For several decades, archaeologists in Greece have been painstakingly attempting to reconstruct wall paintings that hold valuable clues to the ancient culture of Thera, an island civilization that was buried under volcanic ash more than 3,500 years ago.
This Herculean task -- more than a century of further work at the current rate -- soon may get much easier, thanks to an automated system developed by a team of Princeton University computer scientists working in collaboration with archaeologists in Greece.
The new technology "has the potential to change the way people do archaeology," according to David Dobkin, the Phillip Y. Goldman '86 Professor in Computer Science and dean of the faculty at Princeton.
Kind of a Holy Grail of archaeology. A couple of years ago I talked with another researcher who had developed a system that supposedly would reassemble pot sherds together, theoretically taking a bunch of scanned sherds and digitally reassembling them into whole vessels. Unfortunately, it didn't work quite as well as it seemed. I broke up a pot I had sitting around, scanned them in, sent him the scans of three fragments that fit together (fresh breaks, mind you, not even worn like you usually find) and it was unable to reassemble them. Don't know if he's made any additional progress since then though. I should probably contact him again.