November 15, 2013
by James Miles
During the 2013 excavation season whilst completing a series of laser scan models of the site I also completed a number of photogrammetry captures of specific artefacts. The following are a few examples of the work completed and allows for a virtual record that can be used by archaeologists off site within their analysis of these artefacts. The Roman architectural fragments illustrated here are currently being studied by Dottssa Eleonora Gasparini through this process.
I am also currently working on creating a series of photogrammetry models based on the aerial images that were captured during the field season and will be used a direct comparison to the laser scan models that are currently being processed. The model of the Navalia excavation has been included below and highlights the potential that photogrammetry has within the capturing of the excavation process
November 13, 2013
by Graeme Earl
I have posted a storify pulling together some of the tweets from Simon Keay’s lecture “From Trajan to Belisarius”. This included an introduction to the proposed Portus MOOC which we hope to launch in 2014.
From Trajan to Belisarius 11.11.2013
Recent research in the area of the Palazzo Imperiale at Portus
June 24, 2013
by Peter Wheeler
Today was the first day of the 2013 Portus field school. Staff and students arrived throughout the weekend in order to settle into their accommodation in nearby Fiumicino. The staff members were joined by 10 first year undergraduate archaeology students, 6 Curriculum Innovation Programme (CIP) students and 2 Lifelong Learning students, all from the University of Southampton. The rest of the team was formed of 15 Italian archaeology students from Roma Trea University, 4 overseas students and members of the British School at Rome (BSR) and Parsifal Cooperativa.
Upon arriving at the site the students were given a brief tour of the site, including through the Darsena, Terme Della Lanterna and the Grandi Magazzini di Settimio Severo. After coffee break, the importance of the health and safety while working on site were explained by Kris Strutt, the project’s health and safety officer. Dragana Mladenovic, the field school director, then gave the students a tour of this year’s excavation area and the related buildings of the Palazzo Imperiale and Building 5. This gave the students their first opportunity to see the site, while also gaining insight into the work that has been carried out in the previous years of excavation and how this year’s work fits into the archaeological process at Portus.
After lunch at the Casale, the students were given an introduction to the archaeological techniques that are used at Portus; these included context recording, archaeological survey, finds recording and processing and geophysical survey. The excavation teams were finalised and students were told of how they would be rotated through different tasks throughout the working week. This prepared them well for starting their excavation training tomorrow and gave them an idea of what is to come over the next three weeks at Portus.
June 6, 2013
by James Miles
In October of 2012 myself and Gareth Beale were in Portus collecting a series of datasets, these included a series of high resolution 360 panoramas around the site which Gareth has processed and a full laser scan model of the Palazzo Imperiale. The panoramas have been explained in a previous post by Gareth and after several months of processing the data, I am able to present some of the completed work through this blog.
The purpose of the terrestrial laser scan work was to complete a series of high resolution models of standing architecture found at Portus, previous work had already been completed by Geography department at the University of Southampton in 2009 where the Cistern block and steps were recorded using a Leica ScanStation 2, this was in addition to the triangulation laser scanning completed by the Portus team from both Southampton and the BSR and several photogrammetry models. The site has since dramatically changed as has the technology hence the need to record new features at a higher resolution, allowing for an archive of the standing architecture.
The main focus for the laser scanning work of 2012 was the Palazzo Imperiale which included the continuation of the cistern block, the Terraza di Traiano, and some additional rooms near to the Trajanic harbour. The area was of particular interest to the research team as the Palazzo Imperiale is currently being excavated at the front and the interior is at risk of collapsing. The laser scanning of the interior of this important building would then provide a great resource to the team as the area is usually off limits due to the possible collapse and darkness associated with being underground. The laser scanner used was a Leica ScanStation 10, which was an updated version to the one used previously, it offers a resolution of 1mm up to 100m and utilises pulse scanning which allows for scanning to be completed in both light and dark environments. This scanner was hired from Optical Survey who are closely related to the Portus project.
