Posted by Aris on

Girdi-Bazar Square Bowl and Potter’s Pivot Crowdsourced Photo-masking Project

Hello all,

my name is Aris and I am currently a level 2 student in the Department of Archaeology in Durham University. I am taking the Advanced Skills in Digital Heritage course. Crowdsourcing is an area within Digital Heritage that allows engaging ‘members of the public’ (who do not necessarily have prior knowledge of Archaeology and History) with an archaeological project (like this one) or museum projects more at large. As a main assignment in Digital Heritage we created a photo-masking project in Micro-Past and are now asking you to help us with it.

If you’d like to give it a try, we are asking you to photo-mask some ancient artefacts. Instructions can be found on the application we created in the Digital Heritage class. In a nutshell, there are 65 photographs of the artefacts that must pass this procedure: tracing a polygon around the object in continuation and then clicking submit. This action will allow generating a mesh that is created by the collection of the polygons of the 65 photos. This mesh will help us create 3D models of the artefacts. These 3D models can help various academics to do research based on the modelled artefacts without having the real thing with them. Moreover museums can use these 3D models as exhibits etc.

For our project, we ask you to trace polygons around a square bowl and potter’s pivot. These artefacts were found from a 3000-4000 years old site in Iraq. The excavations were held by the University of Munich. By photo-masking these objects you will help the Munich team with their research and studies and you, in return, will learn more about the past.

-Aris Spathas

Posted by Kei on

A new 3D Photo-masking project! Join Now!

Are you interested in the human past?

Do you like using social media?

Do you want to do some volunteer work?

If your answer is ‘YES’, click and join us now.


On 27th October 2017, a group of Durham University students launched a 3D photo-masking project. The project was launched on the MicroPasts crowdsourcing platform when we were doing a module called Digital Heritage taught by Dr. Chiara Bonacchi from Univeristy of College London. She is also a co-founder of the MicroPasts.

Funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council and developed as a collaboration between the UCL Institute of Archaeology and the British Museum, MicroPasts is an online platform allowing people with or without academic background to work together on research about archaeology, history and heritage. With the aim to connect the public, MicroPasts also uses Facebook, Twitter and other social media. It encourages people to support research projects via participation. The research projects involve a variety of tasks including transcription of structured and unstructured text and of sound, geo-referencing of find spots, classification of photographic materials, video-tagging and 3D photo-masking.

This time, we ask you to engage with the 3D photo-masking project we have created. This project is about two artefacts: a square bowl and a potter’s wheel pivot. The square bowl served as a basis for the wheel pivot which is placed in it. On the pivot, a wooden wheel is rotted, on which the clay is fashioned into a pot. This mechanism is known as a potter’s slow-wheel. They were found in Gird-i Bazar during excavations by LMU Munich’s Ancient History Department in Autumn 2017. Excavations have been carried out since 2015 in Gird-i Bazar, a part of an Iron Age settlement complex (ca. 1200-600 BCE) located in the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq.

The 3D documentation tasks are very simple but also require your computer skills and intelligence. We would like you to draw one or more polygons around the object that you see in each photograph in order to identify the outline of the object and exclude the image background. This facilitates the subsequent 3D modelling process to concentrate on the object itself and ignore irrelevant information.


We hope you will enjoy assisting us and engaging in this community project.


Thank you for your support!


Posted by Sarah on

A beginner’s step into crowdsourcing

I learnt about crowdsourcing by the joining the Level 2 Advanced Skills ‘Digital Heritage’ module which I am taking at the Archaeology Department of Durham University. As a complete beginner, I stepped into the daunting world (for me) of informatics and technology, a risk I was willing to take for the sake of engaging a wide range of people into the heritage sector. Indeed, using archaeological data and different platforms, the whole tutorial class worked on the creation of a project available on MicroPasts for a 3D photo-masking of a potter’s pivot and square bowl found at Gird I-Bazar -an archaeological site in the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq dating to the Neo-Assyrian period (ca. 900-600 BCE)-. Now this application is ready and you can help with it! Exciting! Involving the public and specialists across the world into the conservation and spreading of our heritage -even when it is not a subject they are familiar with- but also sharing different knowledge and ideas makes this project a wonderful adventure; where anyone can contribute in small or big steps, just as I learned to do it.

