Presentation and Workshop with Francesco Coschino
Thursday, December 13, 2018
Oudemanhuispoort (Oudemanhuispoort 4-6), Room C1.23
Archaeology is, by its very nature, a destructive discipline: to uncover buried features we are forced to remove the past in layers, one by one, working back in time. The destruction of evidence that remained unaltered for centuries or millennia is the price we pay to learn about the past. When considering the excavation of any archaeological site, professionals should assess the impact of their actions and ensure that the results of their work outweigh the inevitable alteration of the subject matter.
The archaeological excavation of cemeteries has the potential to provide important information on the lifeways of past people, to complement historical records with physical evidence, and to ensure that the lessons of the past are not forgotten. Additionally, when a project aims to recover the past for the benefit of the entire community, archaeological investigations can play a major role in leading the restoration and preservation of valuable historical sites.
In recent years, technological advances have allowed archaeologists to incorporate tools and techniques that were developed in other disciplines, but whose application to archaeology has the potential to largely enrich our documentation capabilities. For instance, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), initially developed in cartography, now represent the gold standard for archaeological mapping and spatial analyses, with ever-growing applications and capabilities.
Digital photogrammetry is a more recent introduction into the archaeologist’s digital toolkit and its application to human burials holds high promise. Digital photogrammetry is a discipline based on photography and measurements that, by using photographs and specific software, allows to obtain a virtual model of an object that entirely preserves its original dimensional proportions.
One of the most important features of photogrammetry is that it gives researchers the ability to study objects without the need for physical interaction. This is particularly important when dealing with very fragile items, which may lay undisturbed in their original context (or in conditions suitable for their preservation). Photogrammetry is not limited to small objects, but can be applied also to larger structures (e.g., buildings) and objects that are inaccessible but visible. Ultimately, if something can be seen and photographed, it may be processed and converted into a 3D model. When applied to human burials, photogrammetry proves to be an exceptional means toward documentation and preservation that goes beyond conventional two-dimensional tools. In spite of the destructive nature of archaeology, photogrammetry allows to create a virtual replica of a burial, which will always be available for study even after the original feature has been removed from its original context. Furthermore, a 3D replica of a burial that may have been damaged or lost will always be much more revealing than a simple, conventional data sheet.
The contribution will examine the survey techniques and geographical management of data from archaeological and bio-archaeological contexts, focusing on some case studies in Italy and in the United States concerning episodes of cholera epidemics.