11 February 2013
These are fast times, amigos, fast times. Fast times for a (archaeol)(crimn)(soci)(whatever)-ologist who spends much of her day looking up photos of old stuff and people messing around with old stuff on the internet.

Indus figurines and early image search
Google image search has been my bread and butter since it was unleashed on the world back in 2001. Discovering it coincided with starting an online journal and thus the journal was illustrated. Discovering it also coincided with my undergraduate archaeology degree and my need to add flourish to whatever it was I was academically up to. I remember writing a paper on female Indus Valley Civilization figurines which I filled with various images that I had pulled off of google image search. My professor called me back after class and asked "where did you GET these images". I showed him how to use google image search. Minds were blown. I was hauled in to show a number of different people how to use it.

Over the past little while I have found some new features of Google image search to be a bit unwieldy. I really only noticed it over the weekend. I think I am supposed to use image search in a new way but I haven't figured out what the way is. I want to just turn the new stuff off...the giant preview of the image that is super low quality and totally useless, the three buttons... Looking at it now I don't really know what I am complaining about but I can tell you one thing. If you click the button to take you to the image, then click the back button, you don't end up where I would expect you to end up. Maybe that is just me. Maybe I am just old. Maybe I need an undergrad to tell me how it works.

Yet, with all the new, and all my complain, I just had a delightful experience. I am on the edge of writing to someone about a particular image taken during the excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamen. I remembered the story of this image on Saturday and I think he might like it. I wanted a large version of the photo and, because I can do such things, I used the feature of google image search that lets you search with an image for similar images. I directed it to my small version of the photo and expected to get a pile of similar and same images. This is what google gave me instead:


Ten-year-old me would have about died at the sudden explosion of interlinked Egypt info. Look at it all there. Thirty-year-old me just sat back and marvelled at the amount of information that it could glean from the one image and the arrangement of it all on the page. Since they deployed that right hand info pane I have mostly been making fun of it. I have probably notified them of incorrect images over there two dozen times. But, when they get it right, it is just lovely. Something you can get lost in.

Okay, sure, not for the specialist viewer, but go back in time to when you were 10 and you were, I don't know, producing a school report and presentation trying to explore the question "Was King Tutankhamen Murdered?" (report available on file at my parents' house). Having this sort of presentation of the past would have been magic. It still feels like magic.