Category Archives: DIY

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”.

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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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Filed under Archaeology, Artifacts, Digital Cultural Heritage, DIY

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

Last Friday I had the exciting opportunity to present a business pitch for the 2014 MAGIC and GRAND I-cubed (I3) Idea, Innovation and Inaugurate Challenge, jointly hosted by the Media and Graphics Interdisciplinary Centre Lab of UBC and GRAND NCE. This opportunity was brought to our attention by Dr. Siobhán McElduff, Associate Professor in the CNERS Department, who is currently serving as the Interim Director at MAGIC and whose support has been instrumental in getting our project off the ground.

As a humanities student, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, having never presented a business canvas in my life. More to the point, we have honestly not been thinking of our project as a business. We are primarily concerned with making the information in our teaching collections readily available to the public free of charge. However, the I3 Challenge sounded interesting and we went in thinking it would be good experience in presenting our work to an audience outside of the Classical, Near Eastern and Religious Studies department. I signed up and started to quietly panic about how to create an appropriate pitch for the judges.

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The criteria for the challenge was to:

submit a 2 page business model canvas (essentially a graphic representation/presentation) of an idea and innovation and road map to inaugurate the idea and innovation into a product, service, business, etc. Present a 5-minute pitch of the idea and innovation before a panel of judges drawn from the digital media and investment communities.

We’ve had fundraising events, and have some promotional products available on Zazzle, but this was an entirely different beast. So I started thinking about potential ideas for a product that would be relevant to our project, which – when you’re dealing with digital epigraphy, has a somewhat limited audience – would be commercially viable and interesting to a wide range of people. I realized that one of the major roadblocks to presenting our work outside of classical field is the disconnect most of us have in fully understanding how history is reconstructed. Working with our epigraphy collection over the last 2 years has given me my first real appreciation for how painstakingly difficult it can be to piece together a coherent historical narrative from the fragmented documents we are able to recover, whether they are stone inscriptions, papyrus fragments, codices, or mere mentions and quotations of earlier works in surviving manuscripts.

I thought a strong visual component would be most helpful in presenting this concept to a broader audience, and started thinking about a mobile app focused on the Athenian Empire as represented in the Athenian Tribute Lists, which is the major component of our squeeze collection and the legacy of UBC’s own Dr. Malcolm McGregor. This period represents the birth of democracy and the most famous philosophers and playwrights, and gives the general public a familiar entry point to a deeper discussion of how historians, classicists and philologists work together towards an understanding of the past.

Eg: Solvapps' World History Timeline

Eg: Solvapps’ World History Timeline

We envision a final product that allows users to play a timeline showing the growth and contraction of the allied network over time but also to search by city-state to see the duration and nature of their relationship to Athens or by tributes and commodities paid to the Athenians to better understand the resources and economy of the period and region. There would also be information on the festival calendar of Athens, as tributes were collected during the City Dionysia, and this would allow us to incorporate information the on playwrights, plays and religious festivals that garner the most interest from the non-specialist. Users would gain an appreciation for how historical evidence is gathered, deciphered and reconstructed through an interactive website that provides context and clear visualization of the epigraphic evidence of the Athenian empire. Our app would include the option for users to choose their level of familiarity with the material, with more in-depth information available as desired.

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In the end, the presentation was well received by the panel and the audience even though I was one of the few who had presented a mere idea instead of a fully realized product ready to market like some of the other presentations – all of which were fascinating, I have to say. It was an enlightening event and showcased the ingenuity and ambition of some of UBC’s students. In the end, most of us were invited to use the resources of MAGIC and GRAND in getting our projects off the ground; they have offered everything from lab access to market analysis to technological help.

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I have to take a moment to thank the extremely supportive CNERS Department faculty who showed up to hear the presentations – Dr. Kevin Fisher, Dr. Gwynaeth McIntyre, Dr. Lisa Cooper, Dr. Lynn Welton, Dr. Franco De Angelis, Dr. Dietmar Neufeld –  and my partner in project-management crime, Chelsea Gardner. We were the only humanities department represented at the challenge, and ours was the only department that came out en masse to support the event. Special thanks also goes to Dr. Siobhán McElduff for encouraging us to apply in the first place and for leading the way in interdisciplinary collaboration. Having such great support from our faculty is half the reason we have been able to push this project as far as we have, and we can’t thank you all enough.


By Lisa Tweten

 

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DIY DH: Professional Results on a Budget

In January, we selected team member Patricia Taylor to take over digitization of the artifact collection. Since then, she has tagged and numbered the entire collection, started work on the database, set up proper storage of the artifacts, had the entire collection professionally photographed, and has even found time to test out some 3D modelling software. Here are a few highlights of her work, and details on how she’s managed to do so much on an extremely tight budget.

Trish made a lightbox using a tutorial we found online using a cardboard box, some white tissue paper and a sheet of white poster paper. The cost for this was only a few dollars, and provided us with a simple solution to our photography needs.

Simple DIY lightbox and natural light.

Simple DIY lightbox and natural light.

We have to thank our photographer Jessica Matteazzi who is currently studying Digital Graphic Design at Vancouver Community College. She photographed the entire collection with Trish in a single five hour session, and we are extremely pleased with the results of her work. We have a relatively small but diverse collection, as you can see from the photos below:

Medieval glazed pottery

Medieval glazed pottery

Egyptian amulets and beads

Egyptian amulets and beads

Ceramic lamps from the ancient Near East

Ceramic lamps from the ancient Near East

We are hoping to get the searchable database up and running early this summer and getting high-quality photographs of the collection was the first step to realizing that goal.

We are also looking at having virtual 3D models of the artifacts; this will enable a more comprehensive look at the artifacts for anyone who wishes to study the collection in more detail than photographs provide. Trish has done some test models of a souvenir lamp (not one from our collection) with 123D Catch, which is a free application that is user-friendly and easy to learn.

While we would love to purchase 3D modeling software in the future, 123D Catch is a great interim program that yields very good results and has given us a basic understanding of how to go about creating virtual 3D models.

UBC CNERS Artifact Colleciton

UBC CNERS Artifact Colleciton

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Filed under Artifacts, Digital Classics, DIY, photography