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.
Incredible Technology: How Today’s Archaeologists Kick Indiana Jones’ Butt
Indiana Jones may be the best-known fictional archaeologist, but his bullwhip pales in comparison with some of the field’s actual tools. [10 Modern Tools for Indiana Jones]
“I go out and do archaeology with a ray gun,” Frahm told LiveScience, adding, “It doesn’t get more sci-fi than that.”
Frahm and his colleagues have developed a portable version of X-ray fluorescence (XRF), a common technique for determining the chemical makeup of an artifact. Using a kind of “ray gun,” scientists fire X-rays at a sample, boosting the energy of electrons inside the sample, where they emit new X-rays that correspond to specific elements, such as zinc or copper. Art museums use similar techniques to study paintings.
Mostly just a short review of some remote sensing techniques.
Australian archaeologists seek to solve mystery of the lost city of Zagora
BEFORE the first ancient Olympics, as Homer was writing his Iliad, there was a bustling early Iron Age city in Greece. And then it all but disappeared.
Australian archaeologists will try to solve the ancient mystery of why the city was abandoned and whether a lack of fresh water was the cause.
. . .
They are curious about whether hydrology might have something to do with the abandonment of the settlement that had been growing at an extraordinary rate.
“One of the ideas we are investigating is whether there has been an earthquake because the ground rock is layers of schist and marble, and marble can be permeated by water but schist can’t.
“If there was a shifting of the layers because of earthquake the water courses could have been altered and the site that was once able to have water may suddenly run dry.”
That’s a pretty clever idea, although one presumes they don’t need 50 people just to do GPR. . . .
Errr, not really. Unless you consider “exhausted mentally and physically” an attitude. Gadzooks, what a week and a half! Actually more like a month. But the drywaller finished up today and the basement is starting to look a little habitable once again. So, posting will henceforth resume.
Starting with. . . .drones!
Archaeologists turn to drones in Peru
Archaeologists say drones can help set boundaries to protect sites, watch over them and monitor threats, and create a digital repository of ruins that can help build awareness and aid in the reconstruction of any damage done.
“We see them as a vital tool for conservation,” said Ana Maria Hoyle, an archaeologist with the Culture Ministry.
Hoyle said the government plans to buy several drones to use at different sites, and that the technology will help the ministry comply with a new, business-friendly law that has tightened the deadline for determining whether land slated for development might contain cultural artifacts.
That’s really not a bad article. They should be able to carry lidar equipment in a few years making large scale mapping truly widespread: drive out to your area, send up the drone from the roadside, and have a really accurate topo map in a few hours. I also thought the trouble they have in Peru with the thin air also neat and something you wouldn’t think about.
Not to mention Modern Artifacts: Scientists Search Lunar Landscape for Lost Moon Probes
The moon is the final resting ground for scads of landed and crashed spacecraft, many of which have been pinpointed recently by sleuthing scientists.
Using observations by NASA’s sharp-eyed Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, for example, researchers have located and imaged Apollo moon landing leftovers, old Soviet-era spacecraft and, more recently, the impact locales of NASA’s twin Grail spacecraft that were deliberately driven into a mountain near the moon’s north pole.
A couple of videos at the link, first one not terribly informative though. Actually, I watched two of them and neither had any sound. I vaguely recall some sort of crowd-sourcing project that would have volunteers looking through small patches of hi-res photos of the surface looking for such things? Maybe not. Might be a good idea though. . . .
Lost city of Mahendraparvata discovered in Cambodian jungles
A lost city that thrived on a mist-shrouded Cambodian mountain 1,200 years ago has been discovered by archaeologists using airborne laser technology, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on Saturday in a world exclusive.
Over two dozen temple sites have been discovered on the site, which is thought to have been built around 802 AD when the Angor Empire was founded.
It is believed to be the lost city of Mahendraparvata, located on a misty mountain called Phnom Kulen deep in the hinterland of Cambodia. It was thought to be built 350 years before the famed Angor Wat.
I’m hesitating to link to that site because of the $_)@*^(_@$(@^$ pop up ads which are populous and annoying. But try to read it.
Google Earth fuelling ‘armchair archaeology’
TRADITIONALLY, ARCHAEOLOGY HAS involved a lot of digging through both archives and dirt, as well as being in the right place at the right time. But the last decade has seen the development of a completely new tool, says Dr David Thomas, a pioneer of the field of satellite archaeology.
“The detail in many of the images is astonishing and allows archaeologists to investigate sites without leaving the safety of their offices,” says David, who is from Melbourne’s La Trobe University and gave a talk today on ‘armchair archaeology’ at the Melbourne Museum.
“While this has obvious advantages, it also presents archaeologists with new problems and challenges,” he says.
This has yet to really take off, IMO, even though it’s been used a lot. Once you get the ground-truthing out of the way (difficult in some places) you can really start to apply spatial models to the sites that are discovered. Heck, just counting the mounds in a given area would be enormously helpful, although you’d still need to date them by some means. But doing that — a surface survey of already-located mounds — is way more cost effective than starting out on the ground with a blank slate.
Body of Evidence: UT using donated corpses in mass grave project with international aspirations
While the images can pick up large graves filled with hundreds of people, it’s more difficult to locate the more common plots with 10 or 20 or 30 bodies, said Dawnie Steadman, director of the Forensic Anthropology Center at UT who has also done extensive human-rights work in Argentina, Cyprus and Spain.
“So the focus of this project is on those smaller graves and trying to see if we can get the acumen of the technology to be that fine-grained,” said Steadman, whose role in the project is more of a logistics coordinator. “Are they only sensitive over fresh graves, and do we lose that sensitivity over time?
Very good stuff in that (nice and long) article. Especially interesting is the hypothesis of nitrogen enrichment from decomposing bodies.
Technology helps Mexican archaeologists find new structures at El Tajin archaeological zone
Three ball fields, a couple of edifications denominated “balconies”, and a housing building of more than a thousand years old, where located in the Archaeological Zone of El Tajin, in Veracruz, by archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). Ph.D Guadalupe Zetina Gutierrez, investigator in the Archaeological Zone of El Tajin, allowed some of the project’s advances to be revealed. These are part of the Management Plan of the Archaeological Zone. She detailed that by locating the three ball fields the number of structures similar to these in El Tajin ascends to 20. “All the ball games that can be found in the site are different in dimensions and characteristics and, in the case of the three new fields, we can determine details with a precision of up to 5 centimeters [1.96 inches], thanks to a technology called LiDar, a laser scanner with which they developed a digital model of the Geographic Information System”.
The image at the link is quite striking. I guess the one thing noted in there that I haven’t really mentioned too much is that it allows detailed surveys to be made in areas with difficult access or in very remote locations, not just those places you can get to, but spend an inordinate amount of time mapping. Excellent way to document the structures in a large region.
It also notes that they used thermal imaging, although I don’t know how that might work.
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.