So what does our project really consists of? You (any member of the public) are simply asked to log on to MicroPasts, have a look at our instructions and then start the 3D documentation of either the potter’s pivot or square bowl. The pictures are already available online and they require to have a polygon drawn around the object in each of 65 photographs, so as to ‘mask’ or define its outline. The help of the public will allow the rest of the image (ie. the background) to be excluded and to create -by assembling all the polygons into one- an interactive, 3D image. Examples of such sketches can be accessed on Sktechfab. By creating those digital models, anyone can ‘handle’ them without bothering to go to a museum, where the precious artefacts are safely guarded under glass panels. By clicking on the object, detailed notes on specific parts of the artefact will appear which are generally not written on museum labels. And you can have a closer look at them without actually damaging them! There are endless possibilities and I would love to be able to reconstruct an entire room for example, where I would be able to interact with the objects as our ancestors did. It only took a few clicks and step by step, we can all reach for the past…

~ Sarah

Posted by Tullia on

Potter’s Pivot and Square Bowl – A Crowdsourcing Effort

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”. I believe this sentence encapsulates the essence of the Level 2 Digital Heritage course I am currently taking at the Department of Archaeology, Durham University. The focus of this course is heritage crowdsourcing, where we utilize the knowledge and skillsets of different people around the world to contribute to the heritage sector. This gradually builds a collaborative bond between institutions and the public, the likes of which is less seen in traditional GLAM institutions. As a task in our practical sessions with Digital Heritage, we have created a photo-masking project on MicroPasts for the public to contribute to.

The project concerns creating photo-masks for some excavated artefacts. What is photo-masking? What you see in the application we created are simple instructions which essentially boil down to: trace a tight polygon around an object and press submit – and there are 65 photos that need to go through this process. Why do we do this and where do all those polygons go to? This is where the magic happens. After collecting all the polygons, we arrange them in such a way that a “mesh” of the object is created. This allows us to form 3D digital sketches and models – you can see what objects have been created thus far on sketchfab. What are these models for, you may ask? Well, the digital models could be put on display in museums to be manipulated in all directions on screen; it could even be sent to a scholar far far away from the actual object so that they could examine the object through its 3D model. The possibilities are truly endless – and all stem from your help with tracing a polygon on your computer screens!

For the photo-masking project that we have created, we would like you to trace polygons around a square bowl and a potters’ pivot. These objects were excavated in the summer of 2017 in Iraq, by the University of Munich. They discovered these objects at an Iron Age site, which is roughly some 3000-4000 years ago! They have enlisted your help in creating photomasks for the two objects, to aid their study but also to bridge the bond between you, audience, and them. Every little helps, and with each polygon you make, we may learn just that much more about the past.

– Tullia Fraser

Posted by alepalmisano on

Crowdsourcing an excavation project in Iraq

sofia-cafe-1-september-2016This summer, during the second fieldwork campaign at Gird i-Bazar, an archaeological site in the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq dating to the Neo-Assyrian period (ca. 900-600 BCE), we had the pleasure to give a talk at SOFIA Café at Qaladze, the small town where our team is based. This very nice occasion prompted us to think about ways to make our work accessible to a wider audience – not just locally in Kurdistan, but beyond. As our project has strong links with UCL, we got in touch with the Micropasts team, whose big community of motivated and tireless online contributors has produced an impressive body of work on archaeological artefacts.

The Peshdar Plain Project started in 2015 and aims to study the political, cultural and social landscapes of a frontier zone of the once powerful Assyrian Empire by surveying and excavating in this virtually unknown region. Digging up artefacts and structures and publishing the results for academic audiences is a key approach for archaeologists, but we want to involve also others who are interested in the past. Bringing people out to work on the dig in Kurdistan is difficult for a great many reasons – but now you can help us document, understand and publish our finds online, from the comfort of your home!00000045510000004470

