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:


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

The work of the Ceramics, Glass and Metals Section at the British Museu

The work of the Ceramics, Glass and Metals Section at the British Museum 1. Wrong footed! Working on a New Kingdom wine jar (1930,0614.22) for an international loan, conservator Sarahi Naidorf finds that over painting has been used to tone in a base fragment from another jar. The jar was bought at auction in 1930.

1. Wrong footed! Working on a New Kingdom wine jar (1930,0614.22) for an international loan, conservator Sarahi Naidorf finds that over painting has been used to tone in a base fragment from another jar. The jar was bought at auction in 1930


The work of the Ceramics, Glass & Metals conservation section at the British Museum 2. Conservator Loretta Hogan works on a black-figure amphora (1847,0806.26) bought by the museum in 1847. The very old reconstruction has too much paint and plaster spread over the original ceramic.

The work of the Ceramics, Glass & Metals conservation section at the British Museum 2. Conservator Loretta Hogan works on a black-figure amphora (1847,0806.26) bought by the museum in 1847. The very old reconstruction has too much paint and plaster spread over the original ceramic.

Moving a site on Sanday – Bronze Age buildings, a well with steps, and much, much more.

Never assume you know what you’re going to find – sites always throw up surprises. SCAPE’s project with the Sanday Archaeology Group in Orkney is a perfect example… who thought we’d find a Bronze Age well during a reconstruction project!

Steps down into the well, with water at the bottom. ©Tom Dawson/SCAPE

Steps down into the well ©Tom Dawson/SCAPE

Our Day of Archaeology 2014 was very eventful, and to get an idea of the hive of activity, see a time lapse film of the first two hours on site. The Day came half way through our project on Sanday, where we were working with the local group to relocate a previously excavated Bronze Age site. Local residents had reported structures revealed on a beach after a storm, leading to an emergency evaluation (it was thought that there might be a burial within the stone tank). The excavation had showed the site to be one of only a handful of burnt mounds with surviving structures within them. After the excavation, the sea continued to attack the stone tank, orthostats and a corbelled cell, and the local group wanted to preserve something of the site by moving some of the stones to their newly opened Heritage Centre, away from the sea. The group contacted SCAPE’s Scotland’s Coastal Heritage at Risk Project – and a plan to relocate the stonework was devised as a ShoreDig project.

The Scotland's Coastal Heritage at Risk logo  ©SCAPE

The Scotland’s Coastal Heritage at Risk logo ©SCAPE

Before we could transfer the large stone slabs to the Heritage Centre, we had to reveal the masonry from under the beach cobbles. The original excavation had located a corbelled cell buried in the coastal section, but health and safety concerns had prevented full excavation. By the time we started digging in early July, the sea had eroded back the coast edge, allowing access the cell. After getting our Shetland stonemasons, Jim Keddie and Rick Barton, to check the structure, we excavated demolition and backfill material to reveal six steps leading down to an underground chamber.

Excavating the Bronze Age well on Sanday ©SCAPE

Excavating the Bronze Age well on Sanday ©SCAPE

The prehistoric structure stood three metres high to the top of its corbelled roof. The lower chamber was full of water; and the silt at the bottom of the well was full of remarkably well-preserved organic material (I’ve never seen Bronze Age seaweed before). Part of our Day of Archaeology was spent sampling the organic silts, bagging 100% of the material for future analysis.

Bronze Age seaweed from the well excavated on a beach, Sanday, Orkney. ©Tom Dawson/SCAPE

Bronze Age seaweed from the well excavated on a beach, Sanday, Orkney. ©Tom Dawson/SCAPE

Burnt mounds often have a large trough or tank, and in Scotland, some of these tanks are made of large, flat slabs of stone. We excavated the cut for the stone tank, finding that the base was far larger than the size of the tank – and that the four side-stones had been placed on the flat slab at the bottom.

Preparing to move the base slab of the stone tank.©Tom Dawson/SCAPE

Preparing to move the base slab of the stone tank. ©Tom Dawson/SCAPE

Much of our Day of Archaeology was spent moving the last of the stones to the reconstruction site. We plotted the relative positions of the stones with an EDM; and photographed, numbered and drew all the stones before lifting them. Jo and Ellie from SCAPE worked with Sanday Archaeology Group members to prepare the site so that the stones could be lifted. A second team of local volunteers were ready with tractors, trailers, digger and slings to move the stones off site.

Moving stones from the site at Meur ©Tom Dawson/SCAPE

Moving stones from the site at Meur ©Tom Dawson/SCAPE

Once the base slab was lifted, we saw that it had been built over an earlier, possibly corbelled, structure, perhaps explaining why such a large stone was used. This was very unexpected, and we managed to capture the moment as part of the filming we were doing for possible inclusion in the next series of Digging for Britain.

Jo filming Tom while stones are moved in the background. ©Ellie Graham/SCAPE

Jo filming Tom on site. ©Ellie Graham/SCAPE

Our Day of Archaeology was a great success – to learn more about what we found, (and what was under the slab) visit our Facebook page; or follow us on Twitter.