Over a twelve day period a series of 77 scans were completed set at 1cm accuracy at the furthest position away from the scanner (Scans focused on specific areas and have a higher resolution of points the nearer to the object the scanner is) and incorporated RGB values per point where possible. The scanning time varied depending on the amount of area recorded and how far this was from the scanner, as the further away the object was, the longer the scan time as the scanner believes that it will have a constant distance to follow. The scanning caused very little problems as the only thing needed to do was to set it up with the area needed to scan and to colour calibrate the camera so that the RGB values could be collected. The scanner would then scan the area of interest and the only further thing needed was to capture the overlapping targets which would be used within the post-processing of the data. The only problems that were encountered included hard to see targets and people walking in the scan area (Excavation on the exterior of the Palazzo Imperiale was on-going) but these were eradicated by the use of a torch in the dark and post processing the extra data out.
Having completed the necessary data collection the next stage was to clean the raw data and process them into one complete model. Normally a survey of the station positions would have been recorded and entered into the scan data but time was unavailable to do this. As a result the individual scan data had no spatial correlation and had to be positioned into the correct position with it later being geoprocessed. Cyclone was first used to process the data but problems were encountered with the availability of the necessary software and as such the scan data was instead processed with 3dReshaper and Pointools. The following is then an example of the work completed highlighting the potential that laser scanning offers within the documentation of archaeological remains. The laser scan work remains on-going with the end result being a full virtual model of the standing archaeology found in the local area that can be used within our investigation of these important Roman site.
May 29, 2013
by Graeme Earl
On 15 May Fiona Harvey, Lisa Harris and myself presented at the HEA Changing the Learning Landscape event. During this event I presented first thoughts on the digital aspects of the Portus Project Field School and on the planning of the Portus MOOC. At that stage we were not certain of the scale of the MOOC to be produced, hence “mini-MOOC”. We are now planning on expanding the scope of the Portus MOOC to provide a full MOOC introducing the site, its context in the Roman world, the finds and the methods employed by the archaeologists and other experts on the Portus Project. You can see the slides from the presentation below and a video of the event will be online soon. We will also provide an update soon on the plans for the Portus MOOC. You can keep up to date by following the PortusMOOC twitter account.
Further information about the event are on the Digital Economy USRG blog.
April 10, 2013
by Dragana Mladenović
Check out the Portus Head on the cover of Archaeology Abroad!
The Field School is featured on page 99 and application is still open!
Workshop: Architectural Reconstructions at Portus 04.03.2013 - 04.03.2013
The Portus Project is organising a workshop to update colleagues on progress in recording and modelling the buildings from Portus. The day will begin with discussions of progress and continue with detailed analysis of each reconstructed element, and the data and interpretations underlying it.
9:00 Simon Keay – The Excavation of the Palazzo Imperiale and Navalia
9:30 Graeme Earl – Computing Strategy at Portus
9:45 Penny Copeland – From Excavation to Archive: Plans and Elevations
9:55 James Miles – Scanning the Palazzo Imperiale
10:05 Grant Cox – CGI Modelling of the Palazzo Imperiale and Navalia (Phases 2 and 3)
10:50 James Miles – Structural Modelling
11:05 Christina Triantafillou – Architectural Considerations
11:20 Simon Keay – General Conclusion on the Character of the Buildings
11:25 Discussion – The Palazzo Imperiale and the Navalia
The primary aim of this workshop is to present new evidence for the date, construction process and architectural conception of the Trajanic harbour at Portus. The evidence to be presented will include a synthesis of our current understanding of the complex, as well as brick stamps and construction techniques for three key buildings at the heart of the port, and a new analysis and interpretation of the Trajanic PORTVM sestertii. The secondary aim is to place these advances in the broader context of contemporary building initiatives at Ostia and Rome, with a view to better understanding the significance of Trajanic building at Portus. In particular, attention will focus upon the river port at Lungotevere Testaccio, the Foro di Traiano, Mercati Traianei and the Terme di Traiano.
