26 December 2013

The Vicus at the 2014 AIA Conference in Chicago

Hope you're staying to the end, because we're going to be at Session 7D: Fieldwork in Italy, Sunday the 5th from 8:30 am - 11:30 am.

See you there!

24 July 2013

3D Modeling an archaeological site during excavation

I've been playing a bit with improving the photography during excavation at the site, including better and easier overhead photos (more on that soon). This season, when I was looking at a bunch of overheads I had taken, it occurred to me that I could likely generate a decent 3D version without too much more work using the AgiSoft PhotoScan software I had purchased a few months ago.

I threw the photos into the software and got the following (which I'm showing here as a screenshot). You can see big holes where the sides of the walls are not missing due to the overhead shots being fairly vertical and therefore not capturing the sides, but overall it looks pretty good and certainly made it clear that it was possible to generate good 3D models from photos taken in a few minutes on site. So the next time, I took not only a series of overheads but also a number of shots from ground level, circling the area I was photographing while snapping shots.

Here's what that approach yielded, here in a screenshot, but for the full effect, head over to the publicly available version at p3d.in, where you want the "burial" model. I've still got to work on optimizing the conditions in the modeler for getting good results: it's easy to generate something of the quality you see here, but getting better results takes a lot more cpu time and I haven't worked out a good workflow yet. Expect some more posts on this in future weeks.

What am I going to use these for? Well, first off they look pretty cool, which is something not to be neglected. It's a lot easier to capture people's imaginations when they can play with a little 3D version of a site. Second they of course form a more sophisticated documentation of the site for human viewers. Manipulating the model helps make clear in a way that 2D photos can't how various objects related to one another. Ideally the models will eventually be of good enough quality that we can do measurements on them. You can check out the meter stick in these images already (20cm to each red and white band). We try to capture relevant locations in our total station, but it's easy to miss something and the models mean we have less to worry about. It would also be great to incorporate the digital models into our GIS system. Right now they're already useful in reminding us just what everything looked like at a certain point in time, but it should be possible to make them part of our long-term digital database.

Other people are doing this sort of thing too. For example, check out William R. Caraher's blogpost on a talk back in April and his more recent one last week and another encouraging others to blog about their work (which is in part why I wrote this!). There's a little Twitter activity too, so go have a look at @BillCaraher @adamrabinowitz @sebhth @Pompeiana79 @adreinhard.

25 November 2012

2013 Dates!

We've settled on the dates for next year's season: 9 June - 6 July. A bit earlier than last year, but that was a late one. As usual, students pick three weeks in there (or come for all four!), and visitors can have their choice.

See the website for more details.

A presto!

23 November 2012

The Vicus at the AIA

At this year's AIA conference in Seattle, WA, I'll be reporting on last season's results in the session "Rome and its Environs", on Saturday, January 5, 2:45 pm - 5:15 pm. See you there!

03 October 2012

Changes to the blog

I've been thinking for a bit about the name of this blog. When I started it, I connected it closely to my home institution, Drew University, and not to the site itself. In part this was because I wasn't sure how long the work would go on at the site, and in part because I expected the associated field school to be mainly populated by Drew students.

Well, the project is entering its sixth year (Yay!) and more than half of our students have not been from Drew and the site should be known for itself.

So it seems to make sense to re-name the blog and re-write its description to better reflect the current reality. I've decided to use a nice, short name for the URL, vicusmartis, and to keep the blog named according to the various inscriptions that appear in the church of S. Maria in Pantano and its tower, Vicus Martis Tudertium.

And there it is.

11 July 2012


Pretty sure that two posts in two weeks makes me a bad blogger, but I will persevere!

It's been hot here. Not as hot as some familiar parts of the US, but still hot, especially when you're outside working for more than a few hours a day. Fortunately the nights have been nice and cool, and breakfast temperatures are in the high 60s (high teens for the Europeans). Massa's pool has provided a few hours of relief for some, but it's hard not to feel the heat and sun after a few days of work.

We've been doing the usual range of recreational activities this year, with students taking a few side trips on the weekends, and more than a few staying in Italy after the dig is over for the same. Tonight we tried a new one: UmbriaJazz in Perugia. Nothing fancy, just a trip up in the minivan for dinner (on our own) and whatever free music we could catch. And there was plenty! Nice crowd and the evening cooled off enough from the extremely hot day to make it enjoyable.

Other of the usual events have included a spaghettata with friends of the dig from town (of course Otello was there!). Here's a photo of everyone getting ready to eat. No karaoke yet, but there was a little dancing. The main event is tomorrow night, so expect more photos!

Massa now has a lovely new park with an amphitheater of sorts, and they show films in the summer. Now that the micro-Olympics have ended (in victory for the Yellow Submarine team), they've started showing films in earnest. Last night was an eagerly awaited Rapunzel (Tangled).

Finally a little artwork from one of this year's students, Lucie. Everyone liked the new water coolers we bought, but one of them was familiar looking, so Lucie did a little work on it one evening.

After the second cooler arrived, well, how could she not work up that one too?

01 July 2012

Season Five!

I'm a little slow out of the blocks, because we're already one week into active digging!

We've got a good-sized group this season with eight undergraduate students, one graduate, two official Visitors, and a few friends stopping by. As usual we're working with the crew at Intrageo and with the support of the Comune of Massa Martana.

And, wow, it's hot here! It's been probably the hottest week I've ever had in Umbria, with temperatures peaking in the 90s/mid-30s every day. Today the internet says over 100°/40° in Massa, but since it's a Sunday, I'm lying low after a morning talk at the dig for a group of Italian tourists on a short visit to a number of sites in the area. We're keeping our place closed up during the day to keep the heat out and that's worked well so far, mostly because the evenings have been delightful, with lows around 70°/29°. They're predicting one more day of high heat, then a drop to something a bit more reasonable. We're going to take the precaution of starting a bit earlier this week, and doing a few of our local trips around noon. That way we'll be out of the sun for at least the very hottest part of the day.

Happy workers
More soon, but here's a photo of everyone on day one to whet the appetite.