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!




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 You can also follow us on Instagram @sustarchaeology or Twitter @SustArchaeology.

Ted Levermore: A Day in the Finds Department

A close-up of gloved hands using a toothbrush to clean a find

Finds washing


Got everyone to start washing finds. A big site has just finished so we’ve got plenty of hands on deck today. Hopefully we’ll get through some of our backlog! Some of the steadier handed of the group were asked to wash a skeleton.


Our new plastic boxes arrived. We had to order some long and flat boxes to fit our more awkward sized metal artefacts.


Organising finds that have come back from specialists to be reintegrated into our archives. And organising pottery to go off to various specialists. I wonder how much archaeology navigates its way through the postal service each day?


Still organising finds for specialists.


Took some photos of artefacts for the manager. Top secret photos of top secret finds. Assigning unique numbers to boxes of finds that have been processed, which are now waiting to be looked at by specialists. Fire up the database!


Finally done, just in time for lunch.


Found a bunch of other things to sort. Now it’s lunchtime.


Discussed a possible timetable for processing the finds for one of our massive sites. We might have it processed in a couple of months if we’re lucky! We’ve got so much on it doesn’t seem likely…


Boxing up and packaging metalwork fresh from site using silica gel and airtight boxes to begin desiccation. Once stable the metalwork can be sent off to specialists.


The pot washers have been so efficient they’ve almost run out space on the drying racks for the newly washed finds.


Tidying up and working out what needs doing next week. To do list written. Looks like it’ll be much of the same!


Ted Levermore is a Finds Assistant Supervisor at Oxford Archaeology’s East office in Cambridge. For more information about Oxford Archaeology and our post-excavation artefact research and conservation services, visit our website:

‘Vesuvius, fare well until my return.’ A Non-Invasive Archaeological Research Project on the Shops of Roman Pompeii.

Via delle Scuole, Pompeii looking towards Mt Vesuvius. Copyright Sera Baker.

Via delle Scuole streetscape in Region 8, Pompeii looking towards Mt Vesuvius. Copyright Sera Baker, 2016.

Vesuvius and I have a little one-to-one chat each time I visit Pompeii in southern Italy. It’s the first thing and the last thing I do on every fieldwork and research visit. Without Vesuvius I couldn’t be the archaeologist and researcher that I am. 

As a Roman archaeologist specialising in socio-cultural and economic examinations of ancient Pompeii and the early Roman Empire I have visited the ancient city countless times in the past 15 years. I feel like I know the city like the back of my hand: entering at the Porta Marina gate, sharing greetings with the Pompeii superintendency staff and custodians who I haven’t seen in a number of months or years, climbing the steep Via Marina road leading into the city that widens into the city as you arrive at the forum. Turn left and it’s the backdrop to the Capitoline Triad temple remains: Mt Vesuvius, the volcano that catastrophically destroyed and preserved the Roman city, a small town that wasn’t of particular great importance in the Roman Empire. The violent eruption of AD 79 had a myriad of consequences, covering the city in several metres of ash and pumice after a 24 hour long bombardment and killing those who had not escaped the city and burying the contents of their homes, businesses, religious sites and theatres entirely.

Nearly two thousand years later the city was ‘rediscovered’ (although it had never properly been lost) under the Bourbon rulers of Naples in 1748. Ten years earlier the ancient city of Herculaneum had been found and the fever of antiquarianism was rising. Excavation revealed surprisingly familiar aspects of an ancient civilisation: statuary, belongings, homes, and so on. Despite early use of backfilling, a practice in which materials excavated, such as soil, are returned to the opened areas, Pompeii eventually became the open air museum that we understand it as today. But don’t be fooled. This isn’t a city frozen in time. Since Day 1 of its burial the site has been subject to a slow, natural decomposition in addition to destruction carried out by humans, both in antiquity and from 1748 onwards.

My research, mostly carried out as part of a PhD degree, focuses upon the lesser studied shops and workshops, also known as tabernae, which fronted many of the homes along major arteries in the city. These small structures are important because they tell us about what everyday life was like for non-elite Romans, slaves and freedmen (ex-slaves) in terms of where they worked, their trades and crafts, their eating and drinking habits, and, in a few cases, where they may have lived. An insight into Roman shops at Pompeii provides an understanding of population, society, culture, urban planning, trade, and commerce. It also tells us quite a lot about the impact of war and Roman colonisation, slavery, migration, patronage, art, neighbourhood development and industrialisation across the city.


A bakery retrofitted into a two storey house (8.4.27), left, and a shop for bread (8.4.26), right. Another shop (8.4.25), far right. Copyright Sera Baker, 2016.

