CAAUK 2018 Edinburgh – Part 1

Posted on November 8, 2019


A year ago I helped run the CAAUK conference in Edinburgh. I thought I would share the videos we made of the presentations:

CIDOC CRM and CRMarchaeo A vision of use for the ‘future’

Recent work by Holtorf and May et al (2018) has highlighted the simultaneous desire to pass archaeological knowledge on to the ‘future’; and uncertainty about what that ‘future’ will actually want of our vision of the past. The CIDOC CRM provides a framework for the integration of data from the so – called ‘Memory Institutions’. As such it lays the foundations for integrating data from different communities of documentation practice. In addition CRMarchaeo states that it is “intended to provide all necessary tools to manage and integrate existing documentation in order to formalise knowledge extracted from observations made by archaeologists, recorded in various ways and adopting different standards. In this sense, its purpose is to facilitate the semantic encoding, exchange, interoperability and access of existing archaeological documentation.”
Any attempt to regulate archaeological documentation is doomed to failure for two reasons. First is the “three archaeologists- four opinions” meme and the second is the real danger of ossilising the discipline. So how do integrate access to existing archaeological documentation into a strategy for engaging with the future? This paper sets out a personal perspective on this question. It draws on over 30 years of designing cultural heritage information systems to lay out a vision of why data may be useful to the shadowy and elusive ‘future’ and perhaps more importantly a motivation for current practitioners to engage in the process.

The Antonine Wall in the Digital Age

The Antonine Wall was the most northerly frontier of the Roman Empire, stretching across central Scotland. Today it is part of the serial transnational Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site. On the ground, the remaining archaeology is often not much more than faint traces of earthworks. There is however a rich assemblage of artefacts excavated from Roman sites along the Wall. A principle challenge for the Antonine Wall is in presenting a coherent interpretation framework of sites spread across Scotland and artefacts housed in separate museum collections.

To improve interpretation and accessibility, we are collaboratively undertaking digital heritage initiatives based on digital documentation of archaeological sites and artefacts. This has included aerial LiDAR, terrestrial laser scanning, structured light scanning, photogrammetry and motion capture technology. The culmination of the digital documentation programme is the delivery and implementation of archaeogaming, virtual reconstructions, VR experiences and an app.

We recently launched the Go Roman game which allows people of all ages to interactively experience life in a Roman fort as either a slave girl or a Roman archer. This game-based learning approach features a number of real-life focussed quests to complete against the clock.

An interactive app (Advanced Limes – ALApp) is also being developed which incorporates location-based augmented reality to digitally repatriate artefacts to their excavation spots. It transports visitors back in time through virtually reconstructed fort and ancillary buildings, based on accurate 3D imaging data and archaeological evidence. Through our European collaboration, the app will also include 3D data and information on the Roman frontier in Bavaria. It will allow virtual visits from anywhere in the world, helping to reinforce the transnational nature of this World Heritage Site.

Both the Advanced Limes app and Go Roman game are available as free downloads through the iOS and Google Play stores.

The use of digital technologies is ideally suited to the challenges posed by the Antonine Wall. This paper will examine these, along with those challenges faced in creation of the digital platforms and discuss the potential of digital technologies to make a positive impact for cultural heritage interpretation, understanding and accessibility.

Patricia Weeks, Lyn Wilson, Al Rawlinson, Erik Dobat, Carsten Hermann

Analysing the use of light and space in Neolithic Malta through the use of custom Unity3D scripting

Gaming software can offer many advantages to archaeologists. Game engines like Unity3D provide simple structures and interfaces that can enhance archaeological analysis, often combined with scripting software that allows for the creation of custom built investigative tools. The flexibility of Unity3D is ideal to simulate virtual environments and answer specific research questions. However, the application of gaming software in archaeology is fairly recent, and more work has to be done in assessing the advantages and risks of this methodology.

The focus of this paper is to present examples of gaming software analysis carried out at sites in the Neolithic Maltese landscape. The Ggantija temples and the Xaghra Brochtorff Circle funerary complex are reconstructed in Google Sketchup and imported into Unity3D. Solar alignment at Ggantija is tested using a custom script that calculates solar position throughout the year, demonstrating an intentional positioning of the temples to align with the winter solstice. At the Brochtorff Circle, a tailor-made viewshed script simulates the use of megalithic screens to control sight and lighting within the cave system. These results highlight the similarities between hypogea and temples, providing further insight into the use of light and space in Maltese ritual.

The Maltese examples also show the potential of using game engines in archaeological analysis. The ability to customise software to answer specific questions, and the possibility to explore virtual reconstructed environments are amongst the benefits. On the other hand, issues with inaccuracies and inaccessibility of resources can cause problems for the dissemination of research.

