Friday, December 30, 2016

Advances in marine archaeology

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: New technologies bring marine archaeology treasures to light. Robotic submarines and ‘internet of underwater things’ to transform hunt for sunken cities and ancient shipwrecks (Ian Sample, The Guardian). This article does not deal directly with the archaeology of ancient Israel specifically, aside from a very important Neolithic site. But the potential applications of the new technologies are very wide, and are worth noting inasmuch as ancient shipwrecks and other stories about marine archaeology are often of interest to PaleoJudaica (e.g., recently, here, here, here, here, and here). Excerpt:
In January, work will start on a new project to transform the search for sunken cities, ancient shipwrecks and other subsea curiosities. Led by Italian researchers, Archeosub will build a new generation of robotic submarines, or autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), for marine archaeologists. “You can find plenty of human settlements not far from the coast,” Allotta said. “In the Mediterranean there will be a lot more Atlit-Yams waiting to be explored and studied.”

The goal of Archeosub is to put sophisticated AUVs in the hands of cash-strapped researchers. That, in part, means turning the costly, heavy technology of the military and oil industries into far cheaper and lighter robots. They must be affordable for archaeological organisations and light enough to launch by hand from a small boat, or even the shore, rather than from a winch on a large research vessel.

Slashing the cost and weight is only the start. The team behind Archeosub has begun to make the AUVs smarter too. When thrown overboard, the submarines can become part of an “internet of underwater things” which brings the power of wifi to the deep. Once hooked up, the AUVs can talk to each other and, for example, work out the most efficient way to survey a site, or find particular objects on the seabed.