Ground TV

[Image: An otherwise unrelated temple complex in Indonesia].

“Hardened lava from Indonesia’s Mount Merapi covers ancient temples in the historic city of Yogyakarta,” Archaeology News reports. As if fishing in the ground for lost architecture, “Scientists are using remote sensing equipment to locate them.”

The Jakarta Post elaborates, pointing out that “objects recently found underneath cold lava,” thus “requiring archeologists to use remote sensing equipment to find them,” remain physically ambiguous when they cannot be directly excavated. Indeed, “the equipment cannot determine precisely whether rock is part of a temple construction or not.” In some cases, then, it’s a question of forensic interpretation.

Nonetheless, five entire temples have been discovered so far, locked down there in old lava: the Morangan, Gampingan, Kadisoko, Sambisari and Kimpulan temples, “buried between 2 and 9 meters deep.” That’s nearly thirty feet of rock—a once-liquid landscape covering blurred remnants of an otherwise overwritten past, architectural history by way of subterranean remote-sensing.

I should point out, meanwhile, that Archaeology News also links to a quick story taking place out here in greater Los Angeles: a parking lot in Ventura, at the intersection of Palm and Main streets, is under archaeological investigation. “Researchers this week are crisscrossing the parking lot using ground-penetrating radar,” the Ventura County Star explains, “in search of anomalies below the asphalt that could be artifacts or building foundations from years past. Archaeologists will return to excavate by hand those areas believed to contain artifacts.”

I love the idea that the surface of a parking lot could become something like a new screen technology—a depth-cinema of lost evidence from earlier phases of human history, shining from within with archaeological remains as researchers walk back and forth above.

Imagine the archaeological cinema of the future—some massive open parking lot in Istanbul, say, where crowds arrive, milling about, tickets in hand, and then, like the giant LED screen from the Beijing Olympics, the city’s archaeological past is revealed in 3D: hologram-like structures shivering there inside the surface of the earth, below everyone’s feet in real-time, the planet become an immersive TV screen on which we can view the debris of history.

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