A bakery retrofitted into a two storey house (8.4.27), left, and a shop for bread (8.4.26), right. Another shop (8.4.25), far right. Copyright Sera Baker, 2016.

In light of city’s size, I have chosen to work in a quarter known today as Region 8, just south of the forum and Via dell’Abbondanza, close to the two theatres of the Entertainment District, and bordered by the city wall and the Porta Marina and Porta Stabia gates. Most tourists to the city will walk by my shops without noticing their presence or their importance to the city, although they might notice the shops with counters looking like taverns. The majority of the 93 shops in this area are small structures under four rooms in total. Some are directly connected to the elite houses (popularly known as villas, but correctly identified as domus) that were owned by families of local political importance who also maintained commercial interests, which is in contrast to incorrect 19th & 20th century views that Roman elites avoided direct trade and monetary dealings.

One particular aspect of shops is a favourite of mine: the architecture. Quite a lot of my time is spent at my desk in England analysing field research carried out site and the architecture is often the most revealing because 18th & 19th century excavation records rarely include recordings of finds from the shops despite being rich sources of materials and decorated buildings in their own right. Archaeologists often refer to this type of analysis as non-invasive research’ because it doesn’t require further excavation and damage to ancient structures and landscapes. Pompeii is an excellent site to carry out this type of approach because the wealth of material and speed of early excavations means that much remains to be interpreted from exposed buildings and their contents. It is quite a lot like putting a massive puzzle back together when you don’t have an entire understanding of what that puzzle is meant to be.

To keep track of the extensive number of photographs, plans, archival records and my own analysis findings I developed a digital database (along with some generous assistance from Derek Littlewood, @eggboxderek). I love reading the walls for the information that they provide, with or without their finished decoration, revealing building phases and additions, and most importantly telling archaeologists about reconstruction following the seismic activity, including earthquakes, leading up to the fatal eruption in AD 79. Even details such as the simple thresholds set within shop doorways are thrilling: I can understand how and when these doorways and their doors operated, learn about Roman carpentry and locks and take part in scholarly debates around differences between mezzanines and upper floors and why their different terminology and definitions affect their use.


Database, Tabernae of Roman Pompeii. A working example. Copyright Sera Baker, 2016. No use without permission.

Database record for 8.4.27, The tabernae of Roman Pompeii: shops & workshops of Region VIII. A working example. Copyright Sera Baker, 2016. No use without permission.

And while my PhD research isn’t a group project, I depend on the regular exchanges of ideas and discussion of new developments at Pompeii with a number of other researchers. Some of the especially important individuals, projects, and publications, that have impacted my area of research in the recent past include Dr Joanne Berry, Drs Steven Ellis and Eric Poehler of the Pompeii Archaeological Research Project: Porta Stabia, Dr Sophie Hay (@pompei79), and many, many others.

Sera Baker is currently completing a PhD at The University of Nottingham, UK. She enjoys discussing Roman archaeology on her Twitter feed, @seraecbaker. To learn more about Pompeii take a look at the official archaeological website from the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Pompei, Ercolano e Stabia (English & Italian; for most complete information use the Italian site).

Kate Brady: Post-Excavation and Photography

My name is Kate Brady and I am a Project Officer in the Post-Excavation (PX) department at Oxford Archaeology.

My job varies greatly from day to day (one of the reasons I enjoy it so much). Hopefully this blog post will give you a flavour of what I do on a typical day.

Thursday 28th July 2016


After coffee and emails my first task is always to plan how I will complete my task for the day I have four ongoing projects at the moment and I am also in charge of photography at the unit so at the moment I have several things to keep track of.

People at their desks at work

Some of my colleagues in the PX department at Oxford Archaeology South, Oxford.

9.30am – 11.30am

This morning I am writing the discussion section for the report on excavations at Brasenose College in Oxford. The site revealed evidence of the use of the site before the construction of the current College building so I have been consulting maps and documents to match up our evidence from plans and section drawings of the site and the pottery we collected, dated by our in-house specialist John Cotter, with the documented use of the site. Because the pottery is in several cases dateable to the space of a few decades, and the development of the site in the post-medieval period is fairly well documented, I can piece together this evidence to tell a story of how the site developed. Having said that, there are still a few questions, such as why was there such a large dump of German drinking vessels recovered? John and I discuss some ideas about this and I think about how I’m going to present the possible explanations in my report. When I’m formulating the discussion of a report like this I usually print out site plans and maps and scribble all over them. Although we now routinely use CAD and GIS to overlay site plans on maps and analyse our data, I still often use this old fashioned method initially as I find it helps clarify my ideas as I’m thinking them through. The results of these scribbles will later be presented in a much more professional way, you’ll be pleased to hear.

Plans, ruler, keyboard and pen on a desk

My desk!


