Reflections on THAT Camp 2012

Had a great time yesterday, so decided it was time to blog about it:



On-site photography

Curious about the options for using on-site photography as a data-collection method for 3D, whether into GIS or models of interesting features. I’m thinking about everything from aerial photography to using applications like Photomodeler.

Not doing much myself, so I’m interested in learning.


Research Applications for 3D Models

Archaeologists are familiar with 3D reconstructions for virtual reality as an enhancement to the museum-goer/tourist experience or for illustrative purposes. Architectural reconstructions themselves are academic. Even though 3D reconstructions are hypothetical, a lot of research goes into creating something that could have appeared or functioned in the way that you envisioned. Once your model has reached a point of historical plausibility, it can be used for simulations to address specific research questions.

Here are a few examples:

The video above is an accoustic simulation of Stonehenge. You can read more about it by clicking “More Info.” It won a “best project” award at CAA a few months ago in Southampton because they have even introduced augmented reality stuff for mobile devices for people visiting Stonehenge. Very cool stuff.

Below is a selection of walthrough and timelapse clips depicting lighting simulation of the House of the Drinking Contest, a third century Roman house near Antioch. This is one of several models I have used for testing natural lighting. I’m not the only researcher engaged in these sorts of simulations, but I can’t find other videos online. This methodology is very useful for recontextualizing art within the house–specifically mosaics.

Finally, another project presented at CAA in March. This is CT scanning of a coin hoard in Britain by a high powered scanner at Southampton University in conjunction with researchers at the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the British Museum. CT scanning can be a real game-changer. It is a low-cost*, high-yield method of documentation when time and money for a systematic excavation of an object (like a hoard or a burial) are lacking.

I think CT scanning has great potential for analysis.

I’d like to propose a session for those who are already involved in these sorts of activities or are interested in getting started.

*it is low cost if you have access to someone else’s scanner


Three days to submit proposals!

There are three more days to submit session proposals for THATCamp CAA-NA. We have a good number so far, but not quite enough to keep the all of the participants, with their diverse array of backgrounds and interests, occupied for the whole day. If you’ve got problems, ideas, technologies, or projects you’ve been wrestling with, now’s the time to submit your session proposal!

The Schedule page has now been activated on the site. The page includes an embedded Google Spreadsheet with the session list, which will be modified Friday morning as participants vote on the the proposals they would like to attend as sessions. You’ll have the opportunity to write your name on the whiteboard Friday morning to deliver a Dork Short (two-minute lightning talk) during lunch.

Finally, whether you are a participant or interested observer, the Twitter hashtag for the event is #caana.

See you Friday!


Project Review for Historic and Cultural Resources

My job includes reviewing transportation projects for impacts to historic and cultural resources.  Here in Connecticut our data is quite scattered, and I find it quite time consuming to do any kind of “complete” analysis.  We have our highways, soils, topo. maps, and archaeological site locations in GIS.  We have our archaeological site information in Access.  To find properties or districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places I use the online database on the National Park Service website.  To look at historic maps I use those that I have downloaded from the University of Connecticut or CT State Library websites and imported into GIS.  I use the Bing birds-eye and Google street-view maps available online to “walk around” a project area if I don’t have a chance to get out and do some actual field review.  Is there anyone out there who has streamlined this process?  Or perhaps has other ideas about how to do this kind of initial review for Section 106/NEPA/Section 4(f)/etc?  My job is also, in addition to making a recommendation to the SHPO, providing a series of maps that gives a view of the project area through time while also portraying its potential historic and/or archaeological sensitivity.  I’m curious to know how other people may do this.


The Web and Public Archaeology

I am interested in discussing how archaeologists are using web technology as a means for engaging and working with the public. My particular interest is how we use the web as a tool for community engagement. This can range from the use of social media, project-specific websites and blogs, the creation of online exhibits, or something I haven’t thought of yet. I’m coming to this both as a person who runs social media programs for archaeology, as well as a person who is in the process of building a digital exhibit, and trying to incorporate the community in the process. It’s on my mind. Some topics to think about:

– Community engagement: are we using the web as a one-way or two-way medium? Are we engaging communities actively in the creation of an online community, or providing a one-way static representation of our research? how is the public incorporated into the project through the web? Are we able to build meaningful relationships with these tools that result in greater awareness, education, and better stewardship?

– Access: One of the major obstacles for using the web is a question of access. What steps are we taking to ensure that our web content is accessible to the public? How do we ensure that we’re reaching the “correct” public? How do we define what public we’re trying to reach, and is that public online to begin with? How do we know the web is even the right tool for the job?

– The Real vs. The Digital: Most people would argue that the web cannot replace person-to-person interaction. Is this true? Is it even the right debate? What type of engagement are you doing through the web that couldn’t be done “in-person”? Does the digital space allow for engagement with groups that would have been otherwise unreachable? Can you use the digital space as a means for facilitating in-person engagement? Is digital engagement a compliment, a replacement, or a completely separate type of engagement from in-person engagement? What type of approaches can we learn from in-person public archaeology that we can apply to digital engagement, and vice-versa?

– How-To: The final component is discussing the how-to of digital engagement. What types of steps should people take when building a social media or digital engagement plan? What pitfalls should they look out for? How do they determine which tech to use, how to use it, and so on? What resources do they need to allocate? How do you determine if your project was a success or a failure?

Anyway, I’m interested in discussing this further below, or shoot me a message on the twitters @brockter.



I can’t help but see that a lot of the stuff posted so far has to do with GIS. There was an interesting talk given at Wikimania in DC about WikiMiniAtlas that might be useful to highlight. (

Also of interest to this crowd at Wikimania was discussion about preservation of indigenous language.


Developing Spatial Models that incorporate Qualitative Data

I am currently working on a project analyzing settlement patterns of African Americans on the property of the Montpelier Foundation in Orange, Virginia. My dissertation research will be looking at transitions within the community from the late antebellum up to the turn of the 20th century. The vast majority of material on Agent-Based modeling that I have seen is primarily based off of information obtained by interviews with researchers. I would like to identify historic resources that could be used in similar ways to develop higher quality spatial models of shifting settlement patterns. Does anyone have any suggestions? Projects I should look up? Things to read?


Augmented Reality

Hi Folks,
I’m interested in AR at the moment for archaeology – smartphone AR rather than the headsets, gloves, and haptics of VR. There’re obvious uses of augmented reality for public archaeology, outreach, and education (including games), but I wonder if anybody is doing anything regarding AR and landscapes? Stuart Eve in the UK is doing neat stuff ; anybody over here? Below I’ve posted youtube link for some AR I did with some students last year. I’d be happy to chat with folks about how we did this, what we used, what worked and what didn’t.

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