9:00-9:10 – Christopher Smith: Welcome address
9:10-9:20 – Angelo Pellegrino: Introductory remarks
9:20-9:30 – Simon Keay: Introduction to workshop
9:30-9:50 – Simon Keay: The Port System of Imperial Rome
9:50-10:10 – Edoardo Scazzocchio e Fabrizio Felici: I bolli laterizi di Portus nel quadro delle datazioni delle strutture murarie
10:10-10:30 – Evelyne Bukowiecki: I Grandi Magazzini così detti … e così poco traianei di Portus
10:30-10:50 – Christina Triantafillou: The Palazzo Imperiale and Building 5: construction techniques and timelines
10:50-11:10 – Roberta Cascino, Fabrizio Felici e Sabrina Zampini: I contesti ceramici Traianei del Palazzo Imperiale di Porto (2007-2011)
11:10-11:30 – Coffee
11:30-11:50 – Bernhard Woytek: The PORTVM TRAIANI sestertii
11:50-12:10 – Simon Keay: An archaeological reading of the PORTVM TRAIANI sestertii
12:10-12:30 – Janet DeLaine: Trajanic brick stamps from Ostia and Castelporziano
12:30-12:50 – Elisabetta Bianchi: Produzione laterizia destinata ai grandi complessi imperiali di Roma in età traianea
12:50-13:00 – Questions
13:00-14:00 – Lunch
14:00-14:20 – Paola di Manzano: Evidenze traianee al Porto di Roma
14:20-14:40 – Renato Sebastiani: Interventi edilizi di età Traianea a Testaccio: il caso del Nuovo Mercato attraverso il contributo dei dati ceramici e dei bolli laterizi
14:40-15:00 – Lucrezia Ungaro: La fabbrica dei Mercati di Traiano: il progetto architettonico, la struttura edilizia, le caratteristiche dei materiali costitutivi (impiego delle cortine laterizie e del calcestruzzo)
15:00-15:20 – Massimo Vitti: Il sistema voltato dei Mercati di Traiano: antecedenti ed evoluzione
15:20-15:40 – Roberto Meneghini: Il Foro di Traiano: tecnica edilizia e tempistica di cantiere
15:40-16:00 – Rita Volpe: Strutture murarie e modalità di costruzione delle Terme di Traiano sul Colle Oppio
16:00-16:20 – Tea
16:20-16:40 – Filippo Coarelli: Edilizia nell’amministrazione pubblica di Roma nell’epoca di Traiano
16:40-18:00 – Discussion
December 9, 2012
by Graeme Earl
Why produce computer models?
We have been producing computer graphic representations as part of our work at Portus since 2007. These are used for a number of purposes. Firstly, they help us to bring together all the many forms of digital data gathered on site, through survey, geophysics, photogrammetry, laser scanning and other tools. For example, we are combining three-dimensional geophysics with laser scans and excavated sections to understand the development of the Building 5. In the documentary Rome’s Lost Empire, this has been interpreted as a building to house warships, even though there remain interpretative issues to resolve. The ground between the building and the water is more likely to have been sloped than raised as shown in the programme, thus making it possible for vessels to move in and out of the water.
Computer graphics also help us to develop our interpretations of the archaeological data we recover. For example, at the corner of the surviving cistern complex (Palazzo Imperiale II) graphical simulation has helped us to understand how water may have been transported from one harbour building to another. The overview model of the site shown in the documentary is helping us to understand how the different parts of the site were inter-connected. It is an artistic interpretation based upon known archaeological data by the BBC graphic artists, with input from us.
A third use of the three-dimensional computer models has been to undertake formal analyses of different aspects of buildings at the site. For example, we have examined the lighting levels in buildings and considered how this might have affected their uses.
Finally, still, animated and interactive computer graphics are enabling the project to communicate its interpretations widely. In addition to creating these visuals ourselves, and working with experts like the BBC, we are interested in the role that computer graphic visuals play in a wider understanding of the site.
Models produced for Rome’s Lost Empire
In the year leading up to the broadcast of Rome’s Lost Empire the Portus Project team worked closely with the documentary team. In particular Simon Keay discussed many drafts of all of the models with the production team. We were particularly keen that existing knowledge of the site, which has been known since the 16th century, and our own impressions of how it once may have looked, could be translated to a wide audience. We had produced a series of visualisations of the site in the very first work on site funded by the AHRC. Whilst these now look very dated they demonstrated to us that modelling did not just help to express what we were thinking, but actually helped us to develop new ideas.
This impression has remained with us and in 2009, when we excavated part of the Imperial Palace (Palazzo Imperiale) and tried to make sense of the complex archaeological remains, modelling whilst on site gave us the opportunity to experiment with buildings, views, functions and so on, almost immediately after every new piece of archaeological information was recorded. We have continued to use modelling in our interpretations, including the simulations produced of the cistern blocks to the north of the Palazzo Imperiale.