Several of my Colleagues in PX are specialists in certain categories of finds and John Cotter, who sits just along from me often shows me particularly interesting things that come in for him to look at. John is a specialist in medieval and post-medieval pottery and also clay tobacco pipes, and I’ve learnt a lot just sitting nearby. Today a complete medieval crucible was brought back from one of our sites in Oxford. The project manager has asked for a spot-date. John says he thinks it is 12th century in date and the best example every found in Oxford. I always feel so lucky to get to see all these things as they come in.

Hands holding a 12th Century crucible

A 12th Century crucible

11.30am- 1pm

I continued with my discussion writing for the rest of the morning, occasionally answering questions about what cameras are available for use on upcoming sites and about plans for me to go out and photograph sites next week. We have lots of sites on at the moment so I’m busy in that respect.

1.30pm – 3pm

For the first part of this afternoon the PX department gathered together for a departmental meeting which we usually have bi-monthly to keep us all informed of what work we will be doing next and what projects are now moving into the PX phase. I found out I’ll be working on the report for a Roman site we excavated in Aylesbury and that a monograph I co-wrote on a project we completed in Bristol will soon be published. My programme is full for the rest of the year so I’m happy that I’ll be kept busy.

3 pm – 4pm

After the meeting I retreat to the photography room we’ve set up to photograph some medieval tiles we recovered from the Westgate Centre development in the centre of Oxford. Most of my photography work at OA is on site but I also occasionally undertake finds photography and enjoy getting to handle the finds and work out the best way to photograph them.

For the last part of the day I continued with the discussion text I was writing earlier. Late in the day is often a good time to write as the office is emptier and quieter and I can get lost in what I’m doing without being disturbed. However, a nice distraction arrives before I’m about to leave at 5pm, the latest edition of our in-house newsletter is ready and one of my photos is on the cover!

A hand holding a magazine

My photo from the Westgate excavation on the cover of the latest edition of the in-house newsletter

Kate Brady is a Project Officer at Oxford Archaeology’s South office in Oxford. For more information about Oxford Archaeology and our publications, visit our website:

Dave Brown: Ringing in a New Era of Recording

My Job

I am a Geomatics Supervisor working in the quite newly formed Geomatics team at Oxford Archaeology East. My job has a great mix of both field and office work and often involves new forms of technology and experimental techniques and recording systems.

Over the past 5 or so years the company has changed from using primarily hand-drawn recording methods to a much more widespread use of digital recording. As a result, the divide between ongoing site work & what was traditionally post-excavation has become blurred. The Geomatics team pretty much operates within this blurred zone between field teams and graphics/post-excavation teams.

A car boot full of survey equipment

The essential tools of my trade! The car radio is permanently tuned to Planet Rock.

I enjoy the diversity of my role. On a daily basis I may travel across the Eastern Region to set out evaluation trenches or visit ongoing excavations. Or I may be inside creating trench designs or digitising site plans.

Today I am in the office catching up on my survey processing and working on some site plans for a large project recently completed in Norfolk.

One site in particular is very interesting. It has evidence of Bronze Age activity, including round structures within enclosures and remarkable post hole alignments.

A plan of archaeological features surveyed at a site

A site plan from a large project recently completed in Norfolk

The archaeological features were planned on site using Leica DGPS. Every feature was accurately planned, including all of the postholes, well over 1000 of them!

The data was sent to me & after processing I imported it into AutoCAD. I’m am currently tidying the plan and adding other data.

Archaeologists in hi-vis recording and surveying on site

The field team in action! Note GPS recording in background.

It is hard to imagine how long the process of recording all of these postholes would have taken with traditional methods.

Special Feature!- photogrammetry doesn’t quite ring true

One of the most exciting recording techniques we have recently started to use is photogrammetry. It involves taking a series of photographs which can be processed and manipulated by sophisticated software to create scaled photorealistic 3D models of objects and georeferenced orthophotos of archaeological sites (amongst other things). It means we can record sites by the use of drones even!

This technique is new to me, so one evening earlier this week, partly as a training exercise, I decided to attempt the recording of some church bells. As part of a restoration project funded by local donations and the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Nassington Bell Project will see the restoration and overhaul of the existing 5 bells and frame and the casting of a new bell.

As part of this project two out of tune bells will be recast and I thought it would be good to preserve a record of their original form. Unfortunately, the bells are 40ft up in the small, dimly lit belfry!

My helpers- Libby 9 & Owen 7, with Hilary the church Warden & Brian the tower captain

My helpers- Libby 9 & Owen 7, with Hilary the church Warden & Brian the tower captain

Having gained access to the belfry I placed markers on the bells to help the software and put up bed sheets to mask out unwanted parts of the bell frame.


