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Computerized Video Being Used To Help Analyse Artifacts

June 2, 1987

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (AP) _ A unique computerized video system is helping archaeologists analyze more than 400,000 artifacts unearthed across four Southwest states during construction of the nation’s longest oil pipeline.

″The scope of what we’re doing has just not been done before,″ said Ken Tapman, president of Continuum Corp. of Boca Raton, Fla., which developed the system at a cost of $250,000.

Tapman believes his system, which uses a video camera to record images of the artifacts on a laser disc, in addition to data such as size, shape, age, color and location stored in a computer, could revolutionize the way large historical projects are conducted.

The system allows a researcher with computer access to recall data or call up the image of any item and display it on a monitor, where it can be enhanced, magnified, superimposed over another or otherwise compared. So far, about 50,000 artifacts have been cataloged.

″There is no other facility like this in the world,″ said Fred Plog, an anthropology professor at New Mexico State University at Las Cruces, which is conducting the study.

″Archaeologists leave with their jaws hanging open. They’ve never seen anything like this.″

The analysis, being conducted with assistance from Texas A&M University and the University of California at Santa Barbara, involves artifacts taken from 500 sites in a trench dug last year for the 1,200-mile All-American Pipeline.

″This is without doubt the largest archaeological dig ever,″ said Plog.

The most significant discovery was a 900-year-old headdress found with a partially burned skeleton near Tucson, Ariz. It is believed to have belonged to a youth who may have been in line for a chiefdom.

The finding suggests an early Indian culture that was socially stratified, an idea which has sharply divided scientists, some of whom believe such sophistication didn’t occur in the region until much later.

Another level of that site contained 15,000 cotton seeds from 800 years ago, the largest collection of prehistoric cotton seeds ever found. Genetic engineers plan to try growing some of the seeds to compare the plants with modern cotton, Plog said.

Nearby, pipeline crews uncovered a village of 10 pit houses containing a variety of ancient sea-shell jewelry, bits of pottery, tools, spear points and arrowheads dating back to 700 A.D. Some baskets found in the houses still contained food.

A number of Paleo-Indian artifacts were found near McCamey, Texas,, including a spear point that has been dated at 10,000 years.

The $1.2 billion pipeline was built by Celeron Corp., a subsidiary of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.

The 300,000-barrel-a-day pipeline runs from Santa Barbara on the California coast to McCamey in West Texas. It is to start operations later this summer, controlled by a computer in Bakersfield, about 120 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

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