Funerary archaeology is an important subset of archaeology as a whole. This sample archaeology essay explores the remains of those who have lived before offering unique insight into almost every aspect of daily life, which is an important area of study for anyone interested in obtaining more knowledge about humanity’s origins.
Funerary archaeology and MARV
Funerary archaeology is the process of recording a particular site associated with the burial or disposal of a body. Funerary, meaning of or related to funerals, examines the complexities of cultures and how they practiced burials in accordance with the varying religious rituals and practices. Within the field of archaeology, there are different research techniques that can be used to enhance what is observed at a particular burial site.
Research and observation techniques
Two particular techniques are:
- Augmented reality
- Mixed reality
Augmented reality is considered to be a live, direct observation of a physical setting in which the elements within that location are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as resonance, video or graphics.
Mixed reality incorporates augmented reality in that it seeks to merge the real and virtual worlds to produce a plethora of visualizations associated with physical and digital objects and how they interact and co-exist in real time.
The techniques of mixed and augmented reality can be applied to funerary archaeology in ascertaining a variety of burial sites and in turn, improving the world of archaeology as a whole.
Understanding life, not death at burial sites
Many researchers turn to anthropological research to learn more about cultures and societies, but archaeologist studies learn just as much through the bones and burial sites. It is almost an extraordinary contradiction that the physical remains of the dead are most likely to disclose information about the life of a human, rather than their actual death. Remains of bone and tissue provide a testimony to people’s:
“past such as how long they lived, what sex they were, what illnesses or diseases they suffered, etc. The act of burial provides archaeologists with a wide variety of potential information about past funerary practices and their social contexts.
The provision of a final resting place for someone’s mortal remains is generally a carefully through procedure which may have taken days, months or even years to plan or execute. Burial is thus a deeply significant act imbued with meaning. It represents one of the most formal and carefully prepared deposits that archaeologists encounter” (Pearson, 1999).
When it comes to the approach to funerary archaeology and the archaeology of death, many new archaeologists have often denied the restrictions of knowledge of the past. Binford (1968) argued that archaeologists would have an intricate time coming to consistent findings regarding the technology and wealth of past societies. Much of the work associated with the archaeology of death and funerary sites has been concerned with explaining the disparities of practices within societies and the cultures associated with those groups.
Techniques used in the investigation of mortuary practices have ranged from the moderately simple (i.e. tests of implication associated with age, sex and grave goods) to the more composite (i.e. the examination of burials within cemeteries to perceive spatial patterning; cluster analysis; principal component analysis as well as the use of entropy measurement). Many of these methodologies are primarily concerned with placing prehistoric societies on an evolutionary scale (Chapman and Randsborg). One of the more recent uses to understand funerary archaeology has been the use of MARV.
Arguments within funerary archaeology
The excavation process of an archaeological site is caustic and often unreconstructable once implemented. While archaeologists may attempt to record each and every stage of an excavation as a crucial component of their research, there is an understanding that this may not be able to be done; thus each member of an archaeological team will work on a particular area of an archaeological site (Allen et.al). Analysis of burial sites has often benefited from visually integrated 2D and 3D data into an interactive 3D space in which information associated with the site is amalgamated with sketches and other imaging methodology.
Data interpretation becomes more clear-cut as a result. Archaeologists currently use a mixture of diagrams, photos, and sketches to document the physicality of the sites that are set to be excavated. To envisage their data, the majority of archaeologists rely on geographic information systems such as ESRI ArcGIS software. INTRASIS software has allowed for an addition to the capabilities of what is able to be observed and documented at an archaeological site.
Virtual reality and GPR used to study funerary rites
There has been much work in gaining perspectives associated with stereoscopic views of locations through the usage of collaborative VR applications, which allow for displays to be visible over smaller areas of a burial site and incorporate AR technology. AR merges reality with superimposed virtual images thereby combine the benefits of both real and virtual milieu (Benko et.al).
Archaeologists employ other mechanisms in their exploring of burial sites such as Ground-Penetrating Radar, which is considered a cost-effective electromagnetic method that is for the most part resistant to non-magnetic areas that can provide a significant amount of information based on the propagation and expression of EM waves. There is often low penetration strength with this particular type of methodology in observation, but the resolution far outweighs any issues which make this particular method appropriate for high-resolution areas and shallow stratigraphy mapping.
