Copyright  © 2013  Ughtasar Rock Art Project Team.  All rights reserved.                                                                                                                                                                                V6 Jan 2016

Fieldwork season 2015

The Project's fieldwork season in 2015 was highly successful and productive.  Having completed the main data collection in 2014, one of the chief objectives in 2015 was to study some of the most complex and richly carved rocks in greater detail than time had allowed during the 'Rapid Survey'. This aspect of the work proved to be very rewarding, allowing team members to gain a more nuanced understanding of the rock art both in its immediate context, in its wider context in the landscape and in its relation to other archaeological features nearby.  Analysis of the results is on-going but it is clear that the majority of complex and richly carved rocks tend to be located in highly distinctive locations within the landscape and are relatively easy to access; most form a central point around which a number of other carved rocks are clustered.   

Above: Rock 25 showing its location close to the glacial lake

Photo: Chris Musson

Chris Musson added many excellent new images to the photographic archive; a new ‘Gallery’ page will be added to the Project website shortly.

Left: Chris Musson returning to camp after a day’s photography

Photo: Tina  Walkling

We were delighted to welcome new team members, Diana Ovod of Agisoft (www.agisoft.com), St. Petersburg, Russia and Armenian student, Mariam Shahmouradyan, who is studying for an MA in Archaeology at the State University, Yerevan, Armenia.  We were also delighted to see the return to site of archaeologist, Dr Sarah Duffy, specialist in enhanced visualisation techniques, who joined the team hotfoot from her work with the Ice Age Island Project on Jersey, the Channel Islands (www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-34679202).

Right: Diana Ovod capturing imagery of Rock 349 for subsequent processing with Agisoft Photoscan.  Mount Tsghuk can be seen in the background with Mount Ishkanasar in the far distance

Photo: Ani Danielyan

Aerial Photography:

One of the highlights of fieldwork in 2015 was the work carried out by Sarah Duffy using a DJI Phantom 3 Advanced quad-copter with integrated camera.

Following last year’s trials when video and still footage of part of the study area was successfully obtained by Harut Atshemyan using a DJI Phantom 2, Sarah captured images of areas particularly rich in rock carvings and some of the stone-walled animal enclosures, which are too large and complex to survey from the ground.  Several excellent 3D models, based on overlapping aerial images have been created so far (see below).  Sarah’s 3D models can be viewed at https://sketchfab.com/sarahmduffy.uk.

Left: Group of enclosures (the width of the area covered by the image is approx. 100metres).   Screenshot of 3D aerial image captured with DJI Phantom 3 quad-copter and processed with Agisoft Photoscan software.   Image created by Dr Sarah M Duffy (see also:   https://skfb.ly/GMUM)

Sarah has also created a panorama of the caldera using aerial photographs processed with Photosynth, see:


Aerial Photography with 6m pole

Team members Ken Saito and Chris Musson have been experimenting successfully with the use of a 6m pole to capture aerial imagery for creating 3D models, including the area of boulders particularly rich in petroglyphs, which can be seen in the ortho-photo below.

Left:  Ortho-photo of 3D model of an area rich in petroglyphs using images captured with a digital compact camera attached to a 6m pole.

Image by Ken Saito with Chris Musson  

3D models on Ughtasar Rock Art Project’s Sketchfab website, https://sketchfab.com/ughtasarrockartproject:

The Project now has its own website for displaying 3D models of the rock art thanks to Professor Dominic Powlesland of the Landscape Research Centre, UK (http://www.landscaperesearchcentre.org/).

Ken Saito has uploaded over 200 models of carved rocks which can be viewed in the round, greatly enhancing the visualisation of the rock art.  

In addition Sarah Duffy has added several of her 3D models of aerial images to the Project’s Sketchfab website (as above).  


In his preliminary study of the environmental formation processes that have shaped the natural topography of the site, Samvel Nahapetyan emphasises the importance of quaternary glaciation as a major feature of the formation of the landscape we see today, as well as volcanic and tectonic activity.  Particularly interesting is the fact that part of the study area is a cirque within the caldera.

XIX International Rock Art Conference, IFRAO 2015, Caceres, Spain:

Team members Ani Danielyan & Tina Walkling were delighted to be given the opportunity to participate in the 2015 IFRAO (International Federation of Rock Art Organisations) Conference. Their paper, with contributions by Anna Khechoyan, entitled “Seeking the elusive goat: Conspicuous and hidden petroglyphs in a caldera in southern Armenia” was well received and stimulated considerable interest in the rock art of Armenia.  

The prestigious IFRAO conference, held in the beautiful medieval city of Caceres, Extremadura, Spain, was a great success, attracting more than 400 delegates from all over the world with excellent keynote speakers and a wide and varied programme of papers under the overarching theme “Symbols in the Landscape: Rock Art and its context”.  

