The discovery and extraction of Chinese ink characters from the wood surfaces of the Huangchangticou tomb of Western Han Dynasty

  • Taixia Wu
  • Qian ChengEmail author
  • Jiangfeng Wang
  • Shengkuan Cui
  • Shudong WangEmail author
Original Paper


The traces of ancient characters were found from wooden block surfaces which was discovered from unearthed tomb called as “Huangchangticou” in Dingtao County, Shandong Province. The characters, which were written about 2000 years ago, were difficult to identify with the naked eye, as the wood surface has been contaminated and darkened due to efflorescence and mud stains, as well as exposure to oxygen and microorganisms. In this study, a ground-based shortwave infrared imaging spectrometer was used to detect these ink characters. Hyperspectral images with high spatial and spectral resolution were obtained from the wooden surfaces in a 1000–2500-nm band range. Combined with spectral analysis, the Chinese black ink characters were successfully extracted. More than 60 Chinese ink characters were found from the hidden surface of the two overlapped wood pieces. Interestingly, some mirror symmetry characters were also found on the face-to-face sides of the two pieces. The identification and interpretation of the characters provide insights into the specific date when they were written, as well as important archeological evidence to indicate such as the social status of the tomb’s owner, the time of construction, and manufacturing of segment for the royal family tomb in Han Dynasty.


Tomb Han dynasty Chinese black ink characters Timber structure Infrared Hyperspectral 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Earth Sciences and EngineeringHohai UniversityNanjingChina
  2. 2.Chinese Academy of Cultural HeritageBeijingChina
  3. 3.Bureau of Cultural Relics of DingtaoHezeChina
  4. 4.Institute of Archaeology of Shandong ProvinceJinanChina
  5. 5.Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital EarthChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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