Today modern archaeology often works with digital technology. Geophysics has allowed thousands of ancient sites to be located – a huge gain for science.
The dig is no longer the be-all and end-all of archeology. We accompany some archeologists on their journey into the virtual past. Geophysics comprises a range of techniques with various geological and military functions. Geomagnetism is used to locate enemy submarines or potential reserves of oil or other minerals. Now, German and Irish archeologists have teamed up to use it to trace prehistoric grave systems. Researchers in western Germany are applying it to locate ancient procession and pilgrimage routes. Shipping archeologists in Bremerhaven are availing of digital technology to create virtual models of shipwrecks and, in Berlin, archeologists and game designers have also embarked on a joint project. As luck would have it, they scanned every millimeter of a temple in the Syrian city of Aleppo, not suspecting that, soon afterwards, the complex would be largely destroyed in the country’s civil war. Their virtual model is evidence that the study of the past can have uses for the present, just as technologies of the present can help us to study the past.