensional map of Cerreto Vecchia (The Old Settlement), buried in a 1688 earthquake, and thus preserved in its pre-modern state. Mapping is only the first step: A complete archaeological dig will follow, as well as artifact cataloguing, restoration work, and a reconstruction of the site. Financing is provided by the Italian Ministry of Education and the work is in the hands of Progetto Provaci.

 Goals for this project go past discovery and into stabilization, which is hugely important; as The History Blog notes, towns in this region have a long history of “earthquake-induced upheaval.” Excavating the Cerreto Vecchia may help experts to understand how to detect and mitigate effects of tremors, and eventually even prevent wholesale destruction of settled areas.

In The New York Times, archaeologist Dr. Luis Jaime Castillo Butters, Peru’s Vice Minister of Cultural Heritage, said in 2014 that drones mark “a before and after in archaeology.” He explained that inexpensive drones (he purchased his first one from The Sharper Image for $100) not only allow digs to be done more cheaply—but much, much more quickly. Something that once took two months can now be completed in 10 minutes. “The faster we produce the maps, the more parts of the site we’re going to be able to save,” he said.

 That’s excellent news for the Cerreto Vecchia mapping—as well as for the Ministry of Education’s budget!

By Kathy McCabe

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