Introduction

Undeniably, one of the greatest medical advances during the 20 th century was the development of radiography. The lives of countless individuals have been saved because physicians were able to "look" inside the patient with images produced by x-rays. Similarly, radiography has been an invaluable tool in archaeology and anthropology. The discipline of radiography has greatly expanded since Wilhelm Rontgen's first public demonstration during the January 23, 1896 address to the Wurzburg Physical Medical Society (Eisenberg 1992a). Today there are a number of modalities or methods under the broad area of radiography. Conventional, standard, or plain radiography are the commonly employed terms to identify the imaging modality that utilizes a basic x-ray source and film as the recording medium.

It has been suggested that the optimal location for a conventional radiographic examination of archaeological and anthropological material is a hospital or research imaging facility (Chhem and Brothwell 2008a). However, since the modality has the advantage of being highly mobile, it has been easily applied in remote areas. Such portability makes conventional radiography a powerful field data acquisition method for anthropological and archaeological research. Based on experience, the authors have adopted the philosophy that skeletal and mummified remains should be imaged within or as close to the recovery site or storage facility as possible. Using field radiography as a primary approach, there is minimal disruption of the taphonomic context. Transporting mummified remains can alter the location of foreign bodies and/or artifacts within the mummy, complicating the inter-pretability and, therefore, the significance of those materials and their spatial associations. Transportation from remote locations to imaging facilities carries the added risk of physical damage to the often fragile remains. Additionally, field radiography has the potential to collect radiographic data from large populations of mummies, making it possible to conduct statistical analyses. Although population studies can be conducted at imaging facilities, it is logistically more challenging. Transportation of 200 mummies to a facility has not been reported in the literature. Radiographic examination in the field can also be used to triage a large group of remains in order to select those that would yield more data from advanced imaging modalities, such as computed tomography, and thus justify transportation to an imaging facility. Finally, due to the remoteness of many research locations, field radiography may be the only way to gather critical data and conduct imaging examinations.

Although a more complete review can be found elsewhere (Böni et al. 2004; Chhem and Brothwell 2008b), this chapter will describe some of the contributions made by conventional radiography to anthropological and archaeological research from a historical perspective. The focus will be more on the discussion of the basics, equipment development, and the many variables related to the instrumentation challenges experienced during field applications. Further, this chapter will describe the manipulation of technical factors and the use of ancillary equipment that will increase the likelihood of acquiring diagnostically acceptable images. The chapter will also present the research objectives of conventional radiography in these field environments.

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