Our pilot project is a 3D photo-masking project. We ask you to help us with the documentation and dissemination of an artefact excavated this summer: a stone mortar with two holes on both sides that was found in a workshop in a bustling town at the border of the Assyrian Empire, flourishing 2700 years ago. Incidentally, the 3D documentation of the artefacts found in the archaeological excavation at Gird-i Bazar will also help us to make the local cultural heritage more accessible to the local community, as the museum where our finds are stored is located at Sulaymaniyah, some 300 km away. We are looking forward to seeing how the 3D model of the stone mortar will look like and how it could be used for outreach activities.0000005831

We hope that this pilot project is just a first step for a wider range of future activities with Micropasts. We hope that you will enjoy assisting us with the documentation of new artefacts as they are freshly dug up from the ground in 2017 and that you will participate online in our fieldwork. You will be helping us with tasks that we cannot hope to accomplish ourselves while out on the site. Thank you!

by Karen Radner, Janoscha Kreppner, Andrea Squitieri, and Alessio Palmisano

Posted by paolodv on

Quando un ippopotamo può salvarti

Questa statuetta (Museo Egizio, Torino, numero di inventario Cat.526, 40 x 17 x 21.5 cm), intagliata nel legno e dipinta a colori vivaci, raffigura una divinità femminile chiamata Taweret (“La grande” in egiziano antico) ed è databile al Nuovo Regno, probabilmente alla diciannovesima dinastia (1292-1190 a.C.).


Parahotep, citato insieme a due suoi figli Pay e Ipuy nell’iscrizione posta sulla base, aveva il titolo di “scriba dei contorni”, o scriba disegnatore, viveva nel villaggio di Deir el-Medina (presso l’attuale Luxor, Riva Occidentale) ed era membro di una nota famiglia di artisti all’interno della quale questa professione, considerata abbastanza prestigiosa, fu tramandata di generazione in generazione, fino al nipote di Parahotep, Amenemope. A differenza di un suo fratello, anch’egli scriba disegnatore, che conosciamo da molteplici oggetti oggi sparsi nelle collezioni di vari musei europei, il nome di Parahot
ep si è conservato solo su pochi reperti, fra i quali uno stipite iscritto proveniente da una delle porte della sua abitazione nel villaggio di Deir el-Medina, e questa statuetta molto particolare.

La dea Taweret è qui raffigurata con le sembianze di un ippopotamo femmina gravido in piedi sulle zampe posteriori, quelle anteriori terminanti con artigli leonini, una parrucca tripartita sul capo e la coda di un coccodrillo sul dorso. Le fauci leggermente aperte contribuiscono ad accrescere il senso di potenza e pericolosità di questa divinità che era in realtà preposta alla protezione delle partorienti e dei nascituri. Sia Taweret, che il dio Bes, dalle fattezze grottesche, erano oggetto di un culto popolare che si esprimeva in rituali realizzati per mezzo di statuette, stele di piccole dimensioni o amuleti all’interno delle abitazioni.

Aiutaci a creare un modello 3D di questa statuetta!

Paolo Del Vesco

Posted by Chiara Bonacchi on

Archeologia Pubblica e Crowdsourcing al Museo Egizio

Archeologia e Pubblico. Comprendere come la ricerca e i risultati da essa conseguiti divengono (o meno) parte del nostro vivere contemporaneo, studiare le implicazioni etiche, sociali, economiche, politiche derivanti dall’analisi archeologica della cultura materiale e dalla sua comunicazione e fruizione in senso più lato. Queste sono le tematiche affrontate dal settore dell’Archeologia Pubblica, declinazione italiana dell’inglese Public Archaeology.

La Public Archaeology emerge e si diffonde negli Stati Uniti e in Gran Bretagna a partire dagli anni ’70 del secolo scorso ed ha conosciuto, nell’ultimo decennio soprattutto, una diffusione anche maggiore a livello internazionale. Sebbene non vi sia consenso assoluto, la Public Archaeology e’ oggi principalmente intesa come quell’area disciplinare intenta a studiare il modo in cui archeologia e società civile dialogano e si rapportano, al fine di migliorare tale scambio.