Prehistoric Rock Paintings of Armenia:

Co-director Anna Khechoyan’s informative chapter (co-authored with Boris Gasparyan) on the prehistoric pictographs of Armenia was published in 2014: Khechoyan, A. & Gasparyan, B. Rock Painting Phenomenon in the Republic of Armenia, in B. Gasparyan & M. Arimura (eds), Stone Age of Armenia, A Guide-book to the Stone Age Archaeology in the Republic of Armenia, 315-338. Kanazawa: Center for Cultural Resource Studies, Kanazawa University, Japan.  The chapter is available to download at: https://www.academia.edu/11083359/Rock-Painting_Phenomenon_in_the_Republic_of_Armenia

Many thanks to all members of the team, past and present, for their hard work, enthusiasm, ideas, commitment and excellent company during fieldwork and throughout the year.

Best wishes to all for a very Happy New Year in 2016!  


Ani’s magical Ughtasar petroglyph tree

Image created by Ani Danielyan


Recent Presentations & publications:


ICAANE, 9th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East

Ughtasar Project team member Ani Danielyan presented a well received paper entitled L’art rupestre d’Oughtassar, Arménie: Approche méthodologique et analytique at the 9th ICAANE Congress held in Basel from 9th to 13th June 2014. The presentation was prepared in collaboration with Anna Khechoyan and under the direction of Henri-Paul Francfort, supervisor of Ani’s ongoing PhD research at the University of Paris, Panthéon-Sorbonne.

The ICAANE (https://9icaane.unibas.ch/) is a prestigious international conference which takes place biennially and is organised and attended by specialists on Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology from leading research institutions, museums and scientific centres.


British Rock Art Group (BRAG) Conference 2014 and the development of the Ughtasar Picture Viewer/Data Portal

Members of the Project team Tina & Richard Walkling presented a paper and an accompanying poster at the British Rock Art Group Conference held at the University of Edinburgh on 3rd May.

  Entitled Ughtasar Rock Art Project and Picture Viewer, the presentation outlined the Project’s recent progress and introduced the ‘Picture Viewer and Data Portal’ developed by Richard as data manager of the Project. The software enables efficient access and analysis of the rapidly growing volume of data amassed by the team, including the facility to select by rock and view more than 10,000 photographs and 1650 record sheets for (currently) 838 rocks as well as to carry out searches of the database. The presentation stimulated considerable interest and positive responses.  A review of the conference can be found online at:  http://heddonhistory.weebly.com/1/post/2014/05/brag-2014.html

The British Rock Art Group meets annually and provides an exciting opportunity to highlight new discoveries and debate key issues in rock art research. Organised by Dr. Tertia Barnett, this year’s conference included presentations by academics, rock art specialists and students working in the field of rock art in the UK and other parts of the world.

Poster displayed at BRAG 2014


3D Models of Rocks 83 and 708 online at Sketchfab.com

On the basis of photographs captured at Ughtasar last summer by Ken Saito and other members of the Project team Professor Dominic Powlesland, whose Landscape Research Centre is one of the Project’s two sponsors, has created some fine 3D models using Agisoft PhotoScan software for multi-image photogrammetry.

To view the models please see:




Team member Ken Saito was recently awarded an MA in Preventive Archaeology (Arceologia preventiva) at the University of Siena, Italy. A key part of Ken’s dissertation was based on his experiments with multi-image photogrammetry at Ughtasar.

On the basis of the Project’s experience so far Agisoft PhotoScan is proving an effective and time-saving tool for the kind of 3D recording that we are undertaking in the harsh conditions of this remote site 3300m above sea level in the mountains of southern Armenia. One of the Project’s aims is to share skills, experience and innovative methods among the members of the team. In this context we see multi-image photogrammetry and the use of the Agisoft PhotoScan software as key techniques in the non-contact recording and enhanced visualisation of rock engravings, in Armenia and elsewhere.



Sarah Duffy’s contribution to the enhanced visualisation of rock carvings at Ughtasar is highlighted in the recent English Heritage publication Multi-light Imaging for Heritage Applications (Sarah M Duffy with contributions by Paul Bryan, Graeme Earl, Gareth Beale, Hembo Pagi and Eleni Kotoula, English Heritage 2013), in a section entitled ‘Case Study 3: Extreme RTI at Ughtasar Rock Art Site’. The guide is available to download free from: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/multi-light-imaging-heritage-applications/Multi-light_Imaging_FINAL_low-res.pdf.  

Sarah was recently awarded a doctorate at the University of York for her PhD thesis (based partly on her work with Reflectance Transformation Imaging [RTI] at Ughtasar) on digital archaeological recording, S M Duffy 2013 Archaeological Recording in the Digital Age: Towards an informed and reflexive methodology, unpublished PhD Thesis, University of York.


Ughtasar Rock Art Project

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