Drones and aerial surveillance

Dr Jacob Bongers using drone technology for site surveillance

Senior Research Associate Dr Jacob Bongers has recently been using a DJI Mavic Pro drone to capture aerial photographs for surveying the site at Pashash. Before joining the Sainsbury Research Unit at UEA, Jacob conducted archaeological fieldwork in Portugal, Chile, Ethiopia, Oman, and Peru. He brings his skills in archaeological excavation and survey, mapping, GIS, photogrammetry, aerial photography, and 3D modelling to the project.

Jacob flying the DJI Mavic Pro drone

Jacob has been using a program called Agisoft Photoscan Pro to process the aerial photographs and produce three kinds of output: 1) 3D models, 2) digital elevation models (DEMs), and 3) orthomosaics. Digital elevation models are 2D representations of elevation values across the photographed area. Orthomosaics are geometrically corrected images of the photographed area, composed of several “stitched” photos.

The drone work has been nothing short of a great success. Jacob has been able to produce a full model of Pashash with over 900 photos! The results are very informative for the project because they highlight certain platforms at the site that may have served ceremonial functions. In addition, they have “digitally preserved” Pashash, thereby effectively producing a digital record of an important part of Peruvian cultural heritage.

The team look forward to sharing the full output of the drone site surveillance at a later date…. Stay tuned!

Carmelo and Manuel drone gazing


Stone carving and pottery at Pallasca

Pallasca’s stone carving and pottery were among the most accomplished in all of ancient Peru. Current evidence indicates that, by ca. AD 200, Pashash (Cabana) became its political and cultural centre. Impressive ruins extend across a steep ridgeline and its best-known part, ‘La Capilla,’ covers a major hilltop. Smaller sites occupying adjacent hilltops were part of Pashash’s multivillage cluster (a common settlement pattern for Recuay polities). Also nearby are extensive terraces, corrals, canals, and a large water reservoir.

La Capilla features four large wall-block constructions (15m tall x 30m wide). The rest of the terraced hilltop is covered with well-made masonry structures. Finely dressed stonework adorned the most important buildings, which probably had elite residential functions (administration, ritual, burials). Research in the 1970s (Grieder, Bueno) and early 2000s (government inspectors) discovered elite burials on La Capilla with impressive offerings, especially pottery and metalwork. Detailed mapping and project excavations in this sector will shed light on how these mortuary features were incorporated into the working facilities of a noble residence.

In the last couple of weeks, the team have been uncovering some fantastic remnants of Late Recuay pottery at Pashash. This unit 8 diagnostics haul offers evidence of a variety of polychrome painted vessels featuring zoomorphic and geometric imagery, as well as a snake relief carving (centre right).

Pottery shards include a fragment from a vessel depicting a large-beaked bird in a framed panel. Only two categories of birds were illustrated in Late Recuay pottery: those in which the large beak is the most important feature (as here), and those in which the large eyes are most important. Large-beaked birds likely include at least two types: the Andean condor and the alliguanga, a vulture native to the northern highlands of Peru.

Find of the day! (Unit 10) Low relief stone carving with whirling cross, with the negative impression left in the soil. This is one of a number of known examples of this type. The subject of rotation (as depicted here) was evidently symbolic of power and energy.