BBVA Foundation grant for DIASur!

Despite the global pandemic and the confinement of the population, the members of the committee in charge of evaluating the BBVA Foundation Grants for Research Teams in Digital Humanities met virtually yesterday to select 5 projects out of the 81 proposals received in all fields related to digital humanities.

GIAP was lucky enough to get one of these prestigious grants to carry out the project Drone-based Intelligent Archaeological Survey (DIASur). The project aims to automatise pedestrian archaeological survey.

Pedestrian archaeological survey is the most common technique for locating and monitoring of archaeological sites. This technique currently requires a great investment of resources and time since it is developed manually with groups of archaeologists systematically walking an area to document the distribution of elements of material culture on the ground surface.

DIASur will employ a purposely developed drone in combination with parallel cloud photogrammetry and artificial intelligence to automate pedestrian archaeological survey. The drone will fly over the area of ​​interest at low altitude taking continuous photographs of the surface. These images will be combined into a single high-resolution orthophotomosaic that will be used to identify and extract as vector shapes each visible element of material culture through deep learning procedures.

The pilot study carried out by Arnau and myself (recently published open access in the Journal of Archaeological Science) shows the great potential of this method. DIASur will transform this proof of concept into a tool that can be applied on a large scale by research groups, archaeology companies and entities in charge of cultural heritage in a simple and automated way without the need of technical knowledge.

In this way, DIASur aims to transform one of the basic techniques for acquiring archaeological data and to have a strong international impact on the automation of archaeological methods.

The research team also includes Francesc C. Conesa, Merkourios Georgiadis, Toby C. Wilkinson, Paloma Aliende and Iban Berganzo.