Technical considerations and methodology for creating high-resolution, color-corrected, and georectified photomosaics of stratigraphic sections at archaeological sites

Erich C. Fisher, Derya Akkaynak, Jacob Harris, Andy I.R. Herries, Zenobia Jacobs, Panagiotis Karkanas, Curtis W. Marean, James R. McGrath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using a conventional, off-the-shelf digital single lens reflex camera and flashes, we were able to create high-resolution panoramas of stratigraphic profiles ranging from a single meter to over 5m in both height and width at the Middle Stone Age site of PP5-6 at Pinnacle Point, Mossel Bay, South Africa. The final photomosaics are isoluminant, rectilinear, and have a pixel spatial resolution of 1mm. Furthermore, we systematically color-corrected the raw imagery. This process standardized the colors seen across the photomosaics while also creating reproducible and meaningful colors for relative colorimetric analysis between photomosiacs. Here, we provide a detailed discussion about the creation and application of our photomosaics. In the first part of the paper, we examine the specific characteristics of modern digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras and lenses that were important to us in developing our methodology. We also provide a detailed discussion about how to reproduce the methodology in the field and to post-process the imagery. In the final section of the paper, we give several examples to show how we apply our photomosaics within an empirical 3D GIS database. These examples are provided to show how photographic data can be integrated with other digitally-captured data and used to study the relationships between the stratigraphic features seen in the photomosaics and the 3D distribution of excavated archaeological piece-plots, geochronological samples, and other kinds of geological samples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)380-394
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
StatePublished - 1 May 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank AJ Engineering, and especially Martin Du Plessis, in Mossel Bay, South Africa for building the camera frame. We thank Robin Myers, Peter Goldstein, and Rags Gardener for their assistance and comments in helping to develop aspects of the methodology presented here. Thank you also to the entire SACP4 field team who assisted us during the collection of the imagery. SACP4 is funded by the National Science Foundation (# BCS-9912465 , BCS-0130713 , BCS-0524087 , and BCS-1138073 to Marean), the Hyde Family Foundation , and the Institute of Human Origins (IHO) at Arizona State University. DA was funded by Grant No. NIH-NEI EY021473 to R. Rosenholtz. AIRH acknowledges funding from the Australian Research Council Discovery Grant D P0877603 .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Archaeoinformatics
  • Digital photography
  • Modern human origins
  • South Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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