First Review for Built on Bones!

So, I spent this week doing a lot of things. One of my favorites was freaking about my photoshopped proximity to lifetime hero author Neil ...

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Well, I thought I would expand a bit on my AR post, mostly because people seem a lot more interested in awesome hovering 3d images than in the metric qualification of surface expressions of ameloblast disruption (yeah... I know, go figure, right?). So here's an easy, totally free, step by step guide to making your own awesome bit of archaeology float around:

You'll need:

A webcam.

Google Sketchup. This is a fantastic little offering from google which makes it ridiculously easy to create accurate 3d models. You can create any shape you like, though I find recreating structures is the easiest place to start (die, CAD, die). There's a startup guide here, but you can get fairly complicated if you'd like. You can also import stuff in; using freeware like Blender you can easily convert 3d objects produced in other formats into something Google can read.

For this example, I made a simple box, which I then painted with pictures of my (internet) face:

Cool, now I have an object. Now I need a nice, off-the-shelf bit of kit to make my object appear in a digital video stream. This is where AR Media comes in. This is a pretty self-explanatory bit of kit, especially the free version--if you were to really want to invest in some WYSIWYG software for making these AR pop-ups, then I imagine the paid for version isn't a bad start. I'm in favour of having a bit more control, but for the purposes of making your own AR, for free, in about 30 minutes, I say all glory to the ARMedia Google Sketchup Plugin!

Go ahead and install the plugin. I'll wait. You'll also need to print out their standard AR marker. you can't change the marker in the free version, but, again... it's free.

Right. So, it's now all very simple point and click: open up your 3d object in Sketchup. Get your print out of the marker to hand. Run the plugin...

And proceed to revel in your newfound skill to control the universe.

Friday, 29 July 2011

#update! the day of arch website has been identified as potentially infested with malware by google, so I've removed the links to the site... yeesh!

Hope you're following along! Here's my post, recreated from the main Day of Archaeology Blog

Hiya. My name is Brenna, and I'm an archaeologist. You can normally find me on the twitter at @brennawalks or in tl;dr format on my blog passim in passing .

So, what gives today?

So many shiny things! Turns out archaeology really suits people with rather wide and varied interests; on any given day you might find yourself with a synchrotron smashing particles or a mattock smashing soil. In my case, I had planned to go in and look at some of my research material in the scanning electron microscope over at UCL. In my 'real' academic life, I study teeth, and I study them very, very close up. You could call what I do 'bioarchaeology' or 'dental anthropology' ... I'm not fussy. But I study the development of teeth from people who died in the past in order to look at the record of growth that is trapped in the structure of their dental enamel. Your teeth carry chemical and physical signatures of things that happened to you during childhood, while the the teeth were growing. What I look at in particular are signs that growth shut down briefly during childhood, a condition called 'enamel hypoplasia'.  These are (ish) grooves on your teeth that can be evidence of a childhood fever or other unhappy event. By looking at different patterns of these markers in teeth, we can compare aspects of health across different groups. Did rich kids have a better time of it than poor kids? Did sedentery agriculturalists do better as kids than more nomadic groups?

To study stuff like that, you get to do some cool science with machines that go 'ping' and or 'whop'. My favorite lab machine is the gold sputter coater; it turns my tooth casts into art:

A canine tooth from a child who died in 18th century London. It's coated in a couple microns of gold.

You can see a big groove in the tooth above. That's from some sort of growth disruption episode while the kid was still a toddler. Go on, check your own teeth now. You know you want to.

Of course, I haven't ended up in the lab at all. One of my newer interests is something called augmented reality (for an example, check out the awesome new Museum of London roman app: The Only Way is Londinium). I'm really interested in applications for public outreach (particularly web-multimedia and smart-phone based stuff) and I'm totally enamoured of anything shiny and/or techie.  So instead of being good (hey, it's Friday!) I went and made a 3d object hover over a piece of paper. It's a poor screen capture, but hey, I should be working on publications and actual research, right?

Check out the easy, totally free-ware possibilities though. This is brought to you by Google Sketchup running the ARmedia plugin; it's practically idiot proof and the results are pretty cool. Anything more involved and you're looking at developing some serious modelling skills, but who needs sleep...?

sorry about the video quality :)

Untitled from Brenna Hassett on Vimeo.

Monday, 30 May 2011

A thoughtful present for the long Bank Holiday weekend from diggingthedirt! We are invited to view and vote for the Top 10 funny archaeological videos. Well, it makes a nice break from cats, anyway...

A clear favorite emerges in the shape of the inimitable 'Don't Stop' video from the guy behind Tollan Films. Anies' Hassan's rather unoffical tribute to the lyricality of archaeological site workers combines the glory of excavating a medieval fort in Bahrain with a respectful hommage to what, in the 70s, was considered music to demonstrate the fundamental interconnectedness of things. An ting.

