The Rillaton Gold cup (left) discovered by workmen robbing stone from a cairn on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, in 1837, and the Ringlemere Gold Cup (right) discovered by a metal detectorist in Kent in 2001. Both now in the British Museum
Image: The Heritage Trust

A crowdsourcing archaeology project is on target for completion within a year. Thousands of volunteers worldwide have logged on to help transcribe more than 30,000 British Museum handwritten catalogue cards dating back to the late 18th century. Maev Kennedy, writing in The Guardian today, reports –

A 3D plastic model of a 3,000-year-old bronze axe – stored in the British Museum since it was found more than 30 years ago at Jevington, East Sussex – has been printed out in a public library in Washington DC through a unique experiment in crowdsourcing archaeology. Volunteers worldwide are logging on to help transcribe more than 30,000 handwritten catalogue cards dating back to the late 18th century, and making digital photographs of thousands of ancient bronze objects so they can be stitched together to form 3D images. There will be no copyright on the objects or the information, and the project is entirely built on open-source software, so could be copied anywhere. Producing the axe at an archaeology open day in Washington DC was the idea of volunteer Joseph Koivisto, a research assistant at the Catholic University of America.

Wilkin [Neil Wilkin, curator of the bronze age collections at the British Museum] said museum staff would have taken years to do the job, and the funding would probably never have been found. The crowdsourcing was launched in April, with a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and is on target to complete the project within a year. The information will be added to the huge Portable Antiquities database – recording archaeological finds made by members of the public, mainly with metal detectors – which will soon record the millionth object since it was launched as a pilot scheme in 1997.

Full Guardian article here.