Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO)
The amount of recovered archaeological objects is beyond our imagination. In the archives and storerooms of the archaeological institutions there are billions of sherds, flints, metal objects, etc . The variation in form, texture (fabric) and decoration has been studied in a scientific manner for over 200 years. From this collection a corpus of knowledge has been build on the distribution in space and time, the evolution of the technology to make things, and the function and role of particular objects in ancient society. The magnitude of this corpus, partly laid down in books, is nearly just as overwhelming as the number of objects themselves. Because archaeology destroys its own primary sources by excavating, old excavation reports, monographs and catalogues, being the only remaining (secondary) sources, are still essential part of the knowledge base. To communicate all this information archaeologists traditionally use the concept of reference collections. Much like the use of type specimens in biology, archaeologists classify the finds in types and series of types. This is a mental process that combines and recombines evidence and theory from the finds at hand and from earlier archaeological research. The result of this process is usually a theory of the site?s socio-economic and cultural role and the presentation of the evidence on which this theory has been build. Sometimes this evidence is presented as a catalogue-like addendum. The ordering of the finds is described and the key objects are depicted in line drawings and photographs. Other researchers may refer to this body of knowledge, make amendments to the interpretation and consequently adjust the classification. This is what is meant by a reference collection: a constantly updated body of knowledge, consisting of type series, that can be subject of study in itself, but also refer to explicit knowledge accessible in books and implicit knowledge accessible by talking to a specialist, available to all who are interested. Today we are facing four challenges: 1. How can we safeguard the existing knowledge base? 2. How can we guarantee ready access for all? 3. How can we guarantee the incorporation of new knowledge in a sustainable way? 4. How can we enrich the existing and forthcoming knowledge by new techniques? To these questions the development of an electronic National Reference Collection (NRc), which is under way, as part of an European wide network of portals to reference collections (eRC) will be an answer. Archaeology is in the first instance firmly and profoundly based on visual inspection and recognition of objects. Images will be central in this development. The field of digital vision has been developing in such a direction, that now it becomes realistic to incorporate these new techniques into the eRC to enhance the quality of archaeological research and archaeological heritage management in a fundamental way. Automatic recognition of form, fabric, and decoration of physical objects and of printed images is the focus of the RICH-project. This instrument will not only benefit archaeological practice and knowledge building but is of equal importance in education and training. The results of the RICH project are essential contributions in this development that has as ultimate aims
In het RICH-project worden moderne technieken uit de kunstmatige intelligentie verder ontwikkeld om te worden toegepast op het automatisch herkennen en classificeren van archeologische voorwerpen. Het team van onderzoekers zal onder leiding van het Instituut voor Kennis en Agent Technologie (IKAT) nauw samenwerken met archeologen van de Rijksdienst voor het Oudheidkundig Bodemonderzoek (ROB) om geavanceerde informatie- en communicatietechnologie in te zetten voor archeologisch onderzoek. Het onderzoek zal resulteren in een gebruikersvriendelijk systeem ter ondersteuning van archeologisch veldwerk en analyses. Aangetroffen voorwerpen zoals vuurstenen, scherven of munten worden op basis van visuele informatie door een computerprogramma geanalyseerd en geclassificeerd. Naar verwachting zal het onderzoek een grote impact hebben op de werkwijze van archeologen en een nieuw toepassingsgebied ontsluiten voor de informatica.