Emerging vision technology has ancient application


Vision inspection has a myriad uses in QC and QA. But what about its application in restoring ancient paintings and documents?


Modern automated vision inspection has many applications in quality control (QC) and quality assurance (QA), including validating codes, validating closures and seals, inspecting and validating labels, counting items, line monitoring, picking and placing, packing QA, matching components and inspecting empty containers.  


However, today’s latest automated vision inspection also has application in ancient history.


More specifically in helping historians to determine how they can restore antique paintings and the inks of early documents, or even whether such artefacts are forgeries. It can also be used to determine what (if any) underlying text or structure is there. The vision system does this by analysing an artefact’s pigments. From this, historians can work out whether an artefact can be restored safely.


It’s that latter word that’s key: safely. Previously, such determinations were made by chemical analysis, which established the molecular nature of the pigments, inks and varnishes in an artefact. But chemical analysis is invasive, and in many cases is best not used in case of further damaging an ancient work.


Multi-spectral imaging vision technology now exists that can do this without damage.


There are several differing ways this can occur. One involves a filter wheel that captures images at varying frequencies (visible, UV and IR), and compares colours and fluorescence images. This then allows art historians to “see” where any retouching has been done. The same technique can be used for digitising manuscripts on ancient papers, such as parchment and papyrus.


The Bibliothèque nationale de France (the National Library of France) has used a similar multi-spectral imaging

system. This also uses a monochrome camera and filter wheel to capture images illuminated at different wavelengths. A hypercube generated from these allows chosen wavelengths to then be combined or compared to “see” the underlying features.


The French national library has used such technology to analyse many prized cultural objects, including a “palimpsest” — a document where an older text has been scraped away and overwritten. A page from one palimpsest dates to nearly 2,000 years ago. Greco-Roman physician Galen of Pergamon (who died in 200 AD) wrote a document called “Simple Drugs”; however, disapproving Syrian scribes scraped it away in the 11th century, overwriting it with hymns. (You can find the library’s published information on the scans here.) The library has also done some pioneering work with the Archimedes Palimpsest. According to “Vision Systems Design”, “spectral imaging of the earliest known copy of Archimedes' work revealed the unique mathematical texts in the manuscript that were scraped off and overwritten with a prayer book by Johannes Myronas in 1229AD.”


In our next blog, we’ll look at further emerging technologies in vision.


To talk about the latest uses of vision inspection, please get in touch with the iQvision team. You can contact us via email or call 1300 IQVISION (1300 478 474). We have years of experience customising applications from the simple to the complex. iQVision also has a host of information in the resource library, including videos, case studies, whitepapers, brochures, FAQ’s and our blog. They’re all free to download. 

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