Technology Advancements for Archeologists , March 2012

From ancient remains to lost cities filled with old architecture, advancements in technology allow scientists and archeologists to study their subjects more efficiently. In this article, you will learn more about CT scanners and light detection technology, which has been used in recent archeology projects.

CT Scans of Roman Burial Urns

With the help of CT scanners, the contents of ancient Roman burial urns uncovered in a Roman town called Verulamium have been examined. In two of the five urns, scans showed that bones were stored , with the possibility of the specimens being from a human. The question is now whether the remains belong to adults or children. The urns were first discovered at a housing development in Hertfordshire and sent to researchers for further examination. The urns were left at the entrance of a settlement that dates back to the late Iron Age.

Archeologists had been excavating at King Harry Lane in St Albans when they were prompted to call conservators at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. The answers inside of the urns could shed light on how life was during the time of Roman Conquest. It is now up to an osteoarchaeologist to examine the bones and deliver additional details on who they may have belonged to.

The conservators used CT images to guide them as they analyzed the contents of the urns. Once the cremations are taken out of the urns, the bones will be cleaned and then dried in a laboratory environment. The data will then be transferred to archeologists who will be able to better interpret the evidence, as well as compare it to other materials that have been previously discovered.

Archaeologists have already assessed that the King Harry Lane site is quite important. St Albans,also  known as Verulamium, was a primary location during the Roman period. What is learned about the urns could reveal exciting news regarding the past of the region.  

Technology Advancements for Archeologists

When it comes to mapping and studying ancient architecture, advancements in science has lent a great hand in the success of archeology projects. For example, light detection and ranging (called LiDAR for short) offers the power of a high-tech device that allows scientists to map archaeological sites and observe how the locations have changed over time. The LiDAR technology not only helps map ancient architecture, but also offers a glimpse at the landscape that lies underneath.

With the use of this advanced technology, a lot of time and money is saved because it is a lot faster than using traditional methods of archaeological surveying. An example of where LiDAR technology has come in handy is on the Western Mexico project that helped map the Purepecha city of Sacapu Angamuco.

What is LiDAR? This remote sensing technology shoots off light at a target , usually with a laser. The light can be seen in a visible spectrum, ultraviolet, or near-infrared. Measurements are then taken of how long it takes for the light to reflect back to the scanner. The measurements are then registered as a data point. Archeologists then use what they learn from the technology to plot differences in elevation and shape. A data cloud is then created, which forms an image of the observed area.