March 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.
Westergren’s project piqued my interest for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the project comes across as a labour of love by an artist seeking to faithfully depict his country’s heritage, albeit through his own interpretative process. Although he makes extensive use of information generated by archaeological research, at the same time he acknowledges the limitations of our fragmentary data. This makes him free to use it as a source of inspiration to create his vision of what the Iron Age landscape was like. At present, there appears to be very little room for interaction between the user and the world. This gives the environment the quality of being a hyper-realistic digital theme park. The flora, fauna and landscape can be seen and traversed, respectively, but not directly handled or used. Water flows, wind blows and the sun shines, all in glorious high-definition graphics that the average desktop PC would struggle to display in full detail. The user is, however, an observer rather than an actor in the world. In light of this, I find it worthwhile to compare the Digital Iron Age Environment with a conceptually similar, but considerably more low-fi project.
From across the Gulf of Bothnia, UnReal World is a free videogame (first release 1992) about survival in the late Iron Age of northern Finland. First, one must note that it is undoubtedly meant to be a gaming experience. There are a variety of systems in place to simulate the experience of being a person in this time and place (including Fennoscandian folklore) that introduce a thick layer of abstraction. Numbers represent everything from factors such as the user’s level of health, to the nutrition one gets from eating wheat, to the sudden appearance of bad weather. Rather than being sculpted by the artist based on archaeological data, as in the Uppsala project, this world is randomly generated given certain parameters. The overall focus of the experience is one of survival against the odds, which is typical of the ‘roguelike’ genre it is part of.
The player who enters this world, however, is free to do almost anything. Hunting, skinning, trapping, farming, smelting, trade and much more are all present and accounted for. This lends the world a depth and level of authenticity that gives the incredible visual detail of the Uppsala project a real run for its money. UnReal World’s creator, Sami Maaranen, at one point distributed it to public libraries as a teaching tool, in an obvious Fennoscandian parallel to the famous Oregon Trail educational game series in North America. Taking into account some very important caveats, for example the level of abstraction, the randomized 2D representation of the world, the subjectivity of the creator and the presence of anachronistic elements (e.g. allowing the player to acquire crossbows), UnReal World is probably the most accurate interactive simulation of life in the European Iron Age that exists.
Although not situated in the exact same time and place, the contrasts and similarities between these two digital experiences are interesting because of the different ways in which they represent the past. One is a reconstruction of a specific landscape in a specific era, drawing on some very concrete archaeological evidence from across Scandinavia. The other is not tied to a geographic location more precise than the vast north of Finland, but presents itself as a reasonably accurate simulator of living in the Iron Age, given its assumptions and idiosyncrasies. I would argue that both worlds can function as narrative tools for presenting certain perspectives on the past, and it is very encouraging that both authors of these digital worlds claim to be inspired by, and attempt to be faithful to, real historical and archaeological data. As an aside, the Gamla Uppsala project, which Westergren mentions as a source, also creates 3D visualizations of their excavations.
Check out the links throughout this post for more media and downloads related to these ongoing projects!
Aurora Borealis in the Digital Iron Age Environment (Copyright Daniel Westergren)
January 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.
January 22, 2014
by Hembo Pagi
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.
January 21, 2014
by Konstantinos Papadopoulos
Clay Neolithic figurines are some of the most enigmatic archaeological objects, which depict in a miniature form humans, animals, other anthropomorphic or zoomorphic beings, and often hybrid or indeterminate entities. Figurines have excited scholarly and public imagination, and have given rise to diverse interpretations. The assemblage from Koutroulou Magoula, a Middle Neolithic site – 5800-5300 BC – in central Greece (excavated under the co-direction of Prof. Yannis Hamilakis – University of Southampton/British School at Athens and Dr Kyparissi – Greek Ministry of Culture), offers a unique opportunity to revolutionise the way we study and understand prehistoric figurines. This assemblage, one of the ten most significant archaeological discoveries in 2013 according to Heritage Daily, is the largest in Greece, and one of the largest in Southeastern Europe: more than 300 figurines and figurine parts have been retrieved to date (2001-2012) from a relatively limited excavation area, and all their contextual associations have been meticulously recorded.
