Archaeologists’ tricorder reveals objects’ ancient origins

By | September 13, 2013

Archaeologists' tricorder reveals objects' ancient origins

Tricorder-style handheld scanners could help archaeologists uncover historical secrets without having to wait months for laboratory results.

Researchers from Sheffield University have adapted technology used to identify materials in scrap metal yards and docks, in order to determine the geographical origin of certain stone tools in just 10 seconds.

The portable scanner uses X-rays to analyse the chemical composition of ancient tools made from obsidian volcanic glass and identify where they came from, which could help archaeologists study the migration of groups of early humans.

Dr Ellery Frahm, who led development of the technique, said the scanner would enable archaeologists to make judgements about a dig site as artefacts were uncovered but also overcome the difficult of taking discoveries out of a country for lab-based analysis.

“Even though the analytical techniques are better than ever, it’s getting harder and harder to do these things in any meaningful way,” he told The Engineer.

“If you are dependent on lab-based chemical analysis you’re doomed to have an inconsequential number of articles available. You’ll have to make judgements based on the worst dozen artefacts that a country is willing to let go.”

The device uses a technique called X-ray fluorescence, whereby a material is bombarded with X-rays and subsequently emits photons with a specific energy signature depending the chemical composition of the substance. …

via TheEngineer

Hand held scanners can also be used to map areas in 3D for archaeology:

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego are hacking Xbox 360’s motion detecting Kinect device to serve as inexpensive portable 3D scanners for future archaeological digs. The Kinect sensor bar has a built-in color camera and a depth detector that uses a continuously projected infrared laser to capture 3D images. That’s how Kinect can tell even in dim light and with obstacles in the room how bad you are at bowling. It’s that perceptive capability the UCSD is customizing to archaeological ends.

As of now, research scientist Jürgen Schulze and his trusty graduate student Daniel Tenedorio have thus far successfully scanned people and small objects using their hacked Kinect.

Schulze’s ultimate goal, however, is to extend the technology to scan entire buildings and even neighborhoods. For the initial field application of their modified Kinect – dubbed ArKinect (a mashup of archaeology and Kinect) – Schulze plans to train engineering and archaeology students to use the device to collect data on a future expedition to Jordan led by Thomas Levy, associate director of the Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture, and Archaeology (CISA3).

“We are hoping that by using the Kinect we can create a mobile scanning system that is accurate enough to get fairly realistic 3D models of ancient excavation sites,” says Schulze, whose lab specializes in developing 3D visualization technology.

via TheHistoryBlog

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