Fig.1. A 1930s vertical photograph over the pyramid complex at Giza, Egypt, generously shared with the project by Owen Masters.

Reflections on the EAMENA aerial photograph appeal

Back in early 2017 we started trying to develop access to historic aerial photographs for the MENA region to support the work of the EAMENA project. This work was primarily driven by the need to access high-resolution imagery for The Occupied Palestinian Territories, where U.S. legislation known as the Kyl-Bingaman Amendment limited the resolution of contemporary commercial satellite imagery for this area. It also built on the earlier work of Professor David Kennedy’s work on our sister project, APAAME, in gathering these historic aerial photographs and our colleague Rebecca Repper’s work in digitising the Sir Aurel Stein and O.G.S. Crawford collections at the British Academy and UCL respectively.

Jordan Valley Fig 1

Looking back at the Jordan Valley

We have recently uploaded an important set of vertical aerial photographs covering the eastern side of the northern section of the River Jordan as Information Resource records on the EAMENA database. These photographs, taken in late 1930 by ‘B’ Flight of 45 Squadron of the UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) while attached to 14 Squadron RAF, provide a unique insight into this landscape prior to more recent settlement development and agricultural intensification. We can use these photographs to identify archaeological sites that have not previously been documented, many of which have subsequently been covered or destroyed by later development.

Figure 3 Oblique aerial photograph of St Catherine’s Monastery looking north, taken by John Clubb (683 Squadron RAF) in 1951

Results from the EAMENA aerial photograph appeal: St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai (Egypt)

In May 2017, the EAMENA project launched an appeal for historical aerial photographs to aid the team in the identification of archaeological sites and possible factors threatening them. A subsequent post on the same appeal in the Royal Air Force Association magazine Air Mail led to a number of responses, including one from John Clubb, a former navigator in 683 Squadron RAF.

The UCL Institute of Archaeology Air Survey Photographs: an archaeological reference collection of Royal Air Force aerial imagery from 1918–1939

The UCL Institute of Archaeology Collections Air Survey photographs comprise a series of glass plate negatives, cellulose negatives, safety negatives, and prints of Royal Air Force (RAF) aerial photographs taken between 1918 and 1939. The photographs are predominantly of Iraq, the former Transjordan, Egypt, and Sudan (see distribution map).

A satellite image overlaid with the approximate location of archaeological features immediately north of Azraq, Jordan.

Historical aerial photographs and archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa

Historical aerial photographs are of great value for the EAMENA project, and we have recent launched an appeal to locate any held in archives or private collections. They can be analysed in conjunction with more recent photographs or satellite images and used to identify archaeological sites that have since been lost or altered by subsequent development, or to assess broader landscape change.