CTC14 Archaeology Weekend – write up

We held our CTC14 Archaeology weekend, which was sponsored by Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service, on the weekend of 15 and 16 September 2018.
All code, and some data and documentation which were created over the weekend has been published on Github repos. 

Background

Throughout 2006 an archaeological dig of the East Kirk of the St Nicholas Church was conducted by a team led by the archaeology service of Aberdeen City Council. You can read more of the history here. A large number of skeletal remains and other artefacts were recovered. Written records were created in the form of plans, and log books, and some of these were drawn, then scanned, and a MS Access 2 Database was also created.

Since the end of the dig, some post-excavation analysis of skeletal remains, and other artefacts, has been conducted, but this is far from complete due to a lack of funds.

Saturday – getting started

Following an introduction from Ali Cameron, the dig director, challenges were identified,  ideas for tackling those identified, and teams formed around those.

The teams, and their projects, created a pipeline; one feeding the other.

Below we introduce the teams. Each of these will shortly be linked to individual blog posts for each team.

The Teams

Team Scoliosis

They had two aims:

  • to re-label photos and bringing them together for the ‘skelelocator’ team,
  • to lay out skeletons and explore options for 3D scanning using mobile apps and cameras with photos offloaded to laptops for processing.

Team Skelocator

Working from CSV files (derived from an Access 2 MDB file), JPEG diagrams, Corel Photopaint files and even using original hand-draw plans and log books, this team aimed to create a complete set of data of all excavated remains, allowing these to be plotted in 3D space using X, Y and Z coordinates.

Team Skeleton Bridge

This team set out to create a  schema and mesh diagram which would use the data from team skelocator in a format which the unity burials could use.

Team Unity Burials

The members of this team wanted to create a 3D model of the church interior in Unity, and to place skeletal remains accurately in the 3D space, moving from block models to accurate ones. Their initial focus was on setting up the deployment of their basics to GitHub and to speak to the other teams about what the formats of data they could work with in order to move this along faster

Team PR and Marketing

This team was looking at stories that would help drive any fundraising later, and exploring what data might be possible for visualisations.

Saturday 5pm update

The second round of updates at 5pm on Saturday saw each team make progress.

Team Scoliosis

They were using Qlone for scanning from mobile phones and found it takes only a few minutes per bone – this is also the app recommend for this by Historic Scotland. However, they are blocked by the size of the paper grid that is needed under the object being scanned. An A3 sheet is not quite big enough for larger bones. Another group found it took 20 minutes with laptop to produce low res version from camera photos, and all tried pushing completed models to Sketchfab site.

Team Skelocator

They explored raw files to see what could be extracted with different tools looking at exif data and whether this could be supplemented with data from the dig books if necessary.

Team Skeleton Bridge

It appeared that there was no need for this team as Skelocator could output neutral format files, with agreed content, directly to team Unity Burials. So the team disbanded and members were absorbed into other teams.

Team Unity Burials

They were experimenting with how they can manipulate data from one app to another to provide reference points for when they do have the skeletons to place in the model, and how they might show the metadata of each skeleton too.

Team PR and Marketing

This team were exploring how to use the Microsoft ML libraries to build a chatbot that would use FAQ information about the dig to answer questions.

Sunday morning

The Sunday had teams coming together from 9:30-10:30 and most people returned which was good. We saw an update around noon.

Team Scoliosis

The team used Qlone to scan more bones with mobiles. They discovered the resolution was high enough, even on smaller ones, to be able to notice things which hadn’t previously been noticed such as what appear to be sword cuts to a rib bone (white marks) on a person who was known to have been stabbed in the head.

This highlights the importance of scanning the bodies while they are available before re-internment at a later date. The larger scans with Qlone were found to be too big for detail as you had to stand further away and thus lost resolution.

Team Skelocator

They are now using the Python library Sloth to bring the images to life by extracting text from them and putting this into a JSON file. They also found this enabled a way to position each of the skeletons by marking their locations on the image and then creating a grid for reference from a known fixed location, which could also be used by the unity burial team.

Team Unity Burials

One member worked out a convoluted, but workable, process to get images into Unity from other file formats, while another team member worked on a UI for the public to navigate the model.

Team PR and Marketing (aka skeleton)

They started a chatbot, but found it needs to have its data in a better format, and are starting to work with with cleaning up a list of skeletons for using with dc.js visualisations, as well as a webpage for holding the data from the other teams.

Final presentations on Sunday afternoon – 4pm

Team Scoliosis

Everything is being brought together in Sketchfab so that all models can be found.

https://sketchfab.com/models/6edc98b057c740b5a66d34276ee261da/embed St Nicholas Kirk Skeleton SK820 Skull by Moira Blackmore on Sketchfab

They are exploring how to combine smaller models to create bigger ones by exporting them into another app. They discovered the limits of scaling the grid in Qlone to get the best resolution with devices, and how to use photos and a laptop to get a scan of whole skeleton using the right background cloth.

Team Skelocator

They further pulled data from processed photos with x,y,z locations from a superimposed grid that could be automated with human double-checking to make up for the lack of GPS being available for their tools in 2006, as it is now. This can then be handed to unity burials.

Team Unity Burials

One member found more ways to bring in scanned data from team scoliosis, while the other improved upon the UI for the VR version and demoed the basic model to people with the VR headset.

Team PR and Marketing (aka skeleton)

They updated their google doc spreadsheet and pulled it into the pages at GitHub.io so that it could be queried for skeleton info and finished adding the basic visualisations of this data with dc.js while the skelebot was improved with some personality, but wasn’t as useful as it was hoped it would be.

Take-aways from the weekend

  1. We saw how well cross-functional teams worked as there was usually someone around during the event who could help with something, and that within each team people were able to bring diverse experience to help with issues. This was most apparent during the ‘round ups’ of team effort when people heard what others were doing or trying to do.
  2. We learned that skeletons hundreds of years old, and paper records of 12 years ago ensured durability of information, while a two year old tech gadget from Google was found to be useless after it updated itself as google had stopped the project, so its built in two-camera scanner couldn’t be used. Similarly file formats which were common at the time of the dig, just 12 years ago, were challenging to access.
  3. We also found that these ‘strongly themed’ events work well for participation. We had 28 attendees on Saturday and 25 on Sunday.

Published by

bascharlau

Engineering collisions between real world & computing students at Uni. of Aberdeen with lean, agile & service design because experience+theory trumps theory

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