‘AI in archeology’ pinpointing new excavation sites at an ‘unimaginable’ pace

must see excavation sites in turkey
Gobeklitepe. Credit: Visit Turkey

Archaeologists have uncovered scores of long-abandoned settlements along coastal Madagascar that reveal environmental connections to modern-day communities. They have detected the nearly indiscernible bumps of earthen mounds left behind by prehistoric North American cultures.

All of these recent discoveries are examples of landscape archaeology. They’re also examples of how artificial intelligence is helping scientists hunt for new archaeological digs on a scale and at a pace unimaginable even a decade ago.

“AI in archaeology has been increasing substantially over the past few years,” said [anthropologist] Dylan Davis.

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Davis developed an automated algorithm for identifying large earthen and shell mounds built by native populations long before Europeans arrived with far-off visions of skyscrapers and superhighways in their eyes. The sites still hidden in places like the South Carolina wilderness contain a wealth of information about how people lived, even what they ate, and the ways they interacted with the local environment and other cultures.

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“The process resulted in several thousand possible features that my colleagues and I checked by hand,” Davis told Singularity Hub. “While not entirely automated, this saved the equivalent of years of manual labor that would have been required for analyzing the whole LiDAR image by hand.”

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