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MARS - Multimedia Archaeological Research System

Research project I2/2F/212 (Research action I2)

Contract I2/2F/212 :

Duration of the contract :


Partners :

  • Royal Museums for Art and History (Coordinator of the project)
  • Royal Museum for Central Africa 
  • Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences 
  • Katholieke Universiteit Leuven 
  • DG Aménagement, Territoire, Logement, Patrimoine, Rég.Wall. 
  • Société de Recherches préhistoriques du Hainaut 
  • Société royale belge d'Anthropologie et de Préhistoire 
  • Association pour la diffusion de l'information archéologique 
  • DEIOS s.a. 

Description :

Excavating an archaeological site causes its irreparable destruction. It is therefore essential to record all information as thoroughly as possible both during the dig and when studying the finds afterwards. Archaeological collections, along with site data, are the only material evidence of long-gone peoples. The multidisciplinary approach to finds from excavations means that they are physically parcelled out among laboratories, public and private scientific institutions and/or museums. Our country’s institutional complexity means that the centralisation of physical collections is restricted, as is the access of researchers to all the collections, and this situation is exacerbated in the case of institutions involved in digs carried out abroad. Digitalisation is in fact the only realistic method of reconstructing a coherent scientific and cultural whole. Mere electronic cataloguing of objects in a collection is not sufficient; all the associated data are also needed, otherwise the contextual information may be lost.

MARS (Multimedia Archaeological Research System) is an efficient, flexible system, which can be used as a research tool that also makes it possible to create a link between the data relating to objects in collections, analyses, archives, and bibliography banks. It permits rational management of the collections for the requirements of both conservation and scientific study. The project case study is the Spy Cave, Belgium’s most famous prehistoric site and one of Europe’s most important palaeoanthropological sites. The finds from many excavations carried out between 1879 and 1980 are scattered among federal, local, regional, and community scientific institutions and museums.
The partners in the second phase are representative of the different target users of the MARS platform. In the long term, MARS should make it possible to digitize the main archaeological collections and assist in their promotion in both scientific institutions and museums.
During the second phase, the partners will test the various 3D digitization techniques applied to archaeological collections, with the aim of permitting scientific study of digitized items while preserving the originals. Various approaches are used. In the context of the TNT and MARS projects, the IRSNB and the Archaeology Department of the Ministry for the Walloon Region have undertaken complete digitizing of Belgian Neanderthal human remains, using the latest generation medical scanners and μscanners. For surface digitizing, the DEIOS is developing, in cooperation with the other partners, digitizing equipment specifically adapted for archaeological objects. The degree of input precision is fully comparable with laser scanning, but the operation is much faster, permitting immediate processing of a surface which can be as large as half a metre, and permitting in situ input independently of the ambient lighting. In addition, the equipment produced will permit full colorimetric analysis of the digitized surface. The 2D/3D representations obtained in this way can be viewed and studied using IT applications developed within the framework of the European TNT project.
The methodology and technical approaches handled by the MARS project are applicable to many other fields. The use of a collaborative multimedia platform with editorial follow-through can be extended to all the scientific disciplines. High resolution 3D digitizing is essential for the ESF collections, and, more especially, zoological types digitizing programs. In addition to the cultural dimension, it opens up new areas for research, by making it possible to access the internal structures of the objects digitized.

- Contact person (project's coordinator):

Royal Museums of Art and History (KMKG-MRAH)
Nicolas Cauwe
Parc du cinquantenaire 10 / Jubelpark
02 741 73 60
02 734 07 13


Coordinator Royal Museums of Art and History (KMKG-MRAH)

Partner 1 Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (KBIN-IRSNB)

Partner 2 Royal Museum for Central Africa (KMMA-MRAC)

Partner 3 Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL)

Partner 4 Direction Générale de l'Aménagement, du Territoire, du Logement et du Patrimoine (DGATLP), Région Wallonne

Partner 5 Société de Recherches préhistoriques du Hainaut (SRPH)

Partner 6 Société royale belge d'Anthropologie et de Préhistoire (SRBAP)

Partner 7 Association pour la diffusion de l'information archéologique (ADIA)

Partner 8 DEIOS S.A.

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