X-RAY TECHNIQUE HELPS ARCHAEOLOGISTS READ SCROLLS PRESERVED BY VESUVIUS ERUPTION
This is the good bit:
Back in the 1980s archeologists decided they wouldn’t attempt to use any other physical methods for trying to read the scrolls, in the hopes that a future generation might figure out how to read them without obliterating the artifacts. They focused instead on trying to read the papyrus scrolls that had already been unrolled.
Today, scientists announced in the journal Nature Communications that they had finally figured out a way to isolate letters of the text without unrolling the scrolls. Using a technique called X-ray phase-contrast tomography (XPCT), the researchers, led by Vito Mocella, were able to scan both an unrolled fragment and a still-intact scroll (previously given to Napoleon Bonaparte as a gift), as well as look for how the X-ray propagated through the sample. Unlike a typical X-ray scan that you might get at the doctor’s office, in which your bones show up bright and clear and your muscles are almost invisible, the XPCT scan looks for far more subtle differences between materials that are almost the same.
I’ve been waiting for such a technique for a long time. Since around 1977! The book Inherit the Stars by James P. Hogan had something similar, called a “trimagniscope” that used a trio of beams aimed at an object and the intersection produced a 3D representation of the spot the beams were on. It worked at a subatomic level so you could magnify as well. In the book they used it to read small notebooks that were too fragile top open. That’s the sort of thing I kind of harp on around here: waiting.
Archaeologists find vast medieval palace buried under prehistoric fortress at Old Sarum
Archaeologists in southern England have discovered what may be one of the largest medieval royal palaces ever found – buried under the ground inside a vast prehistoric fortress.
The probable 12th century palace was discovered by archaeologists, using geophysical ground-penetrating ‘x-ray’ technology to map a long-vanished medieval city which has lain under grass on the site for more than 700 years.
Located inside the massive earthwork defences of an Iron Age hill fort at Old Sarum in Wiltshire, the medieval city was largely founded by William the Conqueror who made it the venue for one of Norman England’s most important political events – a gathering of the country’s nobility at which all England’s mainly Norman barons and lords swore loyalty to William.
From a geophysical survey, hence no need for excavation:
The Syrian ‘Big Circle’ was discovered and investigated by Graham Phillip and Jennie Bradbury and published in the journal Levant, you can access their article through Maney Online: ‘Pre-Classical Activity in the Basalt Landscape of the Homs Region, Syria: Implications for the Development of ‘Sub-Optimal’ Zones in the Levant During the Chalcolithic-Early Bronze Age’.
If you are interested in seeing more photographs taken in the course of our investigation of the structures on the ground and from the air, please visit our Flickr page and search for ‘Big Circle’.
I tried coming up with some on Google Earth but couldn’t find a lat/long or anything to them. I would guess you would at least be able to see them on there. Couple of newspaper links there as well.
Neat article and video on locating burials in a cemetery under realistic conditions: Finding Avondale: Remote Sensing for an Unmarked Cemetery in Difficult Subsurface Conditions>
Cemetery researchers frequently turn to remote sensing technics when there are little to no trace of a burial ground visible on the surface. The effectiveness of these methods has been evaluated by numerous case studies however, these studies tend to be conducted under optimal and under more controlled conditions then we tend to find in the field. In this study we used real world situation where the adverse settings encountered at the Avondale burial place also known as 9BI164, an unmarked cemetery in southern Bibb County Georgia.
In short, records were nonexistent, informative data was sparse and we only had a rough estimate of where the cemetery was located. The grounds were over a century old. There were no surface features and it was situated in Georgia red clay, a notoriously difficult substrate for successful remote sensing.
I haven’t watched the video yet. As I’ve said, this sort of thing is getting more and more common, finding disused private and even public cemeteries that have long since been forgotten, often with no headstones or decayed monuments (wood). And in this case they not only used hi-tech remote sensing technologies, but also dogs! Well worth a viewing and a read.
Can Drones Revolutionize Archaeology? “Archaeologists are increasingly discovering that the best way to find out what is hidden below the ground is to take to the skies. According to an article in the May 2014 issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science, researchers last summer employed a pilotless aircraft to learn more about an ancient village that lurks beneath the layers of dusty soil and sagebrush of remote northwestern New Mexico.”
