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Faculty Research Forum to present October 16 talk on mapping archaeological sites with drones

ISSUED: 2 October 2020
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University is hosting a virtual Faculty Research Forum titled “Unreal Archaeology: Combining Aerial Drones, Digital Animation, and Dirt Archaeology to Recreate Ancient Landscapes” by Dr. David R. Hixon, adjunct professor of geography and anthropology, on Friday, October 16, at 2 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Hixon will discuss how technology has advanced considerably over the past 25 years, moving from mapping archaeological sites using standard surveying methods to high-tech digital imaging. Many of the latest techniques, however, remain beyond the budgets of the everyday archaeologist. Hixson has focused his research on the consumer-grade equipment that can be purchased off-the-shelf to quickly map, visualize, and recreate ancient landscapes. He will demonstrate the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to acquire high precision survey data at multiple archaeological sites from the Ancient Maya region to the plantations of Northern Virginia. This data is then used to visualize the landscape within rendering software originally designed for videogames like Unreal Tournament and Fortnite. These landscapes can then be viewed and “experienced” in first-person view or virtual reality.

Hixson specializes in archaeological remote sensing—the use of technology to detect, visualize, and analyze archaeological objects and landscapes. With more than 25 years of professional experience, he has excavated at sites all over the eastern United States. Today he focuses on the Ancient Maya of Yucatan, Mexico, and the antebellum plantations of the Shenandoah Valley. His work at Belle Grove Plantation has been awarded an Epic Megagrant from the videogame company Epic Games to recreate Belle Grove’s antebellum landscape.

For more information and to find the link for the presentation, visit

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