Rescue Archaeology in Egypt and Digital Image Analysis

I kicked the day off here in TOPOI Haus, Freie Universität Berlin, with further preparations for a planned joint rescue archaeology mission in Aswan, Egypt, early next year. Egypt has been facing very challenging times and while thdeske looting of Egypt’s cultural heritage is horrific, it pales in comparison to the economic hardship and other woes people are enduring in their-to-day lives up and down the Nile Valley. So while in the short term, planning future fieldwork is filled with uncertainty, I am pressing forward in the hopes that things will improve. My heart goes out to my Egyptian colleagues and friends today especially, with more rival rallies being held and resolution seeming rather far off.

This afternoon I shifted gears and continued with analysis of Reflectance Transformation Imaging data. I am finishing up some loose ends from my Marie Curie COFUND fellowship project on inscribed and decorated objects from early Egypt and Southern Mesopotamia. I am re-processing some images to see if I can improve the visualisation of surfaces with self-shadowing problems and preparing digital illustrations of others.

In tandem with this work, I am annotating my processing and digital epigraphy workflows in a training document in preparation for an RTI training workshop I am organising for TOPOI affiliates (similar to the fantastic training Cultural Heritage Imaging ran for us last year). I also had a couple of phone and email exchanges with folks from the Cologne Center for eHumanities (CCeH). They are interested in following up a digital imaging workshop I co-delivered a few weeks ago with a project applying RTI to lead curse tablets in various collections around the world – an exciting prospect!


A day of archaeological geomatics

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle in flight.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle in flight.
Image © Callen Lenz

Well, firstly, I can’t believe it’s been a year since last time! Doesn’t time fly? What’s happened since then I hear you cry? I’m still the Geomatics Manager for Wessex Archaeology, responsible for GIS and Survey. The big news is my desk is now paper free and I’m trying to keep to a paperless work regime, essential seeing as most of my workspace is taken up with computer equipment, leaving no room for unnecessary clutter. In the photo you can see not only my laptop but the recently rebuilt GISBEAST machine with it’s quad cores, 64-bit OS and 12Gb RAM, tooled up with all the software I need to do what I do. (more…)

The best laid plans…

Well, following on from my previous post, my Day of Archaeology turned out to be rather different than planned. This is certainly not an unusual occurrence; working in archaeological computing in a commercial environment, all manner of things can crop up and cause the most carefully planned day to head off in another direction altogether.

Firstly, my LiDAR data didn’t arrive so that bit went out of the window. And a whole bunch of meetings were convened, so a big chunk of the day was spent planning upcoming projects and working on management topics. I did end up doing a bit of survey support, preparing some survey instruments for the following weeks work and helping one of the Wessex Archaeology fieldwork teams with a GNSS problem they were having. I also devoted some time to preparing a submission for a metric survey project which will include some Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS) and some Polynomial Texture Mapping (PTM), a form of Reflectance Transformance Imaging (RTI). I also looked at the final specifications for another TLS project due to start fieldwork imminently. TLS is rapidly becoming the most efficient and cost effective means of capturing 3D metric data for recording and analysis of archaeological sites, structures and landscapes and one aspect of my job is managing such projects. I also currently do much of the processing, analysis and visualisation work on the resulting point clouds (and watch out for some videos of previous projects coming soon to the Wessex Archaeology Computing Blog).

A colour orthographic image of a castle, produced directly from Terrestrial Laser Scan data

A colour orthographic image of a castle, produced directly from Terrestrial Laser Scan data

But by far the best part of the day was spent doing one of my favourite activities: Systems design and development. I am currently building an integrated GIS & database application for managing and interpreting marine geophysics data. As with any good software application, it needs to effectively support the processes applied by the users, in this case the marine geophysics team. The data structure needs to be based around a solid and robust model of the information recorded; it needs to record not only the raw and interpreted data but the necessary Quality Assurance and metadata needed for analysis and reporting. I do enjoy this kind of work as it is creative and logical at the same time and to get it right, one needs to understand the detail and nuances of the processes being developed for, a good opportunity to find out more about different areas of archaeology (I have previously developed context recording systems for archaeological fieldwork, diver recording systems for marine archaeology and a variety of recording and analysis systems to support projects such as Environmental Impact Assessments and Conservation Management Plans).

My evening was indeed spent as planned finishing off a paper for publication. Whilst my main interest is in archaeological spatial technologies, I also have research interests in the application and development of data standards, thesauri and ontologies. My paper was based on how these various strands are coming together to support and arguably change the way in which archaeological theory is formulated, giving archaeologists the tools to discover information more easily and then develop more data driven theoretical assertions.

So a little bit different to what I had planned but I do hope still of interest to some.