Monthly Archives: October 2014

We’re upgrading!

Our project has had some amazing opportunities and exposure this academic year, and we’re only two months in!  To reflect this, our team is in the process of redesigning our webpage!  We have some great ideas and can’t wait to put them into place.

We also want to hear from you, though!  As our readers, supporters, and the whole reason why we’re doing this, we value your opinion and want to know what you’d like to see.  We would really appreciate it if you could take a minute to answer our poll and let us know what you would like to see on our website!  Vote on a particular aspect you think would be great to see upgraded or suggest your own!  We would love any feedback you have.

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Spells, Potions, and Curses of the Ancient World

Happy Halloween! Today’s post is a slight departure from our regular talk of digital humanities, but still has an epigraphic focus – we’re looking at ancient papyri texts with spells, curses and potions.


Invisibility Spell

P. oxy. LVIII.3931

P. oxy. LVIII.3931

Translation by Richard L Phillips:[1]

ASSESOUO, dim the eyes of every man or woman, when I go forth, until I achieve as many things as I wish, and I say, Choreith, listen to me, (you) who are in charge of the universe, ALKME, master of the sea; (you) who are in charge of the night. 

 

POxy.v0058.n3931.b.01.hires

P.Oxy.LVIII 3931; Papyrology Rooms, Sackler Library, Oxford

The back side of the papyrus seems to have a potion recipe on it, cautiously restored as:

Soak fine….in oil with crocodile dung and a few mature mallows and rub on the face.

Crocodile dung sounds really gross, but weighed against the benefits of invisibility…I might be tempted.


 

Prophetic Dreams

To see a true dream:

Upon going to sleep say after you have eaten ritually pure food, “Verily by Neith, verily by Neith, if I shall succeed in a certain activity, show me water, if not, fire.” 

Aegis_of_Neith-H1550-IMG_0172

Neith, Goddess of War and Hunting, Nurse of Crocodiles, Cow of Heaven, Opener of the Ways.

These two examples basically mean the ancients sat around doing the papyri equivalent of a Buzzfeed quiz;  Which psychic power should you have?[2] Or at least, that they had the same silly desires we do – invisibility and the ability to tell the future. What other frivolous concerns did they decide were worth dabbling in the supernatural?


Curses

Spell for the Chariot Race

Spell for the Chariot Race

Translation:

“…Sarakenos Belehmu Parthaon Didyme Nymphike Pele- Strabos…by the holy names that are attached to you…smite the horses of the Blues, hold them back so that…Parthaon Nymphike Strabos Pele-. I adjure you, spirit of the dead, by (voces magicae). I adjure you […by] Gabriel, Raphael, Michael, Bouel, go off to the (hippodrome?) so that you may cast down, cause to fall, and bind the…Parthaon Didyme Strabos Nymphike Pele-…I adjure you by the God of the Gods…Ousirapis Ousor Mnevis Ous-…of the Lord Ouser-…drag, cause to fall…smite…”[3]

The text of this curse, from 4th Century Beirut,  is missing the end of each line but it is clearly a curse against the horses rather than the charioteer. Chariot races were extremely popular in the Roman world and people got as heated about their faction as any modern sports fan does for their team – check out the Wikipedia entry on the Nika riots,”the most violent riots in the history of Constantinople”; it began in the hippodrome, escalated to the nearby palace and half the city was destroyed.

Curse tablets directed against sporting rivals or specific horse teams like the one above are often found buried in and around the sites of chariot races, but curses were also a popular way to deal with legal troubles, business rivals and thieves.[4]

The commonalities between spells, curses and potions of the ancient world are that they invoke the gods – the more, the better, it seems – there is a ritual formula that anyone can use, no special training necessary, and they tend to borrow foreign words in much the same way that modern tv shows throw out Latin or Sumerian when they want to really impress the viewers. Co-opting foreign words because they sound more magical is just one more thing that hasn’t really changed with time.

Have a happy Halloween, everyone, and if you find any crocodile dung…let me know how that invisibility spell works out for you.

