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 Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

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: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>