Recreating the Kithara

From a University of Vermont press release:

How do you create a three-dimensional design for an ancient Greek musical instrument when all you have to go on are flat two-dimensional images on vases and coins and a few timeworn statues?

That’s the assignment Classics professor John Franklin and student Tanner Lake gave themselves in 2009 when they decided to recreate an ancient Greek instrument called a kithara, a seven-stringed version of the lyre used by professional musicians in public concerts, choral performances and competitions beginning in the seventh century B.C.

“We looked at any medium we could find to get the measurements and all the angles,” Franklin said. Franklin and Lake also consulted ancient texts that described some elements of kithara construction.

Lake, a classics major who graduated in 2010, designed the instrument under Franklin’s supervision.

The task of building the kithara fell to luthier John Butterfield of Butterfield Lutes in Seattle, who introduced his own design ideas when technical challenges presented themselves.

All three will be on hand on Friday, Feb. 15 at 4 p.m. in John Dewey Lounge to talk about the project and show off the product of their collaboration.

Franklin will demonstrate the kithara and will use it to accompany several ancient Greek songs performed by the Halcyonids, the Classics Department singing group.

Lyres as an instrument family gradually morphed into lutes of various types. The word “guitar” is descended directly from “kithára,” even though the shape and stringing changed radically.

Catalogging the Catacombs

A lengthy item from the BBC is sure to generate a lot of interest; here’s a bit in medias res:

The leader of the project, Dr Norbert Zimmerman of the Vienna Academy of Sciences, was behind the idea to use laser scanners to record every part of the Catacombs.

His scanner, which looks like a cylinder on a tripod, stands a metre or so high and is a piece of kit you usually find in the construction industry.

Gone are the days when archaeologists just used shovels, brushes and sieves to unearth the past.

The scanner has been placed in hundreds of different locations in the Catacombs.

It turns slowly, sending out millions of light pulses that bounce off every surface they come into contact with. The light pulses rebound back into the scanner and are recorded on a computer as a series of white dots, known as a “point cloud”.

Gradually, every wall, ceiling, and floor is bombarded with the dots, enabling the computer to build up a picture of each room.

Eventually, the computer completes a 360-degree, three-dimensional, moving image of that room, with every surface looking like it is made up of small white dots.

At the same time a camera on the scanner takes a picture of each surface. That information is also fed into the computer enabling colour to be added to “fill in” the dots.

‘Real data’

When the process is finished, it looks like an actual film of the particular room in question.

In all, four billion dots were recorded, enabling practically the whole catacomb to be documented in this way. Only a handful of small spaces were left out because it simply was not possible to get the scanner in.

… there are all sorts of photos at the site; in theory, I’ve embedded a relevant bbc video below:

more about “BBC NEWS | Europe | Shedding light on…“, posted with vodpod

An incredibly interesting application of technology to the stuff within our purview …

Recreating Gladiatorial Weapons

A series called Deadliest Warrior is coming to Spike TV which, apparently, will include some recreations of gladiatorial weaponry and demonstrations of it in action. I’ll try to embed a video here of same (but it was having difficulties yesterday):

If it doesn’t show up for you, here’s a link to the series page … click on the “sneak peak” tab to get to the gladiatorial stuff (the items on the first page are more ‘the making of’ type things).

Pompeii Tidbits

An item in Adnkronos about a theme parkish thing called Italia in Miniatura includes this little item at the end:

But there is still more to come and soon Italia in Miniatura will be expanding and the expansion of the theme park means double the surface area and the introduction of extraordinary interactive attractions, first among all the 1:1.33 scale reproduction of ancient Pompeii reproduced in its original aspect and where visitors can walk inside houses, on the streets and in the temples where staff will simulate daily life scenes. Then when the sun goes down there will be a reproduction of the Last Day in Pompeii, invaded by the river of magma and smoke of a Vesuvius which suddenly erupts again. The project also forecasts the realization of two new structures: a 17 meter tall Coliseum in 1:3 scale with respect to the original one in Rome and a Science Centre.

In other Pompeii news, ANSA reports on a conference going on, the gist of which is:

A series of debates over the two-day event will focus on the impact of Pompeii in a variety of fields.

The film talks will include one on the gap between reality and cinematic accounts of Pompeii, and one on representations of Pompeii in late 20th-century cinema.

Among the art topics are discussions on early landscape paintings of Pompeii, postcard precursors designed as mementoes for travellers, and Pompeii as an iconic representation in 19th and 20th-century art. Religion will be touched upon with discoveries of early Christian imagery in Pompeii and how Pompeii has figured in speeches by the current pope, Benedict XVI, and his predecessor John Paul II. A talk entitled ”The Revival of Pompeii” will look at renowned reconstructions of Pompeian buildings ordered by King Ludwig I of Bavaria, artist Pablo Picasso and industrialist and collector J. Paul Getty, all of whom fell in love with the destroyed city and sought to recreate part of it for themselves. There will also be discussions on how the city has appeared in European literature, its portrayal at the theatre and its role within the theories of Sigmund Freud.

Gladiators Gladiating Again

The incipit of a piece in the Los Angeles Times:

The gladiators charge each other with a great clashing and crashing of arms and armor. It’s hard to say who looks more fearsome: Atropo or Taurus.

Atropo, the towering Germanic barbarian, wears a mask of black war paint, a headband over her blond hair and a brown tunic and leggings. She wields a trident in one hand and whirls a net in the other.

Taurus, the compact Roman, is a tattooed mass of muscle beneath a battered metal helmet that covers all but his eyes. He circles behind his shield, lunging with the short sword known as the gladio.

The combat rages until Atropo snares the sword with her net, twists Taurus off balance and batters him to his knees. She whips a dagger from her boot and applies it to his jugular.

“Hah!” she snarls. “Now comes the moment when I cut your throat.”

In her conquering gaze, you can almost see a crowded amphitheater roaring in expectation, an emperor rising from his throne to proffer the gesture — thumbs up? thumbs down? — that will decide the fallen fighter’s fate.

Instead, a spatter of applause echoes in a workout room at the Sport and Fitness gym (English names are trendy here) in Ardeatina, an outlying neighborhood of Rome where middle-class Italians and concrete apartment blocks are more common than tourists and ruins.

Atropo helps Taurus pull off his helmet, and the two become 21st century Romans again: Giulia Mazzoli, a mosaic artist, and Michele D’Orazio, a construction worker.

Some people play Dungeons & Dragons in their spare time; some reenact battles; some learn martial arts. Mazzoli and D’Orazio have a pastime that combines elements of all three — and a powerful dose of local pride.

Epigonion Redux

Science Daily is reporting on the ASTRA project’s reconstruction of an epigonion, apparently thinking this is something new. Faithful readers of rogueclassicism will recall this selfsame project’s selfsame news on this selfsame instrument back in September (from a report in the Register). Clearly the current report is designed for ‘publicity’ purposes:

The ASTRA project will be demonstrating the epigonion at this week’s
EGEE User Forum, 2-6 March 2009, Catania, Italy.  People will be able
to listen to the reconstructed instrument and play it using a MIDI
keyboard. The demonstration will also allow visitors to run real
reconstruction on the grid. A professional musician will play ancient
scores on the epigonion.

Back in September we noted that an mp3 was available of the reconstructed instrument’s sound, but tonight it seems to be consistently crashing firefox … ymmv.