Archaeology and Robots

The Advanced meets the past


  1. Introduction

    The following gives an overview of how robots are being used in the field of archaeology. Beginning from the history of robots to modern examples of robotics used in the field to make various discoveries and the collect various data. This writing is to display that robots do indeed have a practical use in this field.
  2. The History of Robotics

    Robotics is a technological field with a lot of potential in many fields. The field of archaeology is one where a robot can use its full potential and increase the finding of archaeologist. The use of the robot goes back to ironically ancient times. This goes back to the Babylonians making the water clock or in Greece later the Pigeon (Latxague 2013).The robots purpose in life is to replicate the actions of what we humans can do. The robots as more fields like science and archaeology are introduced through time are expected to do the task presented to them on the same level of performance as their human counterparts (Barcelo, 2007).
  3. Robots and Archaeology Today

    Today modern robots are given task mainly in manufacturing and military, the use of robots in archaeology will be to help in dangerous situations or situations where an archaeologist can’t access the entire site. All modern robots consist of around five main parts (Barcelo, 2007) that include a tool and camera system which is what many of the modern robots use today. This technology is still advancing and will eventually develop to a technology that can do its own task without human input (Guerrini, 2014). It is a possibility that such technology can put archaeologist out of the job but the main job of the archaeologist is not just to find objects but to figure out the story behind them which a robot would be incapable of doing.
  4. Robots in the context of underwater archaeology

    An all human excavation underwater would prove too costly and dangerous especially in the case of shipwrecks. In these scenarios we use robots to do a good portion of the work which will include surveying the site.The humans will to the physical task the robot will be unable to do on its own.The U-Cat is an example of robot used in marine archaeology. The U-Cat is a small robot that replicates motions like a sea turtle for perfect rotational movement (Treacy, 2013). This robot is very simple and is only for observation and is developed along with other relevant technologies by the initiative Arrows.
  5. Use of underwater robots

    A robot called U-cat with a built in camera which is an advanced camera can be used to create a visual map of a shipwreck its explored (Coxworth, 2013). U-Cat and other such machines are developed by a Arrows a European funded project who have used these machines to take really detailed 3D visuals. An example of a U-cats use in the field is when a robot was deployed in the Rummu quarry in Estonia as a test for the machine (Gnadeteich, 2015). The 3D visuals captured in Rummu can be found on the project arrows website along with 3D visuals from Levanzo in Sicily. The practical uses of such data would be to allow archaeologist to pre-examine or re-examine the layout of the site to give some context on events that happened there.
  6. Estonia launches robot for underwater archaeology
  7. Underground Archaeology

    It is not just under the sea, robots also have potential in underground sites such as caves, passages and tombs. The main purpose of robots in these scenarios is because of the dangers posed to humans by possibility of the roof collapsing and radioactive radon gas levels (Guerrini, 2014). A good test for a robot would be a secret palace that was found in the complex where the tomb of the first Chinese emperor is found. In this tomb there is the threat of many traps and high quantities of mercury that is poisonous to humans (Diaz, 2012) a robot however could be used in this situation as it would be unaffected by the mercury. The use of a Robot can help find the answers such as it has with pyramid rover in the discoveries of a chamber found in a great pyramid.
  8. Use of underground robots

    Pyramid rover is the name of a robot that was constructed to explore the shafts of the great pyramid which was very small with a camera and drill attached (Sesen, 2012). The robot managed to drill a hole into a block to find a chamber on the other side. Another more flexible robot was sent later for further investigation. Hieroglyphics were found in the chambers that are 4500 years old (Hooper, 2004). The important thing to note in this discovery is that these unknown hieroglyphics can help archaeologist studying the chamber get a better understanding of the chambers use. The use of pyramid rover in this scenario shows how much potential it would have similar scenarios like the secret palace of the Chinese Emperor.
  9. Robot tries to unlock Giza pyramid's secrets
  10. Conclusion

    It is evident that robotic technology is very helpful in the field of archaeology when it comes to the following factors. They are useful in the excavation of dangerous underground environments that are hazardous to humans. Equipping these machines with advanced cameras that produce 3D visuals shows how easy it is to record sites like sunken ship wrecks as they are to avoid missing details or in planning a proper excavation. All in all it would be interesting to see how the development of such devices advance in the field and what data they could gather in the future as they are still are a new technology in use.
  11. Bibliography/References

    Latxague, F. (2013,July 18th). A brief history of robots. ParisTech Review. Retrieved from 
  12. Barceló, J.A. 2007. A Science Fiction Tale? A Robot Called Archaeologist, in: Figueiredo, A. and G. Leite Velho (eds.) The world is in your eyes. CAA2005. Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology. Proceedings of the 33rd Conference,Tomar, March 2005. CAA Portugal, Tomar, pp. 221-229.
  13. Guerrini, F. (2014, October 18th). Forget Indiana Jones: Here Comes The Robot Archeologist. Forbes. Retrieved from 

    Treacy, M. (2013, December 4th). Robotic sea turtle will dive to explore shipwrecks. TreeHugger. Retrieved from 
  14. Coxworth, B. (2013, November 26th). U-CAT robotic sea turtle set to explore shipwrecks. Gizmag. retrieved from 

    Gnadeteich, U. (2015, July 24th).Finned Estonian robot plunges to probe wrecks. Postimees. Retrieved from 

    Diaz, J. (2012, December 28th). Archaeologists Think Hidden Imperial Tomb May Be Too Deadly to Explore. Gizmodo .Retrieved from 

    Sesen, S. (2012, January 11th). The Pyramid Shafts: From Dixon to Pyramid Rover. Em Hotep. Retrieved from 

    Hooper, R. (2011, June 6th). A robot peers into a long-sealed chamber of the Great Pyramid of Giza.The Washington Post.Retrieved from