The Application Of Laser Weld Defect Analysis And Other Engineering Methodologies To The Study Of Archaeological Remains In Conflicts Involving Amarr Forces: A Discussion
Prf. V. Valate, Kaztropolis Imperial University.
This paper discusses two engineering methodologies for dating and interpreting archaeological sites both planetary and in space, and the reasons why the archaeologist may wish to employ these methods when investigating a site.
There are many archaeological sites within New Eden, which have been poorly documented, unintentionally or otherwise. Proper documentation and interpretation of these sites is vital to gaining a deeper understanding of historical conflicts, such as the Amarr-Minmatar conflict, and the various small-scale conflicts, such as existed in the Bleak Lands, between Imperial and non-orthodox civilisations.
A particular problem faced by archaeologists working in areas where Amarr influence is present, is that the laser weapons predominantly used by Amarr cultures tend not to leave particularly obvious physical evidence of their use. There are no spent ammunition casings, no embedded projectiles, no traces of exotic particles, or the other markers as used by projectile, rail, or blaster weaponry.
However, there are some physical traces that can be recovered from archaeological sites, and used by the adept archaeologist, to contextualise a site.
Laser Debris Analysis of Archaeological Sites:
The use of laser weapons in space environments provides evidence that is usually well preserved unless disturbed by scavengers or astral phenomena.
The evidence of particular interest, are the patterns of laser debris on damaged hull & armour plates, which can be analysed using techniques similar to those used in engineering to analyse welding defects, as laser weapons operate on principles similar to the “keyhole” mode of operation of energy beam welding machines.
One item of significance is the ejecta of molten material from the site of a laser strike, as this can be analysed to estimate the energy present in the laser beam at the time of the strike, which allows the weapon involved to be identified in many cases, and in some instances will allow the identity of the vessels involved to be determined.
The length, width, and linearity, of a laser strike mark on a sample are other characteristics that can be measured, and may on occasion give insights into the relative motion of the firing vessel at the time of the strike. S-shaped strike marks are an indication of the target vessel performing evasive manoeuvres at the time of impact, for example.
A comparison of the length, width, and quantity of ejected material of a laser strike on a relic, with the marks produced by laser strikes of known energy from a test laser, is a method that can be used to identify the class of laser that struck the relic.
On planetary environments, the evidence is generally less well preserved, due to weathering of the materials by atmospheric conditions, however in most cases, the same methodologies can be used to measure laser strike marks on metallic relics, albeit with a reduced accuracy and certainty.
On concrete or stone relics, such as buildings and fortifications, the energy of a laser strike may be estimated through the measurement of pits and craters on surfaces, left behind after the vaporisation of material by the laser. There may also be areas of an obsidian-like material, where silica has been melted and solidified. Calculation of the energy involved to achieve this is straightforward.
Once estimates of the energy of a laser strike have been made, they can be referenced against tables of energy per shot of the numerous models of ground and space lasers produced by Imperial Armaments and other Amarr manufacturers, to find a match for the weapon involved.
Historical tables of organisation and equipment can then be consulted, to determine which ships, ground vehicles, or infantry units, carried particular weaponry at which point in time, which may allow dating of an archaeological site in the absence of any discrete chronological evidence.
Isotope Decay of Radioactive Materials in Archaeological Sites:
The other engineering method that is useful to the archaeologist, is the isotopic analysis of radioactive materials, as typically used in atomic fission power sources.
For a typical Minmatar reactor, the fissile material is in the form of fuel rods in the reactor core, consisting largely of high grade uranium, though thorium and plutonium reactors may also be encountered.
Other designs of reactor that may be encountered use fissile fuel in the form of small pellets, rather than large rods.
The reactors of archaeological sites may be damaged, so extreme care should be taken to avoid radiation exposure of personnel and equipment.
Assuming the reactor on the site has been made safe, samples of the fuel may then be extracted, and the composition analysed, to determine the isotopes present and the ratios between fissile material and decay products.
It is then straightforward to calculate using radioactive decay half-lives, to provide estimates to within a decade or so, of the time when the fuel element was assembled, which gives an upper estimate of the time when a building or ship was constructed, though a degree of uncertainty may remain, as the fuel elements may have been salvaged from an old reactor to use in a newer one.
These two methodologies, taken from the fields of production engineering and nuclear power engineering, may be employed by the archaeologist to establish likely dates for archaeological sites, in the absence of other evidence, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, as well as providing additional context to the site in the form of educated guesses of the forces present at the time.
Other engineering methodologies that may be used to provide synergy with archaeological investigations may exist, and the enthusiast is encouraged to seek such methodologies out.