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Cyprus frescoes help researchers develop algorithm to solve archaeological puzzles

January 22, 2019 at 11:24am
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Researchers have used images of Cyprus frescoes and other antiquities to test an algorithm that digitally restores the work, greatly facilitating its physical reconstruction.

Archaeologists at Technion and the University of Haifa in Israel say this programme could save endless hours in the restoration of historical items.

Trials with the technology were conducted on pieces of ancient statues and Byzantine frescoes from Cyprus.

‘Puzzle solving has been an intriguing problem for many years,’ the researchers write in their paper, pre-published on arXiv.

‘It has numerous application areas, such as in shredded documents, image editing, biology and archaeology.’

Archaeological artefacts are not “clean” and “nicely behaved”; rather they are broken, eroded, noisy and ultimately extremely challenging to algorithms that analyse or reassemble them,’ the researchers say in their paper.

Three major issues archaeologists face when working to rebuild artefacts are abrasion, colour fading and continuity.

Abrasion creates gaps between pieces and makes neighbouring pieces hard to find.

Colour fading makes distinguishing between real and false edges hard to decipher and the irregular nature of the fragments gives an almost infinite amount of possibilities.

The AI-powered algorithm predicts what should surround a surviving archaeological fragment and locates its neighbouring piece. A virtual image is then produced which aids in the meticulous physical reconstruction of the item.