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.
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.
My research updates information about the ancient Parthian city of Hatra and its valuable connection with the local community. Using remote sensing data, recent imagery and archived information about the site, an up-to-date assessment of the city and a map showing changes through time will be created.
On March 13th, Dr Alaa Hamdon, Dr Robert Bewley (EAMENA Director), Dr Bijan Rouhani (EAMENA Senior Researcher), and Professor Graham Philip (EAMENA Co-Investigator, Durham University) attended a meeting at the House of Commons
Opening up historic aerial photograph datasets to support endangered heritage documentation in Egypt
Support from Arcadia Fund has enabled the EAMENA project to add a collection of historic vertical aerial photographs from 1938 covering the town of Mersa Matruh and its environs
Ground visits are extremely useful, and can be used to validate and check that the interpretations we had made based on remote sensing imagery are correct. For the eight archaeological sites we visited, we could confirm that they are indeed archaeological sites, and that the features we had identified through remote sensing were also correct
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).
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.
If you have access to or information about the whereabouts of any historical aerial photographs for the Middle East or North Africa, whether prints or negatives, we would be very interested to hear from you.