Sardinia, a nuraghe discovered thanks to laser technology that surveys sites covered in vegetation

Thanks to LiDAR drone technology, the Bruncu ‘e s’Omu nuragic site in the territory of Villa Verde, in the province of Oristano, has been investigated. A monumental nuraghe and a settlement of huts were discovered.

In its context Project Nuraghewinner of the 2021 national call for access to the mobile laboratories of E-RIHS.it, the Italian hub of the European research infrastructure for Heritage Science, moderated by Costanza Miliani, director of the Cnr-Ispc, was in the field LiDAR technology (Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging) to investigate it archaeological sites covered by vegetation. A technology that allows to bring to light archaeological structures and topographical variations of cultural interest that are not known or partially known due to the large difficulty in locating them from the ground.

The LiDAR from drones currently used by the research lab AirLabdirected by Nikola Masiniits director of research Cnr-Ispc of Potenza: platform for drones to acquire remote sensing data with active and passive sensors, part of the MOLAB aerial platform, funded by the Ministry of University and Research (MUR) through the PON Research and Innovation 2014-2020 action on strengthening research infrastructures, with the SHINE project.

Thanks to the facilities and skills of Cnr-Ispc, the Nuragic site of Bruncu ‘e s’Omu in his territory Villa Verdein the province of Oristano, in which Riccardo Cicilloni, professor of prehistory and protohistory at the University of Cagliari, has been conducting research and excavations since 2013 thanks to an excavation grant from the Ministry of Culture and the logistical and financial support of the Municipality of Villa Verde. The site is located in a predominantly volcanic area, in which archaeological research has shown that the area was heavily inhabited, during the Bronze and Iron Ages (XVIII-VIII centuries BC), by many Nuragic sites. Among them, his website Bruncu’ and s’Omucharacterized by a monumental Nuraghe it is one settlement hut from the Late Bronze Age (1150-900 BC), now excavated by the University of Cagliari.

The target of LiDAR surveys, integrated with multispectral search and in thermal infrared from a drone, was that of expanding the field of research into a densely forested area, otherwise difficult to survey with traditional methods of reconnaissance and topographical mapping. Performed with high point density, properly processed with automatic extraction procedures including machine learning techniques, LiDAR drone surveys have highlighted many topographic and microtopographic variations. The resulting data, related to territorial identification, caused considerable archaeological interest. Among them stand out the ruins of a Nuraghe and the structures of two hut settlements.

“The surprising and unexpected discovery highlights on the one hand the great potential of drone LiDAR applied for the first time in nuragic contexts, on the other hand it widens the research area, raising new questions about the function and significance of the Bruncu ‘e s’ site Omu,” he explains Nikola Masini. “An important aspect of LIDAR,” he continues, “is the processing and classification of point clouds, especially in environments, such as nuragic, characterized by dense vegetation that must be digitally ‘removed’ to visualize microtopographic variations for effective archaeological his interpretation”.

“Through refinement and automatic data extraction processes incorporated into classic archaeological reconnaissance activity, the right balance was achieved between the need to reduce ‘noise’ and the emphasis of microtopographical features of archaeological interest,” he added. Nikodimos Abbotresearcher of the E-RIHS.it hub at the Cnr-Ispc of Potenza, thanks to MUR funding to strengthen the human capital of research infrastructures.

“The collaboration between the University of Cagliari and Cnr-Ispc”, he underlines Riccardo Cicilloniin charge of the excavation activities, “proved to be valuable and a harbinger of great innovations, both of methodological and applied research, with the discovery of unpublished and important sites from the Bronze Age.

“The discovery of unpublished structures at the Bruncu ‘e s’Omu site from the Bronze Age was made possible by the use of MOLABI mobile workshops of the research infrastructure for heritage sciences, which, led by the CNR with a model of open access to the national and international scientific community, promotes interdisciplinary research in which the most innovative research methodologies are used for basic and applied knowledge research, the protection and promotion of cultural heritage”, he concluded Costanza Milianidirector of CNR-Ispc and coordinator of the Italian node E-RIHS.it.

Image: Some members of the CNR ISPC AirLab team: (from left) Nicodemo Abate, Valentino Vitale and Antonio Minervino Amodio | © AirLab CNR ISPC

Sardinia, a nuraghe discovered thanks to laser technology that surveys sites covered in vegetation

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