Bell 4 cast in 1642 by Thomas Norris of Stamford, weighing approx.. ¼ tonne

I have run the data through the OAE’s Agisoft software overnight and I’m astonished by the results! I had to use a flash for every shot. I thought the smooth regular shape of the bell would also cause problems.


Each blue rectangle represents the position of my camera. I used only a basic digital SLR and its inbuilt flash

More processing and experimenting is required but, for a first attempt, I am quite pleased. I intend to upload the model to Sketchfab eventually to make it more freely available.


Doesn’t quite ring true- there is currently a hole in the top of the model!

The End

Thanks for making it to the end of this blog! I hope it has given you some idea of the diversity of roles and interests in archaeology. Dave

Dave Brown is a Geomatics Supervisor at Oxford Archaeology’s East office in Cambridge. For more information about Oxford Archaeology and our specialist geomatics services, visit our website:

Heather Stoddart and Ali McCaig – Measured Survey for Historic Environment Scotland

Heather Stoddart, Measured Survey Manager, Architecture and Industry Section and Ali McCaig, Measured Survey Manager, Landscape Section at Historic Environment Scotland

We have chosen an Industrial Archaeological site on the River Clyde called Hyndford Mills, near Lanark, which we are surveying as part of an HES programme called ‘Discovering the Clyde’

The site sits very close to the river and floods regularly. It consists of a series of roofless buildings and archaeological remains that have been excavated by a local community group the Clydesdale Mills Society.

Panorama view of Hyndford Mills © HES

On our first visit, we explored the site and discussed the general interpretation with Miriam McDonald, Industrial Survey Manager at HES and with representatives from the Clydesdale Mills Society. At that point we agreed on the end product that we wanted to achieve – a detailed plan of the extent of the site which will show the upstanding walls, lades, tail-race and ground works in reasonable detail.

Hyndford Mills is quite a complex site, with multiple phasing. It appears on Pont’s map of Glasgow and the County of Lanark (Pont 34, c.1583-96)  and may be much older still. The site has been used for many small-scale industrial and agricultural processes over many generations including grain milling, flax processing and animal bone crushing (for agricultural manure).

To start this survey we used two different techniques, alidade and GPS. The GPS was used to set out framework control for the site and to collect data which is used to create the detailed scaled plan and a sectional elevation drawing. The initial task was to undertake two alidade surveys which we did together, involving Ali on the survey staff and Heather on the survey board, recording the survey points. This allowed us both to discuss the survey points that needed to be taken and our evolving interpretation of the site. Once the framework of the site was complete, we split up to record and plan the features in more detail. The end product will form an annotated scaled plan and sectional elevation at 1:200.

A detailed photographic survey of the site was also undertaken by Steve Wallace, Field Photography Projects Manager at HES.

Ali producing a scaled plan at one of the mill buildings at Hyndford Mills, Lanark © HES

Ali producing a scaled plan at one of the mill buildings at Hyndford Mills, Lanark © HES


Heather adding finishing touches to one of the scaled plans at Hyndford Mills, Lanark © HES

Heather adding finishing touches to one of the scaled plans at Hyndford Mills, Lanark © HES

Conan Parsons: A Day in the Life of a Geomatics Project Officer

7:30am I’m normally at the office by now, with my first cup of coffee, but there’s some roadworks on the road around the corner from the office, so we’ve taken a detour to avoid the hideous congestion. I’m sharing a ride from Faringdon with my partner Charles and Gary the GIS expert – more people are living out of Oxford as it’s so expensive, on archaeology wages if you don’t want to house share any more then you’ll have a hard time staying in the city.

7:45am I load up my unit vehicle, today it’s a little Skoda Fabia, my PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is already in the boot from yesterday, I just needed to get the GPS out of it’s locker. I don’t put my coffee down while I’m loading, it’s a morning ritual I’ve developed when getting ready to go to site. As I drive out of the estate I’m going away from all the congestion and traffic, so it only takes me 30 minutes to get to site near Dorchester-on-Thames

8:15am I put my work boots on and assemble the GPS, I’m here to finish marking out some trenches that I started on Monday. I couldn’t get access to part of the site until today, as there were electric fence issues. I create a new job on the GPS and select which trench I want to mark out and head on over.

Here I bump in to the land owner who’s got some concerns about where trenches are going and wants to know how long it’ll be until the excavator is in the field where her horses are now. The supervisor is at the dentist so I ring the site technician who’s over with the machine, to try and find out for her. He claims ignorance of details above his pay grade, I jovially scold him and between us we come up with an estimate of time scales for the land owner, which she seems happy with.

A close-up image of a brown foal with black hair next to GPS equipment.

A friendly foal I find in the field.

