Aerial Photography and Visualisation for Built Heritage - PhD Portfolio by Kieran Baxter
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Thursday, 2 October 2014

The Big Dig: Excavations and kite photography workshops at East Lomond hillfort

As part of the The Living Lomonds Landscape Partnership (website here) the Big Dig, a community excavation, has been investigating the south slopes of East Lomond hillfort in Fife. A series of hut-circle-like structures, which first showed up in geophysical survey, have been uncovered and appear to form an extensive settlement area annexed to the hillfort.

The two trenches with the distant West Lomond hill behind.
I was commissioned to demonstrate kite aerial photography (KAP) and to record some aerial views of the site by Dr Oliver O’Grady of OJT Heritage on behalf of the Living Lomonds Landscape Partnership as part of the Discover the Ancient Lomonds Project (project blog here). The event was supported by Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland and New Park Educational Trust.

A near vertical kite aerial photograph of the main trench.
Situated high above the relatively flat Fife, East Lomond offers fantastic views in all directions from the Bass Rock in East Lothian all the way to the Grampian Mountains to the north. The excavations themselves were just as captivating with some enigmatic structures and stone settings accompanied by many interesting finds. While I was on site one of the student diggers came across a well preserved spindle whorl, part of a device for producing yarn for fabric, within an Iron Age context.

An orthographic view of the east side of East Lomond hill.
I used a rotating KAP rig and structure from motion (SFM) photogrammetry to build this topographical model of the area around the dig and the summit of the hillfort. This is a composite of a colour orthophoto and orthographic rendering of the structure data with low-level lighting used to pick up the topography.

In high wind those marquees could have almost served as big extra kites!  
As well as site recording I spent the morning delivering talks and workshops to school groups who were keen to learn about how aerial photography is used by archaeologists, but a little more interested in having a go with the kite. This is one of the shots taken by the students as another group works on excavating the trench. Extra KAP kits were very kindly donated by John Wells of the fantastic Scottish National Aerial Photography Scheme (website here).

The Big Dig with East Lomond hillfort behind.
Many thanks go to the organisers and volunteers who made the Big Dig happen. Events like this are great for raising awareness of the fantastic landscapes which hold the stories of our past, and with any luck we have gone a small way in inspiring the next generation of archaeologists and aerial photographers!

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