GPR is useful in studying sites that don’t allow archaeologists to dig or excavate relics. Many researchers have used GPR to research sites and preserve the natural history, including the Egyptian pyramids, South American pyramids, Greek temples, and the mysterious Stonehedge.
3D and GPR help define archaeological findings
With an increase in the 3D usage in archaeological burial sites, this makes GPR one of the fascinating facets of exploration into burial sites. The use of 3D in the archaeological application is in order to advance the elucidation that is obtained in a comparatively simple fashion from a site (Nuzzo et.al). Archaeologists are able to further understand what they obtain from burial sites because of the usage of 3D technology. This is exceptionally amicable within the arena of funerary archaeology.
Current standards associated with 3D GPR are primarily understood through what are considered by many archaeologists as pseudo in nature. These 3D methodologies are:
“characterized by a cross-line spacing which ranges from 0,25 m to 1m, the use of 250-500 MHz antennas and vast interpolation to fill in the data gaps. Such methodologies along with powerful 3D visualization techniques are widely applied in GPR surveys with archaeological purpose.
These surveys are usually imaging sites containing continuous linear features extending over several meters lengths such as foundations, ditches, walls, roads, etc.”
Creating a visual argument with GPR is an important tool in the development of mixed and augmented reality because it allows for the fortification of what is unearthed with the interactivity of the virtual interface (Novo et.al). Archaeologists have noted that 3D GPR has a lot of untouched potential in regards to the processing schemes and positioning of equipment associated with it.
Immersive Virtual Reality (IVR) and funeral archaeology
Within the arena of MARV, archeologists have explored the prospective of Immersive Virtual Reality (IVR) which has the power to proliferate technical data sets and representations. IVR allows the user to experience the surrounding through a computer-generated environment, thus increasing the psychophysical experience. The particular experience that is achieved is accomplished through a blend of hardware, software, and devices associated with certain types of interface.
Immersion itself is typically produced through the use of stereo 3D visual demonstration which creates a human-like experience. Two general forms of IVR use head mounted displays. IVR allows for concentrated communication that is provided through a selection of spatial input devices, which offer six degrees of autonomy based on what is known as tracker technology. These types of devices include a mixture of certain types of wands with keys for pointing and selecting, which allow for seeing burial sites up close or precise positions associated with burial sites.
IVR allows for an exceedingly, receptive atmosphere that employs the senses as much as possible. It essentially imitates the corporeal world as much as it can (van Dam et.al). While IVR technology is relatively archaic in its understanding and expense, archaeologists that have used it to explore funerary sites have found it to be advantageous.
The visualization itself is essential in interpreting data for many scientific problems. Visualization exploits the dominance of the human visual channel. IVR, then, holds great promise for scientists, mathematicians, as well as archaeologists who are seeking to solve complex problems. van Dam et.al (2000) contends that people are ready to explore and understand the complexities of structures, sites, and problems. Thus, IVR is useful in archaeology because of the simulation process. The hypothesis can be created and then tested to understand archaeological grounds. This makes for an invaluable opportunity for testing without actually damaging the findings at funerary sites.
Modern archaeology and burial sites
In Benko et.al (2004) a VITA system was established to make it possible for archaeologists to collaborate in a shared hybrid environment space to be able to visually display environments within two different modes. These modes were the world-in-miniature and life-size world. The world-in-miniature mode presents “the user with a small-scale virtual model. In life-size world mode, a textured, meshed model is displayed in the user’s head-worn display, covering an area of roughly 10 x10 meters.
Users wearing see-through head-worn displays and tracked gloves can walk around the site at its actual size” (Benko et.al). Thus, for human burial sites, archaeologists with this particular technology are able to examine the sites piece by piece and analyze any findings to try and ascertain their name and description. The VITA system allows for a completely immersive experience within a funerary panorama.
Exploration of archaeological areas using MARV
In order to properly explore sites using MARV, archaeologists understand that there must be site preparation as well as tool preparation. With the introduction of computers within the field, many archaeologists have begun using augmented reality guides associated with burial sites in order to gain a better historical and artistic understanding of certain sites, to enhance their experience and to reconstruct ruined sites.
One of the more notable prototypes, the Archeoguide, as noted in Vlahakis et.al (2002) was used in Greece’s Olympia to ascertain the importance of the birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games, and the ruins associated with those who were there. Necessary data was collected from surveying the site and ensuring that whatever data that was uncovered could be defined and captured properly. The Archeoguide uses a specific type of client-server architecture that allowed the archaeologists to tour the site using specific forms of communication such as mobile units.
