Preserving Ancient Artifacts and Cultural Heritage

Before heading to an archeological dig in Jordan this summer, BYU professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies Aaron Schade had special training in a unique advanced imaging technique offered by USC.

Funding for the scholarly exchange was provided by the Widtsoe Foundation. The technique, called Reflectance Transformation Imaging, or RTI, was developed by Hewlett-Packard, but has since been adapted and refined by USC, which is acknowledged as one of the leading RTI training centers in the world. RTI provides the capacity to view, in unprecedented detail, the textured surface of an artifact.

Schade said Widtsoe “gave us access; got us in the door to a training program that is very competitive” and only available to a small circle of applicants. RTI is helping scholars preserve cultural and historical artifacts around the world.  Besides his work in Jordan, Schade plans to use the technique to photograph priceless treasures at the Louve. His assistant, Jessica Smith, an undergraduate student in journalism and Near Eastern Studies, also participated in the training program. If it becomes feasible, Schade would like to set up a satellite RTI training center at BYU.

The training was under the auspices of Bruce Zuckerman, in USC’s School of Religion, and his colleagues in the West Semitic Research Project at USC.  Thus far, they have trained professionals in pilot field projects all over the world, including sites in Burma, Indonesia, Wales, England, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan and Israel. Zuckerman is also the founder of the InscriptiFact Digital Image Library, which is the largest collection of image data in the world, with more than a half million images.