Lasers Help Restore Amazon
COVENTRY & SOUTHAMPTON, UK, Jan. 15, 2009 – A 2000-year-old painted Roman statue thought to represent an Amazon warrior is being restored to its original glory with advanced laser scanning and computer modeling techniques.
A 2000-year-old Roman statue thought to be an Amazon warrior (far left) is being restored with advanced laser scanning and computer modeling techniques. Archaeologists at the University of Southampton and with the Herculaneum Conservation Project are working with researchers at the University of Warwick, who used high-resolution laser scanning to digitally re-create the statue (near left).
The statue was discovered by the Herculaneum Conservation Project in the ancient ruins of Herculaneum, a town preserved in the same eruption that buried nearby Pompeii in A.D. 79. It is thought to represent a wounded Amazon warrior, complete with painted hair and eyes preserved by the ash that buried the town. Archaeologists at the University of Southampton and with the Herculaneum Conservation Project contacted the WMG department at the University of Warwick after hearing about the group’s expertise in high-resolution laser scanning, rapid prototyping and ultrarealistic computer graphics. WMG, formerly the Warwick Manufacturing Group, researches technologies relevant to the manufacturing sector.
Researchers from WMG, Southampton and the Herculaneum project are now scanning, modeling and digitally re-creating the Amazon statue.
“The statue is an incredible find. Although its age alone makes it valuable, it is unique because it has retained the original painted surface, preserved under the volcanic material that buried Herculaneum,” said Dr. Mark Williams, a leader in laser measurement at WMG who took his team and equipment to the site.
The statue is measured with a handheld laser scanner to within an accuracy of 0.05 mm.
Williams used state-of-the-art equipment to accurately measure (within 0.05 mm) every surface of the bust and translated that information into a computer model. Dr. Greg Gibbons, also of WMG, then used rapid prototyping to create a physical 3-D model of the head, revealing the smallest details.
Further recording was carried out on-site by experts in archaeological computing from Southampton, led by Dr. Graeme Earl. They used a novel form of photography that provided an extremely detailed record of the texture and color of the painted surfaces.
“Cutting-edge techniques are vital to the recording of cultural heritage material, since so much remains unstudied or too fragile to analyze. Our work at Southampton attempts to bridge the gap between computing and archaeology in bringing the best that colleagues in engineering have to offer to unique artifacts from our past,” Earl said.
The 3-D model shown is a rapid prototype of the sculpture and reveals the smallest details of the head.
The Southampton team digitally remodeling and repainting the sculpture is using techniques derived from the film industry to re-create the original carved and painted surfaces.
In the final step, professor Alan Chalmers, head of WMG’s visualization team and an expert in ultrarealistic graphics, will apply techniques to the computer model to exactly reproduce the lighting and environmental conditions under which the painted statue originally would have been created and displayed. This visualization will provide archaeologists with an otherwise impossible view of how the original statue might have looked in context and allow them to experiment with alternative hypotheses.
“Our work will be used both for educational and research purposes to give people new insights into the statue’s design, to provide a record for conservators and to explore how it may have been appreciated over 2000 years ago,” Chalmers said.
For more information, visit: www.wmg.warwick.ac.uk or www.southampton.ac.uk/archaeology/research/centres_acrg.html
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