Archaeological Computing Research Group

Annotating RTI data in 3d and 2d

May 17, 2014
by Graeme Earl

I’ve been talking to a lot people in recent months about annotation frameworks for RTI and today’s introduction to the #rodeimagingevent (see Hembo’s blog post) has crystalised some of these. I was talking to @kathrynpiquette about annotation and I also tweeted a query to @iipimage about it. @portableant suggested annotorious (something that I know our current MSc student Vassilis Valergas has been examining) and also openCanvas was suggested. Also @aboutgeo mentioned the freeform extension to annotorious developed by @portableant. We started talking about the idea of this being a geospatial problem rather than an image annotation problem and whether frameworks in online GIS were more advanced. Read the rest of this entry →

Papyrus RTI case study

May 15, 2014
by Eleni Kotoula

The Derveni tombs discovered in 1962 close to Thessaloniki in North Greece are considered one of the most significant archaeological sites in northern Greece because of their numerous rich grave offerings and their important location in the ancient Mygdonian city of Lete, on the pass of Via Egnatia. The cemetery comprises seven graves, and according to the excavation publication dates to 320–290 BC. One of the most remarkable finds of the Derveni Tombs is a papyrus roll, discovered in the remains of a funeral pyre above tomb A, a cist grave full of bronze and clay pots, vessels, jewellery and small objects (Themelis & Touratsoglou, 1997). The Derveni Papyrus fragments examined are preserved sandwiched between two sheets of glass. As a result the material integrity is safeguarded and the undesirable material deterioration due to handling is limited. At the same time, the glass mount poses a barrier in the study of the papyrus and affects visual analysis negatively. One of the most crucial features for the correct perception of information revealed from visual analysis is the perception of three-dimensionality, which in case of the Derveni papyrus is limited because of the glass mount. Another problem is the completely covering or the back side of the fragments, due to the backing material, which limits considerably the study of the material aspects of the papyrus.
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Imaging Event/Hackathon

Hembo PagiMay 12, 2014
by Hembo Pagi

Few days to go to Rode Imaging Event where ACRG will be represent on power of three: Graeme Earl, James Miles and me. List of presenters at the seminar and workshop day include specialist with different expertise: multispectral imaging, 3D data acquisition and processing and theoretical approach.

Hackathon weekend is supported by Garage48, people specialised in hackathons and helping start-ups. There are several ideas for the hackathon prepared by us but I am sure there will be more ideas that we can focus on such a short event.

ACRG has been supporting the event with some equipment and software to let people see and play with stuff they might not have otherwise access to.

ACRH Gigapan in action at St Nicholas church, Tallinn

ACRH Gigapan in action at St Nicholas church, Tallinn

Modelling Complexity

Iza RomanowskaApril 17, 2014
by Iza Romanowska

A Fractal Flame

A Fractal Flame

Complexity has become a new paradigm in the hard sciences in the 90s and since then it has been slowly dripping into the social sciences and humanities. It works on the premises that many systems are complex in structure, i.e. their numerous individual parts interact with each other in a non-linear way producing phenomena which cannot be easily predicted solely on the basis of their characteristics. Think of the brain: if you were given a few neurons to research it would probably not be your first guess that those little buggers create emotions. Think of the stock exchange: the behaviour of any one of the stock brokers (buy when you think it’s gonna go up and sell when it’s going down) is not a great predictor of the long term trends or crashes, which, nevertheless, follow quite a repetitive pattern. Now think archaeology: we work on human societies whose complexity arising from simple human interactions is overwhelming and produced on many levels. When do people decide to migrate? Why certain trends catch up while others don’t? How do stratified societies develop and why do they collapse? The list of questions complexity science can help us with is truly endless and touches on the very core of what archaeology is all about.

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Burying the Digital

April 3, 2014
by Graeme Earl

Clay tablet (wikipedia)

Clay tablet (wikipedia)

I am at Museums and the Web this week in Baltimore. I was sat next to @trinkermedia and we were talking enthusiastically about  the physical, tangible and the interactive digital (as usual). Over the last few years we have been digitising very large collections of cuneiform tablets and are mid way through developing an open source Reflectance Transformation Imaging web renderer that will allow interaction with these on mobile devices and desktops. The plan is that we will deploy these via tablets and phones of various form factors in order that the gyroscope and the lighting hemisphere captured from a front camera can be used to provide a sense of placing the digital tablet in its physical surroundings more completely. So, my aim is that, for example, in a room with low lighting captured from the phone the main directional light source vector will be identified from the maximum brightness in a photograph from the front camera and the RTI relighting intensity will be scaled to match that brightness. Once set this orientation should allow the gyroscope to link movement of the tablet to the space within which the movement is happening, and in turn relight the virtual object in a contextual way. We still have a way to go but we have a good handle on the methods to employ. So, watch this space.

