The mission to recover what many are calling Israel’s biggest archaeological find in sixty years required a network of criminal informers combined with some of the most cutting edge technology in the modern era.
Israel365 News reported on a historic archeological discovery on Tuesday which involved uncovering fragments of a biblical scroll written in Greek, that included books of prophets Zechariah and Nahum. The discovery also revealed a cache of rare coins from the the Bar-Kokhba, era, a 6,000 year-old mummified skeleton of a girl, and a completely intact basket dating back 10,500 years.
Israel’s ‘Indiana Jones’
Dr. Eitan Klein, the archaeologist who led the operation, is now referred to by many as Israel’s ‘Indiana Jones’ due to the daring mission involved in recovering the artifacts. As the lead archaeologist on Israel’s latest ‘Dead Sea Scroll’ discovery, Klein activated a fleet of Photogrammetry surveying drones to locate and measure a vast network of caves embedded on the dizzying cliffs of the Judean Desert.
“Sometimes, we’re walking on a cliff and we have no way of knowing if there are any caves underneath our feet” Klein told Israel365 News.
The tomb raiders
Archaeological looting is an increasing phenomenon in Israel going back 20 years Klein laments. However, he disclosed that they, in coordination with law enforcement, are stepping up their efforts to catch them in the act.
Klein revealed to Israel365 News that the IAA has established a network of informants in the Bedouin sector to relay any information regarding antiquities theft. This includes applying pressure to convicted antiquities thieves. But it doesn’t end there.
Klein also revealed that the IAA cooperates not only with local police, but with police worldwide including Interpol and even the FBI.
That’s because any artifact that is looted by local Bedouins will eventually find itself in the hands of the IAA or even other international curating authorities. “What was stolen in the Judean Desert can easily end up in a museum in New York” Klein explains.
He adds that the IAA is now lobbying the government to improve enforcement measures against the thieves and to enact harsher legal penalties against their crimes.
The toys they used
The cave where the scriptures were discovered is known as the ‘Cave of Horrors’. That’s because when it was initially explored in the 50’s, it was an extremely dangerous operation. Once inside, the archaeologists discovered 30 skeletons from the period of Bar Kokhba.
To locate a cave, let alone its contents, is no small task Klein opines saying: “It’s a very hard region to observe because of the topography.”
But thanks to modern technology, Klein can activate a Photogrammetry surveying drone that can photograph up to a centimeter in high resolution.
“We have technology that can measure the specifications of the caves themselves allowing us to enjoy an incredibly accurate imagery of up to 1 centimeter” he explains.
To locate and explore the ‘Cave of Horrors’, Klein used a Mavic Topodrone. The drone’s technology is equipped with a 186-channel L1/L2 GPS/GLONASS GNSS receiver. This allows for professional mission planning with drone control from a laptop. It offers fully autonomous functioning mode without any internet connection required. This is vital for the remoteness of Israel’s Judean desert. Additionally, it has the ability to obtain flight trajectories according to its customized terrain data.
The drone boasts a rolling shutter distortion compensation and high-precision aerial triangulation , enabling advanced technologies for its classification as well as a dense point cloud.
How technology improved archaeology
Klein explains that before any artifact is extracted, it’s native positioning holds archaeological significance. But thanks to his army of drones, the IAA was able able to record the position of the mummified girl before any digging even began.
Regarding the drone’s capabilities, Klein explains: “We can tell when the last time that ground was exposed to the sun.”
“We take the drones on our back to determine if there is a cave underneath us.”