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E’ in questa accezione che l’Archeologia Pubblica sembra essersi affacciata anche in Italia, grazie al primo articolo pubblicato sul tema e ad una serie di iniziative tra cui il Primo Congresso di Archeologia Pubblica in Italia, la sezione tematica (Dossier) dedicata dalla rivista European Journal of Postclassical Archaeologies, la conferenza Archeologia Pubblica al Tempo della Crisi e l’iniziativa Archeostorie.

Ci sembra che proprio alla ‘crisi’ (non solo economica) l’Archeologia Pubblica possa offrire risposte convincenti, se impegnata nel capire come diversi ‘pubblici’ s’interessano all’archeologia, in quali forme e con quali motivazioni vi partecipano. Comprendere il pubblico permette di coinvolgerlo in modo efficace e di contribuire allo sviluppo culturale ed economico di comunità di diverso tipo.

Internet e le tecnologie digitali offrono nuovi spazi per rendere questo modello operativo. Attraverso il crowdsourcing, in particolare, è possibile raccogliere informazioni, servizi e finanziamenti da gruppi numerosi di persone, online, richiedendo a ciascuna di esse un contributo individuale relativamente piccolo.

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La piattaforma di crowdsourcing MicroPasts.

Applicato alla ricerca scientifica, questo metodo permette di creare, integrare, correggere, arricchire ed aggregare dati resi disponibili online da istituzioni o private persone. Il crowdsourcing consente di coinvolgere pubblici diversi nella gestione e cura di collezioni museali, archivistiche o librarie e nella generazione e nell’utilizzo d’informazioni in grado di supportare analisi quantitative in archeologia, potenzialmente riguardanti contesti geografici estesi e multi-periodo.

Museo Egizio, Torino.

Museo Egizio, Torino.

Oggi il Museo Egizio, insieme all’Istituto di Archeologia di University College London (UCL), porta il crowdsourcing archeologico in Italia. Il progetto si servirà di MicroPasts, la prima piattaforma tematica dedicata al crowdsourcing in archeologia, sviluppata a partire dal 2013 da UCL (la prima istituzione per lo studio della Public Archaeology in Europa) e British Museum in collaborazione con il team Pybossa.

Sinora, oltre 2,000 persone si sono servite della piattaforma per contribuire alla creazione di open data archeologici di vario tipo, tra cui la trascrizione e geo-referenziazione di un archivio contenente circa 30,000 schede di documentazione di manufatti in metallo rinvenuti principalmente nel Regno Unito a partire dalla fine del 18esimo secolo (National Bronze Age Index).

Il Museo Egizio inaugura un programma di crowdsourcing volto alla realizzazione di modelli 3D di oggetti salienti appartenenti alle proprie collezioni,  a cominciare dal cofanetto dello Scriba Regale e Sovrintendente al Palazzo, Djehuty-hotep, a cui seguiranno altri reperti differenti per materiale e tipologia, tutti appartenenti alle collezioni esposte nel nuovo allestimento.


Prima applicazione di crowdsourcing del Museo Egizio di Torino, su MicroPasts.

L’obiettivo è coerente con la nuova visione di un museo che pone al centro la ricerca, intesa come elemento fondamentale per la conoscenza, l’interpretazione e la divulgazione. Grazie alla Public Archaelogy, a questi temi si aggiungono il coinvolgimento e la partecipazione del pubblico aggiungendo un valore molto importante e innovativo utile a creare maggiore interesse e sensibilità sul ruolo dell’archeologia nella società contemporanea. I modelli 3D ottenuti con questa metodologia offrono differenti utilizzi sia a livello scientifico che didattico (la disponibilità di una stampante 3D offre a chiunque la possibilità di ottenere una riproduzione fedele all’originale). Il Museo Egizio è il primo museo italiano ad aderire a questa piattaforma offrendo la possibilità di testare l’adeguatezza e il valore di questo metodo in Italia e, al contempo, di migliorare la comunicazione di temi chiave nell’ambito dell’Egittologia e relativi alla cultura materiale presentata e interpretata attraverso il Museo.

Partecipa anche tu!

