Tywardreath

Medieval Priories, Medieval Stones, Historic Photos, and Deep Dreaming

This week has been a busy week. Last Sunday I volunteered for the Tywardreath Priory open day as part of the Festival of British Archaeology. I am one of the archaeologists on the team in the early planning stages of a community archaeology project. It aims to search for, research, and excavate the site of Tywardreath Priory, a Benedictine priory established in the second half of the 11th century. We know the rough area where the priory ought to be, but very little is known for certain.

The open day was very successful, with over 100 visitors to the farm in the village. My role was to explain something of the history and wider landscape context of the site, and to demonstrate LiDAR data to show how the estuary had silted up, cutting off the Priory’s access to the sea.

Tom Goskar demonstrating LiDAR and landscape archaeology at the Tywardreath Priory open day. Photo by Josh Taylor.

Tom Goskar demonstrating LiDAR and landscape archaeology at the Tywardreath Priory open day. Photo by Josh Taylor.

I also showed some 3D captures of decorated medieval stonework taken from the Priory and now situated in the nearby churchyard, and how we can enhance the data to show the decorations more clearly.

For the first half of the week I have switched gear to working with historic photos. I looked at the wonderful glass lantern slides of an excavation at Magor Farm near Redruth in Cornwall during the 1930s held at the Morrab Library in Penzance. They have a fantastic archaeology collection which they hope to digitise later this year if a funding application is successful, which I will be helping with if all goes well.

Being a self-employed archaeologist it pays to widen your horizons to gain work. I’ve been honing my web technology skills and am building a website to host a collection of over 25,000 historic photos, films and audio recordings from around Cornwall. It’s going to be a great resource, complete with ways to get data out of the site in interesting ways. Lots of archaeologists are going to find it useful for desk-based research, not to mention local historians and societies.

And today, the Day of Archaeology itself, has seen me mainly writing and researching. I have an article deadline coming up for my work on 3D capture and enhancement of early medieval sculpture at Gulval near Penzance which I am co-writing with Prof. Michelle Brown an expert in early medieval manuscripts.

Earlier in the day I had a phone call from Prof. Charles Thomas to discuss some work we have done recently on the early medieval ‘Ignioc Stone’ at St Clement near Truro. We’re using 3D techniques to try to see if the accepted transcription of the inscription is correct and to see if the data can help us understand better how this tall stone was reshaped and repurposed.

As a distraction amidst writing and planning a trip to London next week to visit the Society of Antiquaries library, I have been playing with Google’s Deep Dream neural network visualisation (or perhaps, hallucination) engine. It shares some code used by Google Photos to identify the content of photographs (in itself interesting for curators of historic photographs) and produces very strange results as it recursively tries to identify then display what it ‘sees’. A riot of colourful psychedelic nonsense, or an exercise in the study of perception applicable to shamanism, hallucinogenic states and rock art? You choose. For fun, here’s one of the trilithons at Stonehenge like you’ve never seen before.

Stonehenge trilithon visualised with the Google Deep Dream neural art network.

Stonehenge trilithon visualised with the Google Deep Dream neural art network.