Simon Davis: Don't Stop!! from Anies Hassan on Vimeo.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

  Well it's been a while, and while nothing particularly fascinating has happened to keep me from posting... well. Nothing particularly fascinating happened for quite some time. However, I am now properly back in the archaeological trenches, merrily mattocking out slots in obscure ditches for a commercial company in London. Well, they've hired me to look at some dead folk, but I managed to get a few good days on site (and a truly awesome farmer tan).

In all this excitement, I have vaguely kept in the back of my mind that there are some very cool opportunities for archaeological engagement coming up. I'm pretty excited about #dayofarch, which is coming up as part of the Festival of British Archaeology on July 29th 2011. A merry crew will be offering snapshot glimpses into the lives of archaeologists via blogs and other social media--highly recommended!

I hope to see some folk (digitally) appearing. It should be good, you never know when you'll get a day like last Tuesday when President Obama's motorcade showed up outside site (ok, he was visiting the school next door. Whatever, I got to see him).

Why yes, it was awesome. And impressive that the Brits were out in the streets applauding a president of a country that more or less told them to go away very sternly some couple hundred years ago. Their prime minister certainly doesn't get that kind of love.

So, come check out the archaeological goodness at #dayofarch. If all else fails, you will learn whether I live through my new site diet regime.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Well, it's been a long strange trip... Middle Savagery is shoehorning the genie back into the bottle and prepping her paper for the SAAs, and all of us Archaeo-Bloggers who crawled out of the woodwork (see her summaries, or check out the list at right) are going to have to find a new way of interacting. Speaking of which, I totally skipped Week 3's question, which asked what we all want in terms of interactivity. I skipped it because I couldn't think of anything to say: I'm recently gloriously redundant, graduated, and without an excavation permit, so the raison d'être for this exercise has morphed into more of a shout in the dark than a focused outreach effort. I will say that this whole carnival has made me a lot more proactive about reading other people's material and has probably broadened my awareness of the archaeo world in a good way; it has definitely thrown up some cool visualisations of how I (and the fellow travelers) have linked together to put on this dog and pony show. Thanks to Electric Archaeology for this very cool Gephi-gram of our interaction:

So, anyway, MS has one more question:
How could we best capture the interplay, the multimedia experience of blogging as a more formalized publication? What would be the best outcome for this collection of insights from archaeological bloggers?
Formal publication, huh? Formal means static, so I suppose video along the lines of my favorite ever stats video is out.

All this interaction has thrown up some common responses, though. Surely it's not totally beyond the bounds of possibility to offer text summaries alongside some visual mapping of the responses? I mean, it's beyond me, but surely it's not beyond MS :)

As for my own idea of the best possible outcome from all this--well, it's already more or less happened. I found other interesting sources of info, some people hopefully found me, and I massacred some of my oppressive free time. There's only one thing that could make it better...

yeah. exactly. et fin.

see you, space cowboys!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Week 2 of the carnival and it's been a lot of fun trekking through the archaeo-blogs. It made an awesome distraction from the viva (let's never talk about Chapter 9). I honestly didn't realise how many voices there were; nice to meet you Dirt, John Hawks, The Horde from MSU, Dig Girl, Publishing Archaeology, Sara PerryWhere in the hell am i?, and Electric Archaeologist. For a round-up of responses, see the Call to Arms by MS. I have a serious issues with hitting the tl,dr wall, so I'll just briefly summarize: we all blog to talk to some sort of public. We're either trying to convince them to buy us (value what we do!) or we're sort of broadcasting an internal monologue to a swift-responding army of peers. It's worth pointing out that a journal I just submitted to has a ONE YEAR electronic preview thing going on, and that's after the 6 month submission process; I might as well blog because by the time anything gets published we'll ll be too busy riding hoverboards to notice.

on with it, getting: Question 2 (foreshortened for dramatic effect)

 Beyond the general problems that come with performing as a public intellectual, what risks do archaeologists take when they make themselves available to the public via blogging? What (if any) are the unexpected consequences of blogging? How do you choose what to share?

I am totally into this week's topic; the phrasing makes me immediately want to talk about all the things I'm not allowed to share. Or do. And when you do bones, that's a lot of things.

  • first and foremost: no pictures of bones unless okayed by curating authority
  • no pics at all of Post Med (I'm in the UK, that's from 1550 AD on) stuff -- a relative could be alive, and offended
  • no video, pictures, or any sort of recording of 'behind the scenes' mystery areas where analysis takes place
  • no visible dead people through windows, bars, etc. (this apparently only applies in countries which are not your own, and Bristol--download their rather interesting explanation of why they hid the mummies here)
  • no digging or displaying dead people dating from whenever major (or, extremely fringe) local religion has decided people are likely to be their coreligionists
So, if I were to accidentally say, post a blurry 'hipstomatic' picture of my friend in the British Museum working on some bone scraps from a rescue dig in Sudan, I would come in for a serious dressing down. If a friend who makes awesome films were to accidentally catch a shot of a post-med Londoner's skeleton backstage at MoLA in his short outreach and education videos, he would have to stop and re-edit the whole thing. If respected public figures (you've seen them on tv! now guess who they are...) can get barred from using whole collections because they disregard these rules, you can imagine the sort of trouble blogging can get you in.

