If someone ever said a decade back ‘Artificial Intelligence (AI) will help archaeology sector in future,’ people might have laughed at their face. However, artificial intelligence is all about making impossible possible. In recent years, technology has changed the way archaeologists unearth the past.
Artificial intelligence is helping scientists hunt for new archaeological digs on a scale and at an unimaginable pace. The near-ubiquitous availability of satellite data and other aerial imagery of many parts of the world has been a boon to the archaeologists. The imagery is gathered by LiDAR, which uses light pulses that can penetrate tree canopies to map forest floors. The pre-taught information on the shape, size and texture of the moulds will help identify potential sites from the digital 3D datasets. Finally, machine learning algorithm is used to analyze those complex data more quickly. This helps in landscape archaeology by finding new heritage spots, which are shadowed so far. Artificial intelligence methods are also being used to understand the chemical make-up of artifacts like pottery and ceramics.
With technology exploring new ends every day, diverse fields like archaeology are higher beneficiary of the digital world. One such opening in artificial intelligence is finding the activity by Neanderthal groups.
Merging AI and Archaeology to unravel the activities of Neanderthals
Abel Moclán, an archaeologist at the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH) has led a study that combines both archaeology and artificial intelligence. The findings published in journal Archaeology and Artificial Intelligence reveals the activity by Neanderthal groups of breaking in the bones of medium-sized animals such as deer, for subsequent consumption of the marrow within. The research took place at the Navalmaíllo Rock Shelter site.
Navalmaíllo Rock Shelter is about 76,000 years old. The site offers one of the few windows that lead scientists into Neanderthal behavior within the Iberian Meseta. Archaeologists are working on the expectation that the site might unfold different activities conducted by the hominins, such as hunting large animals, the manufacturing of stone tools and the systematic use of fire.
The particular feature of the study lies in its tremendous statistical potential. So far, artificial intelligence in archaeology has been used for light jobs. But in this case, AI is leveraged to determine the agent responsible for breaking the bones at an archaeological site, with highly reliable results, which will help compare with other sites and experiments in future. Moclán has managed to show that statistical tools based on AI can be applied to study the breaking of the fossil remains of animals which appears on the site.
The study stresses the importance of artificial intelligence as an undoubtedly perfect line of work for the immediate future of Archaeology in general and Taphonomy in particular.
As technology grows, the expectation that people have on artificial intelligence solutions also increase. However, AI is never disappointing. AI and its applications are expected to not just take the world forward, but also backward by unleashing such historic findings.