Robotic Archaeology

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In an intriguing juxtaposition of ancient and modern technologies, Evan Ackerman reports on the use of a robotic arm by Radu Iovita, Jonas Buchli, and Johannes Pfleging to undertake use-wear analysis of stone tools. The accompanying video shows the robot arm using a stone tool on different materials (hide, wood, stone) and, rather neatly, every 50 scrapes it automatically turns to a microscope to capture an image of the developing wear pattern on the stone tool. Ackerman’s source is a piece by Samuel Schlaefli which contains more background and information about the project. For instance, the robot arm is able to adapt the force it applies in response to the resistance it detects, and the ability to run the experiments 24 hours a day, potentially using multiple robotic arms working simultaneously, is said to enable the creation of massive databases and consequently accelerate the production of knowledge in archaeology and palaeoanthropology about use wear patterns on stone tools.

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