The western frontage of the Imperial Palace was an imposing sight as ships first entered the inner harbour at Portus. We have produced a number of representations of this in recent years and provided the BBC with these models. They further developed them with input from Simon Keay and Janet Delaine (University of Oxford), drawing upon known contemporary buildings and materials at Rome, but in the end the programme didn’t include them. The BBC provided us with their models, however, and we have carried on working with them, producing work such as the visualisation above. Below you can see an early version of this same building that we produced as part of an animation by Gareth Beale (ACRG) in 2009.
Since then we have done a lot of work in trying to understand the structural properties of buildings such as this and the likely materials used in its construction and decoration. For example, we have tried methods such as Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) to produce records of the subtle surface properties that define the appearance of these buildings and the objects originally contained within them. Below you can see one example of this where the imaging technique helped in the identification of a brick stamp.
Elsewhere in the documentary there are other models that reflect the sense of our ongoing interpretations. For example, we believe that Building 5 housed ships of some kind as we have recently argued in a scientific paper, even though some interpretational issues remain. In the documentary, however, the structure is shown housing ships even though the ground in front of it has been left level rather sloped, since this is an unresolved issue which we are addressing in ongoing work. We have produced a great many models of this particular area, one of which is shown in the page about building 5. Below you can see a still from the Rome’s Lost Empire documentary which gives a sense of the sheer scale of the structure, measuring c 240m by 60m. However the structural remains of this building might be interpreted, this was a colossal feat of engineering.
The simulation of building 5 was a multi-stage process. Firstly, as with other parts of the site we conducted a detailed geophysical survey of the area. By using three-dimensional geophysical techniques such as ground-penetrating radar and electrical resistance tomography we were able to build up hypotheses of the layout of the building.
This, coupled with excavation, gave us a sense of the physical properties of the building. The excavated remains have been recorded in part via laser scanning – a method that provides a rapid, very detailed three-dimensional record of the archaeology. (You can read a recent blog post about our latest laser scanning work inside the Imperial Palace here).
This detailed information can then be fed into the kind of software usually used by architects and engineers to design buildings. We use them to test the physical properties of hypothetical structures.
Having examined the physical properties of the potential structures we use this information to feed into an approach known as procedural modelling. This software technique allows computer models to be generated automatically on the basis of inputs such as the likely forms proposed by the structural analysis, the forms of similar Roman buildings, and our interpretations of the most likely functions of the building.
We have so far produced more than a hundred versions of the building automatically in this way, and used these to inform our preferred option for the BBC to work with. As television makes it difficult to present a great many hypotheses we felt that this approach gave the single representation chosen the most weight. The computer cannot replace the knowledge of Roman archaeological and architectural specialists but it can provide a means to make this form of scholarship visible, and produce models upon which to base further interpretations.
Below you can see another view of the results of this modelling, further developed by visualisation experts at the BBC for the documentary. It only lasts a few seconds on screen but represents months of hard, and fun, work by dozens of archaeologists on the Portus Project. I hope that if you saw it you really enjoyed the programme!
I’ll leave this post with the pharos, or lighthouse. In our own modelling work we had never attempted to visualise this enormous structure, except in a schematic way at the very start of the project. We have produced models of the much smaller lighthouse at the entrance to the inner harbour, which was based on similar comparative evidence – some surviving remains at Portus and elsewhere, and Roman visual representations of lighthouses. The Pharos as modelled and animated by the BBC is based upon representations recorded on mosaics and carvings at Ostia and Rome, and what is known of the Roman lighthouse at Lepcis Magna and the great Pharos of Alexandria. It demonstrates what I have always thought was one of the key things in archaeological visualisation. For all the hard work and scholarship in interpreting the past, for all the analysis and simulation and development of scientific hypotheses, archaeology remains a creative and emotional process. Travelling back in time, albeit via a computer model, is a way to think about our modern world of course. But it is also nice sometimes to get lost in a different world – and the Pharos visualisation does that perfectly.
If you would like to learn more about our modelling work at Portus and indeed any other aspect of the project sign up to our newsletter.
If you would like to learn the skills that were employed by our CGI archaeology experts at Portus then you can study on the course that they did – the MSc in Archaeological Computing (Virtual Pasts).