8:40am I’m now marking out the trenches with the GPS, putting a yellow flag at each end. A foal comes over to me and starts sniffing me while I’m working, the whiskers tickle quite a lot so I can’t help giggling, which attracts the other horses, that are all curious why I’m in their field. Luckily they don’t eat my flags.

915am I let the technician know that I’ve finished, and that I’m off site, checking he doesn’t need anything else from me while I’m there. Back to Oxford! It takes me longer than usual, there’s still that pesky roadwork problem!

10:am I’ve unloaded the car and put GPS batteries on charge. I notice one of the batteries hasn’t charged properly again (I had previously flagged it up for checking last time it failed). I give it to my boss and ask him to order a replacement. He’s getting a growing pile of dead batteries now, as they get worn out after a while! I grab another coffee and tell Charles I’m back in the office after popping myself in on the in/out board

10:20am I need to process my job to get the information in to CAD, one of our supervisors has also done some survey and uploaded his data to our server, so I decide to process that as well while I’m using the same software. When I’ve processed my stakeout data I send a list of trench altitudes to the site supervisor, so that he can use a dumpy level on his trenches to work out heights. Wh7en I’ve processed the other job I make a PDF of a plan and send it to the supervisor so he can see what his site looks like, I also put some hard copies in his pigeon hole.

While this is all going on I’m having issues with the IT department: They’ve just got a new server up and running and I need them to put our specialised photogrammetry PC on to it before I start any jobs later. Also I have to put paper in the printer and tidy up the print area: People sometimes print things and then don’t pick them up/forget them. Sometimes this happens when the printer runs out of paper and jobs just queue up until some one actually puts paper in.

11:45am I’ve got some polecam photos to put through the photogrammetry machine, they’re from our site in Somerset which is over a Roman villa. I’ve previously processed a mosaic from the site, now some of the cobbled surfaces are being done. Polecams give a good vantage point and the photogrammetry software can stitch the photos together to make an orthometric photo (or ortho-photo for short), which we can put to scale on a CAD drawing. One of the parts of site comes out fine and I send this over to the site PO (Project Officer) so that she can put it on her CAD drawing for a birds eye view of the cobbles. The two other parts are awaiting her survey information so that I can locate it spatially and scale it.

Then I have to help one of the IT guys find the equipment cage for Somerset, as he’s just finished processing the site backup disk (so that if anything happens to the site laptop we still have the most current data.)

12:12pm The supervisor from Aylesbury has rang me after receiving his site PDF, and given me some feedback about what needs changing on the plan after a re-inspection of the site. We agree on the changes and then I update and resend the drawing.

12:30pm I grab another coffee and steal a cigarette off of a project manager (who’s also given up smoking), we’ve got some history together and we get on well, so I don’t feel bad about asking, and he doesn’t mind my company. I’ve got a good working relationship with most of the managers actually, which is useful when negotiating things on site or on the computer (such as time limits, working practises etc.)

12:40pm I have 3 outstanding skeletons to process from one of our other sites: We’re also using photogrammetry to make ortho-photos of burials now. This site has had a lot of grave goods, and some the photos look amazing, showing the context of the finds in great detail. After a half hour lunch break and when I’ve finished processing the photos I ask Gary if he needs the photogrammetry machine for anything, he says “no” so I shut it down.

A detailed overhead photograph of a skeleton in a cut grave.

One of the ortho-photos I processed. An ortho-photo is a uniform-scale overhead photograph.

2:15pm I load up the 3 new ortho-photos in to the site CAD drawing, trace around the shape of the grave cuts, draw a stick man in the pose/position of each skellie and digitise any grave goods (like necklaces, swords, seaxes, the usual). I save the drawing – The project manager for the site is on holiday this week, but I know that as soon as he gets back on Monday he will go straight to the drawing and have a look at the progress, he won’t be expecting the stick men in the graves but he’ll appreciate it. It will be a good drawing to send off to the client and county archaeologist as a progress report. I was a bit engrossed and my coffee went cold, so I get another.

2:30pm Our graphics team have been a bit low on work, so one of the illustrators is digitising Bexhill for me, as I don’t have time and the other surveyors are in the field. I’ve been asked by his manager, Magda, to check on his work and make sure the drawing is all OK thus far. I have a good look through, checking for valid geometry and that data is attached. It’s 99% good work, and after discovering he’s already gone home when I go to give my feedback, I send him an email, copying in his manager, about what he’s done well and what could be better. I’m happy it’s going smoothly, as it’s a big project he’s digitising.

3:15pm I load up a CAD drawing from Didcot that I’ve been digitising myself in between projects. It’s a very quiet afternoon and I’m left to it with no interruptions, I’ve been lucky this week as a few managers are on holiday and as such I’ve had few interruptions to my already busy schedule!

