Cyber-Archaeology at Petra

Bible and archaeology news

Balloon Photography at Petra. Antiquity. Photo: T.E. Levy, UCSD Levantine Archaeology Laboratory.

A recent two-day Cyber-Archaeology expedition at Petra provided new insights on the site’s structural conservation and helped create the next generation of archaeological data presentation. Conducted by University of California, San Diego-California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technology (UCSD-Calit2), the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR) and the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, the project used balloon-based high-definition photography, LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging laser) scanning, Structure for Motion photography and Augmented Reality applications to monitor conservation efforts and to create enhanced virtual tourism in the Petra Park. The UCSD-Calit2 team’s research in Jordan’s Faynan district stands at the forefront of the burgeoning field of Cyber-Archaeology, and the recent investigations at Petra further the regional narrative. The Bible refers to the region containing both Petra and Faynan as Edom.

The UCSD-Calit2 researchers at Petra are the authors of the FREE BAS eBook Cyber-Archaeology in the Holy Land: The Future of the Past. This comprehensive guide explains and explores the new 21st-century toolkit—from site to lab to visualization—along with new insights on Biblical Archaeology.


LiDAR data in Petra’s Byzantine Church, displayed on Visicore, developed by Vid Petrovic. Antiquity

LiDAR scans at the first-century C.E. Temple of the Winged Lions and Petra’s Byzantine church provided the team with a high-resolution view of structural threats to the sites’ preservation. Low altitude balloon photography was used to model the Temple of the Winged Lions and monitor conservation concerns. The data was organized with new ARtifact (augmented reality) software that allows viewers to view the site along with annotated data. For instance, not only will visitors examining the Byzantine mosaics be provided with relevant information on the finds; they will be able to view comparative and recreated works that compliment and situate the Petra finds within their stimulating visual and cultural context.


Related reading in Bible History Daily

Site-Seeing: Petra’s Temple of the Winged Lions by Glenn J. Corbett

Solving the Enigma of Petra and the Nabataeans by Glenn J. Corbett

New Petra Monument Spotted Through Satellites

Casting New Light on Petra

Re-dating Nabatean Farming at Petra

Exposing Petra’s North Ridge


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