Who Says Classics Departments Can’t Make Money?

Interesting item from Science Business:

A scanner which combines the convenience of a desktop scanner with the functionality of a powerful laboratory imaging device has been developed at the University of Oxford’s Classics Department, and is now being commercialised by a new company Oxford Multi Spectral Limited which was today spun out by the University’s technology transfer company Isis Innovation.

The scanner was developed for imaging ancient papyri and the technology has been used to successfully scan, restore and archive over a quarter of a million historically significant manuscripts.

Oxford Multi Spectral Limited (OMS) will focus on the applications in restoring manuscripts and art, as well as the huge potential market for detecting forged security and border control documents, bank notes and forensic evidence.

Managing director of Forensic Document Services, the biggest forensic document company in the Asia Pacific, Paul Westwood, explained the Oxford scanner could be used to analyse a huge variety of samples, including crime scene samples such as counterfeit and altered documents as well as documents bearing erased or faded entries and signatures: “The portable nature of the scanner means that it will be a great resource when document examiners are required to undertake examinations out of the laboratory environment, such as at Court Registries or the offices of opposing lawyers.

“We anticipate that using the Oxford scanner will be like moving from using a dark room to using a modern digital camera. We can use it to detect what is currently invisible and make it visible.

“The compact design and powerful imaging and analysis will be of great benefit to document examiners worldwide.”

OMS CEO, Mike Broderick said: “OMS delivers multispectral imaging capabilities superior to large laboratory systems in a very cost-effective apparatus.

“Current multispectral imaging kits use cameras, but they are large, expensive and need specialist operators. Our scanner uses well-proven flat-bed scanner technology and powerful image processing to scan visible and ‘invisible’ features which absorb and reflect light at different wavelengths such as inks, pigments, polymers or papers.”

Dr Alexander Kovalchuk, the physicist who invented the scanner explained: “An ordinary colour image has three layers: red, green and blue; a multispectral image has many more layers, some of which are invisible to the human eye, but all of these layers contain potentially useful information. Our scanner is capable of registering an unlimited number of layers.”

Dr Dirk Obbink, University Lecturer in Papyrology and head of the research group which developed the scanner said: “The technical leaps we made mean many ancient documents which were previously unreadable can now be scanned and read.

“We can take digital images at different wavelengths of the light band and layer them on top of each other, using software to analyse them. We can set the equipment to interrogate a feature we are interested in: the surface structure, fibres, stains, watermarks, fingerprints, or alterations. We can detect an artist or writer’s signature under multiple layers of paint or the pencil sketch under a watercolour.”

OMS has secured an investment of £250,000 from a Chinese investor Changsha Yaodong Investment Consulting Co and its UK based partner RTC Innovations to commercialise, manufacture and market the scanners globally. It received £47,600 from the University Challenge Seed Fund last year for prototyping work.

Isis Innovation managing director Tom Hockaday said: “OMS will be the first spin-out from the University of Oxford’s Classics department and indeed from the University’s Humanities Division. We are delighted to see the impact of this technology across other disciplines.”

Oxford is clearly showing itself as cutting edge … just a short while ago, this same group was doing the crowdsourcing thing with the Oxyrhychus Papyri

Erimi Excavations (Cyprus) Conclude

From some sort of press release service called Your Story:

The Ministry of Communications and Works, Department of Antiquities, announces the completion of the 2011 field season of the Italian Archaeological expedition at Erimi -Laonin tou Porakou, which took place from August 1st to September 3rd 2011, under the direction of Dr Luca Bombardieri (University of Florence). The investigations were conducted by a team of archaeologists, drawers and topographers of the University of Florence, with the joint support of an anthropologist of the University of Florence and a team of five conservators from the Soprintendenza Beni Archeologici.

The site of Erimi-Laonin tou Porakou lies on a high plateau on the eastern river bank facing southward towards the Kouris Dam, just on the border between Ypsonas and Erimi villages. The settlement sequence evidenced at the site indicates occupation throughout two main phases. The first and most significant phase ranges from the Early Bronze Age to the beginning of the Late Bronze Age period (EC II/III- LC I). The site was then re-occupied in the late-Hellenistic and Roman periods, apparently following a long period of abandonment.

As far as the 2011 field season is concerned, the focus was placed upon the investigation of the top mound area (Area A), the domestic quarter (Area B) and the southern cemetery (Area E).

1) Excavations on the top mound (Area A) confirmed the importance and the extent of the Workshop Complex, which was possibly focused on weaving and textile dying activities, as also suggested by the results of the analyses carried out on plant residues collected from the soil from structures and ceramic vessels. Investigations in the area, which measures 20×20 m., have revealed two new Storage Areas (SA II and SA III), which extend parallel to each other to the west of previously investigated Storage Area I. The excavation exposed the complete extension of SA II, which covers a wide surface of 7,20 x 3,50 m., and is subdivided into two rooms (Rooms A and B). The collapse of the walls of the Storage area was possibly caused by a sudden event, since the structure as well as the complete assemblage of ceramic vessels and small finds were found crushed on the rooms’ plaster floor.