Chiara Bonacchi (UCL Institute of Archaeology), Paolo del Vesco (Museo Egizio)





Posted by Chiara Bonacchi on

Morte e Rinascita nel Nuovo Regno

A partire dalla XVIII dinastia (1550-1295 a. C.) e fino all’età tolemaica (332-30 a. C.) le statuette funerarie, note con il nome di ushabtyfurono spesso disposte all’interno di cofanetti per la maggior parte di legno. Durante tutto il Nuovo Regno (1550-1069 a. C.) e l’inizio del Terzo Periodo Intermedio (1069-945 a.C.) essi assunsero la forma di cappelle cultuali in miniatura.

Uno di questi è il cofanetto dello Scriba Regale e Sovrintendente al Palazzo, Djehuty-hotep, la cui superficie, stuccata e dipinta, presenta una decorazione che rievoca alcune credenze funerarie e concetti di rinascita dopo la morte, tipici del Nuovo Regno. Le scene sono arricchite da complessi elementi decorativi, geometrici.

Sul lato frontale si trova l’immagine del defunto che indossa un largo collare sopra un’elegante veste bianca, plissettata. Il Defunto è rappresentato seduto, mentre beve l’acqua della vita versata dalla Dea del sicomoro. Attinge al liquido anche il suo ba, uno degli elementi spirituali della persona, dal caratteristico aspetto di uccello a testa umana. Sui due lati si vede: a destra il defunto, mummificato; a sinistra Hapy e Amseti, due dei quattro geni funerari protettivi figli del dio falco Horo. Sul lato posteriore c’è ancora Djehuty-hotep rappresentato in piedi, in presenza di un sacerdote sem. Il cofanetto al suo interno doveva conservare 2-3 ushabty e lo stile suggerisce una datazione intorno alla XIX dinastia (1295 – 1186 a.C.).


Paolo del Vesco e Paolo Marini (Università di Pisa)


Posted by Chiara Bonacchi on

Naval heritage from the Mary Rose to HMS Hood

In March 2015, the team at the Mary Rose Trust met with Chiara, who introduced MicroPasts and the various projects that the MicroPasts team had been involved in. The Mary Rose Trust team were hugely impressed with the passion of the collaborators that had contributed to the online projects as well as the quality of the work that had been produced and the possibility of achieving a lot in a very short space of time!

With this in mind, a pilot project was prepared in which 3D photo-masking could be done on three artefacts recovered from the Mary Rose. This project started in May 2015 and within only a few months, models of each of the artefacts had been produced and uploaded to Sketchfab (a wooden bowl, a wooden tankard and an angel plaque). The bell recovered from the Mary Rose was also added at a later stage and was similarly prepared and uploaded by Hugh Fiske, one of the MicroPasts collaborators.

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As of May 2016, the 3D models of the artefacts have been viewed about 2,500 times. Although they represent a very small part of the Mary Rose collection, their introduction to a digital 3D space has offered exciting opportunities in developing the accessibility of the collection. So far, the models have been used for outreach activities undertaken by the Mary Rose Team, for preparing ‘replicas’ (via 3D printing) and as digital content for University student projects.

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We are excited to see how the models of the Mary Rose artefacts are further utilised going forward, but, interestingly, our current collaborative project between the Mary Rose Trust and MicroPasts does not involve an artefact from the Mary Rose. Instead the item in question is the bell that was recovered from HMS Hood – a Second World War British battle cruiser that was sunk in 1941 (almost 400 years after the Mary Rose sunk in 1545!) by the German Battleship Bismarck, during the Battle of the Denmark Strait. In 2001 the wreck was located by Blue Water Recoveries with the ship’s bell found lying on the seabed away from the hull. In August 2015, Paul G. Allen (co-founder of Microsoft) led an expedition supported by Blue Water Recoveries to retrieve the bell and, soon afterwards, the bell was sent to Mary Rose Archaeological Services for conservation.

HMS Hood

The battleship HMS Hood in 1930 during a dockyard refit. Photograph: Hulton Getty.

The bell was presented to the HMS Hood when she was launched, in 1918, by the widow of Rear-Admiral Sir Horace Hood, great-great grandson of Sir Samuel Hood, after whom the ship was named. Sir Horace died at the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916, one of 1,026 officers and men who died in seconds when the battlecruiser HMS Invincible blew up and sank, and the bell is inscribed to that effect.

