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The way to rediscover marks utilizing UV gentle and telephone apps – MSU Campus Archaeology Program

The artifacts that we discover within the archaeological document can inform us a lot concerning the previous – however what occurs when the ornamental components of an artifact are worn away? Fortunately, expertise has supplied with potential instruments to assist us establish pale utilized coloration labels on glass artifacts and overglaze designs on ceramic artifacts! 

Let’s begin with some background details about the forms of artifacts mentioned on this weblog submit. Utilized coloration labels, or ACLs, have existed since CE 221 in China. By means of time, there was a transition from manually created display prints to a machine that would apply silkscreens to curved surfaces by the early Thirties (Lockhart and Brown 2019). Ornamental overglaze ceramics usually have ornamental designs painted on high of the glazed-ceramic floor (Florida Museum n.d.). Due to the way in which that these decorations are utilized to their respective artifacts, they will put on off with time. 

Not too long ago, we cataloged a inexperienced glass bottle from the Spartan Village challenge that had solely shadows left from the unique ACL. We had been capable of establish the writing on the bottle by rotating the bottle underneath robust gentle. We recognized it as a “Higher Air” air deodorizer, a product that may have been used to assist obliterate “obnoxious odors” within the house. Whereas we had been capable of ultimately establish this artifact and the phrases that may have been part of the ACL, it took just a few hours to establish the instructions and extra data on the perimeters of the bottle.

Impressed by a thread in a historic archaeology listserv (sure, listservs nonetheless exist!), we determined to make use of a long-wave ultraviolet (UV) flashlight to establish the writing faster (Walter et al. 2021) . UV gentle is electromagnetic radiation that may assist us detect any options not be seen with simply seen gentle (Pinter 2017). As a result of it’s comparatively inexpensive (and CAP already has UV flashlights within the lab to assist establish uranium glass from earlier excavations), this methodology may present CAP fellows with a fast and efficient approach to discover out what ACLs would have mentioned earlier than they wore off.  

green Better Air bottle under normal light with lettering only partially visiblegreen Better Air bottle under ultra violet light, previously unseen letters become clearly visible

We discovered that the ACL shadows had been, in actual fact, readable underneath the long-wave UV gentle. The angle of the UV flashlight was straightforward to control too, permitting us to learn the phrases on every green-glass fragment comparatively simply. This course of was easy and fast, offering future CAP fellows a fast and efficient approach to conduct future cataloging and analysis of glass artifacts with solely ACL shadows current. 

Glass artifacts are usually not the one ones that lose their designs over time. Archaeologists face comparable identification points with the fading of ornamental overglaze ceramics. So we determined to check the UV flashlight on a whiteware ceramic with adorned overglaze. 

Adorned overglaze ceramic underneath regular gentle (left) and underneath longwave UV gentle (proper)

Whereas the define of the design was roughly seen with the UV flashlight, it nonetheless was not clear. So we determined to make use of iDStretch, an app designed for iPhones to assist improve rock artwork and faint pictographs. This methodology makes use of decorrelation stretch, enhancing photographs which can be arduous to see with the human eye (Harman n.d.).

After making an attempt out just a few completely different coloration combos, we had been capable of establish the form of the leaf design that had worn off with time. By utilizing iDStretch, we are able to extra simply establish any shadows current from earlier ornamental overglaze designs. 

Adorned overglaze ceramic underneath regular gentle (left) and underneath iDStretch (proper)

Expertise permits archaeologists to shortly establish any lacking ornamental points of artifacts in a fast timeframe. This lets us higher describe and establish the artifacts that we come throughout, particularly right here on MSU’s campus!


The Florida Museum 

 No date “WHITEWARE, OVERGLAZED- kind index.” Article, Accessible on-line, Accessed November 2021.

Lockhart, Invoice and Bob Brown 

 2019 “The Glamorous Utilized Shade Labels.” Article, Accessible on-line, Accessed November 2021.

Harman, Jon

 No date. “DStretch.” Article, Accessible on-line, Accessed November 2021.

Walter, Susan, Denis Gojak, and Keith Doms (2021) “Fugitive Publicity” HistArch Listserv. November, 2021

Pinter, Matt 

 2017 “Making use of ultraviolet lighting in machine imaginative and prescient functions.” Article, Accessible on-line, Accessed November 2021. 


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