Posted by: imalqata | February 28, 2010

From Birds to a Bird’s Eye View

Sunday, February 28, 2010

As Catharine mentioned in a posting from last week, near the end of the first season (Dec., 2008), three of the members of the Malqata team, along with Yarko Kobylecki, a photographer for Chicago House, took a balloon ride over the site of Malqata to obtain low-altitude aerial photographs.  Ballooning has become a major tourist attraction on the West Bank of Luxor, and some days, dozens of balloons are seen taking off and being carried off at the whims of the wind.

Last season, unfortunately, we could not afford to accept the whims of the wind, since we had a definite target in mind.   Fortunately, we had a pilot who was willing to spend the time it took to get us right over the site, and who had the knowledge and talent to do so.   The winds at different altitudes vary in direction, so by carefully controlling the balloon’s height above the ground, the pilot was able to guide the balloon to where we wanted to go. Interestingly, the direction we wanted required a very low altitude.  So after a breath-taking flight, sometimes reaching the awesome height of 9-10 feet above the ground and often scraping against the top of the sugar cane, we were close to Malqata.  The trip alone was worth the price of admission, since we were able to see formations that could not be seen from the ground.

Plowing Patterns

Finally, when we were near Malqata, the pilot took us up to elevations from which we could see and photograph the entire site, as well as individual components.

The Amun Temple from the Air

But these photographs are more than just pretty pictures.  Using modern software, we can correct for lens distortion, altitude, and the oblique angle of the photographs, and use them to help map the outlines of walls and to check the accuracy of the previous plans that were done by the Metropolitan Museum.  At the Joint Expedition to Malqata, we are utilizing these new technologies to increase the completeness and accuracy of the plans to gain additional knowledge of the site.

–  Joel Paulson


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