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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