During Soviet rule there was no aerial research in Armenia, strangely so
when it is recalled that Poidebard was a good friend of Armenia - though
he never had the chance to apply aerial archaeology there. More recently,
restrictions on civilian flights and the consequent absence of independent
light aviation prevented application of the technique in Armenia despite
its rapid development in western Europe.
In these circumstances there
was clearly no possibility of using aerial survey for exploratory research,
or for better locating and providing context for the vast number of archaeological
sites and find-scatters already known to Armenian science. Nor could this
technique, widely used in Western countries, help Armenia’s overworked
rescue archaeologists to deal with the impact of building development,
road construction and the like.
After a decade of crisis and stagnation following the collapse of the
USSR, it became obvious that the philosophy and methods of Soviet times
could not be restored or applied in the new conditions. Modern realities
urged Armenian scientists to fill the gap created during the previous
70 years and to alleviate the destructive consequences of recent years.
Seeking ways to resolve this problem, Dr. Hayk Hakobyan, Scientific Secretary
of the Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology of the Armenian National
Academy of Sciences, engaged the support of the Armenian Federation of
UNESCO Clubs and Associations. The Federation helped him with communications
and, more importantly, put him in contact with light-aircraft pilots who
shared his vision of introducing aerial archaeology in Armenia.
However, it was obvious that local means and resources would not suffice.
Foreign support and advice were required in virtually all areas, starting
with training and professional guidance and ending with the funding necessary
to launch such a project.
Fortunately, there was a positive and friendly response to initial contacts
with members of the Aerial Archaeology Research Group (AARG). Originally
founded in the United Kingdom, AARG is now a world-wide organisation.
An informal reconnaissance visit to Armenia by Rog Palmer - one of Britain’s
leading experts in aerial archaeology and the editor of AARGnews magazine
- resulted in a joint presentation with Hayk Hakobyan at a NATO-sponsored
Advanced Research Workshop at Leszno, Poland in November 2000 (link to
publication 1). The visit also led to the idea of a joint project for
teaching and research using aerial archaeology. This eventually became
Wings over Armenia.
In the following year the UK Association for Cultural Exchange (ACE)
and AARG provided funding for the initial aerial archaeology training
course which took place in Yerevan in October 2001. Conducted by Rog Palmer,
it provided an introduction to the basics of air photo interpretation
and mapping for ten Armenian scientists and students. (link to partners)
Wings over Armenia in 2002
In 2002, ACE and the British Academy funded the launch of Wings over Armenia.
The project aim is to support Armenian science and the introduction and
development of aerial archaeology in Armenia. The first stage of the project
took place in June 2002 when Rog Palmer and Hayk Hakobyan conducted ground
reconnaissance of an area identified for study from the air. The aerial
exploration itself was planned to take place in late-September and October
2002. At the time, Wings over Armenia had virtually no equipment to carry
out its intended work. Fortunately the project was discovered by the British
Council, an organization disseminating the United Kingdom’s
experience and creative vision in science, arts and education. The British
Council Office in Yerevan responded generously to a plea for funding and
enabled the scientists to acquire a two-person paramotor (powered parawing)
for aerial exploration.
Wings over Armenia is a pioneering programme
within the states of the former Soviet Union. Its first stage will include
systematic aerial survey and photography of the Kasach gorge area - 400
sq km of foothills and plains 20 km northwest of Yerevan. The project
area includes known sites dating back as far as the Bronze Age, along
with features such as field systems and road networks that can be effectively
recorded from the air. Another element of the programme will be field
visits to possible sites detected on 1970s satellite imagery [links to
publications in AARGnews and Eurisy], and during the project’s own
aerial survey. Results from Wings over Armenia will thus add immediately
to the knowledge already known to Armenian archaeologists through field
investigation and excavation.
Aerial photographs taken during this first programme of survey will be
- supplement knowledge about known sites;
- record new archaeological sites and landscapes;
- geo-reference and map the recorded features; and
- establish the beginnings of an archive of Armenian aerial imagery.
From 2002, Wings over Armenia will strive to achieve the following objectives.
Acquisition of hardware and development of software to allow a continuing programme
of aerial archaeology research in Armenia.
Creation of a team of specialist archaeologists, pilots and technical
staff to continue and develop the project’s work in the longer term.
Establishment of a functioning archive of aerial photographs, databases
and associated information for exchange with other archaeologists and
colleagues in related disciplines.
Production of a documentary film on Wings over Armenia, presenting all
aspect of the project for a world-wide audience.
Successful implementation of the project will introduce to Armenia new
techniques of aerial survey and the interpretation of satellite imagery.
These, combined with use of computer applications and specialist software,
will result in new forms of cost-effective exploration and recording,
to supplement traditional methods both for research and for conservation
of the Armenian cultural heritage.
Education will be an essential element of this innovative project. An
understanding of the techniques and potential of aerial survey in archaeological
research and landscape analysis will become a special feature of teaching
in the Department of History at Yerevan State University.
A significant amount of the acquired data - aerial images, interpretations,
transcriptions and analyses - will be published on the Internet so as
to be readily accessible to scholars everywhere.
