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UCT team to map ancient Mideast city

Cape Times

Education Writer

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Petra Photo shutterstock

A TEAM of UCT researchers have partnered with the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to digitally survey and map the ancient city of Petra in Jordan.

Creating 3D models and interactive panorama tours of the World Heritage Site cut entirely from rock, they are expected to complete their work in 2014.

The Zamani Research Group of UCT’s Geomatics Department, headed by Emeritus Professor Heinz Rüther, leave for Petra in two weeks for a week of laser-scanning, geographic information systems, area photography and spatial documentation work.

Other team members include Ralph Schroeder, Roshan Bhurtha and Stephen Wessels.

The team has partnerships with Unesco, the Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, and the Jordanian Department of Antiquities.

According to a Unesco media release: “Petra is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, and Jordan’s most significant heritage site. However, Petra faces a wide diversity of risks, particularly from natural and geological hazards such as earthquakes, floods and landslides.”

Entrance to Petra is through the Siq, meaning “crack”, a narrow slot up to 120m high and 1.2km long, which according to Unesco is especially fragile and needs to be addressed and monitored to reduce the risk of landslides and rockfalls.

The project’s aim is to produce a stability plan using sophisticated surveying and laser-scanning mapping techniques for the World Heritage Site. The UCT team will also produce a virtual tour of Petra and spatially document many of the city’s tombs and temples.

Rüther’s team has documented

40 sites in 13 countries and digitally mapped many of Africa’s heritage landmarks.

Rüther said Petra was a unique environment in which to work.

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