4:00pm I go and talk to Stuart, our drone pilot at OA South, we’re off out early tomorrow and I’m his flight assistant. I confirm with him what time we’re going out tomorrow and then round up the guys ready for the drive home.

I hope those road works are finished.

Conan Parsons is a Geomatics Project Officer at Oxford Archaeology’s South office in Oxford. For more information about Oxford Archaeology and our specialist geomatics services, visit our website:

13 years and counting…..My Dream Archaeology Job.

On Monday 1st August I will be celebrating 13 years as a proper archaeologist – one with a full time job that they love!

Before becoming an FLO in 2003,  I was lucky enough to have a part-time temporary post as a HER (Historic Environment Record) assistant with Leicestershire County Council.  I was in the right place at the right time when the PAS advertised for an FLO for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

I feel extremely lucky to have a job  that I love and that utilises my skills, develops my knowledge  and allows me to explore my interests (which are Vikings, silver stuff, Viking settlements, small finds and coins -ideally those used by the Vikings – but any early medieval material will do!). I love recording peoples finds, interacting with the public and using objects to tell stories about the past.  I  was always interested in history as a child and I got into archaeology because it is tactile. I always knew I wanted to work with small finds and coins. Holding an object that connects you to the past is an amazing experience and one I never tire of.

I started at the Council’s Archaeology dept. as a volunteer in 2000 after completing my Masters degree in Post Excavation Archaeology at the wonderful Leicester University. But I had a very long and twisting journey to get there. I left school at 16 and was lucky enough to get a Y.T.S. (if under 30 – ask a parent) placement in my local museum. Whilst doing this I got the newly introduced G.C.S.E.’s in Photography and Graphics. I then went to art college at 18 (because that was what I was good at at school) to study 3-D design, with a view to becoming a museum designer.

It was whilst I was writing my dissertation on Ancient Egyptian art that I realised all I really wanted to do was be an Archaeologist; preferably one that worked in a museum, because I have always loved museums. I did A level History and Sociology at evening class, worked to save up some money  and  started a degree in Archaeology and History at the University of Wales. It took me 13 years from leaving school to achieving my aim of actually working in Archaeology in 2001. But I don’t regret a moment of it. I developed many transferable skills whilst working, learnt loads of useful stuff doing a joint degree and I still use my art college training regularly.

If you really want to be an archaeologist then just go for it! I know it’s very tough these days and university is crippling expensive. I was extremely lucky- we still had grants in my day and I qualified as a mature student at the tender age of 23!  My advice is to get some experience, volunteer, explore the different roles in archaeology. Find something that excites you. If you can afford to go to university, do a degree that gives you other options, like a science subject that you could apply to archaeology.

I’ll never be wealthy, but I don’t care. I am lucky enough to want to get out of bed and go to work every morning. No amount of money can buy that feeling.

Dzień z życia archeologa nieinwazyjnego

Pytanie co robi archeolog w lipcu może wydawać się banalne, a odpowiedź trywialna. Każdy przecież wie, że lato to czas prowadzenia badań wykopaliskowych i wszyscy archeolodzy pracują w terenie, a ich dzień jest wypełniony odkrywaniem śladów przeszłości i ich dokumentowaniem.

Ale nie do końca tak jest. Są archeolodzy, którzy preferują nieinwazyjne metody badań i w lipcu zajmują się inną działalnością. Archeologia nieinwazyjna, zgodnie z Konwencją Maltańską (1992), ukierunkowuje swoje badania na poznawanie przeszłości bez ingerencji w znajdujące się in situ obiekty i warstwy kulturowe. Celem zatem jest rozpoznanie zalegających w ziemi reliktów bez ‘wbijania łopaty w ziemię’. Czy jest to zatem jeszcze archeologia? Oczywiście jest – archeologią jest bowiem poznawaniem przeszłości człowieka przy wykorzystaniu, reliktów kultury materialnej.

Archeologia nieinwazyjna bazuje na możliwości identyfikacji wielu aspektów kultury materialnej bez naruszania warstw, w których się one znajdują. Metody takich badań były znane już od bardzo dawna, lecz właśnie od czasu uchwalenia Konwencji Maltańskiej, ich stosowanie w archeologii stało się coraz szersze. Do najstarszych metod nieinwazyjnych należą zdjęcia lotnicze, które dla celów archeologicznych wykonywane były już w 1899 roku (Forum Romanum). Również metody geofizyczne (np. elektrooporowa, magnetyczna) znane były od wielu lat. Dziś, m. in. dzięki wytycznym Konwencji Maltańskiej, wprowadzane są nowe metody nieinwazyjne, np. lotnicze skanowanie laserowe, GPR czy zobrazowania satelitarne.