Jack-o'-Lantern 2003-10-31

Jack-o’-Lantern 2003-10-31


 

[1] R. Phillips, “Blinding as a Means of Becoming Invisible” ICS 35-36 (2010-11) 111-20.

[2] I got Clairvoyance, for the record.

[3] H. Amirav, G. Bevan, D. Colomo

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curse_tablet


Further Reading:

Adams, Geoff W (2006), The social and cultural implications of curse tablets [defixiones] in Britain and on the Continent, Studia Humaniora Tartuensia, 7.A.5: 1–15.

Baker, K. (2003), ‘Greco-Roman Curses: Curse Tablets’, History of Magick

Kotansky, Roy, Greek Magical Amulets: the inscribed gold, silver, copper and bronze lamellae (Part I: Published Texts of Known Provenance), Papyrologica Coloniensia 22/1, Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1994

Ogden, Daniel (1999), “Binding Spells: Curse Tablets and Voodoo Dolls in the Greek and Roman Worlds”, in Ankarloo, Bengt; Clark, Stuart, In Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: Ancient Greece and Rome, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 3–90.

Tomlin, Roger (2005), Curse Tablets of Roman Britain, et al, Oxford, ENG, UK: Oxford University.

 

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Open Access Week, October 28th – 29th

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Every year UBC hosts participates in International Open Access Week, a global event aimed at the promotion of open access in scholarship and resarch. From Stone to Screen has been asked to join the panel on Student Innovation in the Open,  where we will present the digitizing work we’ve accomplished over the summer and talk a bit about how these resources are being integrated into classroom use. This is a great opportunity for us to engage with the academic community and discuss the value of open access to material, something we at FSTS feel very strongly about.

Open UBC is held in conjunction with the International Open Access Week, which encourages the academic community to come together to share and learn about open scholarship initiatives locally and worldwide. Open UBC showcases two days of diverse events highlighting areas of open scholarship that UBC’s researchers, faculty, students and staff participate in as well as guests from the global community. These events include discussion forums, lectures, seminars, workshops, and symposia on topical and timely issues from every discipline. All of these events are FREE and open to the public, students, faculty, staff and schools.

All sessions will be held in the Lillooet Room (301), of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre at UBC. Check out the schedule and if there are panels or talks you are interested in registration is free but required; coffee and snacks are provided.

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The Future of Archaeology: Why 3D Rendering is Virtually Vital

Since starting to research photogrammetry in preparation for Saturday’s International Archaeology Day workshop, I’ve realized a couple of crucial points. One is that 3D rendering of objects and landscapes is fast becoming a standard practice in archaeology and the second is that the process is one of the few archaeological processes that can be picked up at home with no investment other than your time.

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For our workshop we are using the free software 123DCatch, which has apps for computers, tablets and smartphones. The multi-platform app means that a student – if they have WiFi at the dig site – could potentially photograph and render in 3D on site and in mere minutes with their cell phone, producing detailed and accurate copies of artifacts or archaeological features that were once painstakingly drawn by hand.

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If you’ve read Kat’s post on her dig over the summer in Italy, you already know there is plenty of slow, painstaking work in archaeology; there is no substitute for the precise, methodical uncovering of artifacts and features long buried under the dirt. (Fun party trick – just mention Heinrich Schliemann’s excavation tactics and watch your archaeologist friends cringe in horror and dismay.) That’s not to say that archaeological geophysics isn’t making strides in its own right, but those methods can only be used to identify buried features; no push of a button is going to actually shift the dirt carefully enough that we can replace eager students “cleaning dirt off of dirt”.

800px-Excavations_in_El-Wad

But where we can save time – in surveys, in rendering the artifacts and features more precisely and in greater detail – we have an obligation to do so. This is not just a question of getting your excavation finished in good time, or even getting the results published. I keep coming back to what Tom Elliott said when opening the EAGLE Conference – that we are all working together as the antidote to the destruction of our shared cultural heritage. This isn’t just an academic’s attempt to justify their work – there are genuine threats to our cultural heritage and the preservation of it is necessary and vital.