Reconstructing a dolmen

Today is a busy one for me. I’m writing this on an overcrowded train to London on the first stage of a journey to the USA. It’s for pleasure not work, although as many archaeologists will tell you, at times the division is a blurry one.

For the past few months I’ve been working on a number of interesting projects. I have been working with Sustrust on the Giants Quoit project. For the last four years they have been working tirelessly with the Cornwall Council Historic Environment Service to excavate the site of Carwynnen Quoit near Camborne in Cornwall.

The dolmen (an entrance grave with three orthostats, or uprights, topped with a large flat capstone) fell down In 1842, and being a popular local landmark it was re-erected shortly afterwards. Unfortunately, in 1966, after an alleged earth tremor, it fell down once again. This time, the stones remained in a pile, and memories of the Quoit faded. In 2009 Sustrust bought the five acre field where the remains of the dolmen lay, and began to hatch plans to re-erect it.

My involvement came earlier this year, 2014, when I was asked to virtually reconstruct Carwynnen Quoit from existing laser scans of the individual stones and to investigate a number of other stones that had the potential to contain rock art. Armed with large quantities of 3D and excavation data and a number of historic photos from different angles, I busied myself with moving the modelled stones around on screen. One of the decisions made early on by the whole team was to reconstruct the quoit as it could have appeared thousands of years ago. Our historic images of the monument show the orthostats leaning at dangerous angles, having spent millennia being persuaded by gravity to cease trying to defy it, gradually tilting before collapsing.

Setting the stones upright by archaeologically studying the sockets in the ground and wear on the capstone meant that the Giants Quoit (as it is locally known) could stand again for, hopefully, millennia. It will never be exactly the same as the quoit was when originally built some 4500 years ago, but close, and importantly, safe, so that people can enjoy and engage with the monument.

I visited Carwynnen Quoit on a rainy day back at the beginning of May and it was a hive of activity. A school visit was in progress with a large marquee was set up as an outdoor classroom, with demonstrations of ancient technology such as honeysuckle rope construction, pottery, and theories about how the stones were originally moved. Lessons in poetry and art were planned for later in the day. I’m sure that day will have an influence on them for years to come – considering that local schools were also involved in the excavations of previous years, I wouldn’t be surprised if the seeds of a few embryonic archaeological careers haven’t been sown.

Using photogrammetry I made very detailed 3D models of the stones thought to contain rock art, and got a good feel for the site and how it may have appeared during the late Neolithic. We also crowded around the computer to continue to twist and move stones to help inform the reconstruction. It was decided to make a triangular wooden template to make sure that the orthostats would be positioned correctly.

Back at the office I processed the images of the rock art stones – the “Shield Stone” and “Coffin Stone” – into 3D point clouds and began to use a number of techniques to enhance details cut into the surface of the stones. I came to the conclusion that the marks on the Coffin Stone were mainly natural, although human-influenced, perhaps as a result of ploughing, dragging or even an attempt to dress it at some point. It is tempting to see a series of intersecting lines which form uneven diamond or lozenge patterns as deliberate, but they’re easily formed unintentionally.

The Shield Stone is interesting. The markings are deliberate, but I remain to be convinced that they were part of a singular design.

Photogrammetry of the reconstructed orthostats

Photogrammetry of the reconstructed orthostats

The 3D point clouds allow all kinds of analysis to take place that you cannot do physically, such as colouring the stone by depth to enhance details cut into the stone (they show up as a different colour to flatter parts) and removing distracting details such as the natural colours of the stone.

To match one of the historic photos of Carwynnen Quoit, an Edwardian picnic is being organised where participants will dress in period costume, eat lunch, and pose for a real plate photograph. Sadly, I’ve just had to reply to the invitation explaining that I’ll still be in the USA when it happens – I’d never normally turn away the opportunity for a ‘proper’ antiquarian day out!

Below are a few of the images that I created for the project. Visit the Giants Quoit website to find out more, and be sure to come back to the Day of Archaeology site to explore more of the amazing posts submitted today.


Simulated glass plate image of the 3D reconstruction




Laser scanned orthostats placed upon the excavation plan

Typical day in our Museum


Today is Day of Archaeology so let’s sail through this day on our ship with Olaf 🙂

Sculptures from Elblag’s Biennial looks like huge dragons, and are located all around Elbląg. You can walk around city and watch different monument. On my way to work I see just few of them. Art installations gives my home town artistic look.

Church path with beautiful arcs makes everyone feel really medieval. I think It is the most charming place.

At the Museum I usually document artefacts. Measuring, taking pictures, preparations for exhibitions… It takes a lot of time, but work with such beautiful things makes you feel special.

but sometimes…. Olaf is messing with our work… (this picture almost got published in our book) 🙂

Visitors can have guided tours with Museum staff. Olaf and archaeologists talk about different sites and exhibitions in Museum. You can see exhibitions about History of the Goths, The Amber -Truso-Emporium and Elbląg – a recovered testimony of the past.

Museum lessons held in reconstruction of long house on Museum yard are very interesting.

Well… not that interesting for Olaf, who has huge problems with drawing… 😀


Children could play medieval games, learn history and get little bit dirty while making clay pottery. When the weather is nice everyone can see how medieval women made food for their families (and how it tasted).