CyArk and High-Tech Archaeology

I was flipping through all my PBS channels last night (I love digital broadcast TV) and I caught a story about CyArk. CyArk is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving cultural heritage sites. They do this by digitizing the site using high resolution cameras and this neat do-hickey that combines GPS technology with a laser scanner to give a 3D scan of the site that can be converted into CAD drawings. This was right up my alley as I was trained first as a mechanical engineer and spent many co-op hours walking through a chemical plant with a tape measure verifying/modifying CAD drawings of all the equipment.

When I was first looking into grad schools, there was a program at Hopkins called the Digital Hammurabi Project that had developed a 3D scanner for cuneiform tablets. They were also hoping to create OCR (optical character recognition) software to give a first reading and increase the speed of publishing the great mass of unread cuneiform tablets sitting in museums around the world. Now that I have actually read some cuneiform, this seems almost impossible.

But, if you could digitize and OCR the tablets, I read about another project in Germany to recreate shredded documents from the Cold War. Maybe once they are done, we can borrow the software, OCR all the tablets in the British Museum, and see if we find any joins.


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