Monday, December 08, 2008

Using Digital Imaging to Help Archaeologists

A Goleta, California company named MegaVision--which was founded in 1983 and produced one of the first digital cameras in the 80s (the camera weighed 300 pounds!)--is now a mover in the archaeological world. They've developed a form of high-resolution photography with different light filters (it sounds so simple) that can bring out details in ancient artifacts and manuscripts.

That's not their real business, of course. They actually sell digital camera backs and imaging equipment, and their website says nothing about archaeology. BUT:

  • They've currently rigged up cameras to make 100s of images of a 3000-year-old pottery fragment found in the Valley of Elah--where David and Goliath fought. This shard has five lines of text, which is the oldest Hebrew text ever found.
  • MegaVision's CEO Ken Boydston designed an imaging system for Oxford University researchers to use when examining documents from ancient Egypt.
  • In Washington DC, Boydston used the company's expertise to create a copy of the Waldseemueller Map (pictured) for the Library of Congress. The 1507 map is the oldest known that shows North America--in fact, it's the first map that names "America." Only one copy still exists of the approx. 1000 that were printed.

This came from an article on MegaVision is from the Los Angeles Times, and I sincerely hope that someone keeps our only decent newspaper (way more than decent, quite frankly, in spite of all the cutbacks in recent years) publishing through the bankruptcy chaos.

A related story tells how another imaging system provider (Cambridge Research & Instrumentation) is helping to decipher the Dead Sea Scrolls with their filtering and enhancing equipment--in this case, finding hidden text on the scrolls. The relation? The same scientist (Dr. Gregory Bearman of JPL and Snapshot Spectra) went after these companies to develop special technologies for both the Dead Sea Scrolls and the pottery shard. Cool.

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