The Associated Press reports the Islamic State has taken to destroying key archaeological sites in Iraq and Syria– much of which includes the ancient land of Mesopotamia– and subsidizing their income with black market sales of ancient artifacts. In addition to Mosul, the Islamic State controls four ancient cities — Nineveh, Kalhu, Dur Sharrukin and Ashur– which gives them nearly unbridled access to a treasure trove of statues, tiles, and other highly-coveted items by collectors. Nineveh alone contains 1,800 of Iraq’s 12,000 registered archaeological sites. (Brietbart.com Sept. 21, 2014)

We fully believe that any student heading out on a dig in the future should be armed with a basic knowledge of photogrammetry, given how easily accessible the software is and how simple it is to use. Our scholarly focus may be on the past, but we need to keep our eyes on the future at least in terms of the tools and techniques we use in the field.

Further reading:

 A Discussion of the Analytical Benefits of Image-Based 3D Modeling in Archaeology

Photogrammetry in Archaeology: Using the Future to Understand the Past in the Present

Digital Archaeology in the News:

3D Model of the Amphipolis Tomb

Beyond Ankor: How lasers revealed a lost city

 

 

 

 

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Bringing the Domitilla Catacomb out of the Dark: Photogrammetry in Action

The first presentation at the EAGLE Conference was by Antonio Enrico Felle and Norbert Zimmermann who work on the Domitilla Project in Rome, and it was arguably one of the most impressive projects I’ve ever seen at a conference. The project has been working since 2006 to create a full 3D model of the Domitilla catacomb, 12km of subterranean burials from the 2nd to 5th centuries CE, which showcases one of the largest inventories of catacomb painting from early Christianity in Rome.

The catacomb was founded by Flavia Domitilla, niece of the emperor Domitian in the 2nd c CE. Christian burials were forbidden within the walls of Rome, so these subterranean burials had to be outside the city limits and there are at least 40 outside of Rome that have been discovered to date. Today catacombs provide the best examples of early Christian art; the Domitilla catacomb itself has over 80 painted tombs, and in the 5th century CE an underground basilica was added and became a pilgrimage sanctuary for the graves of martyrs Nereus and Achilleus.

Flavia Domitilla van Terracina, Nereus en Achilleus, Peter Paul Ruebens 1608

Flavia Domitilla van Terracina, Nereus en Achilleus, Peter Paul Ruebens 1608

The project’s goal was to create a 3D scan of the catacomb in order to facilitate research of the paintings and inscriptions found within, but also so that each feature of the site – chamber, painting or inscription – could be properly geotagged with their exact location. This would allow archaeologists to date the chronological development of the catacomb based on the dates of the tombs, paintings and inscriptions with more precision than had previously been possible.

Domitilla Project

Domitilla Project

Beginning in 2006 with three scanning campaigns, the team set out to determine the viability of using 3D laserscanners to create a digital copy of the catacomb.

The scanner orientates itself on temporarily applied reflector points (Fig.1). In 360-degree panorama-scans it generates so-called point clouds, which reproduce the surrounding area of about 1 m distance as a 3D-structure. In order to connect several scans with each other, further scan positions with at least five already known reflector points are selected. At the same time as the scan, a digital camera mounted on the scanner produces photo data that can directly be applied onto the point cloud. The advantage of this method lies in the mobility of these point clouds, which can be viewed from the outside as well as the inside and which can be virtually entered. Depending on the projection and position, a ground plan, cross- and longitudinal sections and 3D views are retrievable.

Once successful tests had been completed, the team moved forward with the scanning – moving the laserscanner eight meters for each set of shots, the scanner would record 2,000 points at each set up. They estimate they did two months of post-processing for every two weeks of fieldwork, and scanning continued through the beginning of their 2009 season when they registered the 1,800 single scans into a comprehensive point cloud. The final point cloud for the entire catacomb model contains 2 billion points, each with digital coordinates. This means anyone searching the model can pinpoint exactly where each feature of interest is located, and brings the epigraphy, topography, archaeology and art history of the catacomb together in a single application. Now that the digital scanning is complete, they are working on bibliographic information on the paintings and the saints buried in the catacomb.

