Hyperspectral analysis, gold prospecting and archaeology
SkyviewsDjenne is part of a longer story that started with a blog first written on 28th April, 2013.
The challenge was to imagine and explore the enormous possibilities created by technological advances was inspired by a conversation with Jim Martin, entrepreneur, visionary, writer and philanthropist who funded the Oxford Martin School at Oxford University shortly before he died, so this blog is dedicated to his vision. A vision which was the springboard for the 2020 Education movement, and underpins this initiative as well.
Sometimes with all the bad news – such as youth unemployment reaching more than 60% in some countries, it is difficult to be that optimistic.
Then, at an oil and gas conference in Tripoli, I met an American geologist, Emily Scott King specializing in using drones to carry hyperspectral geological surveys in remote places, inaccessible or simply insecure places https://www.usgs.gov/news/hyperspectral-surveying-tool-assessing-mineral-potential-alaska . She had searched for copper deposits in the Andes and more recently gold in the Hindu Kush. She is now in Libya.
Listening to her, I begun to appreciate how we are beginning to be able to use satellite and the new generation of civilian drones for remote imaging to see things that would have been invisible to past generations.
Hyperspectral imaging involves combining and processing images from different parts of the energy spectrum – including the visible light spectrum as well as other parts such as infrared. Such images can be combined with other datasets that might include the magnetic fields and minor fluctuations to expose that which is normally invisible. These could be the tell tale signs of a rare mineral deposit or even an archaeological find.
In Egypt, hyperspectral imaging has been used to detect changes in the soil structure that might even be a mud brick 20 cms underground. One of the leaders in this field is Sarah Parnack at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, US. She has discovered 17 buried pyramids, 3,000 settlements and 1,000 tombs across Egypt.
Yesterday, walking through the ruins of one of the greatest Roman cities – Leptis Magna, I wondered what people like Emily Scott King and Sarah Parnack would have made of the ruins and what lies beneath them.
Emerging from the dunes, the city stretches for miles. A colossal site with marble and carved limestone wherever you look, and a small number of extraordinary restorations. The Phoenicians started using the natural harbour to trade from as long ago as 1200BC. Now the harbour was silted up and a sand bar has formed across the mouth. The harbour itself is a lush green – with palms growing. The scale of the ruins was overwhelming. Goodness knows what hyperspectral imaging might reveal from the layers of 2500 years of settlement.
I wondered what the technologists at the Fraunhoffer Institute in Germany that have devised some of the most sophisticated and powerful jig saw solving tools in the world http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19344978 , would have been able to make of the jumble of rocks. They have developed their algorithms to piece together the millions of fragments of paper that represent the shredded remains of the Stasi’s secret files. It’s a publically funded project which is part of the integration of the two Germany’s as part of their truth and reconciliation process.
I wondered how augmented reality could help you see the ruins as they are and as they were.
I wondered who will bring all these new technologies together to reveal even greater wonders from Libya’s rich heritage which might enrich its future.
It will need the new skills and vision of a new generation to do it.