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Friday, February 04, 2005

Digging Without Digging at Tiwanaku

University of Pennsylvania Museum archaeologists at the ancient site of Tiwanaku in Bolivia are beginning a large-scale, subsurface surveying project using equipment and techniques that may become a forerunner for methodologies used in future archaeological efforts worldwide. The three-year project, called "Computing and Retrieving 3D Archaeological Structures from Subsurface Surveying", seeks to collect detailed, three-dimensional data of archaeological remains from about 60 subterranean acres of Tiwanaku, the spectacular remains of the ancient pre-Inca civilization located in Bolivia--without the use of the traditional tools used for digging. The University of Pennsylvania article says it best:

"What's new, and especially exciting, about this project is how we will be going beyond the employment of geophysical surveys, which archaeologists have been doing with increasing regularity over the last decade," noted Dr. Alexei Vranich, American section Research Associate at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, a Co-Principal Investigator of the grant and Field Director, with Jose Maria Lopez Bejarano, at the excavations at Tiwanaku since 1995. "The problem has recently been a kind of 'technological bottleneck,' where large areas are surveyed, but efforts at processing and fusing the data from multiple sensors has slowed the process down considerably. By bringing this level of technological and computer expertise to bear, we should be able to develop a methodology for quickly and efficiently processing the huge amounts of sub-surface data we collect. This will permit archaeologists to develop a far deeper understanding of broad spatial layouts of complex urban sites, like Tiwanaku."

"Our collaboration with anthropologists goes back to two years ago when we started building 3D models of surface structures from camera images," noted Dr. Kostas Daniilidis, leading Principal Investigator and Associate Professor, Department of Computer and Information Science, University of Pennsylvania. "The scientific challenge in this NSF project is in solving the inverse problem of recovering surface 3D structures from their tomographic projections. We really want to resolve the bottleneck between the huge amount of raw signal data and meaningful information in the form of 3D geometric models."

See the full article.


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