WHAT IS PALEOIMAGING?

Definition:

Paleoimaging has been defined as 'the capture of images of cultural remains and artefacts', where a multitude of imaging technologies are used non-destructively to gain information.

Paleoradiology or paleoimaging?:

Depending where you read about the subject, paleoimaging has been listed as including photography, radiography (x-rays), computed tomography (CT),  magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), endoscopy and fluoroscopy. Within current literature the vast majority of emphasis is placed upon medical imaging equipment due to the application on ancient human remains such as mummies.

 

The exclusive use of medical imaging equipment is termed paleoradiology. Although undoubtedly fascinating, it is my belief that paleoimaging extends beyond the remains of humans and can equally be applied to animal, plant or in-organic remains. Likewise, paleoimaging in the wider context covers not only the analysis of an object but also the landscape to include aerial photography and LiDAR.

Mummy
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LiDAR example
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Elemental XRF maps
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The use of micro-CT for an ancient Hebrew text
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Radiograph of cattle metatarsal
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Ground penetrating radar
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Scope of involvement:

Any imaging method could be considered paleoimaging, although not all are truly non-destructive. There are a vast array of different options open to scientific inquiry through image analysis, I've collected some examples below from scientific literature.

James Elliott

Website author.

mummy photo.JPG

Computed tomography (CT) used on an ancient mummy.

 

Open access article:

Hawass, Z. and Saleem, S. N. (2020) 'Computed tomography examination of the screaming mummy “Unknown-Woman-A”', Egyptian Journal of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, 51, pp.139. Available here.

LiDAR example.JPG

Light detection and ranging imaging (LiDAR) within archaeology.

 

Open access article:

Grammer B, Draganits E, Gretscher M, Muss U. (2017) 'LiDAR-guided Archaeological Survey of a Mediterranean Landscape: Lessons from the Ancient Greek Polis of Kolophon (Ionia, Western Anatolia)', Archaeol Prospect, 24(4), pp.311-333. https://doi.org/10.1002/arp.1572

XRF.JPG

X-ray fluorescence (XRF), radiography and neutron tomography used on a metal artefact.

 

Open access article:

Stok-Nienhuis, J. V. D., Kuiper, E., Beentjes, T., Joosten, I., Eijck, L. V., Zhou, Z. and Bommel, M. V. (2021) 'A case study for scientific research prior to conservation of marine metal artefacts', Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 37, pp. 102909. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2021.102909

Micro CT for ancient text.JPG

Micro-computed tomography (μCT) being used to decipher an ancient Hebrew text.

 

Open access article:

Parker, C. S., Parsons, S., Bandy, J., Chapman, C., Coppens, F. et al (2019) 'From invisibility to readability: Recovering the ink of Herculaneum', PLOS ONE, 14(5) pp. e0215775. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0215775

radiograph example.JPG

Radiography (x-rays or x-radiography) used with cattle bones for osteoarchaeology.

Open access article:

Telldahl,Y. (2015) 'Ageing cattle: The use of radiographic examinations on cattle metapodials from Eketorp Ringfort on the island of Öland in Sweden', PLOS ONE, 10(9) pp. e0137109.

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0137109

Ground penetrating radar example.JPG

Ground penetrating radar (GPR) used to reveal archaeological sites.

 

Open access article:

Ristić, A., Govedarica, M., Pajewski, L., Vrtunski, M. and Bugarinović, Ž. (2020) 'Using ground penetrating radar to reveal hidden archaeology: The case study of the Württemberg-Stambol Gate in Belgrade (Serbia)', Sensors, 20(3), pp. 607. https://doi.org/10.3390/s20030607