Category Archives: SEAHA student research

Monument Monitor at Home – send us your old photos to help preserve historic sites

The Monument Monitor project, led by SEAHA student Rosie Brigham, has been making headlines recently by asking members of the public to look through their old holiday snaps. Monument Monitor aims to assess how we can best use visitors’ photographs to assist with heritage management. At 20 different case study sites in Scotland, Rosie and project partner Historic Environment Scotland are using visitors’ photographs to assess whether they can monitor all manners of agents of change. Photographs can help with many types of conservation, from levels of Damp in Tarves Tomb, to erosion at Ness of Burgi and biological growth at Neolithic rock art sites around the south west. While visiting heritage sites is no longer possible for most of us, people have still been helping contribute to real scientific research by dusting off old photo albums and sending in their holiday snaps.

At Machrie Moor Stone Circles, for example, Rosie is attempting to model the frequency of severe waterlogging around the site. The standing circles situated on the Isle of Arran are one of the islands most picturesque monuments and comprises of 6 stone circles of various sizes. Parts of the site are frequently waterlogged, and Rosie has been mapping the regularity of this in the submitted images. Using machine learning to identify levels of flooding alongside historic weather data means that Rosie and her project partners are now building up a good idea of the conditions that lead to severe flooding. This is helping us understand how the site is coping with the changing climate of Scotland.

Further north in Inverness, Yuni Chen is working on using photographs submitted of Clava Cairns to establish was has been dubbed as the ‘Outlander Effect’. Since the broadcasting the popular period drama Outlander on Amazon Prime, the site has become a must see on tours of the highlands as it inspired Craigh Na Dun, the time traveling stones at the centre of the drama. Since 2014 there has been a huge increase of visitor numbers at the site, but as it is unstaffed, it is difficult to assess what potential issues this may be having. Using photos taken both before and after the dramas release, Yuni is measuring the erosion to see how much the increased visitor numbers has eroded the ground around the cairn entrances.

To map conservation, Rosie and Yuni are using photogrammetry to produce a 3D point cloud from overlapping images taken from different perspectives. Taken together, these can help to create accurate measurements of eroded areas. Alongside this, the team are using known measurements (such as the width of the stones at the cairn entrances) to calculate the ratio of pixels in areas of interest allowing us to measure scale of the erosion over time.

Rosie’s project has been featured in the The Arran Banner, The Scotsman, The Times, The Press and Journal, and The Sunday Post as well as being featured on the Historic Environment Scotland blog.

Find out more about Monument Monitor, and submit your photos to submissions@monumentmonitor.co.uk

Rosie Brigham is a SEAHA PhD student based at the Institute for Sustainable Heritage at University College London. Her research, partnered with Historic Environment Scotland, Rekrei, and Instadeep, explores how crowdsourced images can be used for conservation monitoring. 

Aliaa Ismail investigates the mystery behind Tutankhamun’s tomb on Channel 4 and National Geographic

Aliaa Ismail, MRes SEAHA student and Director of the Theban Preservation Initiative, has recently been featured in two TV documentaries: “Lost Treasures of Egypt” and “Secrets of Egypt: the valley of the kings.”

Aliaa is leading her team to investigate Tutankhamun’s tomb, which is located in the Valley of Kings, in Luxor on the west bank of the Nile River, 300 miles south of Cairo. Archaeologists come from all over the world to unlock the secrets hidden within the Valley of Kings, including the tomb of Tutankhamun which is considered one of the greatest finds in Egyptian archaeology.

Archaeologists have found 65 tombs in the valley, however, unfortunately, all of the treasure in the tombs has since been robbed except for one: the tomb of Tutankhamun. Tutankhamun’s tomb was first discovered by the British explorer Howard Carter in 1922 after five years of searching. It was buried deep underground, covered by rubble and debris, which archaeologists believe is the reason why the tomb raiders were unable to rob its contents. The treasures found in the tomb were unlike anything seen before. They found over five thousand priceless artefacts, including golden statues. In addition, the Pharaoh’s mummy was wearing a golden death mask inside a coffin made of one hundred kilograms of solid gold, making the young Pharaoh the most famous Pharaoh of ancient Egypt.

As an Egyptologist, Aliaa and her team reviewed the scanned walls of Tutankhamun’s burial chamber and found remarkable discoveries. Looking at the 3D scan data void of colour, revealed the slightest indentations in the surface of the wall. Examining the texture of the walls of burial chamber, Aliaa’s team were able to conclude that Tutankhamun’s burial was rushed. The plaster had impressions created by brush strokes in the same indentation as the painted wall, showing that the workmen and painters painted directly on the plaster before waiting for it to dry.

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Aliaa Ismail is a SEAHA MRes student researching public attitudes to digital embodiments of museum objects and sites. Her work consists of 3D scanning the walls of the tomb of Seti I in the Valley of the kings and leading a training program for the local community there to introduce them to 3D documentation of heritage.

Cerys Jones’ Work Published in New Book on Leonardo da Vinci

In June 2016, SEAHA student Cerys Jones captured and analysed multispectral images of three Leonardo da Vinci drawings for the Royal Collection Trust. The first was the study of horses’ heads, a metalpoint drawing completed circa 1481. The multispectral images uncovered features that could not be seen by the naked eye, including three additional drawings. The final two comprised the study for the drapery of the Virgin’s right arm for the painting ‘The Virgin and Child with St Anne’ which is held in the Louvre Museum in Paris, and a study of a bear’s foot. The multispectral images of these drawings revealed underdrawings and details of how Leonardo built up his work using a variety of materials.