Not just visually, but with other wavelengths as well.
Archaeologists use drones to map New Mexico site
Recently published research describes how archaeologists outfitted a customized drone with a heat-sensing camera to unearth what they believe are ceremonial pits and other features at the site of an ancient village in New Mexico.
The discovery of the structures hidden beneath layers of sediment and sagebrush is being hailed as an important step that could help archaeologists shed light on mysteries long buried by eroding desert landscapes from the American Southwest to the Middle East. The results of the research were published earlier this month in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
Since the 1970s, archaeologists have known that aerial images of thermal infrared wavelengths of light could be a powerful tool for spotting cultural remains on the ground. But few have had access to million-dollar satellites, and helicopters and planes have their limits.
I’ve actually been wondering if this could be used around here — Pacific NW — along the coastline to locate shell midden. I’d guess most of it was probably already located since most of the shoreline has been heavily surveyed. But you never know.
Drone Images Reveal Buried Ancient Village in New Mexico
Thermal images captured by an small drone allowed archaeologists to peer under the surface of the New Mexican desert floor, revealing never-before-seen structures in an ancient Native American settlement.
Called Blue J, this 1,000-year-old village was first identified by archaeologists in the 1970s. It sits about 43 miles (70 kilometers) south of the famed Chaco Canyon site in northwestern New Mexico and contains nearly 60 ancestral Puebloan houses around what was once a large spring.
Now, the ruins of Blue J are obscured by vegetation and buried in eroded sandstone blown in from nearby cliffs. The ancient structures have been only partially studied through excavations. Last June, a team of archaeologists flew a small camera-equipped drone over the site to find out what infrared images might reveal under the surface.
Talks a bit about current and future regulations regarding drone use. I’d not heard of the thermal imaging aspect though.
Well, drone photography anyway: Finally, A 3D-Printed Drone for Archaeologists
Though archaeologists have come a long way since Indiana Jones, they sometimes still cling to antiquated technologies, like balloons and ladders to take photos of their discoveries and trenches from above.
This month, a company formed by recent college grads called Arch Aerial rolled out a small drone designed to accompany archaeologists on far-flung expeditions.
Arch Aerial showed off their small vehicle — which is made largely from 3D-printed parts and runs on open-source flight software — here at the Archaeological Institute of America’s annual meeting this past weekend.
I think it’s great, although in five years WalMart will be selling the same things for $299. But we really need a method for taking photographs and LIDAR cheaply in the field. Having said all that, the way things are going you could probably just use a regular digital camera at near-ground level and software to give you what amounts to high-definition virtual aerial photos. But they’d cover wider areas.
Archaeologists to determine if passage tomb at Drogheda fort
Specialist radar equipment is being used to determine if there is a passage tomb located at the site of Millmount Fort in Drogheda, Co Louth.
The Millmount Archaeological Remote Sensing project is seeking to find out more about the Norman period at the site.
The initial fieldwork took place at the end of last week and finished yesterday, where ground penetrating radar was used to non-invasively look below the surface.
I note because A) It’s a good use of remote sensing, rather than — as would have happened not even 20 years ago — just starting to dig; and B) I keyed in on the name, Drogheda, because of The Thorn Birds book which I read when just getting into archaeology in the early 1980s. Kind of a melodramatic almost glorified romance novel, but I really liked it then and actually just re-read it again in the past year or so.
Robotic Snakes Slither Their Way Into Ancient Archaeology
To paraphrase REM, the ancient Egyptians were all too familiar with the “horrible asp.”
But not even the most clairvoyant pharaohs could have imagined their kingdoms invaded by robotic snakes.
In arguably an archaeological first, that’s exactly what happened a couple of years back.
That’s when Boston University archaeologist Kathryn Bard and colleagues used a “modular robotic snake” designed and built by Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics lab to do a limited probe of a Middle Kingdom Red Sea cave.
Only one photo of the snake and it’s fairly large. I was hoping for an autonomous kind of thing but it’s tethered.