Robert Peter Barratt

Conservation & management of Historic vessels & the utilisation of 3D data for information modelling

The increased use of laser scanning and photogrammetry has given rise to new opportunities in disseminating information about historic maritime assets and are of great use in conservation management initiatives. This paper will present the current state of 3D survey of historic vessels and how this has been utilised more recently for historic vessel conservation management. Key questions such as how this data is utilised, and what is it that the capture of such data is trying to achieve for the conservation and management of historic ships and vessels will be explored. In addition, this paper will introduce information modelling, most commonly seen as Building Information Modelling (BIM) as an approach for furthering the effective management of historic ships and vessels, as well as other historic marine and maritime assets. It will demonstrate that the majority of attempts at utilising BIM in the heritage sector have been limited to buildings, and fall short of utilising its full potential. Through the use of the ‘VIM’ project at HMS Victory the paper will then explore how information modelling can be applied to a highly complex historic ship. The paper will end by discussing the current limitations of using information modelling for conservation management, where advances may be made in the future and what actions need to be taken in order to maximise the benefits of information modelling across the maritime heritage sector more generally.

Dan Atkinson

Community co-production of 3D rock art models in Scotland

The presentation discusses the production of 3D models of prehistoric rock carvings within the context of Scotland’s Rock Art Project, a five year research programme based at Historic Environment Scotland. The 3D models are being created by trained community teams as part of a standard recording methodology used to document prehistoric carvings across the country. Digital data gathered by community teams will become publicly accessible online via the project website, and Canmore, the National Record of the Historic Environment of Scotland. This presentation explores the benefits and challenges of using Structure from Motion techniques with local communities at this scale, and discusses the wider implications of this work for rock art research and for public engagement.

Tertia Barnett

Taming the chronology of Samian found at Hadrian’s Wall & the German Limes using Linked Open Data

Since the mid-1990s the RGZM (Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Mainz) provides web-based databases containing millions of datasets with content from many different archaeological disciplines. These relational databases were constructed in interdisciplinary transnational projects and include a lot of “hidden archaeological assumptions”. The aim of our paper is to make these hidden assumptions visible and provide them as a Linked Open Data graph to establish reproducible research as a basis for Open Science. In particular the Samian Research database [1] at the RGZM which is based on the Names on Terra Sigillata project of Leeds and Reading Universities funded by the AHRC offers nearly 250’000 identified potter stamps, which are traditionally dated in a traditional way. In Roman archaeology this is usually expressed by establishing “absolute dates” in well known “from-to” tables, whereas in reality, the situation is much more diffuse. In fact, Samian dating is quite often based upon so-called ‘dated sites’, which are themselves dated by Samian. Occurrences of South Gaulish Samian on “historically dated sites” like Hadrian’s Wall with its absolute dating or the Wetteraulimes with its less clear dating are difficult to use as dating arguments because it is not possible to say a priori whether these were “survivals” or whether they were part of a still existing South Gaulish export industry. Therefore an RDF (Resource Description Framework) based model has been developed to deal with occurrences making the Samian dating process verifiable and transparent. This paper focuses on modelling dating arguments using a relative chronology based on Allen’s interval algebra [2] compared with absolute dates in the prototypical build Academic Meta Tool [2] to create Linked Open Data for reproducible and transparent research. This tool enables the creation of an RDF-based ontology such as for modelling dating arguments and visualising the semantic reasoning for detecting errors.

[1] [2]… [3]

Florian Thiery, Allard Mees

Finding mechanisms for a comparative study of Atlantic Rock Art

Atlantic Rock Art is a term commonly used to describe an assemblage of prehistoric carved motifs based on an overwhelming circular iconography. Cup-and-ring motifs, cup-marks, wavy grooves and other variations were carved on the landscapes of a number of western European modern countries, such as Scotland, England, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, during Prehistory. The engravings, the type of rocks on which they were depicted and their landscape locations provide the carvings with a sense of homogeneity due to their striking similarities. As such authors have, since early stages, hinted at connections and relationships between some of the aforementioned regions, although these are poorly understood and were never fully explored.

Recent fieldwork developed to assess differences and similarities among the rock art of the western façade revealed that despite the resemblances there are striking variations in Atlantic Rock Art. In order to assess these characteristics and investigate the sense of unity between the regions, I developed a study based on a 4-scale methodology and empirical data documented in five different study areas. The scales of analysis focused on small details of the motifs, their making and carving techniques, revealing certain shared characteristics which implied that a mechanism of systematic cultural transmission was in place, contributing for the widespread of Atlantic Art. Furthermore, other scales of analysis assessed the rock media and the relationship between the latter and the motifs but also the wider landscape in which they were located. This multi-faceted investigation included human and computational valuations, combining methods ranging from 3D imaging records, GIS and Network Analysis, complemented with a sensorial and experiential perspective. Results revealed a carving tradition which encompassed many resemblances but was still capable of maintaining regional personalities. The study demonstrated the importance of rock art in the narrative of prehistoric Atlantic Europe, contributing for a clearer insight into the connectivity and cultural transmission of the region.

This paper will focus on the methodology applied and the benefits of a multi-disciplinary and multi-scalar approach to the study of rock art.

