From The Beeb:
Archaeologists may not need to get their hands so dirty any more, thanks to the kind of digital technology being pioneered at Southampton University.
Its ‘µ-VIS Centre for Computed Tomography’ possesses the largest, high energy scanner of its kind in Europe: a ‘micro-CT’ machine manufactured by Nikon.
Capable of resolutions better than 0.1mm – the diameter of a human hair – it allows archaeologists to carefully examine material while still encased in soil.
An almost 5 minute video at the link (although it crapped out on me at about 3 minutes in). Worth watching, the scanning takes a LOT longer than I’d thought. I’ve posted on this before, basically seeing inside lumps of sediment and cemented globs of objects.
Aerial snow photos help archaeologists explore Wales’ landscape
Series of photographs showing archaeological (and historic) features that are brought out by snowfall. IIRC, a lot of effigy mounds in the midwest US can be seen more readily when snow is on the ground as well.
In an interesting application of remote sensing, ground penetrating radar was used last week to try to locate Jimmy Hoffa, missing since 1975. The latest chapter in the on-going cold-case investigation took place outside Detroit, where GPR was used to look for a possible body buried under a suburban driveway.
What do you people expect? His middle name is RIDDLE. (Truly, as in “James Riddle Hoffa”). As Dave Berry would say: I did NOT make this up!
Later, a sediment sample was taken for analysis.
The seemingly never-ending search for the remains of missing Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa hit another dead end Tuesday when soil results taken from the grounds of a home in Michigan showed no evidence that human remains were buried on the property.
(okay, so this is actually a photo of GPR being used for archaeological purposes in Jordan, and not a picture of Detroit. But it makes the post more archaeological).
Lidar article from the BBC.
Longish article, and there’s a neat little slideshow at the top giving some before/after shots.
Have archaeologists discovered lost Egyptian pyramids using Google Earth?
atellite archaeologist Angela Micol believes she may have stumbled upon two previously unidentified pyramid structures by using Google Earth. Located in Egypt, the sites contain distinct features and orientations that definitely suggest the potential presence of pyramids — a prospect that has local archaeologists eager to check it out.
I’m skeptical. They don’t give a location for them and the images shown appear to be in remote areas. Features that big anywhere near the Nile valley would surely have been noted before, and if these are way out in, say, the Western desert, it seems likely that they’d have been found before or that they’re just conical-shaped hills or mountains. But we’ll see, I guess.
High flying technology to map Peru ruins
Archaeologists in Peru are getting ready to fly an unmanned craft that could radically speed up data gathering at historical sites.
Usually, “mapping” is an extremely time consuming process and can take several years to complete.
New technology developed by archaeologists and engineers from Vanderbilt University, in the US, should accelerate this process.
The device will be tested later this month at the Mawchu Llacta site.
. . .
“If you could just fly this thing, it’d be a cheap way of acquiring high-resolution aerial data,” he told BBC News.
That last bit is the absolute key to it all: cheap, extensive, and good data.
And this link has basically the same stuff but with a short video with the actual drone.
Using LiDAR, filmmaker discovers “lost city”
Cinematographer Steve Elkins announced last week that by using LiDAR (light detection and ranging), he discovered “what appears to be evidence of archaeological ruins in an area long rumored to contain the legendary lost city of Ciudad Blanca.” The phrasing “lost city” is problematic, however: it’s hard to lose a city when the city itself is a myth.
The mapping project, conducted over 40 hours split between seven flights during April and May, was led by Elkins’ group, UTL Scientific. Participants include the thriller writer Douglas Preston, who is the former editor at the American Museum of Natural History. The project took place in conjunction with the government of Honduras with the help of technicians from the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping and professors from the University of Houston.
Kind of a minor squabble going on, described within. I’m on the side of those who take this sort of thing to be a major innovation. Although it is just another method for gathering data, it’s a tremendous tool for doing so. I agree with the point made that, even though the technology is expensive, it could be cheap in the long run if you get the same mapping data in a couple of days that would ordinarily take weeks or months or even years to accomplish. But, you know, it’s just a tool; you still need to explain the data.
Skomer Island’s ‘hidden’ prehistoric buildings found by archaeologists
A team of archaeologists have found “hidden” remains of prehistoric buildings and fields on Skomer Island, off the Pembrokeshire coast.
Using new technology, they “X-rayed” fields and found buried ditches and structures not visible on the ground.
Dr Toby Driver from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales said they may date back 5,000 years.
He added they are among the best preserved anywhere in the UK.
Interesting little article, apparently mostly uninhabited in historic times(?). I Google Earthed to it and there is a small cluster of buildings in the center of the island, but otherwise there appear to be just some small roads and trails. As they say, whatever is there is at least undisturbed by modern plowing.
Satellites Expose 8,000 Years of Lost Civilization
Hidden in the landscape of the fertile crescent of the Middle East, scientists say, lurk overlooked networks of small settlements that hold vital clues to ancient civilizations.
Beyond the impressive mounds of earth, known as tells in Arabic, that mark lost cities, researchers have found a way to give archaeologists a broader perspective of the ancient landscape. By combining spy-satellite photos obtained in the 1960s with modern multispectral images and digital maps of Earth’s surface, the researchers have created a new method for mapping large-scale patterns of human settlement. The approach, used to map some 14,000 settlement sites spanning eight millennia in 23,000 square kilometers of northeastern Syria, is published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Neat stuff. Being able to accurately recognize sites from space is the real key; once you do that with some facility you can do at least a minimal level of regional survey and get nearly everything. Of course, you still need to date everything but it’s an incredibly useful first step.
Indiana Jones goes geek: Laser-mapping LiDAR revolutionizes archaeology
In the once tech-resistant area of anthropology, high-tech tools are enabling new discoveries on an almost-daily basis. Several years ago, Fisher started out with rugged handheld computers and a few GPS receivers to map the recently-discovered city Sacapu Angamuco in western Mexico, occupied from about 1,000 to 1,350 CE. The Purepechan or Tarascan people had proven more difficult to pinpoint archeologically than had their contemporaries and rivals, the Aztecs. But initial data gathering and geo-referencing allowed Fisher to identify the city at an important moment on the crux of empire, and to do so in a fraction of the time it would have taken with tape measures and grid-plotting. Still, there was more to be done.
Last year, LiDAR enabled Fisher to create a full-fledged picture of the important Mesoamerican capital in greater detail. This included the discovery of several pyramids, ceremonial complexes and thousands of residences and other buildings that no one knew existed in the city. Much is known about the Purepecha at the time of European contact in the 16th century, but little has been uncovered about their origins. This project should help with that.
They’re probably right about it being revolutionary, even though it’s only gotten sporadic use so far. Mainly because of the cost-quality metric: you can probably do a more accurate survey using traditional surveying methods, but that’s time consuming and you need a lot of expertise to do it correctly. With this, you can get a large area done fairly quickly. Plus it will allow you do map places that would be difficult to get to on foot or vehicle.