Researcher Maps Ancient Tombs in Oman with GPS-Photo Link Software

Thornton, Colorado, USA, 3 September 2008 – An archaeologist from Michigan State University is using GPS-Photo Link photo mapping software from GeoSpatial Experts to record the precise locations and conditions of ancient tombs in Oman. The researcher believes the tombs will provide insights into ancient peoples from the land once known as Magan, now northern Oman, in the Third Millennium B.C.

“We know relatively little about the cultures of Magan other than the fact that they lived in this area just south of Mesopotamia for about 800 years,” said Charlotte Cable, an archeology graduate student and researcher at Michigan State University. “By studying their tombs, we hope to learn about their culture.”

Cable traveled to Oman in early 2008 to locate Magan tombs, small tower-like monuments constructed of limestone blocks piled up to four meters tall. While some are still adorned with carvings, most have either been eroded or had their blocks removed for use in building other structures. Often resembling piles of stones, the tombs are not always easy to recognize.

Due to the high cost of field work in Oman, Cable’s time was precious. She successfully identified 150 tombs in a one-month period, purposely spending less than 30 minutes gathering information at each one. To maximize her efficiency, she used a standard digital camera to take photos of each tomb from a variety of angles, so that detailed studies of structure and adornment could be done back in the laboratory. Cable also recorded the GPS location coordinates at each tomb with a handheld GPS device.

Cable relied on the GPS-Photo Link software developed by GeoSpatial Experts of Thornton, Colo., to precisely map each tomb’s location and correlate the hundreds of photos she took in the field. GPS-Photo Link is a digital photo mapping software package that automatically links digital photographic images with GPS location and other data. It uses the location data to accurately map the photographs in their correct georeferenced locations on a GIS or other digital map layer.

“Photos are data for archaeologists, and it’s crucial to keep track of which photos go with each tomb,” said Cable “The photo-mapping software combines spatial and visual information and locks them [into a map] so we can go back to continue our surveys and excavations.”

Until her next trip to Oman, Cable will study the photos and the map of tomb locations. She believes the placement of the tombs on the landscape may reveal something about the social order of the Magan. And she hopes the variations in internal tomb structures may illustrate how the building and construction capabilities of these people developed over the course of their 800 years in the region. The mapped photos will guide Cable in making sure she returns to the same tombs to continue her studies.

Cable believes photo-mapping technology will become a widely accepted technology among archaeologists and anthropologists because it provides a vital photographic record of artifact conditions before a site is disturbed for research purposes. Photographic mapping preserves the layout of artifacts and other important features that may be critical to correctly interpreting an archaeological site.

“I hope to see other archaeologists using the GPS-Photo Link software in their research activities,” said Cable.

For more information on GPS-Photo Link, visit