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Photonics Spectra
Sep 1998
The Science of the Future Unlocks the Secrets of the Past

Dan McCarthy, News Editor

In the beginning, the Bible says, the Earth was covered in darkness and God said, "Let there be light." Eons later, when the Earth's tenants learned how to manipulate, amplify, and quantify that light they set about examining their own origins. While it is true that much of our history remains shrouded in darkness, photonics are bringing to light many of history's secrets. Budding technologies such as optically stimulated luminescence dating are extending archeologists' vision into the origins and migrations of our ancestors. More standard photonic methods including Raman and FTIR spectroscopy, infrared cameras, and even ultraviolet lamps are telling us more about the progression of civilization and art.
Photonics are not necessarily the only way to analyze, identify, and map the development of art and artifacts, but the manipulation of light often achieves these tasks more non-destructively. Most important of all, these technologies can help to preserve objects of antiquity for generations to come.

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