Even aside from the bones issues, there are cultural patrimony and heritage law issues to consider. Egyptastic might be funny, but there is a real reason for this T-shirt:

Egypt has very strict reporting laws designed to prevent looting and antiquities smuggling. This site was originally set up to be the public face of my work on an excavation that has now been sort of 'bokra' d (that means 'tomorrow', but it means it in Egyptian. That makes a lot more sense if you have spent time in Egypt.) until various things situate themselves. Like a new director of the SCA. If I were to post an up-to-the-minute review of finds and trenches, I would rapidly find myself in a Mubarak time-share condo situation.So yes, it's all a bit delicate. I wonder what other issues people have?

Monday, 28 February 2011

Conference season is coming up, which means that for a lot of people who 'do' archaeology, it's time to take a step back and get some big-picture perspective. Our friend Middle Savagery is definitely a 'do'er and brings this interesting challenge to the upcoming roundtable of Archaeo-Bloggers that will meet at the annual Society for American Archaeology (SAA) Meeting in Sacramento, CA March 30-Apr 3: to answer a question or two in the run up to the meeting about what the heck it means to blog archaeology.

At the risk of being so meta- that I entirely cease to exist, I have to admit I'm intrigued by the idea of knowing the whys and wheretofores of digital short-form non peer reviewed archaeological publication. So, here's the question for the week (and somewhere below, my response...):

MS asks:

The emergence of the short form, or blog entry, is becoming a popular way to transmit a wide range of archaeological knowledge. What is the place of this conversation within academic, professional, and public discourse? Simply put, what can the short form do for archaeology?

There really isn't a definitive answer to this (cop out!). My first post on this blog explains why I started it, but it can all be summed up as: some stuff is interesting, but doesn't fit into any other acceptable format to share. Blogs provide an easily digestible chunk of words (and hopefully pictures or video) that doesn't demand a million-dollar subscription to an academic journal. The informal format means that the tone is conversational, rather than pedantic, and I always imagine that my audience (beyond my mom--hi mom!) is basically my students, people who might like to be my students, or people who have accidentally become my students because they wandered into my field or outreach projects all unwitting.

Also, because somebody needs to tell the world what archaeology is really like (thanks Tollan Films!):


Sunday, 30 January 2011

As just about the entire world must now be aware, popular revolt has swept Egypt. I'm not on the ground there, and haven't been for a few years now, but there is something to be said for watching the places you know and lived as they turn topsy turvy. It's a little like watching the world from underwater... you can kinda recognize the landscape, but it's all out of whack.

So, I'm not going to try to keep pace with events--I'll leave that to Al-Jazeera (English) and the twitterverse, especially the tireless and well informed @bencnn.  I do want to highlight the very Egyptian nature of the response to the instability in terms of protecting heritage.  You can listen to Dr Zahi hawass explain it here:

But I think the most amazing thing of all is this footage (external link, sorry) , showing scores of ordinary Egyptians linking arms to protect the National Museum from looters. That's a level of dedication you don't see very many places.

In the meantime, in the small world of Egyptian archaeology, rumours are flying. The best updates are here, but my main concern is the people I know who are hunkering down in their dig houses right now. As far as I can tell, the police have abandoned Cairo and the West Bank in Luxor so the only thing keeping the wolves at bay are the impromptu neighborhood watches, sporadic army checkpoints, and a little luck. Whether the wolves are plainclothes security forces like much of the internet suggests, or they really are the escaped prisoners from Abu Zabaal who raided abandoned police stations and are now armed and looting... it doesn't much matter. What matters is the safety of everyone out at Giza, down in Abydos and Luxor, and up in the delta. And the future of the Egyptian people--a speedy resolution and peace on the streets, inshallah!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

I've just come across this wonderful little video from the ever-optic-enabled Mr. Quinlan.  It brought back a whole host of memories from the couple seasons I spent on the Giza Plateau Mapping Project.

Morning Commute from JasonQ on Vimeo.

 The journey up to the  finds store on the Giza plateau itself has to rank as one of the most iconic morning commutes. Ibrahim, the homicidal taxi driver, used to pick us up in the strange little neighbourhood across the concrete river of death that is al Matar road and take us up the hill to the plateau every day around 6 am. The big construction pit you see in the first minute was a smaller construction pit in my day, but not much has changed. Men in galabeyahs still attempt ritual suicide by crossing the road, the guards at the gate still wave imperiously, and the pyramids, of course, are still there.

Trivia (personal)

archaeologist. dental anthropologist. yes, that's a real thing. Author of Built on Bones, available in February 2017 (UK), May 2017 (USA) from Bloomsbury.



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