To create photorealistic 3D models of the fresco paintings, meshed models are calculated from the point clouds and high resolution digital photos are applied to the model:

Domitilla fresco of  the so-called Chamber of King David

Domitilla fresco of the so-called Chamber of King David

The future of the project is a joint venture working with Terapoints on creating high quality visualizations of large data sets, such as the Domitilla Catacomb, as well as integrating the 3D photos of frescoes into the model.

In order to use the precise scan data as directly and unaltered as possible, the Domitilla-team was enhanced by new collaboration partners: the Institute of Computer Graphics and Algorithms of the Technical University of Vienna and the company Imagination, which are jointly developing the point-cloud viewer Scanopy. With its help extremely large point-clouds can be viewed in real time; the goal is to further develop this program according to the needs of archaeologists and building researchers.

There are some incredibly exciting developments in archaeological reconstructions happening these days. We’ve come such a long way from Sir Arthur Evan’s controversial reconstructions at Knossos. Digital models can be reconstructed, reinterpreted and manipulated a thousand different ways without ever degrading or damaging the fragile archaeological remains, which affords researchers more opportunity to explore theoretical reconstructions than ever before. And once the initial scans are done, digital sites are accessible to anyone with an internet connection, meaning it would be entirely possible to do a tour of the Domitilla Catacomb in any classroom in the world. There is no replacement for seeing sites like this in person, but for so many of us, travel and access to sites like this are simply out of reach; he Lascaux Caves, for example, have been closed to public viewing since 2008 because of fungus that threatens the paintings and requires careful monitoring so the images are not lost forever. Digital modelling offers a simple solution to problems of accessibility and responsible cultural heritage management.

For those in the Vancouver area with an interest in photogrammetry, the Vancouver AIA and From Stone to Screen are hosting a free workshop this Saturday, October 18th from 1-4 where participants will learn to create their own 3D models – email photogrammetry@gmail.com to reserve your spot! No prior knowledge required, just a camera and laptop.

 

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Filed under Archaeology, Digital Classics, Digital Cultural Heritage, Photogrammetry

International Archaeology Day: Photogrammetry Workshop

AIA Vancouver and From Stone to Screen are hosting a free Photogrammetry Workshop on October 18th as part of International Archaeology Day. The event will open with a presentation by Dr. Kevin Fisher on the archaeological applications of photogrammetry, followed by a hands on learning experience.
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Participants will learn to create a 3D virtual model using 123DCatch, which is a free open source 3D modeling program that can be run on laptops, tablets and smartphones.
Participants will need to downloand the app and create an account with 123DCatch. You will also need an object to render into a 3D model, and a camera and laptop or ipad, or a smartphone to photograph the object and run the app. Volunteers will be on hand for technical assistance.
Please email photogrammetryworkshop@gmail.com to reserve your spot; space is limited and the event will be restricted to 25 people.
Date: Oct. 18th, 2014
Location: Buchanan C203
Time: 1PM – 4PM

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Filed under Archaeology, Digital Classics, Digital Cultural Heritage, DIY, photography

I3 Challenge – Update!

Our blog post, written by Lisa Tweten earlier this week, has been reposted on the GRAND website!  Her experience at the challenge, and the amazing support of our faculty, is a delight to read and such a great opportunity for us to spread the word about From Stone to Screen.  

GRAND in association with the University of British Columbia Media and Graphics Interdisciplinary Centre (MAGIC Lab) hosted the I-Cubed (I3) – Idea, Innovation and Inaugurate Challenge in September. Participating teams pitched business ideas to a panel of judges drawn from the digital media and investment communities to earn a 3-month residency in the MAGIC Lab, and in-kind technical and business support to help take the proposal to the next stage. Lisa Tweten’s winning pitch was to develop a companion mobile app that will provide a visual complement to aid the study of epigraphic squeezes with relevant historical context.

i3The post was put up on Grand’s website yesterday.  Check out Lisa’s original post here.

 

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by | October 8, 2014 · 11:09 am