Aerial photographs, especially when combined with maps of appropriate
scales, will allow the more accurate location and depiction of both known
and new sites, thereby helping the work of scientists concerned with archaeological
records and conservation in Armenia. This may be of special importance
when assessing the effects of modern landuse on protected sites.
Following the developing practice of western European countries, the
project will also record landscapes of the recent past and present day
for the benefit of the future citizens of Armenia.
The project will result in the following achievements and realities:
- A functioning library/archive/database of aerial imagery serving the
needs of Armenian society and providing open access for science, governmental
structures and non-governmental organizations.
- A low-cost flying programme using military pilots and the project’s
own paramotor to overcome the restricted availability of official airfields
and civilian aircraft.
- A steadily developing educational programme of aerial archaeology,
establishing European scientific standards for practicing archaeologists
and students at Yerevan State University.
- A growing social awareness of the importance of aerial survey for
related sciences, local government and for protection of the natural
and historical environments.
- A growing appreciation of the archaeology, history and culture of
Armenia, both for Armenian citizens and for others with a cultural or
historical link with the country.
Methods used in the 2002 programme of Wings over Armenia will include the following:
- Negatives of high-resolution US CORONA satellite images,
already purchased and printed as enlargements for stereoscopic examination, have
also been scanned for use on-screen. Known sites are clearly visible and provide
a key for the identification of about 200 possible sites, some of which will be
checked in the field as well as being targeted for low-level oblique photography.
- Pilots and archaeologists will develop and refine techniques of reconnaissance
and recording suitable for the Armenian terrain and for use of the project’s
- Conditions for observation of the Armenian landscape are at an optimum in
October when the first systematic survey of the Kasach gorge area will be undertaken
to provide photographs of known and new sites and landscapes.
- Use of fast-processed colour prints and video sequences will provide information
that can be discussed between the Armenian and British participants. Both will
also be used in the programme of field visits and in creation of the project’s
web site. More detailed interpretation and mapping of new sites will take place
later in the year.
- Other photographs and satellite images that are, or may be, available in Armenia
should also be examined as a continuing part of this new programme of aerial research.
The Department of Geology at the National Academy of Sciences holds vertical photographs
at 1:8000 and 1:35000 and it is hoped that these will eventually become available
for use within the project. In the Kasach gorge area most sites consist of above-ground
structures which may well include types not yet recognised by Armenian archaeologists.
Recording and mapping these features will help the study of past landscapes and
perhaps give rise to new ideas about the ways in which past systems of land-use
and settlement were related to known citadels. It also may enhance knowledge about
change and development in past societies. Already some existing research workers
in Armenia have shown interest in integrating aerial survey into their fieldwork
- Use of aerial photographs to illustrate known and new sites in publications
and publicity of all kinds will also help to broadcast the value of aerial survey
for archaeologists and the general public.
training course, Yerevan, 2001
Prof Hayk Hakobyan, Yerevan State University
Dr Simon Hmayakyan, Institute of Archaeology
Lilit Vanyan, Institute of Archaeology
Dr Arsen Bobokhyan, Institute of Archaeology
Dr Ruben Vardanyan, State Historical Museum of Armenia
Armen Kirakosyan, Armenian Federation of Unesco Clubs
Tigran Hovhannisyan, Armenian Federation of Unesco Clubs
Thaguhi Hmayakyan, Yerevan Polytechnic Institute.
There is a short film about our project. Click here to watch it.
Current World Archaeology
UK Issue 1, September 1 2003 . See
Freiburg 2003. See
the article (in German)
AIM (Armenian Internatonal Magazine)
Armenia August September 2003. See the article
Page 1 Page
Rog Palmer, 2003
Armenia, Sept-October 2002 - the birth of Wings over Armenia. AARGnews 26,
Hayk Hakobyan and Rog Palmer. 2002.
Prospects for Aerial Survey in Armenia. In: R.H. Bewley and W. Raczkowski (ed)
Aerial Archaeology: Developing Future Practice. NATO Science Series,
Vol. 337, 140-146.
Rog Palmer, 2002
A poor man’s use of CORONA images for archaeological
survey in Armenia. Proceedings of the conference: Space Applications for Heritage
Conservation. European Space Agency, Strasbourg.
Rog Palmer, 2002.
Aerial research in Armenia 2001. AARGnews 24, 40-41.
Rog Palmer, 2002.
Armenia, June 2002 – setbacks and progress. AARGnews 25, 23-24.
Rog Palmer, 2001.
Aerial research in Armenia: prospects. AARGnews 22, 51-52.
Donoghue, D.N.M., Galiatsatos, N., Philip G. and
Beck, A.R., 2002.
Satellite imagery for archaeological applications:
a case study from the Orontes
Valley, Syria, in Bewley, R.H. and Raczkowski, W., (ed). Aerial archaeology:
developing future practice. NATO Science Series, Vol 337, 211-223.
Philip G., Donoghue, D., Beck, A. and Galiatsatos, N., 2002.
CORONA satellite photography: an archaeological application from the Middle East.
Antiquity 76, 109-118.