Human expertise, combined with NFTs and blockchain technology, has the potential to safeguard invaluable cultural artifacts from theft and looting. Recently, computer scientist Adel Khelifi from the University of Abu Dhabi and archaeologist Mark Altaweel from University College London unveiled a Web3-based verification-as-a-service model called Salsal. The core concept behind this service is to integrate historical artifacts into an on-chain validation system that cannot be manipulated or duplicated.
Salsal aims to cater specifically to “cultural heritage organizations” by offering a protocol to identify, grade, and record detailed information about specific artifacts using a suite of technology tools. To achieve this, cultural heritage organizations validate their collections by uploading images and descriptions to the service. A group of experts then evaluates the artifacts using a grading system similar to the one used by the Museums Association, providing a five-point scale assessment.
Once an artifact is proven to be legitimate, it can be converted into an NFT (Non-Fungible Token). NFTs are chosen because their data is stored on the blockchain, making it immutable and ensuring accurate documentation of ownership transfers. The ultimate goal is to encourage widespread adoption of the service, wherein curators aspire to have their collections validated through Salsal as a verification standard, similar to having a rare collectible graded by a commercial validator.
While there are existing databases containing information on historical artifacts, a unified database running on an immutable blockchain can serve as a powerful deterrent against theft and looting. Sellers and curators will be required to document provenance, thus promoting transparency and accountability in the preservation of cultural heritage.