VR

A day of Egyptian temple reconstruction……

I want to outline a little backstory before I get to my day. For the past five months I’ve been working on the reconstruction of the 2000 year old temple unearthed in el-Hibeh, Egypt as part of my Master’s of Digital Media research project. Only the lower third of the temple was relatively intact, so a large portion of the reconstruction has involved extrapolating from research into Egyptian architecture (with helpful guidance from my supervisors; Michael Carter, and Jean Li). There was a German expedition led by Hermann Ranke in 1914 that photographed and documented what remained of the temple at the time. This information has been the foundation for my work (in addition to books by Arnold, Wilkinson, et al).

A recent photo of the temple site at el-Hibeh

Initial construction of the temple.

Now back to my day….which began earlier….at 6:00am. When I rolled out of bed I went straight to my computer to check my e-mail. I was excited to find updates from the entire team in my inbox (I’ve been fortunate to have assembled a small group of highly talented CG artists to help me in the final push). I was happy to find the latest models from Sean Zhang. He has been working on building the digital avatars for the temple’s priests.

My initial sketch, and Sean’s blocking of the avatar.

Joe Chao, had sent me a finished model of the sanctuary’s barque.

And Carlos Santos sent me progression of the surrounding environment, including the mud brick wall that encircled the temple.

After finishing the e-mails and rushing to leave the house, I was off to Ryerson University where I’ve been doing a large portion of the digital work. I spent the majority of the day bringing the main temple into the Unreal Engine. A large portion of the time involved a lot of double checking naming structures in Autodesk’s Maya, and problem solving (I’m relatively new to Unreal….so there’s a bit of a learning curve).

I noticed issues with the floor blocks (which I’ve been toiling over). I think this is caused by the way the game engine handles occlusion, which is making the floor look like a quilt. Hopefully, I don’t have to fully rethink my approach. Regardless of the small setback it’s still a milestone for me, as it signifies the beginning of the final stage….VR testingJ

 

For more information please check out the official Hibeh Project site at: http://www.hibeh.org

 

And for updates on the reconstruction process, check out my para-data blog at: https://elhibeh.blog

Sustaining the practice of archaeology in Ontario, Canada

This is our 3rd year participating in Day of Archaeology, and we are excited, once again, to be joining our colleagues in this virtual space to share with you some of the diverse experiences archaeologists have over the course of a regular day.

This year, we want to focus on the sorts of technology we have available here at Sustainable Archaeology: Western University. Most of the equipment in our new facility is for non-destructive image capture and analysis: 3D scanners, 3D printer, digital x-ray, microCT scanner, etc. We are fortunate, as archaeologists, to have a single location with dedicated access to equipment such as this! On any given day, several pieces of equipment will be in use by different researchers. Today, a couple of a staff members – Hillary and Heather – have been working on chipping away the outer “envelope” of a 3D printed cuneiform tablet to reveal the inner tablet for the first time in over 4,000 years! But to explain how we got to this point, let’s start from the beginning.

Cuneiiform tablet_small

Sustainable Archaeology was built adjacent to the Museum of Ontario Archaeology in London, Ontario, Canada. The Museum houses a variety of collections, predominantly from Ontario but there are some international antiquities that were acquired by the mid-20th century curator of the Museum, including a small collection of cuneiform tablets. One of those tablets was suspected to be an Old Babylonian “envelope” tablet – a cuneiform tablet nested inside of a cuneiform tablet. But how to tell without breaking the tablet open? Sustainable Archaeology had a solution – we scanned the tablet in the microCT scanner. Sure enough, there was evidence that another tablet was enfolded within the outer layer of clay – and it appeared to have cuneiform writing on it as well!

cuneiform envelope 009_mCT

With microCT imaging software, VG Studio, Hillary painstakingly ‘excavated’, or peeled-off, the outer layer of clay. This was a tricky process, because CT images differentiate material based on the density of voxels in a 3D dimensional space – metal, for instance, is much more dense and thus appears much ‘whiter’ than wood. But the clay ‘envelope’ was the same density as the enclosed clay tablet – so selecting which voxels to digitally peel-away from the region of interest was a labour intensive process. Hillary was able to do this because there was a slight void between the clay surfaces. This lead us to an idea – if we 3D printed the tablet, would the void still be intact? In which case, wouldn’t we be able to break the outer tablet off of the inner tablet?

So for our second experiment, we did just that. We digitally cut the cuneiform tablet in half, so we could see the inside structure(s), and we we printed off that cuneiform half on the 3D printer. Sure enough, the void was there – but it was very thin. In order to create more void space – an area that would be filled with printer powder but no binder would be laid down – we scaled up the size of the tablet to double its original size. Then we printed it off and got to work chipping off the external ‘envelope’ – to reveal a clear, sharp cuneiform surface on the embedded tablet. Success!

tablet_excavating

tablet_excavated

 

We are constantly envisioning ways that the equipment we have here at SA can complement one another. Colin is next door in the Collaboration Room with the Virtual Reality equipment. He is working on an application that allows us to digitally pick up, move, throw and stack digital assets that we’ve scanned on our 3D scanners (such as pots!) within a virtual reality space. This way, as you are immersed within a virtual reconstruction of a Lawson site longhouse, such as that created by Western PhD candidate Michael Carter, while wearing a set of 3D goggles such as Oculus Rift of HTC Vive, you will also be able to digitally engage with objects within that virtual space.

For more information on what we do at Sustainable Archaeology, check out our website at www.sustainablearchaeology.org. You can also follow us on Instagram @sustarchaeology or Twitter @SustArchaeology.