Archaeologists may not need to get their hands so dirty any more, thanks to the kind of digital technology being pioneered at Southampton University.
Its 'µ-VIS Centre for Computed Tomography' possesses the largest, high energy scanner of its kind in Europe: a 'micro-CT' machine manufactured by Nikon.
Capable of resolutions better than 0.1mm - the diameter of a human hair - it allows archaeologists to carefully examine material while still encased in soil.
Using visualisation software, archaeologists can then analyse their finds in 3D. This keeps the material in its original form, and postpones any commitment to the painstaking process of excavation by hand.
Graeme Earl and Mark Mavrogordato of Southampton University, and Alexandra Baldwin of the Department of Conservation and Scientific Research at the British Museum, explained how they have worked together to unlock the secrets of a cauldron found at a site in Chiseldon, Swindon - the largest archaeological find of its type in Europe.
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