The entrance to the Storage Area is characterised by a huge limestone squared block measuring 1,50 x 0,50 m., which preserves its socket and locking devices. Hence, Room B can be considered as a small entrance room intended for storing small and medium-size ceramic containers, as also confirmed by the presence of plaster arrangements in the floor. A stone bench with a complete grinding stone installation lies in the NW corner of Room A, suggesting a different function of the room, where a significant assemblage of storing ceramic vessels were also found.

The stratigraphic deposit within the Storage Area is characterised by a sequence of two phases (Phases A and B). The ceramic assemblage belonging to the two phases clearly hints to a typical production of the South Coast horizon of the Early to Late Bronze Age I period (EC II/III – LC I), with a large percentage of Red-Polished and Drab-Polished wares. Furthermore, in the same area, a collection of stone and metal tools and clay spindle-whorls with incised decoration, as well as a rare comb-shaped picrolite pendant were found.

2) Investigations in the first lower terrace, where the domestic quarter is located (Area B), exposed the foundations of a house. The domestic unit is organized around an open rectangular court (Court 1), with a fire place. Two rooms extends towards the East of Court 1 (Rooms 1 and 2), arranged with stone benches carved directly in the natural limestone bedrock.

3) The South Cemetery area (Area E) extends on a series of terraces sloping towards the South-East of the settlement. A series of seven rock-cut tombs on two terraces (Tombs 228-232; 240-241) with small dromoi were excavated during the 2008-2010 fieldwork seasons. Two additional graves were excavated during this year’s field season: Tomb 242 (looted in antiquity) and Tomb 243. Tomb 242 is a cave-like single chamber cut into the limestone rock without a dromos, as the previously excavated tombs of the terrace. However, Tomb 243, which is partly collapsed, has wider dimensions and has a bench displayed in front of the entrance. The human remains indicate a multiple inhumation of two adults, a male and a female. As far as the offering goods are concerned, an assemblage of 13 ceramic vessels comes from Tomb 243. The repertoire includes small and medium sized bowls, juglets and jars with applied and incised decoration as well as a collection of clay decorated spindle-whorls and stone beads. The typology and decoration patterns point to a typical South Coast Red Polished decorated pottery production, mainly dated back to the end of Middle Bronze Age.

via Cyprus Department Of Antiquities Completes Erimi Excavations | Your-Story.

Those Lead Codices Just Get Faker By the Day

If you’ve been keeping up with the lead codices thing, you will know that a number of scholars are now of the opinion that a stamp was used to make a number of the designs on different examples. Tom Verenna has just found another use of a stamp, interestingly on a known fake, which matches the supposed ‘genuine’ codices:

… I think I hear something sloppily hitting the fan on this case …

Our previous coverage of this (most recent first) in case you need to catch up:

House of the Gladiators Collapse Followup

Remember back when the House of the Gladiators collapsed? Here’s what’s up with that … from the Art Newspaper:

Politicians and archaeological experts are at loggerheads over the funding of the restoration and conservation of Pompeii ten months after the House of Gladiators collapsed. The house, which still lies in ruins, is awaiting the arrival of a task force of technicians and archaeologists, who have yet to be recruited. According to culture minister Giancarlo Galan, Unesco has threatened to strip the ancient site of its World Heritage status if immediate, decisive action is not taken.

Funding for the €150m needed for archaeological excavations in Italy is, in principle, coming from the European Union, although the Italian government has yet to submit a formal application for the funds. Despite this, the governing council of the ministry of cultural heritage has already earmarked €47m for the restoration and conservation of Pompeii, with €8.2m allocated for inspections and three-dimensional surveys. However, seemingly without the ministry’s knowledge, a three-dimensional study of the site has just been completed by experts from four Campania universities, in co-operation with the Sorbonne, the Barcelona School of Architecture, the Fulbright Commission and the Italian National Commission of Unesco.

The three-year study, entitled “Pompeii, Fabbrica della Conoscenza” (“Pompeii, the Knowledge Factory”), was carried out using the most advanced technology, according to Carmine Gambardella, dean of the faculty of architecture at the Second University of Naples (Aversa).

“After the collapse of the House of Gladiators, we flew over the excavations with the Guardia di Finanza, using an infrared thermal sensor to locate at-risk areas and so redraw a map of the site,” said Gambardella.

The ministry-approved survey, therefore, amounts to a costly “repeat performance”. The cultural affairs branch of the Italian Labour Union has reported the matter to the public prosecutors of Torre Annunziata, Naples and Rome, calling for transparency in the awarding of such public contracts.

The private sector is also taking a keen interest in Pompeii. The Naples Industrialists’ Union (NIU) has presented a three-stage strategy for the development of the archaeological site. The first aim is to promote the Pompeii “brand” and to attract global sponsors. The second is to surround the site with a ring of hotels, shops, information points, parks and other facilities, to be connected with local and national transport links. The third aim is to ensure co-ordination with the local and regional authorities.

According to Antonio Graziano, the chairman of the NIU, a consortium of 2,500 French companies is interested. The plan is opposed by art historian and archaeologist Salvatore Settis. “It would be like letting the Colosseum fall down then building a series of facilities around it,” he said.

… anyone wanna bet the ‘three dimensional survey’ already completed didn’t cost anything near to 8.2 million Euros??? Of course it didn’t.  And I’m willing to bet most of that 8.2 million was for the ‘branding’ of the site and lining the pockets of assorted people who might, er, get in the way. Shaking my head again, Italy … shaking my head.