Anthropological and archaeological research often relies on direct observational analysis of objects of antiquity and anthropological remains. Although the information derived from visual inspection can be great, limitations to this approach do exist. What is seen on the surface or through natural openings cannot assist in gathering data about what lies beneath. If a researcher does want to see beyond the surface, destructive methods such as autopsies are often used to see "within" the human remains or object. Videoendoscopy is a tool that can gather imaging data from within research subjects by using nondestructive or minimally destructive approaches, thus making it a valuable tool in these target research domains.
Videoendoscopic techniques have been employed to gather data from mummified human remains, skeletal remains, archaeological objects such as ceramics, and archaeological sites prior to excavation for a number of years. Endoscopy has also been used in anthropology and archaeology for observational data collection and target biopsy. Recently, an increased variety of applications for videoendoscopic technology have been realized. Videoendoscopy has been utilized for anthropological data collection to assist in the determination of age at the time of death, biomechanical stress, paleopathological conditions, burial practices, mummification technique, dentition analysis, soft tissue or bony biopsy for histological and pathological determinations, biopsy or material collection for chemical analysis or radiocarbon dating, as well as artifact analysis of objects wrapped within mummy bundles. Videoendoscopy has been used in extreme field settings and in preexcavation tomb evaluation. Newer application possibilities for endoscopy include alternate light visualization, endocranial mapping, and transluminescence for relative density estimations.
The major advantages of the videoendoscope (VE) lie in its flexibility of application and its portability. When used in conjunction with varied imaging technologies, the VE has been able to assist in the collection of otherwise unavailable data. Further, the VE often helps alleviate the need to autopsy mummified human remains, which helps preserve the remains for future research and maintain appropriate respect for the deceased while increasing our understanding of the journey of human life on earth.
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