Archaeology + Mars = GigaPan?

HARP is dedicated to applying innovative techniques to archaeological exploration (e.g. the application of micromorphology to study ceremonial floors). Continuing in this tradition, we have teamed up with the folks at Carnegie Mellon to bring GigaPan technology to our dig at Huaricanga.

What is a GigaPan?

Gigapans are digital panoramas with billions of pixels. They are huge photos that capture extraordinarily wide views with incredible detail. GigaPans are created using a standard point-and-shoot camera mounted onto a robot that automatically takes dozens or even hundreds of photos. These photos are then processed using  a free software that stitches the photos together before they are uploaded to the web. Once online, a user can zoom in and out to explore the wonderful details.

The GigaPan robot is based on the same technology employed by the Mars Rovers Spirit and Opportunity. GigaPan was formed in 2008 as a commercial spin-off of a successful research collaboration between NASA and Carnegie Mellon University. The company’s mission is to bring this powerful, high-resolution imaging capability to a broad audience.

Here I am instructing the crew on how to use the GigaPan robot.

GigaPan & Archaeology

While perusing the GigaPan website it is easy to see the appeal for photographers. However, what can GigaPan do for the archaeologist? Archaeology is a lot more than finding interesting artifacts and uncovered long-buried architecture. Since it’s a destructive process, the careful documentation of the ancient past is crucial to the discipline. Therefore, archaeologists spend most of their time sketching, measuring elevations, and most of all, taking photos.

GigaPan offers the unique opportunity to capture panoramic views of entire architectural complexes, monumental mounds, or even excavation profiles, while preserving the most minute details. For our project we used the GigaPan robot to capture a stunning excavation profile that details the entire series of Mito temples exposed by our dig this field season. Please check out the amazing GigaPan HERE. Unfortunately these photos are too large to embed. Furthermore, to properly explore GigaPans you are required to sign up for a free account to zoom in and out of the photos. The account does not generate any unwanted emails or spam.

To Infinity & Beyond…

Setting up the GigaPan robot on top of the project truck.

The profile GigaPan at Huaricanga was not my first at the site (For more GigaPans of other parts of Huaricanga, please click HERE.). I did, however, initially struggle with how can I incorporate GigaPan in a meaningful way without simply capturing wide views of monumental architecture as you can see in my other GigaPans. After contacting my counterpart at Carnegie Mellon, Clara Phillips, I explained to her the project and how HARP uses a tall ladder to capture overhead shots of the excavations. A light bulb popped in her head and Clara thought, “Why not put the GigaPan on top of the ladder?!”

This great idea was quickly dispatched once I realized that the platform on top of the ladder is too narrow to support the tripod, but like Buzz Lightyear I wanted to push further, “to infinity and beyond…” Not to be discouraged I looked around and told Carlos, our driver, to pull the truck over parallel to the canal. Just like an experienced city driver he pulled in as closely as he could. I mounted a large piece of plywood on top of the roof rack to serve as a base and I set up the GigaPan on top of the truck. To my surprise, the results were pretty impressive. You can view the GigaPan by clicking HERE.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about GigaPan, do not hesitate to CONTACT me through the website.

Categories: Excavation, Technology, Web Design | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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