I have an unfortunate habit of writing blog posts that entertain me, and then someone has to come up afterward and very gently say, “Sarah, you’re frightening people.”

So let me discuss the great and wonderful world of PTMing. This image technology is incredibly useful. It allows us to create high resolution images of artifacts that allow the viewer to actually interact with the object. Light can be manipulated to show the tiniest variation in decoration or surface texture, and with various viewer settings, the image can show nothing but topography (no color, only smooth surface variations). And this is only in the dome, where objects rest on a flat background as the lights flash above. We have a larger stationary version called The Tarantula that takes 32 light-varying images of an object placed on a stand. The object is then rotated five degrees and the images are taken again, allowing us to eventually stitch together a full 3-D representation of an artifact, one in which light and color can be manipulated at will. And of course, we have a portable PTM setup (involving a portable flash and a black or red ball for light to reflect off of in the field) to document large-scale sites–through PTM creation, we have even been able to view petroglyphs in spite of graffiti or weathering.

Image creation, particularly of the highly detailed and 3-dimensional variety, has much to offer archaeology, both now and in the future. There has been talk in the archaeological community of creating 3-D images or holograms of artifacts at museums to solve some of the ongoing conflict over artifact ownership and repatriation. If objects are repatriated to their originating countries, museums across the world could still be able to display them as high-quality images or even holograms (picture R2-D2, except instead of showing a desperate Princess Leia, the beaming light shows the Bust of Nefertiti…).  Personally, I think developing this image technology even further could help solve some of the biggest problems facing archaeologists today.

I’m very lucky to be learning how to create PTMs. I will be able to apply my skills in excavations, classrooms, and museums across the world. Here at USC we are at the forefront of image technology–our databases, cameras, and computer programs allow us to take images of a quality previously unknown in the archaeological world. It is rare, too, to train undergraduates in these techniques, and we will all benefit from the knowledge and practical experience gained here at USC, as we go on to lead lives of adventure and awesomeness.

Okay, maybe one more picture of my cat. Reading Foucault. Or sleeping next to Foucault. Same thing, really. He’s just a cat, STOP JUDGING HIM.

I've heard that photoshopping cats is the highest form of humor

On a much more serious note–

As was mentioned a few posts ago, John Melzian, creator of the wonderful PTM dome and The Tarantula, passed away recently. This is a reminder that his memorial service is being held today at 4 PM. Click the link for more information:

Please come help us remember and celebrate this remarkable man.

~Sarah H

I took a look at hunter blatherer today and realized that Sarah Butler is monopolizing it. To stop her from her evil plot to look more responsible and interesting than the rest of us, I have decided to post.

So not all archaeologists go out into the field in China and Greece and Turkey and heaven knows where else, breaking ground like rock stars and uncovering dead babies in pots. Some of them stay at home in Los Angeles, working in the archaeology lab, taking endless photographs of cuneiform tablets.

And by some, I mean me. Just me.

I’ve been creating PTM (polynomial texture mapping) images of some cuneiform tablets on loan from the Tandy Museum. This involves taking 32 images of each relevant side of the tablet, using 32 different light settings. The resulting images are then stitched together to create a high quality image in which the light can be moved around to reveal even the faintest of etchings. The technology is good enough to see fingerprints and tiny salt inclusions in the clay. Unfortunately, both taking the images and processing them take a very, very long time, so I have to find ways to entertain myself.

Sometimes, while the camera is automatically clicking away or the modified images are saving, I’ll have a dance party. Only when the other student, Bradford the chemistry guy, isn’t in the lab, of course. I don’t know how he would react. But then again, he’s been in the lab with me this whole summer and has ceased looking startled when I run by squawking and flapping my arms, so I guess maybe he’s immune by now.

Now that a high schooler named Danny is helping out with the images, I am no longer forced to seek entertainment in such disturbing and disruptive ways. Finally, I have someone to talk to and harass and terrify! I would harass Bradford, but he’s been doing a lot of “working” and I would feel bad about interrupting. Fortunately, Danny and I are equally useless and bored while the computer clicks through the photos one by one, so he can’t really avoid talking to me.

At any rate, tomorrow I’ll try taking a camera into the lab, and I can post some pictures of tablets and cameras and what summer in the ARC lab really looks like.

In the meantime… here is an inappropriate picture of my cat. Yes, he’s holding a whip with his hind foot. Because a real archaeologist doesn’t even need the normal appendages.

Fully literate, utterly intimidating

Thank heavens for this exciting post!

~Sarah H