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The revolutionary capabilities of digital aerial photogrammetry open new avenues for archaeological research design, cultural heritage management, and spatial visualization and analysis. The low cost and high speed of aerial photogrammetry democratize and accelerate both the production and distribution of high-resolution digital 2D and 3D spatial representations of archaeological features, sites, and landscapes. With cultural patrimony disappearing at alarming rates around the world, the adoption of these techniques is an urgent priority. We review our methods and experiences using 3D photogrammetric registry at several scales in the diverse environmental conditions of the Andean region, using an array of inexpensive aerial imagery capture platforms, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones), meteorological balloons, and poles. The accuracy and resolution of the resulting products enable photogrammetric representations (e.g., orthomosaics, 3D solids, digital elevation models) to serve as the primary spatial references for survey and excavations. The methodological implications of these rapid advances have yet to be fully integrated into most archaeological research designs. Rather than using photogrammetry as a “value-added” technique appended to traditional survey or excavation, we outline workflows for rapid 3D photogrammetric documentation combined with mobile GIS. In sum, these transformative technologies and techniques enable the curation and broad dissemination of digital repositories of endangered cultural heritage, as well as dramatically richer spatial representations for an array of analytical ends in archaeological research.

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The Digital Press @ University of North Dakota


Grand Forks, North Dakota


Andes, drones, Inka[JS1], mobile GIS, photogrammetry


Classical Archaeology and Art History

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2.3 Beyond the Basemap: Multiscalar Survey through Aerial Photogrammetry in the Andes