Universiteit Leiden

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Lecture | Studium Generale

Tracing the Past. Detecting prehistoric remains with the help of Data Science and Citizens

Wednesday 28 November 2018
The Future of Archaeology
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

Prehistoric funerary monuments are one of the most visible and well known relics in the Netherlands. Until recently we were under the impression that we had documented most of these monuments. New advances in Data Science however are generating hundreds, if not thousands of newly discovered sites. What we thought we knew about these monuments must be seen as only the tip of the iceberg. For example, similar techniques that Google and Facebook use to automatically detect faces on pictures, are now being used to mine vast remote sensing datasets such as satellite images. Using this technique in a 6-month pilot-study on the Veluwe has already doubled the number of known sites – from a few hundred to close to two thousand. These techniques are revolutionizing archaeology, yet they also create new challenges. Who is going to study these thousands of new sites? In the pilot-study we have started to create a network of volunteers who help and assist us in documenting these newly discovered sites. In doing so they help us better understand these relics of the past, but they also help to generate awareness to the existence of these relics in our own backyard.

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