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March 1, 2014

Creating complexity with simplicity

March 1, 2014 | By | No Comments

It almost never fails that, when attempting to simplify, complexity always follows.  As I mentioned in my most recent blog post, the project that I am undertaking as a CHI Fellow this year is to compose a “best practices” guide, of sorts, for what is to be a relatively simplified means of 3D data capture for archaeological skeletal material.  When I say “relatively simplified” what I mean to say is that the process is somewhat easier to carry out than other options.

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February 28, 2014

Project Intro: Bones in 3D

February 28, 2014 | By | No Comments

Studying ancient skeletal populations can present numerous challenges, particularly when bioarchaeologists work with material that is not kept in museums or well-maintained repositories.  Preservation issues, access, long-term storage, and general data capture all contribute to the difficulty in studying ancient skeletal material in the field.  While methods do exist for extending the use-life of ancient skeletal material beyond the organic lifespan of that material, methods for virtual data capture vary greatly in their ease of use and applicability.  It is in the addressing of these issues that the foundation of my current project is situated.

One of the basic tenets of archaeology is preservation.  As a destructive discipline, it is incumbent on the archaeologist to do everything within his or her ability to preserve as much of the context of a site as possible, be it through site preservation or materials preservation.  We take photos, write copious notes, make maps, and generally document…document, document, document.  While all of this documentation is extremely important, not all documentation is equal, nor preserves information in the same manner.  In the case of skeletal documentation, we do take photos, and extensive notes on the condition of the material noting any pathological lesions, developmental abnormalities, modifications, evidence of disturbance and so on.  A written description, however, only goes so far.  Visual documentation is of paramount importance to the preservation of skeletal material and to the ability to continue study of that material after it is no longer available in physical form.

3D imaging provides a means of data capture that far exceeds written description and simple photography alone.  As beneficial as having 3D models of skeletal material is, capturing skeletal elements in 3D in field situation presents a myriad of issues.  Laser scanning, while generally lauded as the best method for the creation of 3D models due to very high density point cloud generation, is difficult to apply in field contexts, and to skeletal material particularly.  Scanners are large, cumbersome and expensive both to procure and insure.  In a controlled environment, laser scanning is an ideal method, but for most archaeologists, “ideal” is rarely ever attainable.

So, if laser scanning is taken off the table, what remains?  Photogrammetry.  Photogrammetry calculates measurements from photographs.  Unlike a laser scanner which generates point clouds based on light reflection, photogrammetry relies on triangulation of points from overlapping images. The point clouds are generated to create a 3D model of an object, in this case skeletal material, from a series of high resolution images taken around the object.  While some might consider photogrammetry less sophisticated than laser scanning, and in fact it is, in its own way, rather cumbersome (particularly with regard to storing large image files in large quantities), it is also a much more portable method of generating 3D models.  The field equipment necessary undertake the creation of 3D models with photogrammetry can generally be found in most archaeologists’ tool kits: a camera.  For simple model creation, even a good quality point-and-shoot or mobile phone camera can work.

This project, specifically, is going to utilize DSLR and very high resolution images to create models of skeletal material in order to generate a best-practices model for other bioarchaeologists to utilize in their own field work.  The aim is to standardize a method which can be easily implemented in any archaeological setting to capture more data from skeletal material than simple description and basic photography alone can capture.

 

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December 19, 2013

Digitizing the Dead

December 19, 2013 | By | No Comments

Recently, a joint effort between the Royal College of Surgeons of London, the University of Bradford, and the Museum of London Archaeology announced the creation of a collection of digitized pathological skeletal specimens for study by osteoarchaeologists and bioarchaeologists.  Digitised Disease, which is currently in beta version, will provide high resolution 3D models generated by laser scanning, CT models, and radiography.  According to the project description, “Of major interest to many will be high-fidelity photo-realistic digital representations of 3D bones that can be viewed, downloaded and manipulated on their computer, tablet or smartphone”

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September 13, 2013

CHI Fellows Intro: Andrew LoPinto

September 13, 2013 | By | No Comments

Hello there, internet!  I am Andrew.  I am a PhD student here at Michigan State University in the Department of Anthropology as well as a research assistant for the Campus Archaeology Program.  My background is in archaeology, and specifically, bioarchaeology and mortuary analysis.  Yes, I work with the dead.  Macabre?  Perhaps.  Interesting?  DEFINITELY!  Bioarchaeology can clue us in to so much about the actual lives of the people of ancient civilizations and gives modern researchers an amazing opportunity to interact with long extinct populations.  Specifically, my research focuses on Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt.  Yes, I study the dead…in Egypt.  You may now proceed to writhe in envy.  Just kidding.

Prior to coming to MSU, I received an MSc in Skeletal and Dental Bioarchaeology from the Institute of Archaeology at University College London and a BA in Anthropology from the University of Arizona.  I have worked in Egypt at various sites of various time periods for a number of years.  I have had the opportunity to work at both Nile valley and delta sites, and one of the most prominent issues when working in Egypt is preservation and long-term care of artifacts (both archaeological and osteological).  This dovetails into my interests in Cultural Heritage Informatics.

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