On the 500-year anniversary of Leonardo’s death, the Royal Collection Trust has published a new book called Leonardo da Vinci: A Closer Look, which features several of the images created by Cerys. The book, written by Alan Donnithorne, investigates many of Leonardo’s drawings using a variety of imaging and analysis techniques to uncover more about the artist’s technique and reveal features that have not been seen for 500 years. The Royal Collection Trust’s webpage for the new page states “Combining technical analysis with a profound understanding of Leonardo’s artistic practices, this book offers an unprecedented glimpse into Leonardo’s works and his mind as both find themselves, for the first time, under the microscope.”

The three Leonardo da Vinci drawings that underwent multispectral imaging.

Cerys also presented this work at the STEM for Britain competition in March 2018. This competition was held at the Houses of Parliament and involves Britain’s early-stage and early-career researchers presenting their research to members of parliament. View and download Cerys’ poster here.


Cerys Jones is a SEAHA student based in the Department of Medical Physics and Bioengineering at UCL. Supported by R.B. Toth Associates, the British Library and the London Met Archives, Cerys’ project aims to produce a pipeline for multispectral imaging of documentary material in the heritage sector. 

The ‘SEAHA CDT collection’ in journal Heritage Science

Following multiple successful publications, we are pleased to announce that SEAHA now has its own collection within journal Heritage Science; ‘The SEAHA-CDT collection’.

The SEAHA CDT collection showcases research papers produced by students  studying at our Centre for Doctoral Training, Science and Engineering in Arts, Heritage and Archaeology based at UCL, University of Oxford and University of Brighton.

I see the journal Heritage Science as the ideal venue for our research output: it is interdisciplinary, open to new ideas, and commited to the advancement of heritage science as a scientific discipline

Dr Josep Grau Bove, Guest Editor at Heritage Science

With a wide range of research areas, the collection displays not only the high quality research emerging from the centre but also the diversity of expertise being developed within SEAHA’s cohort. For example, the collection includes work by UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage PhD student Danae Pocobelli who examines using building information modelling (BIM) for heritage buildings. In her article Pocobelli reviews how BIM  has been used in the conservation of historic buildings to date and how aspects of BIM such as condition monitoring and weathering simulation can be used in future.

Another contribution from Hend Mahgoub explores techniques and materials used in Islamic papermaking. Using a variety of chemical analytical methods including surface profilometry, scanning electron microscopy and infrared spectroscopy, Mahgoub concludes that while there is no single defining characteristic of Islamic paper, 88% contain starch or were polished and the majority were neutral to mildly acidic.

Islamic papers at UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage used by SEAHA student Hend Mahgoub to study the material properties using non-destructive methods

Islamic papers at UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage used by SEAHA student Hend Mahgoub to study the material properties using non-destructive methods

Other contributions to the collection are equally as diverse, on topics such as smells of heritage, imaging Egyptian mummies, and moisture induced damage in the stately home Blickling Hall in Norfolk.

The authors’ backgrounds aranging from pure maths to engineering, to chemistry and sculpture. For instance Carolien Coon, whose research explores the degradation of 3D printed museum objects, has a background in fine art and worked as a sculpture conservator before embarking upon her PhD.

Images of the rapid prototype (RP) artwork “Out of the Cauldron” designed by Tom Lomax produced with RP technologies. Carolien Coon explores the use of RP in heritage in her article as part of the heritage science collection.

Images of the rapid prototype (RP) artwork “Out of the Cauldron” designed by Tom Lomax produced with RP technologies, before (above) and after (below) degradation. Carolien Coon explores the use of RP in heritage in her article as part of the heritage science collection.

Papers for the SEAHA CDT collection are selected by Guest Editor Dr Josep Grau-Bove, who commented on the collection, “I see the journal Heritage Science as the ideal venue for our research output: it is interdisciplinary, open to new ideas, and committed to the advancement of heritage science as a scientific discipline. We hope to continue growing this collection as SEAHA progresses, with at least four new papers a year”. Papers produced by the CDT are invited to be submitted as part of this article collection in Heritage Science.

Explore the SEAHA collection further here.

Cerys Jones winning STEM for Britain poster on multispectral imaging for heritage science on Leonardo de Vinci drawings, with MP Andy Slaughter and fellow poster presenter Anas Imtiaz.

Cerys Jones STEM for Britain poster available online

SEAHA student Cerys Jones‘ poster, which was selected for the STEM for Britain poster competition, is now available online. Cerys’ poster showcases her work imaging three Leonardo de Vinci drawings, housed by the Royal Collection Trust.  Using multispectral imaging, Cerys was able to enhance features not seen to the naked eye revealing how Leonardo built up his drawings and additional sketches within the works that are not normally visible.

Held at the House of Commons, STEM for Britain aims to showcase and support the work of Britain’s early-career researchers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Earlier this year, Cerys presented her poster in front of a panel of judges and members of parliament.

View/download Cerys’ poster here.

Cerys Jones is a SEAHA student based in the Department of Medical Physics and Bioengineering at UCL. Supported by R.B. Toth Associates and the London Met Archives, Cerys’ project aims to produce a pipeline for multispectral imaging of documentary material in the heritage sector. 

 


Header Image: MP Andy Slaughter with STEM for Britain presenters Cerys Jones and Anas Imtiaz.