Implementing Photogrammetry in Three Bioarchaeological Contexts: Steps for In-Field Documentation

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Human skeletal remains hold a wealth of information about past life-ways, but their documentation and recovery from archaeological contexts is challenging. Four challenges face bioarchaeological field work: poor skeletal preservation; complex mortuary traditions; sub-par excavation conditions; and excavation time limits. Poor preservation often prevents the collection of metric data from skeletons. This project tested whether a bioarchaeologist with basic photography skills and excavation equipment could address these challenges using photogrammetry. Photogrammetry was employed at the ancient Maya sites of Say Kah and Chan Chich, both located in northern Belize, to document human skeletal remains and their archaeological contexts. Steps are provided for implementing photogrammetry in the field, as well as addressing challenges for using the technique during burial documentation. This project produced only one adequate 3-D model and no metric data could be collected. Overall, photogrammetry seems to be a promising method for bioarchaeological research because it is low-cost, effective, and fairly straightforward to learn. The technique was faster than traditional line drawing, but sub-par excavation conditions and dark, small spaces hindered the creation of useful models. Photogrammetry provides an excellent alternative to traditional documentation addressing the challenges of poor skeletal preservation and holding potential for unraveling complex mortuary traditions. Copyright 2019

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-96
Number of pages10
JournalAdvances in Archaeological Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019


  • Palabras clavefotogrametría
  • bioarqueología
  • métodos de investigación en campo


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