Leonardo space technology helps protect the El Tajin UNESCO World Heritage Site in Mexico

29 March 2021

Protecting and safeguarding archaeological sites of immeasurable value is largely possible today thanks to skills developed in space that can protect human legacy from all kind of aggression. This is an area of expertise where Leonardo has become a market leader, both in Italy and internationally.

One example of where this is being applied, is the archaeological site of El Tajin, in Veracruz, Mexico, which is the result of an important effort in international cooperation.

Leonardo’s involvement began at a recent conference organised in partnership with the Italo-Latin American Institute (IILA) and Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage (MiBACT), which focused on protecting cultural property.

A fresh approach to cultural heritage protection has seen a surge in technological innovation over the past few years, with it applied in various ways – from online museum visits up to the detailed observation of archaeological sites. At the conference, Minister of Mibact Dario Franceschini announced some pilot agreements with Mexico to export Leonardo’s technologies, using big data analytics and space surveillance to help protect artistic and cultural heritage. This is achieved not only through the incredible detailed observation power of satellites, but also with the development of artificial intelligence-based applications. 

Leveraging its experience and skills developed through monitoring the archaeological sites of Pompei and Rome’s Colosseum, Leonardo will be working on behalf of the Mexican Ministry of Culture to protect El Tajin, which is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Among the 35 sites recognised by UNESCO, it was decided to focus on the project of El Tajin, a pre-Columbian archaeological site.

Construction of El Tajin’s ceremonial buildings probably began in the first century. The site was completely abandoned with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the sixteenth century, which saved it from destruction and preserved it until today. 

“Mexico will be the first country to benefit from Leonardo’s best practice surveillance system, all made in Italy, and used for Pompeii and the Colosseum, thanks to the project implemented for the archaeological park,” explained Francesco Moliterni, Chief Commercial Office - VP LATAM Region of Leonardo. “The cultural heritage of a country is the heart of a nation’s identity. To protect archaeological sites and settlements, Leonardo has an integrated set of skills to provide complete surveillance, ranging from leadership in satellite monitoring, to ‘observation’ of the territory with drones and autonomous systems, up to platform management with proprietary artificial intelligence algorithms and smart sensors. Leonardo is at the forefront in observation and global monitoring of territories, settlements and infrastructure, thanks to a sustained commitment to developing technologies and solutions with strategic applications in the security sector that focus on the sustainable development of communities.”

Leonardo has strongly invested in research and development and employs different technologies that can be used for cultural heritage protection. The core of the system is the command and control platform that can manage and process a huge amount of data coming from various other systems, thanks to Leonardo's da vinci-1 supercomputer located in Genoa, and among the most powerful in Europe. It is a coincidence that from the city where the discovery of the Americas started, now comes the project to protect the heritage of an earlier era, before Europeans arrived.