January 15, 2014
by Mike Pitts
A century ago today, the Mana, an auxiliary schooner captained by Scoresby Routledge, stewarded by his wife Katherine and crewed by a collection of English seamen, fishermen, scientists and the odd Royal Navy lieutenant, had just been hauled up onto a floating deck in Talcahuano on the Chilean coast. They were nearly a year into their voyage. While the ship was being cleaned and checked, they collected supplies sent from England and divided up the stores to last for a six-month stay on Easter Island, their ultimate goal. In the meantime, Scoresby and Katherine took the Trans-Andine railway to Valparaiso. They visited Williamson & Balfour (owners of the island lease) and the Company for the Exploitation of Easter Island in Valparaiso, and studied the Easter Island collection in Santiago museum.
They sighted the island on March 29. Caught up in Pacific repercussions of the first world war, in the event they were to remain there for nearly 17 months.
One of the many things Katherine Routledge achieved during that stay, was to study the petroglyphs and stone houses at the south-west tip of the island. One of those houses had been where Hoa Hakananai’a, the beautiful statue depicted in the Google doodle today, was standing when found and taken by a Royal Navy crew in 1868. She also recorded details about the island’s birdman ceremony.
We found both of these studies offered critical evidence for understanding Hoa Hakananai’a, which we incorporated in the analysis of our new 3D digital survey. Peer-reviewed articles about our project have now been accepted, and we hope will appear later this year.
November 18, 2013
by Konstantinos Papadopoulos
Recently, I signed a contract with Oxford University Press for an interdisciplinary volume entitled The Oxford Handbook of Light in Archaeology. This book, which will be edited by myself and Graeme Earl, is the only book to date dedicated to the concept of light in archaeology, since existing work in this area is either specifically related to forms of illumination, to isolated case studies or to light in literature and iconography.
This volume will undertake an interdisciplinary approach, by considering light in the context of humanities, architecture, engineering, computer science and the arts. As such, it will serve to combine alternative culturally specific analyses of light and an alternative approach to cultural studies. With increasing recognition by archaeologists and anthropologists that archaeological interpretations of space, form and behaviour are missing light as an essential element, this book breaks new ground by placing light at the heart of archaeological narratives from a broad region of the world and a broad sweep of time.
It will explore many dimensions of lighting and darkness in a wide range of dwellings, settlements, private and public spaces, monuments and religious buildings, as well as in various aspects of everyday life in the past and the present. The book will bring together diverse geographical and chronological studies, ranging from prehistory to the present and from Europe to America.
The book will be divided in three sections:
I. Light in Religion, Worship and Rituals;
II. Natural and Artificial Light in Dwellings, Public Spaces and Working Environments;
III. Theorising Method: Design, Capture and Simulation of Light for Sites, Structures, Museums and Artefacts.
It will contain 34 chapters by most of the leading scholars in the field (alphabetical order): Michael Ashley, Mikkel Bille, Eleni Bintsi, Eva Bosch, Efrosyni Boutsikas, Jean-Philippe Carrié, Eleftheria Deko, Matt Gatton, Dragoş Gheorghiou, Lucy Goodison, David Griffiths, Yannis Hamilakis, Jassim Happa, Tim Ingold, Malcolm Innes, Andrew Jones, Constantine M. Kapos, Eleni Kotoula, Eric Lapp, Nessa Leibhammer, Bob Miller, Ioannis Motsianos, Dorina Moullou, Holley Moyes, Axel E. Nielsen, Timothy R Pauketat, Paul Pettitt, Joshua Pollard, Iakovos Potamianos, Maria Sardi, Tim Flohr Sørensen, Frangiskos V. Topalis, Ruth M. Van Dyke, William Walker, Ian West, Chris Woolgar, Athanassia Zografou.
The volume is scheduled to be published in 2015
in the Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology series by
November 13, 2013
by Hembo Pagi
Updated Dec 9th: Video added.
Gertrude is an old lady. About 600 years old. She is one of the wooden statues at the high altar in St. Nicholas’ Church, Tallinn. Gertrude is reviled to the public three times a year. Rest of the time she and other status are hidden behind the massive altar wings. Those altar wings are covered with medieval comic strip about life of St. Nicholas and St. Victor. Altar is by Hermen Rode, artist from Lübeck, finished around 1481 AD.
