ENC Day 3: First Glimpse of SfM

My name is Brooke Bonorden and I am a recent graduate of Baylor University and an aspiring archaeologist. Prior to joining the ASWT team I worked for Texas Parks and Wildlife as a Park Interpreter and also worked for a brief stint as an archaeological field technician for a cultural resource management firm. I am hoping to gain lots of valuable field experience over the next six months, as well as exposure to some cutting-edge approaches to archaeology before attending graduate school in the fall.

Today we kicked off the expedition at Skiles Shelter. We began by clearing brush for three “senderos” (Spanish for “paths”) from the rockshelter floor onto the talus slope. The senderos were used almost like transects for Structure-from-Motion Photogrammetry. I have never seen this technique used in archaeology before, from my perspective it seemed that we had rigged two cameras onto a painting rod to shoot photos simultaneously. Put in more elegant terms, though, we were essentially taking a series of overlapping two-dimensional photographs. These photographs will be turned into three-dimensional surfaces using computer software and provide us with a 3-D model of Skiles Shelter.

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While waiting for favorable lighting conditions to photograph Skiles Shelter, we proceeded to clear brush for a sendero at Eagle Cave so that photogrammetry may be done there as well. When cloud cover returned to the canyon, we went back to Skiles Shelter so that Charles could take the pictures. We also set up a new 1×2 meter excavation unit near a pre-existing 1×2 meter unit excavated by a Texas State grad student.

Upon completing these tasks we visited Jack Skiles, the landowner of Eagle Nest Canyon. He gave us a tour of his museum where he keeps artifacts recovered from his land. In addition to prehistoric artifacts (including stone tools, bone awls, sandals, etc.), Jack also had a large collection of historic artifacts from the nearby railroad construction in the late 1800s. I was particularly impressed by how much of his own family history Jack possessed. He had items labeled as belonging to his “great-great-great grandfather.” I don’t even know who my 3x great grandfather was!

All in all it was an exciting start to our expedition, and I’m looking forward to the next six months and all that we will uncover. We will continue to use photogrammetry on Skiles Shelter and Eagle Cave this week and progress from there!

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