London: Are we heading towards a time when it will be common for an archaeologist sitting at one corner of the world studying ancient artefacts discovered and stored in a distant land without even visiting that place?
Yes, said researchers who believe that technology has the potential to break the "interpretative monopoly" of scholars whose theories prevail particularly because others lack access to certain artefacts or remains.
Developed originally to enable machines such as factory robots and the Mars Rovers to map a three-dimensional (3D) world from camera images, 3D models - broadly known as computer vision technology - is now revolutionising archaeology and palaeontology.
It allows virtual bones, artefacts and whole excavation sites to be shared and studied without risk of damage.
"In future, it is highly likely that these sorts of methods will be the standard thing you do to record an archaeological site," said Andrew Bevan, an archaeologist at University College London.
Benjamin Ducke from German Archaeological Institute in Berlin, who used a drone equipped with a video camera to create a 3D map of a large pre-Columbian settlement in Mexico in a couple of days, agreed that the technology has the potential to preserve sites that are disappearing.
"We can expect to see entire collections of hundreds of thousands of objects digitally available," Ducke added.
The report was published in the journal Nature.