Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Maps Ancient Greek Shipwreck

03.02.2006


Fish swim by and a sponge grows among amphora from a 4th century B.C. Greek merchant ship found in 200 feet of water off Chios in the Aegean Sea and photographed by SeaBED. (©Chios 2005 Shipwreck Survey: ­Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Hellenic Ministry of Culture, Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities; and Hellenic Center for Marine Research)


Robots can do in days what humans take years to accomplish at archaeological sites

After lying hidden for centuries off the coast of Greece, a sunken 4th century B.C. merchant ship and its cargo have been surveyed by an international team using a robotic underwater vehicle. The team accomplished in two days what it would take divers years to do. The project, the first in a new collaboration between U.S. and Greek researchers, demonstrates the potential of new technology and imaging capabilities to rapidly advance marine archaeology.

Greek scientists and archaeologists discovered the ancient shipwreck in 2004 during a sonar survey. The wooden Greek merchant ship sank off Chios and Oinoussia islands in the eastern Aegean Sea in 60 meters (about 200 feet) of water, too deep for conventional SCUBA diving. The cargo of 400 ceramic jars, called amphoras, filled with wine and olive oil, are the most visible remains of the shipwreck.



The ship remained unnoticed for centuries and might never have revealed its clues to ancient Greek culture until a research team from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Greek Ministry of Culture, and the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR) joined forces. Using a novel autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) named SeaBED developed and operated by WHOI, the team made a high-precision photometric survey of the site using techniques developed by WHOI and MIT researchers over the past eight years.

Hanumant Singh and team at the WHOI Deep Submergence Laboratory (DSL) designed and built SeaBED. DSL has been a leader in developing and building submersible robotic vehicles for a variety of underwater environments, including the towed ARGO vehicle that found the wrecks of Titanic and Bismarck and the JASON II remotely operated vehicle that explores the seafloor today.

The Chios wreck demonstrates how advanced technology can dramatically change the field of underwater archeology, completing in two days what would have taken SCUBA divers using conventional methods years to accomplish.

For a single three-hour dive, SeaBED was programmed to “fly” over the shipwreck site in precisely spaced tracks. Multibeam sonar completely mapped the wreck while a digital camera collected thousands of high-resolution images. The vehicle took 7,650 images on four dives to reveal the ship’s ceramic cargo and marine life, including bright yellow sponges and colorful fish. The vehicle did not touch the wreck, leaving it in an undisturbed state, important for future studies.

Robotic technology is the only way to reach deep shipwrecks like the one at Chios, but the systems can also be applied to shallower sites.

Most human diving time on archaeological sites is consumed with basic mapping tasks. Typically it takes hundreds of diving hours to make a site plan using tape measures and clipboards. Robotic vehicles can map and create a photomosaic of a site with quantifiable accuracy in as little as a few hours.

The new robotic techniques can produce results very quickly. As soon as SeaBED brought the first images from the Chios wreck to the surface, project archaeologists began interpreting the data. The images are being assembled into mosaics that will depict minute features of the shipwreck with unmatched clarity and detail.

“By using this technology, diving archeologists will be freed from routine measuring and sketching tasks, and instead can concentrate on the things people do better than robots: excavation and data interpretation,” contends Singh, an engineering and imaging scientist. “With repeated performances, we’ll be able to survey shipwrecks faster and with greater accuracy than ever before.”

Much of the historic value in cargo ships, such as the Chios wreck, is the information they provide about trade networks among the ancient Greeks and their partners. The wreck is “like a buried UPS truck,” explains David Mindell, a professor of engineering history and systems at MIT. “It provides a wealth of information that helps us figure out networks based on the contents of the truck.”

The island of Chios was famous throughout the classical Greek world for its wine. Athens was its largest customer, but Chios sold its products in markets as far flung as the Crimea and Cyprus. WHOI deepwater archaeologist Brendan Foley said the wreck’s cargo is the largest assemblage of Chian amphoras found to date, and provides valuable data about the volume of ancient trade. Despite the Peloponnesian War and subsequent break-up of the Athenian empire, Chios was still engaged in trade in the 4th century B.C.

“Our technologies allows us to learn about the past in ways that we couldn’t achieve otherwise,” Foley said. “We’re not looking for footnotes any more. We’re looking to write new chapters, and are convinced that in 10 to 15 years using these methods, we will have changed history.”

The new research program is scheduled to last ten years or more and is focused on uncovering sites dating to the dawn of civilization in the Mediterranean, the Bronze Age (2500 to 1200 B.C.), and Minoan and Mycenaean cultures and their trading partners.

“We’re looking forward to continuing the project next summer,” Dimitris Sakellariou of HCMR said. “We will be exploring many more sites using new chemical sensors to collect environmental data about the shipwrecks, something that has not been done before. It is a very exciting collaboration. ”

In addition to Foley, Singh, and Mindell, the American team for the Chios expedition included Brian Bingham of Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering; Richard Camilli, Ryan Eustice, and Chris Roman from WHOI; and David C. Switzer of Plymouth State University. HCMR geologist Dimitris Sakellariou led the Greek science and technical team, while Katerina Delaporta, Director of the Ministry of Culture’s Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, headed the Greek archaeology team.

Shelley Dawicki | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.whoi.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht When corals eat plastics
24.05.2018 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>