To tyle wprowadzenia. Spośród wielu różnych metod nieinwazyjnych zajmuję się szczególnie intensywnie zdjęciami lotniczymi w archeologii. I z tym wiąże się też wiele nieporozumień. Nie do końca jest tak, że wystarczy polecieć i zrobić zdjęcie. Szczególnie teraz, gdy jest wielu użytkowników dronów, można sądzić, że metoda jest dostępna dla każdego. Oczywiście jest dostępna, ale trzeba dysponować określoną wiedzą i doświadczeniem, by móc efektywnie ją wykorzystywać w archeologii.

Lipiec to w wielu regionach Polski najlepszy czas na wykonywanie zdjęć lotniczych, które pozwalają na zidentyfikowanie śladów przeszłej działalności człowieka. I trzeba się bardzo spieszyć, gdyż żniwa na dłuższy czas blokują możliwość efektywnego rekonesansu lotniczego. Dlaczego? To właśnie rośliny (w szczególności zboża) najlepiej ‘pokazują’ to co zalega pod powierzchnią ziemi. Ścięte zboża oznaczają ‘zaniknięcie’  pośrednika pomiędzy przeszłością a archeologiem.

Zatem do pracy, trzeba się spieszyć by rolnik nie ‘usunął’ nam przeszłości z pola widzenia. Pośpiech jest ważny, ale trzeba się też dobrze przygotować. Co należy przemyśleć i zorganizować, by względnie skutecznie przeprowadzić rekonesans lotniczy? Jest kilka etapów pracy. Zatem po kolei:

  • Planowanie rekonesansu – należy zastanowić się w jakim rejonie chcemy wykonać rozpoznanie lotnicze. Niezbędne zatem są mapy (papierowe lub cyfrowe), na których oznaczony mamy rejon naszego badania. Kolejnym elementem planowania jest wybór samolotu i lotniska, z którego warto polecieć. Nie zawsze jest tak, że lotnisko znajdujące się bliżej jest dogodniejsze. Ceny tam mogą być bowiem wyższe, niż na lotnisku bardziej oddalonym. Liczy się rachunek kosztów! Planowanie musi uwzględnić wybór terminu lotu. Już wiemy, że lipiec bywa sprzyjający, ale którego dnia? Warto zapoznać się z prognozą pogody! Fotografowanie, gdy mamy do czynienia z pełnym zachmurzeniem lub nawet deszczem nie jest sprawą optymalną.
  • Przygotowanie sprzętu – oczywiście chodzi tu o sprzęt, którym dysponuje archeolog, gdyż za samolot będzie odpowiedzialny pilot. Niezbędny jest aparat fotograficzny (na wszelki wypadek warto zabrać dwa!), zapas baterii, wspomniane mapy i GPS (w niektórych aparatach GPS jest wmontowany). W przypadku wyboru samolotu należy pamiętać, by wybrać górnopłat (Ryc. 1).

Ryc. 1. Górnopłat – bardzo dobry samolot do wykonywania zdjęć lotniczych dla celów archeologicznych

Ryc. 1. Górnopłat – bardzo dobry samolot do wykonywania zdjęć lotniczych dla celów archeologicznych

  •  Uzgodnienie lotu, wyjaśnienie pilotowi na czym polega zadanie (nie zawsze pilot wierzy, że musi wykonywać ‘dziwne’ akrobacje w powietrzu, np. ostre skręty ze skrzydłem ustawionym prawie prostopadle do ziemi!). Należy po raz kolejny sprawdzić cały sprzęt, zgrać czas w aparacie fotograficznym i w GPS (jeżeli są to osobne urządzenia) i… można lecieć. Za lot z pewnością odpowiedzialny jest pilot, więc archeolog nie może wymuszać na nim żadnej decyzji! Bezpieczeństwo lotu jest ważniejsze niż wykonanie zadania!To lecimy. Wykorzystanie GPSa pozawala na rejestrację trasy lotu i określenie o której w którym miejscu byliśmy (Ryc. 2).
Ryc. 2. Trasa lotu zarejestrowana przy pomocy GPSa

Ryc. 2. Trasa lotu zarejestrowana przy pomocy GPSa

Długa trasa! Sporo pracy! A tu niespodzianka – prognoza pogody się nie sprawdziła!!!! Zamiast błękitnego nieba mamy burzę i deszcz!!

Nie sprzyja to pracy i efektywności rekonesansu, ale… jest efektownie – podwójna tęcza J (Ryc. 3). Trzeba uważać, zmodyfikować plan.

