Getting Ready for 2017

It has been quiet on the GPP blog for too long. But this week we are getting ready to head out to the field and begin excavating at the new (to us) site of Tel Nes/Tell Sanjuk.

Yorke Rowan, Morag Kersel, and myself were out at the site over the last few days getting the site prepared.

We laid out a grid with our fancy new GPS equipment:

 

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GPS surveying

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Grid corners marked with stakes

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Accessing the site currently involves some difficulty

 

We also performed a drone survey, which gives us great images of the site, as well as spatially accurate maps:

 

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GoPro image of the site

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Another GoPro image of the site

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Hillshaded Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of the site

 

So now we are ready for our crew to arrive to begin the GPP’s 2017 season!

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End of the 2013 season and excavation video

We had our last day of digging last wednesday, followed by a lot of sweeping, photography, packing, and cleaning. We left Karmiel on saturday, and now most of our students and some of our staff have already returned home.

Here is a short video of time lapse photographs, taken during the field season, that shows some of what it is like to work at Marj Rabba. Thanks so much to all of our students, staff, volunteers and interns for a successful 2013 season!

Even higher…

Last season we began using aerial photography and photogrammetry to document excavation at Marj Rabba. We used a quadcoptor, an r/c plane, and a pole aerial photography rig to record images of the site at several altitudes. The pole was great for low level recording of features and individual squares, the quadcoptor was great for getting photos of the entire excavation area, and the plane was getting aerial photos of the entire area around the excavation. Our original plane, however, was only set up for carrying a GoPro Hero camera which takes great pictures but is not ideal for doing 3d photogrammetry because of its extremely wide angle lens. This set up gave us some good initial results and some excellent individual images of the site, like this:

This year we are using a larger model that has a better payload carrying capacity. It can fly longer, carry 2 cameras simultaneously, and is more robust:

Skywalker 1680

Today we had the first successful flight of the season. The 2 camera setup means that we can get a nice video recording of what the landscape looks like from above while simultaneously recording vertical images that will be utilized for 3d modeling and mapping.

Here is a video of what the site looks like from onboard the plane:

As was discussed in the earlier post, the vertical still images provide the basis for 3d modeling. Here is a composite image (an ortho-mosaic) of the field system surrounding our site. This composite image is fairly low resolution, as it was constructed from a small subset of the total images to check how well the image recording went. However, this is a distortion free image and can be exported directly into our GIS map of the site. By doing a few more flights, processing the photographs more intensively, and combining them with data collected with our Total Station, we will be able to generate a complete high resolution composite image of the area as well as a high resolution digital elevation mode (DEM):

Seeing the site in new ways:

We have several Unmanned Aerial Vehicles at the site. While they are primarily used to take vertical still images, they can sometimes be used to record videos of the site. Here is a short flyover of parts of areas CC and BB taken from our quadcoptor. This was recorded on a windy part of the day, so I did not fly particularly high or far, it just gives a brief glimpse of work at the site. The quadcoptor does not have any stabilization, so this video is somewhat unsteady:

Videos like this are of limited utility for anything other than recording pretty images of the site. What the UAVs are normally used for is to build 3d models of the site from sets of still images. These 3d models are powerful tools for research, mapping, and publication. They ALSO provide a way to see the site from above. Here is a quick, low resolution model of area CC, the same area that I was flying over in the video above. This is just a screen recording demonstrating how you can navigate around a 3d model in Photoscan (the software used to make these). After this stage, the 3d models will be geo-rectified and exported to arcGIS.

Getting into the swing of things

It is day 3, and we are really getting going.

All of the areas are looking good:

The walls are so high!

Allen’s room in area BB

We have been using our trusty Total Station to relocate missing or migratory stakes:

so laser-y

Our TS looking out into area CC

Students have been getting lessons in what to look for when screening:

Is this a flake?

MH helping new diggers identify artifacts

We are now removing soil in earnest:

so much dirt still left to move

hard at work in area AA

P sweeping her area

and our area supervisors are already losing it:

Dont make BJ angry.

BJ calmly drawing a daily top plan

Day one!

Today was day one of Marj Rabba, 2013. We started with a short tour of the site, to get our new crew members oriented. Short talks were given by all the directors and supervisors about various areas and features:

A wall in the woods

MK talking about the first season

YMR giving an overview of the main excavation area

The site looked a little beat up after sitting for a year, but this did not deter us, and we got to work clearing away vegetation, burst sandbags, and loose soil:

So many thistles

Cleaning up area BB

Here are aerial shots of the main excavation area from the quadcoptor, just after we got to work:

More Cleaning!

Area AA

More Cleaning

Area CC

By the end of the day, the site was looking much better and ready for real excavation to begin tomorrow:

Its hot, lets go home.

End of day 1

Getting Ready for the season!

All of the staff is arriving right now to get ready for the new season at Marj Rabba. We are looking forward to getting back out to the site!

Many of us have been working on various projects already this summer:

View looking east from the site towards Jordan

Tel Tsaf

Aerial Archaeology!

YMR with a UAV in Jordan

So many holes

Looted landscape documentation, using aerial mapping

More Aerial Photography!

Eastern Badia Landscape