The 'Fragmented Heritage' Project will introduce new technology that will dramatically improve the scale and quality of the analysis of fragmentary materials. This involves refitting of artefacts within sites, and landscape survey to identify and connect diffused sites and material. It will also allow the public to take part in a revolutionary approach to mass landscape survey which should reveal new homonid fossil finds and artefacts - changing what we know about our prehistory and evolution.
Conventional 'refit analysis' requires an expert to study thousands of individual pieces from prehistoric archaeological sites and try to find pieces that fit together, eventually reconstructing objects, such as stone tool cores. Due to the size and complexity of these sites, it makes them important for understanding past human behaviour, however this also makes them the least understood by archaeologists and the public. The amount of effort this requires increases exponentially with assemblage size and generally entire sites cannot be studied. Automation of this process will transform working practices bringing rapid and total surveys in reach of many more projects. The implications of such capability are widespread. At a site and landscape level the addition of digital recording, automated capture and processing to augment landscape survey will enhance the ability to archaeologically record and resolve complex surface scatters in landscapes, this will also allow sites that have previously been too remote and inhospitable to be surveyed.
Work can then be done faster and allow areas for targeted survey to be identified easily and safely. At a macro scale, the method will resolve complex associations facilitating interpretation through visualisations and aiding physical reconstruction. The generation of high fidelity digital output will enable closer working of researchers across traditional boundaries and will benefit the specialist and non-specialist alike. These combined transformative scalable approaches to refit analysis will have broad application to all disciplines working with objects across the arts and humanities - ranging from three-dimensional artists to heritage professionals such as conservators/ restorers and even impacting on other disciplines such as forensic science.
The project was written to fit a large grant call from the Arts and Humanities Research council (AHRC) looking for 'beacon projects' in the area of digital transformation. It was evident that a significant problem is the manual nature of artefact refitting in lithic studies, the very nature of which takes time and can only be used on relatively small amounts of material. The project builds on a digital transformations fellowship awarded to Dr Adrian Evans and JISC funded digital capture projects coordinated by Dr Andrew Wilson.
The FH team had a fantastic time staging an event for the first Being Human festival of the humanities. We had 14 exhibition stands with flinktnapping, pottery making, and 3D printing along with research showcases on death, stone tool refitting, human evolution, and exploration for fossils in Kenya. The traffic for the event was slow and steady but was enjoyed by all visitors from 2 year old children up to retirees. A big thanks to all involved in running exhibits and organising the day!
Dr Adrian Evans, University of Bradford
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