Ryc. 3. Tęcza z perspektywy samolotu może wyglądać trochę inaczej

Ryc. 3. Tęcza z perspektywy samolotu może wyglądać trochę inaczej

Koniec kontemplacji wrażeń! Należy się skupić na archeologii. Czy w tym roku (niezbyt suchym) rośliny pokazują to co jest pod ziemią? Jakie warstwy się zachowały? Jest! (Ryc. 4)

Ryc. 4. Świetne stanowisko! Strzałka pokazuje zarys fundamentów chaty zbudowanej na planie trapezu. Takie domy budowały społeczności pierwszych rolników zamieszkujących tereny Niżu Polskiego. Można się zastanowić ile czasu by zajęło archeologom ‘kopiącym’ znalezienie takiego domu i jego wykopaliskowa eksploracja?

Ryc. 4. Świetne stanowisko! Strzałka pokazuje zarys fundamentów chaty zbudowanej na planie trapezu. Takie domy budowały społeczności pierwszych rolników zamieszkujących tereny Niżu Polskiego. Można się zastanowić ile czasu by zajęło archeologom ‘kopiącym’ znalezienie takiego domu i jego wykopaliskowa eksploracja?

Ale czy wszystko co widać jako wyróżnik roślinny to ślady przeszłej działalności człowieka? (Ryc. 5)

Ryc. 5. Lepiej taki ślad zarejestrować. Można później innymi metodami nieinwazyjnymi zweryfikować ten obraz.

Ryc. 5. Lepiej taki ślad zarejestrować. Można później innymi metodami nieinwazyjnymi zweryfikować ten obraz.

Czas wracać na lotnisko. Lot był długi – około 5 godzin! Dużo było ‘kręcenia’! (Ryc. 6)

Ryc. 6. Ślad GPS pokazuje jak intensywne było latanie, ile skrętów w różnych kierunkach.

Ryc. 6. Ślad GPS pokazuje jak intensywne było latanie, ile skrętów w różnych kierunkach.

Jestem zmęczony! 5 godzin w samolocie, cały czas skupienie uwagi, nawigacja, obserwowanie pól i poszukiwanie stanowisk archeologicznych, ciągła interpretacja, decyzja co i jak fotografować i w końcu wykonanie zdjęć! Uff! Satysfakcja – owszem jest, jeżeli udało się zidentyfikować i sfotografować interesujące stanowiska. Ale trzeba się spieszyć! Jutro kolejny lot, bo… (Ryc. 7)

Ryc. 7. Żniwa trwają i kombajny ‘likwidują’… ślady przeszłości. Następne mogą się pojawić dopiero za rok!

Ryc. 7. Żniwa trwają i kombajny ‘likwidują’… ślady przeszłości. Następne mogą się pojawić dopiero za rok!

A tu jeszcze wieczorem trzeba opracować wykonane zdjęcia (dziś było ich 580!) i przygotować kolejny lot! Na interpretację zdjęć przyjdzie czas…. w długie jesienne i zimowe wieczory! Archeologia lotnicza to nie tylko jeden dzień przyjemnego lotu.


3D Scanning and Photogrammetry of 17th and 18th Century Artifacts for Archaeology Month in Philadelphia, PA


I am a Digital Media graduate student at Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, USA. Today I am working with 17th and 18th century archaeological artifacts excavated in 2001-2003 from what are now the grounds of the National Constitution Center in Independence National Historical Park (INHP) in Philadelphia. This archaeological site is the richest colonial American site ever excavated in an urban area. Last week, working with INHP Chief Historian and archaeologist Jed Levin and Drexel Digital Media Prof. Glen Muschio and undergraduate STAR Scholar Ryan Rasing I digitized the artifacts using a 3D scanner and photogrammetry techniques.

I used both techniques to investigate the pros and cons of 3D scanning versus photogrammetry. Specifically, I am documenting, evaluating, and comparing object extraction qualities (accuracy of shape, detail, and texture), equipment and software costs, duration of reconstructions, duration of photographing and scanning sessions, memory consumption, and object size limitations.

3d Scanning

3D scanning at the Independence National Historical Park (From left: Ryan Rasing, Jonnathan Mercado)

Photographs were taken with a Nikon D7000 in raw format. The photographs captured were imported into Agisoft Photoscan, where I worked to align the photographs, generate point cloud information, and produce the 3D models with corresponding textures. You can view, rotate, and pan the 3D model of a ceramic pitcher I am in the process of extracting by clicking the image below.

GreenPottery2 (Click to view in 3D)In addition to photogrammetry, I used the Artec Eva 9 scanner and software to digitize artifacts and align multiple scans, clean mesh topology, construct the 3D models, and extract color information. For a view of a colonoware rim click here.

By the end of my research I will have a greater understanding of the two methods employed. The 3D models produced will be used to create 2 Public Service Announcements (PSA) calling attention to ongoing archaeology projects in Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania.