Daily Video

January 7, 2015

Drones help Peruvian archaeologists preserve ancient sites


Scientists are finding a new use for drones for research and conservation at Peru’s most important historical sites.

The drones take photographs that advanced imaging software converts into 3-D models and precise maps. These documents serve as legal documents in court to defend protected lands.

At a site near Pachacamac, a historically significant city near Lima, archaeologists are capturing drone images of historical structures to supplement traditional methods of finding artifacts.

Peruvian officials also recently used drones to document damage at the Nazca Lines, a collection of geoglyphs that date back to 500 B.C. The site was damaged by Greenpeace protesters aiming to draw attention to climate change.

The drones are helping conservation work at Chan Chan, a historic adobe city that is predicted to suffer damage by strong storms this year.

Peru is home to 12 World Heritage sites, including Machu Picchu, the Incan city that outlived Spanish conquest and dates back to the 15th century. It is also home to thousands of other historically important sites—by one estimate, more than 100,000. The population growth rate of Peru has increased in recent years, prompting residential areas to expand. This pattern makes it more difficult for archaeologists to study and defend landmarks, which is important to preserving Peruvian history, according to Luis Jaime Castillo, Peru’s deputy culture minister.

“The end is to preserve our cultural patrimony and whatever we can deploy to achieve that,” he said.

Warm up questions
  1. Where is Peru?
  2. What do you know about drones?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why is it important to preserve historical landmarks?
  2. How does this use of drones (for archaeology and conservation) differ from other ways people use drones? Do you think this use of drones is beneficial? Why or why not?
  3. As populations grow in Peru and other countries, cultural and historical landmarks are vulnerable to damage. How can governments respond to this? What about individuals?
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