How AI and Deep Learning is Decoding Ancient Geoglyphic Etchings in Peru

Source: Deep Learning on Medium

How AI and Deep Learning is Decoding Ancient Geoglyphic Etchings in Peru

Scientists recently discovered 142 more ‘Nazca Lines,’ and AI is on the hunt for more hidden relics from a lost civilization.

Image Source: MachuTravelPeru.com

Triangles, trapezoids, and a variety of other geometric shapes and patterns — that’s what can be seen when one flies a drone over Peru’s high desert in South America. These colossal geometric figures resemble insects, birds, and other living beings.

These are, of course, the famous ‘Nazca Lines,’ which were initially discovered during the mid-1920s. It total, 300 geometric figures, and 800 straight lines have been identified thus far. Teams of archaeologists have worked hard at studying these lines ever since their initial discovery, and we’re still baffled about their exact purpose.

During the last ten years, a research team from Yagamata University have discovered over 100 new geoglyphs. Their team has collaborated with IBM to use artificial intelligence to increase their capabilities and identify more geoglyphs with precision and efficiency.

Alien Communications or Messages to the Gods?

Ever since the ‘Nazca Lines’ were discovered, there have been many theories concerning their origins and meaning. Some archeologists join the dots between astronomical observations and the lines, while others have touted theories involving aliens and supernatural forces.

The problem is, some of these etchings are 370m long, so studying them at ground level has proven difficult. It’s also begged the question; Why on Earth did these people create such huge pictorial messages? And, who for? Considering no planes were hovering above between the 4th and 10th centuries. Or were there?

Even today, research teams from all over the globe work for years on end to identify more of these hidden markings etched into the ancient landscape.

How AI Plays A Role

Earlier this year, a team of researchers managed by Professor Masato Sakai from the Cultural Anthropology Adean Archeology Department of Yamataga University found 142 new geoglyphs. These ancient carvings depict animals, people, rituals, and Nazca Pampa.

Ram Sagar from Analytics India Mag Reported in November 2019:

“The biomorphic geoglyphs are thought to date back to at least 100 BC to AD 300. Additionally, in a feasibility study carried out from 2018 to 2019 together with IBM Japan, the university discovered one new geoglyph by developing an AI model on the AI server IBM Power System AC922 configured with the deep learning platform IBM Watson Machine Learning Community Edition (formerly known as IBM PowerAI).”

How AI Speeds Up The Process

Image Source: Yamagata University

The Nazca region in Peru got its historical reputation for having mysterious etchings scattered across the land, the enormity of which could only be realized by using a drone or trekking up a hill.

Since the 1920s many of the world’s great scientific and historical thinkers have scanned the ‘Nazca Lines’ trying to decipher their ancient messages and secrets; in the past, this research has taken many years. Now, using AI, researchers can complete research tasks in just two months.

Karen Hao from TechnologyReview.com recently reported:

“In collaboration with IBM Research, the team is now deploying deep-learning algorithms to help speed up the hunt. The researchers are using a cloud platform to stitch together massive amounts of geospatial data, including lidar, drone, and satellite imagery and geographical surveys, to create high-fidelity maps of the search areas.

They are then training a neural network to recognize the data patterns of known lines to look for new ones. Even during testing, the team discovered a new design — a smaller humanoid figure (above) — that had been missed in previously collected data. The discovery took only two months; previous methods had typically taken years.”

Today, scientists are trying to increase efficiency and increase the chances of identifying and studying new geoglyphs. Thanks to modern technology such as the IBM PAIRS Geoscope platform and artificial intelligence, more and more ancient relics are being discovered.

Image Source: IBM

Pairs Geoscope is a piece of software that has been specifically designed to process large amounts of geospatial-temporal data satellite (weather, maps, IoT, drones).

This platform has been used for irrigation management, crop identification, and monitoring the growth of vegetation around power lines to lower the risk of outages.

IBM made Pairs Geoscope widely available in February, and scientists all over the world have already started to use it to help streamline multiple sources of data and integrate them, to benefit large-scale operations.

Uncovering the Nazca formations is still a difficult task. However, machine learning, AI, and deep learning are helping our scientists and archeologists become more efficient.

Who knows, we may be one step further to finally understanding the rich cultural messages left behind by an ancient generation.