The Rise of the Machines

It’s week one of the maiden season of the Libarna Urban Landscape Project and the machines are taking over! Our work this year is focused on geo-physical methods of archaeological investigation. We will be conducting extensive surveys of the fields surrounding Libarna’s archaeological park using resistivity, magnetometry, digital GPS, and drone photography. What this means for us, of course, is that the Cylons have invaded, the machines have arisen, and as always, there are a few glitches in the Matrix!

So, why aren’t we digging? Libarna as an archaeological site has seen a fair bit of activity throughout the last 300 years. Most of that, however, has not been for scholarly research purposes. The first historical descriptions of the site after its abandonment in the 5th century CE, date to the 18th century. Few investigations of the site have been academic and only a limited number of them resulted in publications as these were mostly rescue ventures conducted to preserve the site in the wake of regional development.

Because so little written documentation has survived to tell us what was done, where, and why, our work this year is focused on creating a more complete picture of previous excavations and ascertain the extent of the city before any potential excavations. This will help tell us where to focus our efforts in the coming seasons and supply the project with a better picture of the layout of the city itself. For this and the next two weeks, we will be working with the local landowners and the office of the Sopirentendza to survey the fields surrounding the excavated site along with some of the visible remains as well.

For the first few days, we have been focusing on an adjacent field to the archaeological park where we’re conducting resistivity and magnetometry surveys. In many ways, this is our testing ground. Since this field runs alongside a busy rail line and happens to fall directly beneath several large power lines, properly calibrating the units and scanning our grids has been a bit of a challenge. It’s certainly put our very patient and eager student team through their paces, but the Scrivia River running alongside the site has given them some well needed chill time when we’re not hard at work.

Meanwhile, darting about the site, our drone team has been introducing “Dronina,” our nimble and very cute little drone, to Libarna. Texas Tech graduate student, Mike Boyles, and Dr. Sesha Wallace have been flying Dronina all over the site giving us an aerial view of the landscape and, potentially, the structures beneath. We’re very excited for Mike’s work! This coming Sunday, we will be hosting a local outreach demonstration to give the farmers surrounding the city a better idea of what the crazy archaeologists are doing with all of their toys.

While this is a great way to introduce our project to the community, we also hope that the landowners will benefit from our survey work. Once collected, some of Dronina’s pictures and footage will go to the farmers, giving them a very fun resource with which to visualize their holdings. So far, the response from the community has been incredibly encouraging and curiosity abounds. Dronina is quickly becoming the star of the season, at least as far as the locals are concerned! It seems our team is simply here to serve the machines. Wait, isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?

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