Joana Valdez-Tullett

3D Scotland in miniature: digital topography, deep neural networks & approaches to national mapping

The increasing availability of extensive complex datasets, including Airborne Laser Scanning (ALS) data, is a world of opportunity. It is also a challenge to develop work practices that can explore the potential archaeological knowledge dividend effectively, especially for the creation of systematic national-scale heritage inventories which are a foundation for heritage management and research. This paper presents work on the Island of Arran, often referred to as ‘Scotland in miniature’ because it encompasses many of the landscape types of the country as a whole. Historic Environment Scotland is using this outdoor laboratory to develop approaches to extensive and rapid archaeological landscape mapping and the exploration of computational approaches to object detection using deep neural networks.

One strand of this work concerns manual mapping of the archaeological landscape. This foregrounds remotely sensed data (ALS) as the primary source of information, supplemented by orthophotographs and field observation, requiring multi-scaled desk-based interpretation of ALS derivatives, the documentation of certainty of interpretation, and an iterative, selective approach to field observation. The latter is used primarily to improve the interpretational certainty of those desk-based identifications with low confidence levels. This approach has achieved considerable increases in rates of area coverage over methods of field survey that largely rely on field walking to cover the ground. For Arran, the project has also generated a three-fold increase in the number of known monuments.
The second strand of the work, undertaken with the Norwegian Computing Center, is exploring the potential of deep learning for national mapping of cultural heritage. This approach is based on the height data and learning sets comprising the centre positions of known archaeological remains. The deep neural network used in this work had already been pre-trained on one million images of natural scenes, and outputs a vector of presence/absence of objects of potential interest. Cross-validation of outputs with known cultural heritage remains, supplemented by field checking, indicates a success rate, so far, of about 90% positive identifications.

This paper concludes with thoughts on how the combination of approaches tested on Arran can be extended to support the cost-effective and rapid national mapping of Scotland.

Dave Cowley, Øivind Due Trier, Łukasz Banaszek, Anders Ueland Waldeland

Practical applications of digital technologies for conservation & asset management of historic sites

Historic Environment Scotland is the lead public body set up in 2015 to investigate, care for and promote Scotland’s historic environment. HES is responsible for the conservation and operational management of 336 historic sites across Scotland (Properties in Care) on behalf of Scottish Ministers under the Scheme of Delegation.

In the absence of a commercially available heritage asset management system that is not based on asset obsolescence or asset renewal, Historic Environment Scotland is developing a bespoke digital asset management system to manage operations, inform decisions and prioritise investment.

This Properties in Care Asset Management System (PICAMS) is a programme of digital transformation, which will link and provide access to a wide range of disparate data sets relating to the Properties in Care, including information relating to designation, significance, condition, facilities management, archaeology, climate change, digital image and drawing archives, as well as a growing collection of 3D spatial datasets.

The Rae Project is a long-term ambitious programme to digitally document in 3D all of the Properties in Care and objects from their associated collections. The resulting data constitutes a baseline record of the estate and is being used to inform conservation, asset management, interpretation and research projects, as well as improve (virtual) access to the properties.

In parallel with digital documentation projects, HES is developing the use of visualisation, 3D modelling, 3D printing and gaming technologies for conservation applications.

Other key digital systems feeding into PICAMS are Building Information Modelling and HES-SIGMA. HES is currently leading the heritage application of BIM in Scotland, exploring and developing BIM as a holistic tool to manage and access relevant inter-related digital datasets both for project delivery and asset management.

HES-SIGMA is an innovative condition-monitoring tool developed by the British Geological Survey and HES, which facilitates condition surveys for the Properties in Care through a mobile GIS-based application. The data can be used to monitor the condition of the sites, quantify the effect of conservation works and prioritise investment across the Estate.

This presentation will outline each of these digital technology applications within HES, in relation to a series of case studies on Stirling Castle.

Joann Russell, Sofia Antonopoulou, Lyn Wilson, Al Rawlinson, James Hepher

The application of precision agricultural techniques to archaeological survey

The Iter 34 is the Roman road that crosses the province of Álava from west to east.
Since the 18th century several different routes through the area have been proposed; since no specific path is officially recognized, the remains of the road do not enjoy heritage protection. In 2017 we made a project to determine the course of the road through rural Álava. In addition to traditional archaeological excavation and prospecting techniques, we used drones to take NDVI infrared images to create high-resolution orthomosaic plans of 10 cultivated areas through which the road is conjectured to pass. During the photosynthesis process plants reflect great amounts of infrared energy which can be captured with infrared cameras. By comparing the infrared and the visible spectrums we can clearly see the subtlest differences within the health of a crop, so that any crop marks are much clearer than in conventional photographs.

Thanks to the NDVI orthomosaics, remains of the roadway were identified not only in
places where we already knew it existed but also in previously unknown locations. Furthermore, other archaeological features were identified close to the roadway.
This successful experiment heralds a great advance in non-invasive techniques of
archaeological surveying. By using precision farming techniques we have identified the course of the Roman road Iter XXXIV in several locations in a short period of time and with few resources.

J.J. Fuldain, F.R. Varón

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