The Center for the Studies of Archaeological and Prehistoric Heritage (CEPAP) at the Autonomous University of Barcelona have developed a process using QR codes to ID and track ancient artifacts, from kraters to potsherds.
Previous methods of on-artifact ID shared one thing in common: it was painfully easy to rub out, rub off or scratch out the identifying number of code written directly on or in the artifact. That process also ran the risk of marring the object.
The CEPAP team has tested this process for two years, affixing QR tags on everything from sword blades to bone remains. They did so at Spanish sites, including Roca dels Bous and Cova Gran de Santa Linya in Lleida, and African sites like the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania and Mieso in Ethiopia.
Marking artifacts helps to associate information that would otherwise be lost once the object were moved. According to the center, the information includes:
“(T)he name of the site, the archaeological level at which it was found and an inventory number. This information is essential because it remits to a complex network of data which contextualises each artefact individually.”
Geolocation information on each object is also included.
Using QR codes, which are like two-dimensional bar codes, to do this obviates a number of common errors that come with manual marking. Besides effacement of the codes themselves. They include scriptural error and misreadings.
QR also saves a great deal of time, as hand-writing, nearly always on challenging surfaces, using a number of different media, is a demanding task. The code information also becomes instantly available online to associated scientists.
CEPAP has managed to reduce artifact coding errors to 1% with this process.
Artifact photo from CEPAP | other sources: