I study anthropology at UBA (Argentina), and work in a museum as an archaeology technician. I am concerned with computer assisted design and its application in archaeological research and outreach, as 3D reconstruction of findings as well as excavation surfaces.

A day in a museum worker’s life…

This is what a regular working day in my life is like. Of course, it is a premeditated and embellished version of it.

I work in the Historical Museum of La Matanza, a highly populated county in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina; the museum is located about 40 km away from the capital city of Buenos Aires. (Confusingly, the city is not actually in the province of the same name despite being nearby.)

Diferent views of the museum and its park…

My working day starts with the ritual of drinking mate and having something delicious to eat with my colleagues at the Museum. While having mate (this could last one hour or even more) we set up the everyday stuff that makes a Museum run such as checking the mail and social media inboxes, booking or canceling visits, opening the doors of the exhibition rooms, photocopying hand-outs for the visitors, checking the classrooms for the activities that would start in the next hours, and so on.

Some days, only if the group who has booked a visit has requested it, I guide visitors through the paleontology exhibit. I have been doing these tours for a year, but I still feel like every guided visit is my first one. The paleo-visit consists of a short video with the former curator explaining how fossils are extracted, transported, and finally preserved in the museum. Right after that, I check in with the visitors about what they absorbed, and recap some of the important points. Then we go see the fossils themselves. Every group is different, so this is more exciting for some visitors than others. I find it challenging to set a teaching pace that feels comfortable for everyone, including me, but most of the time it turns out just fine! The visit can last 20-40 minutes, depending on the group’s engagement in it.

paleo-visit

Pre-school students looking at the skull of a Macrauchenia sp. currently in exhibition.

When I’m not guiding a group, I might be doing some not-archaeology related activity under request by others. However, I always get some time to do archaeology business. On some occasions, visitors ask for a talk about archaeology, so I perform a presentation and a show them some artifacts. Other times, I get time to research the collections behind the scenes. Lately I have been sorting a prehispanic pottery assemblage, and I expect to be able to include information about about it in tours next year. Last year I analyzed a sample of floor-tiles from a 19th century archaeological site and was invited to give a public presentation in a neighboring county about concealed objects from the same site.

Sherds from Puente 12, also known as Ezeiza or Tres Ombúes.

Outside work, I sometimes travel to Buenos Aires city to meet fellow students and colleagues with whom I’m working on the three-dimensional modelling of faunal remains for educational purposes. What we do, in a nutshell, is: select specimens from the comparative collection, take photos, process the photos in PPT-GUI (here’s a previous contribution on this topic and the software) and discuss whether it is suitable for research and education or not. Read more on the Limay team blog under the tag “Arqueofaunas digitales” (in Spanish only).

Trying to photograph a bone with a wite-ish background may not be the best idea, FYI.

That is all folks… for now… 

Cheers! 

Exploring digital tools for the virtual reconstruction of findings, excavation surfaces and other archaeological records

My name’s Daniela, I’m 29 and I live in Virrey del Pino, a suburban neighbourhood in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina. I work in the public sector as a technician in the Historical Museum of La Matanza (HMLM). My job consists in taking up excavations and planning outreach activities, sometimes it includes speaking in public events. I’ve dug some areas in the Museum backyard (“El Pino” site) and also in another site near it (“La Elvira” site) , so if you want to see pictures of them check out our Archaeology Lab Facebook Page and its Blog (both in Spanish).

Well, the title preaches “Exploring digital tools…”, and that means that what I’m going to write about is the use of photographs  for reconstructing objects and surfaces, which is what we’ve been doing recently (let’s call it “a project”). It should be mention that exploring this technique was Marcelo Vitores‘ idea.  I wasn’t sure it would worth it, but he insisted. And he was right! The results we obtained were really good.

from photos to 3d model

From photos to 3d model

Budget and curiosity were the motivation for exploring this “tool”. As almost any archaeologist in the Third World, we couldn’t buy a laser scanner because of the limited budget, but we thought we should find a way to make the most out of our existing equipment. Then curiosity made its part, by leading us through the exciting road of image-base modelling (IBM). There are different options within IBM, but the one we used is structure-from-motion (SFM). In simple words, it’s a method for obtaining a 3D cloudpoint, which consist of a .ply file where the recognized features (points) from the photos are displayed in 3D.  The resulting pointcloud can be used to create a 3D model. This means that with only a digital camera and a computer/laptop we could get similar results to those of laser scanning. For processing the photos we used Phyton Photogrammetry Toolbox and for editing the pointcloud we used Meshlab. See more pictures in this Facebook album and also in these Blog posts, or browse the models in 3D in Sketchfab.

Many archaeologists and cultural heritage professionals are including SFM in their activities. Besides the uses for public outreach, having the 3D models allows you to measure, section, compare, etc. If you take the time to record every level excavated (and I’m sure it’s something you already do), you can build a sequence of surfaces, like the layers in a cake. Here’s a sample of our models. In this case, I used archived photos of an excavation and I obtained the model shown in the link (since I couldn’t embed the model here’s a picture of it; visit the link to navigate the model in 3D).

3D model out of archived photos (from the regular excavation recordings)

3D model out of archived photos (from the regular excavation recordings)

This was my contribution to the Day of Archaeology 2014.  I tried to keep it short, but if you want to read more about IBM and SFM here are some links:

Happy Day of Archaeology!

Daniela N. Ávido