Drone Discovery: Unveiling 7,000-Year-Old Cave Art

In a remarkable feat of modern meeting ancient history, archaeologists, using drone cameras, have unearthed prehistoric cave paintings, around 7,000 years old, in remote parts of Spain. Researchers from the University of Alicante have utilized drones, a DJI Mavic 2 Zoom, to navigate and explore inaccessible mountain shelters in Alicante, thus revealing Neolithic artistry that dates back to prehistoric times.

Deploying these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the team delved into 18 caves in the Castellet-Barranc del Salt ravine and Port de Penáguila. In this endeavor, they discovered two mountain shelters featuring ancient wall art. The paintings depict archers, deer, and goats, with some seeming as though they had been struck by arrows. Given the richness of these art pieces, the researchers laud this discovery as one of the most significant in 's Neolithic rock art sites in recent decades.

Drone Discovery: Unveiling 7,000-Year-Old Cave Art In Spain
Levantine anthropomorph photographed with a drone from 2.5 m away at Abric VIII de El Salt (Penàguila), a.- single image; b.- stacking of 5 images for noise reduction. Approximate length around 10 cm.
Drone Discovery: Unveiling 7,000-Year-Old Cave Art 1
Shelter VIII of Salt de Penàguila. The first ARP station documented using a drone in the province of Alicante. Photographs taken 2.5 m away from the canvas: a, b.- Drone images in raw format subsequently treated with Photoshop for enlargement of details of the support, where painted motifs are appreciated; a', b'.- Stacking and application of the ybk15 filter with the DStrech plugin of Image J, showing zoomorphic and anthropomorphic figures in Levantine style. The approximate length of the anthropomorphic figure is 10 cm, and that of the lower caprid is 6 cm.
Gps Points (Track) Taken By The Drone During The Inspection Flight Of The Salt De Penàguila's Shelter Viii And Processed Using Qgis 3.16. Hannover. Take-Off Point (P).
GPS points (track) taken by the drone during the inspection flight of the Salt de Penàguila's Shelter VIII and processed using Qgis 3.16. Hannover. Take-off point (P).

In a study published last month in the Lucentum scientific journal, the team demonstrated the extraordinary capabilities of drone technology in archeological expeditions. The drones expedited the discovery process, locating the first signs of the cave art within days, an endeavor which conventionally entailed lengthy hikes to remote locations.

Drone Discovery: Unveiling 7,000-Year-Old Cave Art 2
Examples of documentation in two shelters: a.- Large shelter (8 m) through a parking and three approaches (La Rabosera, Barxeta); b.- Shelter with irregular canvases (El Salt VIII, Penàguila), through two parkings, e0a with two approaches and e0b with one approach. Legend: parking (e), entry (E), exit (S), lateral displacement (DL), minimum distance (d), photographed area (α)

Following the initial discovery, the team meticulously examined and enlarged the photographs in Photoshop to further expose the cave paintings' details. Verification of the paintings' authenticity was conducted by climbers who confirmed the presence of a wide variety of painted figures in different styles.

Javier Fernandez Molina, a geo- researcher and certified drone pilot, championed this innovative use of drone technology.

He shared with Artnet News, “There are many inaccessible areas of the Alicante mountains. Using a drone to photograph walls is a quick method and this recent find means there are many prehistoric cave paintings to be found.”

This pioneering study serves as a testament to the incredible synergy between modern technology and archaeological exploration, propelling us further into the uncharted territories of human history.

The team hopes that their findings, which have been published in the scientific journal Lucentum, will pave the way for the issuance of a permit to more thoroughly investigate the area.

The team of researchers used a DJI Mavic 2 Zoom drone for their work. Currently they are testing the new drone that features upgraded camera capabilities and obstacle avoidance.

Drone Discovery: Unveiling 7,000-Year-Old Cave Art 3
Ideal parameters for approaching a shelter for canvas inspection: a.- Direct observation of the cavity and angle between 25.º-75.º, D-log mode, jpeg+raw; b.- Placement in the upper third, gimbal at 0.º; c.- Tripod mode at 10 m distance, omnidirectional sensors connected; d.- Minimum safety distance = 2.5 m.

Image credits: Photos taken from “Drone detection methodology (RPAS) applied to the prospecting of prehistoric rock art” by Francisco Javier Molina Hernandez, Barciela Gonzalez, and Ximo Martorell Briz.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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