Southampton Archaeologists and Engineers Get a New Perspective on Unexcavated Artifacts

Archaeology News

There is an archaeological adage that says that “excavation is destruction.” Digging into ancient strata to examine buried artifacts is considered an important but irreversible process. A team of archaeologists and engineers at the University of Southampton brings that importance into question. The Southampton and British Museum team has developed a means of scanning and visualizing buried artifacts using X-ray imaging originally designed for use with mechanical engineering projects. The team scanned 2nd and 3rd century C.E. artifacts including a cremation urn and a concreted hoard of Roman gold coins weighing over 200 pounds. By taking thousands of pictures while rotating the angle 360 degrees, the project was able to read inscriptions and view the faces on coins still unexcavated inside an urn.

Watch a video of the scan below.

Animation showing Computed Tomography of coin hoard and visualisation of the hoard from Digital Economy USRG on Vimeo.

Animation created from 3D images of the Selby area hoard inside one of its two pots (c) University of Southampton 2012.
CT data processing and computer graphics by James Miles and Grant Cox (Archaeological Computing Research Group:
Original CT data produced and processed by Richard Boardman and Mark Mavrogordato (mu-Vis CT centre:
We are grateful to all of the museums and other bodies involved and in particular to the Portable Antiquities Scheme ( and the British Museum (

Read more in the Southampton press release From turbines to Tetricus: engineering technology reveals secrets of Roman coins

Interested in the latest archaeological technology? Researchers Thomas E. Levy, Neil G. Smith, Mohammad Najjar, Thomas A. DeFanti, Albert Yu-Min Lin and Falko Kuester at the University of California, San Diego’s Calit2 laboratory recently released the FREE Biblical Archaeology Society eBook “Cyber-Archaeology in the Holy Land — The Future of the Past,” featuring the latest research on GPS, Light Detection and Ranging Laser Scanning, unmanned aerial drones, 3D artifact scans, CAVE visualization environments and much more.
Learn more about the future of the past. Click here to download your free eBook.


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