Cross-platform software

Wrestling Pythons, Blending Grass and Proofing Papers

Today has been a pretty normal day in my current archaeological life. I am in the final year of my PhD and so have been battling away infront of a laptop (like many others) trying to make sense of archaeological data and say something new and interesting about the past.

I am lucky in that I live in Cambridge, and so had a lovely cycle ride this morning across the meadows, past the cows, to install myself into the Cambridge University Library (UL). This is one of the joys of being a student in the UK, even though I am doing my PhD at UCL in London I am more than welcome to come and use the library in Cambridge for free which is not only great for books – it also has an excellent tea room.

Bronze Age Huts in QGIS

My PhD is on the Bronze Age hut settlements on Bodmin Moor, I am using Augmented Reality to examine the locations of the huts and how they fit into the landscape. This involves a lot of GIS work and also some 3D modelling. I have a lovely GIS dataset of the Bronze Age hut locations and a pretty decent elevation model. When out in the field archaeologists use quite few tools, but the trowel is probably the most useful. When in front of the computer archaeologists also use a lot of tools – today I was using the Python framework to script a way to get GRASS data into blender so that I could load virtual models of the huts into Unity3D to view them in my ARK database to then finally use Vuforia and Unity3D to display it in the real world. Today my most useful tool is Textmate.

Bodmin Moor in blender

Basically what I am trying to do is import 2D GIS data into a 3D gaming engine, that I can then use to explore the data and (using Augmented Reality) ‘overlay’ that onto the real world. The important thing is to ensure the spatial coordinates are preserved when it is imported into the gaming engine – otherwise the on-site GPS location won’t work during the Aug. Reality stage. So the distances, heights and topography seen int he gaming engine representation are as close to the real world as possible (at least the real as modelled in the GIS!). To keep track of the huts and their associated data I have been using the ARK database system (created by Day of Archaeology sponsors  L – P : Archaeology). ARK brings all of the various bits together  – data from the literature, basic dimensions of the huts, spatial data and also the 3D representation. I’ve been getting some pretty good results from my experiments and seem to have cracked the workflow – I’ll put up a proper walkthrough on my blog once the script is all sorted out as I think it will probably be pretty useful for others to see and use. In the meantime I have made a very small screencast to show the huts within ARK and Unity – which I think it pretty cool. For those of a techy bent, ARK is sending the Unity3D plugin the id of the hut currently being viewed and Unity is then figuring out where that hut is in the virtual world and placing the ‘player’ inside it.

Wow that was all a bit techy – sorry about that!

So as promised in the title of the post then – here is a link to some wrestling pythons…

and someone blending grass..

and the paper proofing is a bit more boring…

Today I also approved the final author proofs of an article on my research that is going to be published in Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. Apparently when they have made my suggested corrections (c. 1 week) it should be available at:  for people who have personal or institutional subscriptions to the journal, very exciting!

Right back to the coding… only an hour before I get chucked out of the library.


A Polar Bear at the Tower and a whole lotta Moodle – a normal day in the IoA.

It’s just another Polar Bear at the Tower…

Today is an odd day for me and one I can only enjoy in the relative peace of the summer months when all the students are away on fieldwork and the folk at UCAS have stopped sending applications to us.  I’ve spent the morning in a meeting with Dale Copely at the Fusiliers Museum in the Tower of London.  The Fusiliers Museum have taken on one of our Museum Masters students (from 2010-2011) and are offering to take another, on a voluntary basis, during the 2011-2012 academic year.  A large number of other London Museums, including the British Museum, V&A and the Museum of London also take on Masters students (and some undergrads) throughout the year.  This means more meetings next week at the Florence Nightingale Museum, Horniman, Operating Theatre Museum and the London Fire Brigade Museum.  These meetings are a pleasure, and a great chance to meet with a wide range of Museum Professionals: as well as satisfying my geeky love of all the wonderful London Museums! 

My normal work, and in fact the way I will spend the rest of my day, includes a range of administrative tasks – reading and processing UCAS forms (come October), sorting fieldwork grant applications, creating statistical reports (spreadsheets / graphs) for entry and application figures, running open days and visiting schools as part of UCL’s outreach programme. Today I’ll be uploading and processing photographs from the Festival of British Archaeology Day held on Wednesday, photos from my visit to the Tower today (some of which may be used on the IoAs website and the continuation of my project to collect and collate photos from our large student body for use in the Institute’s promotional material, on the Fieldwork Website and on the Twitter (@IoA_UCL_Friends) and Facebook accounts – both of which I am responsible for updating and maintaining.  

Festival of British Archaeology 2011 Swanscombe Flint

This afternoon I also have meetings with our Faculty adviser Cristy, regarding the A-Level results day (just a few weeks away now), and a potential applicant for the Archaeology BA degree in 2012.  It is 11 years since I did my undergraduate degree in Archaeology, a fact I always share with these applicants and every time I say it I hear the shock in my voice!  These meetings with applicants always include a tour of the IoA culminating in a viewing of our ‘Wolfson Archaeological Sciences’ plaque with Harrison Ford’s name on – a highlight of the tour for me (at the very least) and hopefully them as well.  It will be a sad day for me and the IoA when the applicant hasn’t heard of Indiana Jones.


Glorious UCL!!!

 I’m up to item number 105 on my to-do list (1-104 are satisfyingly ticked off – another advantage of the summer quiet!) – it reads ‘Moodle’ – it seems this afternoon will also be spent uploading handbooks / timetables and further information to the Moodle website – the job I put off the longest and usually the job that takes the least amount of time…well, let’s hope so anyway!  Sometimes I miss digging and the more practical aspects of Archaeology (not really so much this year with the horrific weather), and I do still get out in the field when I can, in fact I just bought myself a new 4” WHS trowel on my way back to the IoA today – just to be ready for anything…! 

Charlotte Frearson, Institute of Archaeology UCL: Undergraduate Administrator / Fieldwork Administrator / Museum Placement Coordinator.