Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A MEGA Database of Middle Eastern Antiquities

Following up on other recent posts on mapping and archaeology (NASA, July 19, and LIDAR, May 12), high-tech mapping and databases are being used to document and preserve archaeological sites and artifacts in the Middle East. The New York Times reports on a Getty Conservation Institute initiative to create a web-based database to document archaeological sites in Jordan (MEGA: Middle Eastern Geodatabase for Antiquities). In addition to documenting entire ancient cities such as Jerash, the database also lists individual features and finds. Individual data points can be located via Google Earth satellite images.

The concept behind this is to put field reports and critical information about possibly endangered sites in the hands of officials, allowing them easier and more efficient access to information on overwhelming numbers of sites and artifacts. Eventually the project hopes to expand to neighboring Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries, all rich with archaeological heritage. Conceptually, this project could translate to anywhere in the world, given time, money and resources.

Of course more information on the web means more accessibility and knowledge. What further ramifications does this have for the archaeology and archaeometry communities?

Photo From Getty MEGA Website

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rock Art and Megafauna?

Researchers from Monash University reported recently that rock art in Australia’s Northern Territory represents Genyornis, an ancient megafaunal bird similar to an emu. This is the first reported artistry of a species that went extinct 40,000 years ago, and calls the timeline of humans in Australia into question. Further studies include excavation and dating of the site. This project and its future directions are an excellent example of archaeological sciences at their best- an archaeological team, a paleontologist, and perhaps some dating specialists will investigate this apparent chronological mystery.

Photo provided by Ben Gunn

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

CHARISMA program - proposals due 15 Spet. 2010

CHARISMA (Cultural Heritage Advanced Research Infrastructures: Synergy for a Multidisciplinary Approach to Conservation/Restoration) is an EU-funded integrating activity project carried out in the FP7 Capacities Specific Programme "Research Infrastructures".

The project provides transnational access to most advanced scientific instrumentations and knowledge allowing scientists, conservators-restorers and curators to enhance their research at the field forefront. Specialists from arts and sciences, design and set-up new instrumentations and methodologies developing the  most promising technological applications and sustainable solutions to improve diagnostics and monitoring. New extended cooperation among European infrastructures, paves the way towards expanding the harmonisation of best practices in studies and conservation.

The CHARISMA transnational access (TA) programs offer European scientists a to carry out their experiments utilizing 3 different and complementary groups of facilities (ARCHLAB, MOLAB and FIXLAB) through a service embedded in a multidisciplinary environment involving material science and artwork conservation/restoration.

* FIXLAB provides access to large and medium scale European installations, including the beamlines of one synchrotron radiation, one neutron source and two ion-beam analytical facilities;
* MOLAB offers access to a portable set of advanced analytical equipment, for in-situ non-invasive measurements on artworks, without any movement of the artefacts from their location and any contact with the surface;
* ARCHLAB permits the access to the structured scientific information and analytical data, stored in the archives of the most prestigious European museums and conservation institutions.

In a program that covers joint research, transnational access and networking, the planned challenging activities require a combined effort and commitment of an high-level partnership of twenty-one organizations to provide access to advanced facilities and develop research and applications on artwork materials finalised to the conservation of cultural heritage and favoring the opening of larger perspective to the heritage conservation activities in Europe.

The access activities are supported by 3 outreach programs as networking (NA) cooperation activities, with the intent to achieve a permanent interoperability among the European institutions of the CHARISMA consortium and those external to it. The activity fosters the culture of international cooperation, providing harmonisation of methodologies, sharing knowledge and best practices on conservation projects, adopting progressive standard compatibility, and providing education, training, users' awareness events, technology transfer and dissemination of project results.

3 Joint Research activities (JRA), intend to exploit advanced technologies and techniques as well as most promising applications and integrated solutions, to complement the project scheme providing innovative instrumentations and methodologies tailored to the user's needs.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Timberhenge at Stonehenge

One of my favorite tourist destinations ever has been Stonehenge. I was fortunate enough to visit there twice. The second time my wife and I walked in from several kilometers away, which made a special impression of Stonehenge as part of the landscape.

Archaeometric studies have played an important part of Stonehenge-based research, including chronometric dating and the provenance of the megaliths. Some of this work is reported upon in the book Science and Stonehenge.

Recently,an outer circular ditch around Stonehenge was located using ground penetrating radar. The ditch, which had once been filled with poles, has been named timberhenge. One of the investigators was Wolfgang Neubauer from the University of Vienna. I had the pleasure to hear him give a public lecture this past Spring during my sabbatical stay in Munich. His well-illustrated and engaging talk, in a schoolhouse in a small town, drew about 300 people, which amazed me.  How nice to see people interested in their cultural heritage.