Archaeology Technology Helps Discover And Reimagine Ancient Cities

Methodology for the discovery and preservation of the past has proved more advanced than ever due to exciting new archaeology technology.

Here are several promising types of archeology technology helping experts uncover, excavate, and even virtually archive history with more accuracy and ease than ever.

1. Airborne lasers: archaeology technology detecting hidden cities

Photo courtesy of Steve Jurvetson via Flickr. 

Airborne laser mapping allows quantification of natural or man-made forms that lay beneath visible land. It’s called LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection And Ranging. According to the NCALM (National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping), this mapping instrumentation is installed in a twin-engine aircraft, which collects and maps data in selected areas.

LiDAR has been successful already, helping archaeologists rediscover the lost city Mahendraparvata in Cambodia, according to NPR. Over two dozen temples were subsequently uncovered in the jungle, piecing together a 1,200 year-old city which predates the Angkor Wat Temple, The Age reports.

2. Virtual reality: archaeology technology recreating historical sites and findings

Though it is impossible to physically recreate history, virtual reality is allowing archaeologists to virtually do so, creating 3D likenesses of places and things based on research and discovery. Such technology can be useful for tourism purposes, to give visitors a feel of what a site may have been like in years past.

Of course, there are some complications: for example, 3D construction is interpretation, and therefore must not be confused for reality. An academic paper published in the German journal Kunst & Kultur notes that as a method of archival, virtual reconstruction is a sensitive though promising form of preservation and presentation.

This approach was tried in Italy in 2016, where robots used digitized images to re-carve a marble arch from Palmyra, the Syrian historic site decimated by ISIS.

archaeology technologyDigital reconstruction of the Temple of Bel from the New Palmyra project

In another case, virtual reality has created “Cyber Tourism” for sites like Pompeii, and another project on Kickstarter hopes to create an online experience that allows users to explore the Bronze Age in East Anglia.

3. Satellite mapping: archaeology technology mapping cities from space

Image from the online Smithsonian Magazine. 

Archaeologists may be known for excavation techniques that start at the ground and dig deeper, but new science shows that underground discoveries can also be made from a distance — in this case, from space.

According to the Smithsonian’s Online Magazine, a new program is able to identify ancient artifacts by systematically analyzing satellite images. Utilized by scientist Jason Ur and research affiliate Bjoern Manze, it has the potential to survey land at an extremely large scale to detect where ancient remnants are buried.

Already, the two have used this program to begin mapping ancient Mesopotamia, which they detail in this paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

In addition new technology is being applied to  artifacts that enables them to become virtually connected to other artifacts and places.  Data about the objects can be used to recreate lost artifacts, and recreate their context.

Updated. Cover photo courtesy of Nhi Dang via Flickr.

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