Following on from this weekend’s International Archaeology Day, we thought we’d take a quick look at some of the uses of digital technology in discovering, researching and documenting historic sites. This week, we’ll be looking at the subject from ancient to the comparatively recent, from the urban to the rural.
Archaeology, perhaps surprisingly to those of us raised on visions of Indiana Jones or early modern excavations looking for the walls of Troy, can be an awesomely high-tech endeavour, whether using unmanned aerial vehicles to map remote dig sites, deploying magnetic resistivity meters to test for anomalies underground, sending semi-autonomous robots into collapsed temples, reinterpreting seismic data from North Sea oil fields to find submerged Ice Age settlements in the North Sea, or shooting lasers into the jungles of Central America to find lost cities.
From ground-penetrating radar to muon detectors — using particles from deep space to map the inaccessible interiors of ruined buildings — archaeology is, in fact, at the forefront of emerging technologies.
Even just a casual pass through the Journal of Archaeological Science or the Journal of Archaeological Research — just two publications I’ve been returning to over the last few years, sheerly out of personal curiosity — makes it clear that archaeologists seem as likely to be discussing the use of Artificial Intelligence or NASA satellites in classifying landscape types as in arguing over which trowel, pick set or field journal to use on their next outing.
So, for the rest of the week, Gizmodo will be checking in with various examples of archaeologists using advanced technology in the lab and in the field, including some original interviews with urban archaeologists, some truly astonishing laser-scanned point clouds and a handful of archaeological conspiracy theories.