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Mining the Past: Archaeology and the Blockchain Revolution


Mining the Past: Archaeology and the Blockchain Revolution

As early as October 2017, the world’s first ‘archaeology coin’ Kapu was launched. Although the community which cheered it was rather small, it has been predicted that it could be the part of a coming social science data revolution.

Why is Blockchain Cut for Use in Archaeology? 

Blockchain has been the center of interest for everyone— from financial market experts to social workers— since this decade. To be clearer, the interest is not limited to the digital currency application of the technology, rather on its giant data storage potentials.

In this way, blockchain can be pictured as an infinitely strong glass storage box that is transparent and whose contents are visibly accessible to everyone, but which, on the other hand, cannot be tampered with. Furthermore, blockchain has no single point of failure and is distributed which means that no single entity is in control of it.

Let us also imagine blockchain as wet-clay; in the sense that it is open-sourced and can be further innovated to fit in multiple use cases— and one of them is archaeology.

Making Archaeology Cheaper

In most of the countries, the funding for archaeology is limited. And this is not a modern phenomenon. As far back as 1984, archaeologist Ernest Volk of Harvard University had to abandon his project in New Jersey’s Delaware River Valley due to a lack of financial support. A recent report highlights how archaeologists suffer to fund their research in the United States and elsewhere.

Blockchain offers a cheaper alternative for storing encrypted data. Other than that, it allows this data to be accessed through different permission standards. According to the CEO of Kapu, Martino Merola, archaeological research can be made simpler and cheaper if museums and universities work together to develop data storage and sharing on the blockchain.

Secure Storage of Vast Amount of Data

Most of the museums suffer from a lack of resources to store data and archives. As a result, a lot of useful data either gets lost or is submerged under the weight of massive data generated in the field of archaeology.

Blockchain has unlimited capacity for storing data, which can be utilized by archaeologists and museums. For example, museums can store their artifact catalog on a blockchain which gives different levels of access to different parties. In case an artifact is stolen, the museum can release the codes related to it to prevent their illegal sale or purchase in the black market. This also takes us to the third application of blockchain in archaeology.

Prevention of Fraud and Theft

Only a few days ago, as the world slumbered in the COVID-19 lockdown, the news of an early Van Gogh painting theft from Dutch Museum made headlines. This is not the first such instance.

Lack of regulation has created a whole world of illegal artifact market which deals in fakes and stolen materials. This has accelerated so much that the theft and forgeries of artifacts have taken the form of organized crime— organizations like the Islamic State are reported to be involved in plundering artifacts for funding terror.

Archaeological artifacts can be protected from a range of such illegal activities if they have a blockchain record. Peter B Campbell suggested in an article published on The Guardian that not only can blockchain prevent illicit trafficking of artifacts but also stop the manufacture of blood antiquities.

Resolving Ethical Issues

According to a paper published in AAA Ethical Forum, anthropologists face ethical responsibilities like storing, preserving and destroying certain records in the long run. Often, this gets complicated because of ‘complex issues of ownership and stewardship’.

Smart contracts could be used for storing ethnographic data that are deemed confidential. A timer set on smart contracts can destroy these without any complexities arising due to conflict over ownership.

Parting Words

History is important to us because, without a proper understanding of the past, we cannot understand our present. In the present time, when the field of archaeology suffers from a number of factors and it is speculated that it would become a thing of the past, it is more than important to lend support to it through innovation and introduction to new technologies like blockchain.

Expanse is a platform that is built for the purpose of creating practical solutions for everyday problems; which means that its goal is primarily a humanitarian one. One such humanitarian step is needed from your side to merge creativity with blockchain to save the records of the history of humankind.

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I am a content writer with interests in life sciences and blockchain. I believe that blockchain has the potential to transform every aspect of human endeavor. I love surfing the internet, reading, learning new things, and trying new cuisines.


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