Blogging the V&A Samarra Material


A new blog, Samarra finds from the Herzfeld Excavation in the Victoria and Albert Museum, is making public the research process of cataloging the Samarra material held by the V&A.

As the site says,

“In 2013, BISI funded a pilot project to research, catalogue, photograph and conserve the V&A’s collections of material excavated by Ernst Herzfeld at Samarra in 1911-1913. This complements related projects underway at the Museum für Islamische Kunst (Berlin) and the Freer-Sackler Gallery (Washington DC), and feeds into a bigger international collaboration to reunite Herzfeld’s Samarra finds. This blog charts the discoveries we hope to make along the way.”

Primarily written by Mariam Rosser-Owen and Rosalind Wade Haddon, the blog offers a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of an academic research undertaking. Here’s to hoping that more projects start to offer this kind of transparency!

Artozia and the Politics of Archaeology


“The Ministry of Culture then offered a bizarre “solution” that entailed unearthing the ruins and registering them, then covering them up with soil and 30-50 centimeters of concrete so that buildings could be constructed on top of them.

Burying ruins is an internationally recognized technique for preserving monuments when they are in danger. A time-resistant fabric is placed to isolate the ruins at the modern ground level and the archaeological discoveries are then covered up with sand or soil. This technique is used to bury rooms or mosaic floors. But this is the first time in the world that a whole archaeological site is being buried. Lebanese politics have imposed new methods in the field of archaeology.”

Artozia: The Many Ruins of Nahr al-Bared by Joanne Bajjaly

Concerning Dense Point Clouds and Wireframes

So, in addition Microsoft’s Photosynth, a number of new Structure from Motion reconstruction tools have become available recently, most notably Hypr3d and Autodesk’s 123d Catch. These seem to have been prompted primarily by the recent popularization of 3D printing, so their focus is on creating water-tight wireframes. This makes them rather different from Photosynth, which places emphasis on displaying photos at their full resolution rather than assembling them into a textured wireframe.

The great thing about photographing for structure from motion – apart from the weird looks people give you as you take 300 photos of something they might snap once or twice – is that photosets can be dropped into all of these new algorithms, and the reconstruction software is only going to get better. Here are some new models made from photos I took at Qusayr ‘Amra in Jordan and Cappadocia in Turkey:

Documenting Merv


CyArk completed a comprehensive digital documentation campaign at Merv in 2007 in conjunction with excavations in the grand bazaar undertaken by the University College London, the results of which are now available up on their website. This is Kind of a Big Deal for historians of Islamic architecture. CyArk’s work is a model for digital documentation projects: content includes spherical panoramas, point clouds from laser scans, architectural drawings, and GIS data associated with each digital artifact. In a perfect world, every architectural archaeological site would receive such comprehensive documentation before and after archaeological interventions or conservation.