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Aerial Archaeology

A henge monument from around 4500 B.C. in the open field near Kyhna, district Nord Sachsen. At least five such monuments consisting of one to four ditches covering several hectares were discovered on this site from the air in the early 1990s. In late 2007 an excavation was conducted on a small strip in the south-eastern entrance of Kyhna 3 shown here. Photo: O. Braasch.

A henge monument from around 4500 B.C. in the open field near Kyhna, district Nord Sachsen. At least five such monuments consisting of one to four ditches covering several hectares were discovered on this site from the air in the early 1990s. In late 2007 an excavation was conducted on a small strip in the south-eastern entrance of Kyhna 3 shown here. Photo: O. Braasch.
(© Archaeological Heritage Office)

Aerial archaeology as a means of  non-destructive reconnaissance was implemented in Saxony only after the fall of the wall in the early 1990ies. Otto Braasch, one of the most experienced pilots of aerial archaeology in Germany,  was the first to survey Saxony from the air. Within a few years he discovered more than 3000 archaeological monuments and expanded our knowledge of  the archaeological landscape considerably.

GPS-track of the flight route from July 9, 2008 in central Saxony between Meißen and Döbeln.

GPS-track of the flight route from July 9, 2008 in central Saxony between Meißen and Döbeln.
(© Archaeological Heritage Office)

Since they depend on weather conditions as well as crop growth, aerial surveys require flexibility and the availability of a light sports plane on short notice. Beginning in 2001, the Archaeological Heritage Service has been organizing the air surveys under its own direction. Photos are taken by an experienced archaeologist from a chartered Cessna 172 or an ultra light plane at  300 – 400 m altitude. The flight route is tracked by a GPS receiver. 

Aerial archaeology has three major objectives:

  • registration of visible archaeological monuments
  • discovery of previously unknown sites
  • documentation of large scale archaeological excavations.

Today the photo archive comprises more than 80.000 images as colour slides and black and white negatives.

Large scale excavations (right side of the image) close to the giant pit of the brown-coal mine in Nochten, district Görlitz, north-east Saxony. The excavations are steadily moving along with the advancing rim of the coal pit.

Large scale excavations (right side of the image) close to the giant pit of the brown-coal mine in Nochten, district Görlitz, north-east Saxony. The excavations are steadily moving along with the advancing rim of the coal pit.
(© Archaeological Heritage Office)

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Dr. habil. Ronald Heynowski

Referent für Denkmalinventarisation

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