These mobile units provided the substance for the Archeoguide and in turn, render 3D reconstructed models of the life on top of the ruins and the natural surroundings (Vlahakis et.al). In Lin et.al, the authors were able to use IVR to explore specific burial sites in Northern Mongolia. Their aim was to represent the data to its most original scale. It was the understanding that the more data that was visible of the burial site, it made the process of experiencing the terrain more efficient and effective in the visualization process (Lin et.al).
Egyptian sites and modern funeral archaeology
Archaeologists have often been fascinated with ancient Egypt, the culture’s ancient creation myths, and the power of the god Amun of Thebes and what lurks beneath the surface of many of the temples.
“Although badly ruined, no site in Egypt is more impressive than Karnak. It is the largest temple complex ever built by man and represents the combined achievement of many generations’ ancient builders. The Temple of Karnak is actually three main temples, smaller enclosed temples and several outer temples located about three kilometers north of Luxor” (Dunn). In
One particular system, the ARCHAVE has been known to be implemented in caves and temples. Archaeologists base the examination of the information that is collected on physical portrayals that are recorded in trench accounts, site plans, illustrations, and photographs. ARCHAVE affords access to such data that makes it much simpler in the immersive VR visualization process to recover information and to explore new discoveries.
Any surviving archaeological burial sites or ruins are typically rendered pragmatically using image maps from snapshots taken on site (Acevedo et.al). Thus, in the examination of the Temple of Karnak, archaeologists are able to examine the various amount of data stored in the ARCHAVE database to obtain realistic models associated with the temples.
MARV burial site studies in Egypt
Ruiz et.al (2002) used MARV in their exploration of Mayan cities, specifically Calakmul. The most interesting finding associated with the tomb at Calakmul was the remains of the main governor of the city during the Bronze Age. The mummy of King Garra de Jaguar was buried with all of his jade jewelry and personal effects. MARV was able to be used to present a physical facsimile of the actual state of the funeral chamber and a virtual superposition of the elements as they were.
The idea of creating virtual environments associated with Mayan sites was born as a result of prior archaeological work associated with the Mayan city of Palenque (Ruiz et.al), therefore, Ruiz et.al (2002) were able to successfully understand how best to utilize mixed and augmented reality in order to virtually recreate Calakmul as well as the tomb of King Garra.
Bonacini et.al (2012) used MARV in their exploration of the San Giovanni Catacombs complex in Syracuse. In their study of collective cemeteries in Syracuse, they collected a variety of archaeological surveys of the funerary settlements in order to decide where they wanted to take their research. The researchers used digital 3D model virtual reproduction methodology to broaden their understanding of the peculiar features of San Giovanni and its catacombs (Bonacini et.al). Gamble et.al (2011) used MARV in their determination of sex analysis. 3D rendering was utilized to validate the osteology of skeletal remains.
Understanding the ancient bodies through new archaeology techniques
Sex was assessed on a sampling of 29 human hipbones recovered from an archaeological burial site. The purpose of the analysis was not to test the accuracy of the 3D modeling technique, but to observe the varying characteristics associated with the skeletal remains and render a reconstruction of where the remains were located (“Revive The Past: Proceeding of the 39th Conference on Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology”).
Acevedo et.al (2001) used the ARCHAVE system to evaluate the Petra Great Temple site in Jordan. Within their study, the team wanted to test the accuracy of biblical history by recreating the Great Temple. They excavated debris in order to generate a context for visualizing specific artifact data variables. The researchers tested a diverse amount of visual representations of data. During the process of testing the data, the physical articulation of the artifacts were altered so:
“that they could be visualized in clusters in their find locations throughout seventeen test trenches. [They also] tested and modified color, luminosity, and texture to articulate the data in the cave to that it could be easily recognized in relation to other site information. [They also] built several graphical user interfaces to facilitate data access and interaction for navigating the site” (Acevedo et.al).
The world of funerary archaeology has been and continues to be one of the most fascinating aspects of archaeological science. With the impact of mixed and augmented reality, the amount of research that can be gleaned from human sites is invaluable. Mixed and augmented reality has opened up a vast whirlpool of knowledge that archaeologists can use to better understand past societies and the humans who lived in them through a diverse array of systems.
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