Combining geophisical prospection and 3-D terrain scanning data to historical aerial photos and maps in the case of Paneriai mass killing site

(The Lithuanian institute of history, Vilnius, Lithuania)

Keywords: Holocaust archaeology, historical aerial photos and maps, geophysical survey, 3D terrain scanning

With the appearance of new technologies a significant change occurred in our understanding of mass killing sites of WW II in Europe. According Dr. Caroline Sturdy Colls, a British archaeologist, “People haven’t even put the Holocaust and archaeology in the same sentence until the last few years”.
The aim of this presentation is to analyze the results of the field survey which was carried out in Paneriai (Ponary) – the biggest the Holocaust site in the territory of present day Lithuania. Non invasive methods such as LiDAR, ground penetrating radar, electrical resistance survey and 3-D terrain scanning were applied in the last couple of years.
The new data which has derived from geophysical survey and intensive digital mapping of the terrain of the area of some 50 ha was applied to historical aerial images and maps. All together it has become a basis for archaeological landscape analysis of the mass killing site which was in operation more than 3 years since 1941. The total number of victims by July of 1944 was between 70,000 and 100,000.
By combining of different kind of research data it has allow the partial reconstruction of the relief of landscape in forested area. Remnants of once existed infrastructure: buildings, a walkway of the victims, places of gates to the fenced territory, and other workings which for a long time remain hidden among trees and bushes. Detailed study of possible archaeological features allow to indicate the location of several new killing pits which features up till present day were unknown and uncatalogued.