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HMS Hood bell

The Mary Rose Archaeological Services became involved due to the highly specialist expertise of the Mary Rose Trust conservators in the treatment of artefacts recovered from a marine environment. The National Museum of the Royal Navy were looking to prepare the HMS Hood Bell for display in the 36 Hours: Jutland 1916, The Battle That Won The War exhibition (now open to the public at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard). The bell has been installed as a memorial to the 1,415 men who lost their lives when the ship sank in 1941.

Now you can help create models of the HMS Hood bell before and after conservation!

Alastair Miles and Chiara Bonacchi


Posted by Carl Graves on

Artefacts, Archives and Ancient Egypt: Crowd-sourcing the EES object card records

In 2015 the Egypt Exploration Society expanded its annual archive volunteer programme and made digitization its primary goal. Though the Society had already scanned a large number of archival documents and images, the new referencing system developed for the archive during 2014 had to be implemented across its virtual collections. To this end, the Society’s collections of object cards were felt to present the greatest opportunity to test this system and provide valuable research material for teams still working in the field today.

Object cards are those records created for each artefact discovered on site during a specific season, including vital information for researchers such as provenance, dimensions, material type, date of discovery, related negative numbers, and object reference number. The last of these was used to define the Society’s new archival referencing system and thus TA.OC.31-32.001 refers to the first object recorded for the 1931-32 dig season at Tell el-Amarna. All of this information was collected during the scanning and put into the file name of each digital record created.

Fig 1 - TA.NEG.30-31.0036
The Society’s excavations at Tell el-Amarna in 1931 under the direction of John D S Pendlebury. This same season was later written about by Mary Chubb (the Society’s Assistant Secretary and member of the expedition) in her memoir Nefertiti Lived Here. In this she also writes about making the object cards during the excavations and the magic of discoveries made in the field.

The Society’s volunteers made over 12,500 scans between January and July 2015 and covered collections from Amara West, Amarna, Armant, Buhen, Sesebi, and the Nubian Sondage Survey. While other collections of object cards still remain to be scanned, we turned in the second half of the year to cataloguing those records that had been digitised. For this MicroPasts became a crucial partner in collecting the required information from each scanned card. Users were provided with a template and asked to fill in the information from the card with the necessary data. Though challenges such as handwriting, non-standardised positioning of some of the information and occasional mistakes from the excavators themselves meant the information had to be checked on completion, the results obtained from MicroPasts’ dedicated online team of transcribers has been very impressive. As each card is transcribed more than once, any errors in the final data is easily spotted and rectified making transferring the records into the Society’s online archive catalogue much more efficient and reliable.

Fig 2 - TA.OC
A selection of object cards from the Society’s Tell el-Amarna archive

During summer 2015, the Society took on two interns to work on the new archive catalogue transferring the MicroPasts data into the system and adding any hyperlinks to known museum records for the artefacts. Within two months they were able to catalogue two seasons from Amara West and one from Amarna, at a much faster rate than had been possible without the MicroPasts data. Though we do not currently envisage finding the resources to continue this for all seasons, having the MicroPasts data available means that we are able to attach this information to file-level records higher in our database ensuring that it is still available to researchers while we work at producing item-level records.

Fig 3 - Library and Archive CatalogueThe Society’s new online archive catalogue which includes some of the data created by the MicroPasts community of transcribers

Since our interns completed their work at the Society, MicroPasts has continued to run crowd-sourced transcription projects on those object cards already uploaded to our Flickr account and the results have come in much faster than we’d ever expected. The support and enthusiasm for our archival records from MicroPasts users has inspired us to continue making our records available via our Flickr feed. We extended our referencing system and digitization projects to our tomb record cards and volunteers have now succeeded in digitizing the entire tomb records from Sawama, Balabish, and Abydos.

We hope to extend the MicroPasts transcription projects to include our tomb cards during 2016 and to continue making this information available to researchers around the world. Only by working cross-institutionally on projects such as this have we been able to access such enthusiastic and determined audiences – thank you MicroPasts for the opportunity, and thank you to your users around the world who have contributed to our archival records.