But back to #mw2014. Javier and I were talking about his work to repurpose Linked Data and also his interest in interactive forms. I have been reflecting on the continuing power of the physical artefact in my life as I finalise the @UoSFLPortus MOOC. I want the MOOC to provide digital experiences of Portus and artefacts, but I also want to encourage the students on the MOOC to make their own interactive objects (more to follow on this soon via the Portus MOOC blog) and also to visit museums collections near where to they live to provide another form of engagement, and finally to think how accessible, touchable objects in the home could stand in for inaccessible, curated artefacts. (We now have the beautiful work of Eric Brockmeyer to stimulate us!). The plan is for the Archaeology of Portus MOOC to have a subsidiary archaeological computing and digital museums flavour, via the blog. So we would be excited to work with others on this in the coming months.

Anyway, all this made me think about the other project that is big in my head at the moment – the @Ahrcrti project focused on the RTI viewer. In the last few weeks we have been doing some work on RTI archiving in collaboration with Cultural Heritage Imaging and @ads_update and @UniSotonLibrary – the plan is to enable an easy mechanism to embed RTI repository content in blogs and websites and to link specific annotations via DOIs so that threaded citation and conversation around the RTI interpretations can grow. Again, more on this soon.

The question here is, could we physically instantiate the RTI of cuneiforms so that a physical tablet might survive as the carrier for the information long into the future? I am fascinated by the possibility of chance discovery of the tablet, and the intersection of the tablet with a repository. If nothing else it foregrounds the 10 or 20 years quoted in many archiving strategies for research data. I could do the same for information from Portus, perhaps encoding a brick stamp in similar ways. If I drop a rugged tablet into the foundations of the Palazzo Imperiale it may not be discovered for centuries. How long would the device survive? And what connections would the device be able to make in the future? What should we encode on the device. alongside the object data?

Crowd annotation of RTI

March 26, 2014
by Eleni Kotoula

As part of the on-going AHRC RTI FoF project for the on-line, open source RTI viewer we are working on development of a tool that will encourage scientific co-operation among cultural heritage professionals, being at the same time an enhanced dissemination and presentation tool. The artefact visualised in RTI form is not just a static record of the artefact but it enables the museum professional to execute visual analysis virtually and the members of the public to experience views of the artefact in a superior way. In that sense the annotations transform the RTI file from a high-quality record of the object to an examination record. Its educational and scientific uses are extended and extra values are attributed not only to the RTI file but also to the visualised artefact.  The first step towards the development of annotated RTIs is the annotation box link which enables the addition of textual descriptions, outcome of the RTISAD project, while the latest release of RTI Viewer software includes useful features for annotations.
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Rode Imaging Event

Hembo PagiMarch 11, 2014
by Hembo Pagi

Rode Imaging EventFew posts ago i wrote about imaging work at St. Nicholas church in Tallinn, Estonia. Now this has grown into bigger collaboration and a co-hosted event in coming May. There will be three speakers from ACRG: Graeme Earl, James Miles and me.

Check the museum’s website for more information and registering .

Digital representations of the Fennoscandian Iron Age

Philip RirisMarch 7, 2014
by Philip Riris

A story that has been making the rounds on blogs and news websites this week is the Digital Iron Age Environment, a project by Swedish game developer Daniel Westergren. I came across Daniel’s interview with Digital Digging, where he describes his investment in accurately recreating the landscape of Iron Age Uppsala, in eastern Sweden. He uses the CryEngine 3 technology to power this visualization, displaying his attention to detail, while at the same time adding subjective touches on top of the real archaeological data behind his interpretation of Uppsala’s past. People with a passing knowledge of modern videogames will recognize the engine and its predecessors as being behind some of the most realistic gaming graphics in recent years.


A reconstruction of an Iron Age house in CryEngine.
Copyright Daniel Westergren (

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The Rise of 3-D printing in Archaeology

Alistair GaltJanuary 23, 2014
by Alistair Galt

With the announcement that Adobe, one of the world’s largest software companies, is to integrate 3-D printing support into it’s Photoshop package, it’s about time that the rise of 3-D printing was assessed, and the impact it’s having on archaeology. It’s rise has been unprecedented, but what have archaeologists done with it?

Definition and background

Defined as a “three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model”, a 3-D printer costs anywhere between £300-£3,000, although these are generic. A 3-D scanner for archaeologists is being developed through Kickstarter, the crowd-funding site, which can then be used to create a 3-D model, which could then be printed (see below). This shows public support for these technologies are becoming more and more popular (at the time of going to press). However, the “printed gun” incident shows that, combined with the open-source nature of the internet, thousands of people can create undetectable lethal weapons in their own home. However, this is a one-off case, and the popularity of 3-D printing is being shown with children’s drawings being turned into toys and decorations.

Grant Cox Kickstarter

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ACRG in Estonian Archaeology Journal

Hembo PagiJanuary 22, 2014
by Hembo Pagi

Tutulus – Estonian archaeology journal

This week an other article was published in Estonian annual archaeology journal, Tutulus, about projects I’ve been involved in Southampton. Last time we covered Portus Project. This time, the article was about the Hoa Hakananai’a and different imaging techniques; project with James Miles, Graeme Earl and Mike Pitts.