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November 9, 2013
by Graeme Earl
I am going to be speaking on December 4th 2013 at a symposium on 3d digital archaeology. The symposium, organised by Renato Perucchi and Elizabeth Colantoni at the University of Rochester, will discuss state-of-the-art multidisciplinary issues bridging the humanities and the applied sciences related to 3D modeling, visualization, and analysis including engineering evaluations of complex archaeological structures and data.
I will be talking under the broad title “Contemporary Themes in 3D Archaeological Computing”. The paper will focus on examples drawn from our many years of work at Portus. I will introduce the reconstruction workflow described at the time of our BBC documentary, and then consider ways in which the use of such digital approaches can inform and re-orientate efforts to communicate archaeological knowledge. Alongside the learning opportunities on site provided by the Portus Field School we are in the process of developing a Massive Open Online Course for Portus and interactive tours. We have also been exploring a range of approaches for conveying a sense of spatial engagement with Portus for learners and other virtual visitors. 3d and imaging tools, alongside mobile/ pervasive media and web science all have significant roles to play as we attempt to provide meaningful rather than superficial (3d) interactions.
If you would like to contribute online or to find out more about these issues follow my @GraemeEarl tweets from the symposium and also follow @PortusMOOC I will post a storify here and the slideshare content is below.
October 30, 2013
by Graeme Earl
ACRG member, Gareth Beale, has been appointed as Research Fellow at the University of York. Gareth will be based at the Centre for Digital Heritage.
In his post as Research Fellow, Gareth will manage and share the coordination of a new international collaboration in Digital Heritage between the Universities of York, Aarhus, Leiden and Uppsala.
The Centre for Digital Heritage is a international research centre that brings together researchers to undertake interdisciplinary research in Digital Heritage, including data management, analysis and visualisation. The Centre is open to all researchers in these exciting fields, and to their external collaborators.
Gareth has recently submitted his PhD which looked at the use of computational reconstructions for the interpretation of Roman sculptural polychromy. He is the co-Director of the Basing House Project and the OuRTI: Recording British Memorials Project. Gareth’s interests lie in the use of imaging for the understanding of heritage and in technologies for public archaeology. He has worked closely with Winchester School of Art and other artists over the past two years to develop projects to increase the relevance of archaeology and art in the public domain as well as in the research sector.
You can read about Gareth’s move on the York website: http://www.york.ac.uk/archaeology/news-and-events/news/external/news2013/garethbeale/
The ACRG team are sad to see Gareth leave, but we anticipate some exciting project collaborations in the future. Gareth will be returning to the University of Southampton in 2014 to talk at the ACRG Seminar Series, so watch this blog for the updated timetable for 2013/14.
October 11, 2013
by James Miles
In January of this year myself and Dan Joyce completed a series of recording techniques at Netley Abbey, including time of flight and phase scanning, photogrammetry and Reflectance Transformation Imaging. The work was organised by Dan in collaboration with English Heritage for his individually negotiated topic for his masters degree.
The main aim of the investigation was to teach Dan how to correctly capture difficult architectural remains using these techniques and the following are examples of the work completed. Furthermore, our investigation followed on from a past Southampton University project and has now led to a full geophysical survey, building survey and 3D models of the standing ruined architecture.
Part of the remains of the abbey were first recorded using a Leica Scanstation C10 and were then captured further using a Faro Focus 3D. The C10 was used as a means to record high resolution data of specific parts of the abbey at mm accuracy that were too high to be recorded at the same resolution as the Faro. Instead the Faro was used to capture an overall model of the building and below are the scan positions that were used followed by a short animation of the laser scan model.
Photogrammetry was used on a number of different areas within the building to highlight the differences between small object and large object data collection techniques. These were then used within Dan’s work as a way to compare the different recording techniques through the final representations available. Below are two renders of the the East window of the abbey and a a rendered image of a column
Further to these two methods, RTI was also used on a series of graffiti markings to make the writing more legible and also included within the research was the capturing of a series of gigapixel images, the first showing an overview of the building, the second highlighting the East window and the third showing the West window