By using the technology of the future archaeologists are now making discoveries that only a few years ago were the stuff of legend. Drones can cover vast areas using state of the art technology to scan for evidence of ancient structures, settlements, even civilisations. What could the next discoveries be?

Drones can see structures buried beneath the earth by using thermal imaging to reveal the sub-surface structures, revealing whole structures or even towns lost in the sands of time. Ok – thermal imaging isn’t new and archaeologists have been using it for years but in a very labour intensive way. What you need is very high resolution images over a large search area at the right time.

The clever part comes when you understand that different materials cool at different rates. So a stone wall buried in soil or sand may be totally indistinct from each other the first thing on a cool morning but by the end of the day as they cool, suddenly the walls become clear. By running very cost effective flights over the area of interest at different times of day these breakthroughs are made with specific mapping software. By actually not digging but using non-invasive techniques archaeologist’s have a unique opportunity to make some startling discoveries in the next few years.

Aerial photography has been around for many years but the amount of photography at very high resolution and the use of 3D mapping software like PIX4D have given it a whole new dimension – sorry couldn’t help that one. At the same time every new technology like LiDAR provides the opportunity to further penetrate soil, sand and even water to make remarkable discoveries.

Even scientific digging can destroy some of the features that are buried and artifacts once exposed are vulnerable to the elements. “The future of preservation is to refrain from excavation,” says Cristina Corsi, an archaeologist at the University of Cassino in Italy and coordinator of the Radio-Past Project, which broadcast the digital and traditional excavations at Ammaia.

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