Scanning for Syria
The clay tablets with cuneiform writing from the museum in Raqqa in northern Syria have been destroyed or plundered. Fortunately there exist silicon moulds of the clay tablets in the Netherlands made before the war. Dr D.J.M. Ngan-Tillard, geo-engineer at TU Delft, uses micro CT scans to create images of the insides of objects. Now she tries to do the same with the Syrian clay tablets together with two other scientists. So a lot of valuable information can be saved by making 3D scans and prints of moulds.
In this project, three scientists joined to bring back to life lost clay tablets from Raqqa, currently occupied by IS. Fortunately there exist silicon moulds of the clay tablets in the Netherlands. Ngan-Tillard often works with archaeologists, not only at archaeological sites (or potential ones), but also in her lab, where she uses micro CT scans to create images of the insides of objects. However to make a good scan of the moulds is no easy job, because of the imperfections in the moulds. Jouke Verlinden, 3D printing expert in the TU Delft Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, set to work on the recipes provided by Ngan-Tillard. A student of digital archaeology in Leiden is also investigating the factors that play a role in evaluating virtual reproductions, with a view to developing a series of recommendations. The scientists are now developing ideas on how to upscale this work to some kind of gold standard for digital records.