Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Revealing obliterated text on gravestones

The BBC News web page has an interesting article today titled "Scans Reveal Lost Gravestone Text" by Cristina Jimenez.

The lead paragraphs read:

"Illegible words on church headstones could be read once more thanks to a scan technology developed in the US.

"Scientists at Carnegie Mellon university are making high resolution 3D scans of tombstones to reveal the carved patterns in the stone.

"A computer matches the patterns to a database of signature carvings which reveals the words."

Later, the article says:

""This technology is expected to reduce guessing work in field inspection," said Dr Yang Cai, director of the Ambient Intelligence Lab at Carnegie Mellon Cylab.
"In recent weeks, Dr Cai's research team have been testing the new technique at a 200-year-old cemetery close to the university in Pittsburgh.

"The scientists have been scanning unreadable gravestones at Old St. Luke's Church to help its Episcopal pastor identify all the names on the cemetery's tombstones."


This will be especially useful in areas where gravestones have tremendous erosion and colorful blotches on them from coal and sulfur emissions. There are few graveyards in England that have readable stones from before 1900, in my limited experience in Wiltshire.

Now if they could only read the invisible gravestones that are lost to time - the ones that used to be on graves in cemeteries all over the world. We all know that the bare areas nearest the church used to have a field of gravestones that have been lost to weather, vandalism, etc.

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