ArchaeoCafé Podcast – Episode 2-16 – Drone archaeology: An interview with Katelyn O’Keefe

hosted by Otis Crandell and Renata Araujo

In this episode we talk with Katelyn O’Keefe about the use of drones for doing aerial surveys in archaeology and for looking at landscape change over time in order to assess risks to cultural heritage. We also discuss the history of Qikiqtaruk (Herschel Island) in Yukon (Canada) and the archaeological and heritage work currently taking place there.

Listen to this episode online:



Some useful terminology and links

Qikiqtaruk (Herschel Island) Digital Preserve Website
A repository for digital data sets such as interactive 3D models related to Herschel Island or Qikiqtaruk Territorial Park. Led by Dr. Peter Dawson of the University of Calgary.

Qikiqtaruk (Herschel Island)
An island in the Beaufort Sea (Arctic Ocean), which lies 5 km off the coast of Yukon. The earliest evidence of human occupation unearthed so far by archaeological investigations is that of the Thule culture, dating to approximately 1000 years ago. The Inuvialuktun word for Herschel Island is “Qikiqtaruk”, which simply means “island”. Commercial bowhead whale hunting in the area began in 1889. Whalers hunting in the area overwintered on the island. In 1907, the whaling industry dwindled. Throughout the early and mid-20th century the island was used by fur traders, missionaries, the RCMP, and the Inuvialuit. The Inuvialuit visit and make use of the resources on Herschel island to this day.

Inuvialuit culture & history
The Inuvialuit are the Inuit of the Canadian Western Arctic. Inuvialuit means ‘Real People’ in the Inuvialuktun language. They, like all other Inuit, are descendants of the Thule who migrated eastward from Alaska.

Drone regulations and licensing in Canada


Selected reading and other media

The Rise of Drone Technology in Archaeology
Coptrz website

Drones for Heritage Uses
Historic England website

NGA Explains: What is Photogrammetry? 
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
How measurements taken from photos can be turned into 3D information.


About Katelyn O’Keefe

Katelyn is a graduate student of archaeology at the University of Calgary. She is part of a research group that digitally documents heritage sites. Her graduate research involves using drone imagery to measure year-to-year change at Pauline Cove on Qikiqtaruk (Herschel Island), a culturally significant heritage site in Yukon. She has previously worked on archaeological projects in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nunavut, and Yukon (Canada).





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