One of the biggest barriers to the rapid spread of cutting edge, innovative technologies in archeology is cost. Let’s face it: things that end in “-ometer” or “-oscopy” tend to be pricey. And if they are really new, or if their utility in some contexts has yet to be proven, the price remains in the stratosphere for most practicing archaeologists until the economics of supply and demand drive the cost down. Consequently we find ourselves using a fishing boat’s depth finder when what we really want is side-scan sonar.
That’s why the upcoming workshop on reflectance transformation imaging (RTI) is so promising. RTI uses advanced 3D imaging technology, developed by Tom Malzbender at Hewlett Packard Laboratories, and a process known as dense photogrammetry to preserve digital 3D knowledge for the future. Staff of Cultural Heritage Imaging (CHI, a San Francisco area non-profit), Malzbender, and other collaborators have adapted the technology for use in many settings, including archaeological sites, museums, and national parks. The technology has been field-tested all over the US and the world on many types of artifacts, including rock art, mosaics, ancient coins, ceramics, stone carvings, and cuneiform tablets.
Now CHI is using funds from a PTT grant to host a workshop for rock art researchers and other cultural heritage experts to train these advanced imaging techniques for documenting artifacts and sites. The workshop will be held at the archaeology laboratories of the Presidio of San Francisco on July 23-24, 2009. RTI technology, is cutting edge but accessible, requiring only regular digital cameras, says Mark Mudge, Cultural Heritage Imaging President and co-founder.
CHI is developing the NCPTT-funded workshop training program with seven organizations: The National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian), the Presidio of San Francisco Archaeology Program, the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) National Operations Center, two University of California (UC) campuses (Berkeley and Santa Cruz), Hewlett Packard (HP) Laboratories, and Princeton University. Each partner brings unique skills and interests to the training program development project.
If you can’t make the workshop, there is good news: the workshop will produce content for training materials to be shared over the Internet, including do-it-yourself guides and video podcasts. Stay tuned: we’ll post the links!