Data Matrix Codes Used to Catalogue Archaeological Heritage

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Researchers at the Centre for the Studies of Archaeological and Prehistoric Heritage (CEPAP) of Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) have implemented an innovative system to register archaeological artifacts which eliminates problems in manual markings, such as errors in writing or erosion of data. The system, based on direct labelling using bi-dimensional data matrix (DM) codes, has been used by the CEPAP team during two years, in which numerous artifacts and bone remains from sites in Spain and Africa were registered.

The marking of archaeological material, or coding, is the process in which archaeologists identify each of the artifacts discovered at a site through an identifier code which is currently applied manually to each item and which contains the name of the site, the archaeological level at which it was found and an inventory number. This information is essential because it remits to a complex network of data which contextualises each artifact individually.

Manual coding is a routine process which requires much time and effort, and in which many errors exists -- in some cases up to 40%. Moreover, with the pass of time the coding becomes unclear and this often may hinder subsequent studies. For this reason an important part of the work done in museums, especially with important artifacts or collection items, consists in recoding the objects....

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