3D photogrammetry in Byblos (Lebanon)

The German Archaeological Institute and “Zero Hour – A Future for the Time after the Crisis”, in cooperation with the Lebanese Directorate General of Antiquities, conducted a training program on Recording Cultural Heritage for Post-Conflict Recovery by using 3D photogrammetry with drones in Beirut in November 2019.

In recent years, the usage of 3D photogrammetry has become popular in archaeology and cultural heritage management. It is an effective and low-cost method for documenting archaeological sites, features or artefacts in the form of detailed three-dimensional models. The importance of this method of documentation has even become more crucial in times of crisis or conflict, where a quick and efficient method of documentation is needed.

Hence, in the framework of the project “Zero Hour: A Future for the Time After the Crisis” of the IT department of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI), and in cooperation with the Lebanese Directorate General of Antiquities ­­­(DGA) a training on Recording Cultural Heritage for Post-Conflict Recovery by using 3D photogrammetry with UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) was held in Beirut from 25 to 29 November 2019. Twelve employees of the DGA took part in this training, which was conducted by two instructors from the Archaeocopter Team. The focus was on up-to-date technologies for recording and documenting cultural heritage and consisted mainly of two thematic parts: 3D photogrammetry and UAV applications.

The first part dealt with the application of Structure from Motion (SfM), better known as 3D photogrammetry, in archaeology. Participants learned to document archaeological contexts and objects in three dimensions and photorealistic colour detail.

In the second practical part of the training the participants learnt how to fly and control UAV, so-called drones, and how to take photographs or videos in order to produce 3D models of monuments. The practical training took place at the site of Byblos thanks to the generous permission of the Lebanese Directorate General of Antiquities. This allowed the participants to implement and test what they learnt in the theoretical part. The photos taken on site, be it with the drones or with hand held cameras, were then processed using open access 3D photogrammetry software. The participants were able to generate their own 3D models of selected objects, and to discuss the process with the trainers.   

At the end of this intensive training, the participants acquired practical skills, starting with taking digital images of selected objects on the ground, moving on to the processing of these images with 3D photogrammetry software, and concluding with generating their own 3D models and orthographic photos. One of the models generated during the training was that of the Temple of the Obelisks. The temple is one of the most important Bronze Age structures at the World Heritage site of Byblos. The 3D model allows the study of the temple with its obelisks from a bird’s eye view.

These training courses are an integral component of the “Stunde Null” capacity building program. They aim to offer early-career archaeologists, architects and other guardians of the cultural heritage from Lebanon and other countries of the region a chance to participate in the process of post-conflict recovery of the cultural heritage. The German Federal Foreign Office generously funds the project.

If you are interested in learning more about SfM and would like to try it for yourself you can enroll in the online free course on the topic offered on tutorials.de (available in English and in Arabic).