RTI at Antiochia ad Cragum (Cragnum)

We mentioned the finds at Antiochia ad Cragum (maybe Cragnum really not sure of the spelling any more)the other day  (Head of Aphrodite from Antiochia ad Cragnum ) … Here’s an interesting bit of technology used there via a St Olaf College press release:

A group of St. Olaf College students working on an archaeological dig in Turkey became some of the first researchers in the world to use a new technology that could change how scholars study artifacts.

And one of the first artifacts they documented using the technology was a life-sized marble head of the goddess Aphrodite that their group helped unearth. The find, which has attracted attention from national media outlets including NBC News , is important because it sheds new light on the extent of the Roman Empire’s wide cultural influence, which scholars previously argued didn’t reach as far as southern Turkey.

The new technology, called reflectance transformance imaging (RTI), takes about 70 photos of an artifact from an array of angles and artificially inserts various lighting on the object. In a sense, it takes the normal 2-D images and creates a composite 3-D image.

Associate Professor of History Tim Howe led the monthlong program to southern Turkey, where 10 students participated in a dig as part of his Archaeological Methods course and another four students used RTI to document artifacts as part of a project through the college’s Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) program.

RTI is the future of archaeology, says Howe, noting that the St. Olaf team is the first to use the technology on an active excavation site. Because RTI reveals writing, dates, and images on objects that aren’t visible to the human eye, looking at an object through the technology can be even better than handling it in person — a feature that the St. Olaf team learned firsthand.

“We were able to determine the date of a fallen milestone by demonstrating that there were no additional lines of text above the mile numbers and confirm that it was established during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, rather than his son Commodus as previously assumed,” explains Howe.

His next goal is to create a digital museum of artifacts using RTI. The site would have the raw 3-D images, data collected for each object, and a GPS link so people will know where and how it was found. Researchers around the world would have the ability to look at these objects without ever traveling to Turkey.

“RTI is really poised to become the new way of archaeology,” Howe adds.

Tackling new technology
Howe first learned about RTI at a conference. St. Olaf purchased the relatively low-cost technology thanks to a digital humanities grant from the Mellon Foundation, as well as support from the Dean’s Academic Innovation Fund, the CURI program, and the college’s Office of Information Technology.

Jason Menard, an instructional technologist with the IT Office who holds a doctorate in Roman archaeology and geographic information systems from the University of Minnesota, worked closely with the members of Howe’s team and provided field support that made their work possible.

Students taking part in this summer’s program in Antiochia ad Cragum, Turkey, worked to uncover an ancient marketplace and a massive bath complex, both of which included mosaics.

They documented many of their finds — which included an arrowhead from the first century B.C. and a number of coins in addition to the Aphrodite statue — using RTI.

Because they were the first group to use RTI on an active archeological dig, there were few references or manuals to refer to when a problem arose.

“If we encountered a problem, often there was no place we could turn to for a ‘correct’ answer; rather, we had to creatively come up with solutions and critically think about the process and technology we were using,” says Nicole Wagner ‘15.

Members of the team were fascinated by the level of detail from the RTI images, which allowed them to see inscriptions no one had seen for thousands of years.

“We would take a completed RTI image to one of the professors and they would discover something new about the object they had studied for years,” says Seth Ellingson ‘15. “That was the greatest reward.”

This RTI technology seems to be the next big (and useful) thing, especially in epigraphy … Bill Caraher has a post on its application in that sort of context: Linear B in 3D . For a more technical sort of look, here’s a link that came up during a discussion on Aegeanet a week or so ago (tip o’ the pileus to Peter Campbell): Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI).

CFP | APA Committee on Classical Tradition and Reception: Call for Panel Proposals

seen on various lists:



The Committee on Classical Tradition and Reception (COCTR) of the American Philological Association invites proposals for a panel to be held under the Committee’s sponsorship at the 146th Annual Meeting of the APA (New Orleans, January 8-11, 2015).

Submissions, which should not exceed 500 words in length, should include:

(a) the title of the proposed panel;

(b) a general outline of the proposed topic, with a reasoned justification of its significance in the context of contemporary work in the field of classical tradition/reception studies.

Proposers of panels should bear in mind that a panel will comprise either four 20-minute papers in a two-hour session, or four 20-minute papers plus short introduction and response in a two-and-a-half-hour session. Proposals need not indicate the names of envisaged participants in the panel; indeed, the Committee anticipates that the process following selection of the panel topic will include a call for papers.

Panel proposals should be sent via e-mail attachment (in Word format) to David Scourfield, Chair of the Committee on Classical Tradition and Reception (david.scourfield AT nuim.ie), by no later than November 15, 2013. All submissions will be subject to double-blind review by two referees, whose reports will inform the Committee’s decision.

It should be noted that selection and sponsorship of a panel topic by the Committee does not in itself guarantee final acceptance of the panel by the APA Program Committee.

It should be noted further that the organizer of any panel selected by the Committee will have to be a fully paid-up member of the APA for 2014.

Layoffs at Nemea … Stephen G Miller Weighs in

From eKathimerini:

The possible dismissal of seven temporary guards from the archaeological site of Ancient Nemea as part of government plans to streamline the Greek civil service, may force the closure of the site, Dr. Stephen G. Miller, director of Nemea excavations, has warned.

In an open letter addressed to the general public recently, Miller lamented the consequences of such a decision, citing Nemea’s importance to ancient Greek culture and the modern Greek tourism industry.

“The firing of seven guards would leave active only three permanent guards, which would not even be sufficient to leave the site and museum open to the public. This means that visitors will now find it closed,” wrote Miller.

In antiquity, the sanctuary at Nemea hosted ancient Greek athletics and poetry competitions once every four years, rotating with Delphi, Isthmia and, most famously, Olympia. Today the site attracts more than 50,000 visitors a year.

Miller, a University of California archaeologist who first began digging at Nemea in 1973, is responsible for uncovering much of what remains of the ancient sanctuary and stadium. He has also spearheaded the Society for the Revival of the Nemean Games, a movement intended to resurrect the competitive and egalitarian spirit of ancient Greek athletics.

“I always welcomed the chance to use my research as a basis for educational experience,» noted Miller, “one that provided every visitor to Nemea a chance to learn more about their roots in ancient Greece.”

The decision to cut back on security comes at a time when Greece’s understaffed museums have become increasingly vulnerable to thieves and the illegal antiquities trade. An armed robbery last February at the Museum of Ancient Olympia, Nemea’s sister sanctuary, for example, resulted in the theft of 70 ancient artifacts.

“If this [the lay-offs] happens, I will look at myself in the mirror and realize how mindless, how deluded I was. I will have wasted my entire life’s work,” Miller wrote.

Speaking later to Kathimerini English Edition, the archaeologist reiterated these sentiments.

“Forty-five years ago I fell in love with Greece and decided not only to move here, but to devote every ounce of my energy to its excavations. Was that decision ultimately a mistake? We fought hard for what the foreign visitor now sees at Nemea. But when will the Greek state take care to attend to its most valuable possessions – its archaeological parks and museums?”

One wonders why the powers that be aren’t remembering Olympia (Theft at Olympia)