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Friday, January 19, 2018

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Rock Art Recording in the Digital Age
Shumla Archaeological Center

December, 2017

A Note from the Director
 
Recent advances in technology have completely revolutionized the way we record rock art. Back in 1997, we created renderings of murals by capturing slide film images on a Canon EOS and projecting them through a slide projector onto paper where we traced the images. The possibility of a high-resolution digital 3D model of an entire rock art mural in it's rock shelter was as far from our reality as colonizing Mars. It would have taken a huge bank roll and probably space suits... 
 
Just twenty years later, 3D modeling is an everyday occurrence at Shumla. It's one of the many technologies that have been invented, perfected and made surprisingly affordable... and tiny!
 
Just think! The amount of data that used to fit on this $2 Million mainframe...
 
 
 
Now fits in this flash drive for $1.97...
Project Archaeologist Charles Koenig is going to tell you more about the technologies Shumla uses to preserve the oldest "books" in North America. The Research Team amazes me everyday with the level of technical skill they have mastered and apply to Shumla's work. I'm so grateful that space suits and a winning lottery ticket were not needed to make it possible. Well, I'd take the lottery ticket... ;)
 
All the very best,
Jessica
 
 
Preservation through 
High-Tech Documentation
 
-- The Secret of our Success --
 
In August Shumla launched the Alexandria Project with the goal of conducting baseline documentation at over 300 known rock art sites within Val Verde County. One of the main reasons for the project is to preserve these incredible and informative sites for future generations. Many of the pictographs are deteriorating, some disappearing all together, due to age and weathering. 
 
One of the challenges of preserving rock art is that there is no way to conserve the physical pictograph panels. There is nothing we can put on the panel and no way to safely remove the panel to "save" the art. The only way to ensure the murals are preserved for future generations is through documentation and digital preservation. 
 
In order to digitally preserve the rock art sites in Val Verde County we employ two primary methods: 
  1. Structure from Motion (SfM) photogrammetry to produce 3D models and
  2. GigaPan panoramas.
SfM and GigaPan require taking dozens to hundreds of overlapping photographs. Both create high-resolution images of the rock art panels. 
 
 
How we use SfM and GigaPan photography will be detailed in a blog post in our upcoming Alexandria Project Blog (launching very soon!). The main difference is that:
  • SfM produces a scaled, 3D model of the entire rock art panel, including the rock shelter that houses it, by capturing multiple images moving across the entire shelter.
  • GigaPan captures a high-resolution 2D panorama of the panel from a special machine placed in a single location. 
The most exciting thing about GigaPan and SfM is that we are able to create an unparalleled visual and spatial inventory of Lower Pecos rock art and digitally preserve the rock art imagery for future generations. 
So, you might be asking what we mean by "digital preservation." At the most basic level, digital preservation is documenting a physical object in its current condition using digital techniques. You do it every day! You take cell phone pictures of landscapes, food, experiences and people. You're digitally preserving that object or perosn in that moment.
 
Archaeologists all over the world use advanced digital documentation methods to preserve sites, artifacts, and features. Our colleague Dr. Robert Selden at Stephen F. Austin State University uses laser scanners to create digital 3D replicas of ceramic and lithic artifacts (see SFASU Blog). In France, a complete replica of the famous Paleolithic cave art site of Lascaux has been created for visitors to enjoy because access to the site is heavily restricted. You can take a virtual tour of Lascaux online (see Lascaux Video), or visit the replica in person to experience the site (see International Centre for Cave Art).
 
Like Lascaux, if one of the rock art panels we document through the Alexandria project were to be destroyed tomorrow, we could recreate it using the SfM and GigaPan data. What's more, by digitizing these rock art panels we are able to share the incredible assemblage of Lower Pecos rock art with the world (see Panther Cave Animation) and begin our iconographic analysis to study the art and identify patterns.
 
We feel we have an obligation as scientists and stewards to both study the ancient art and preserve it for future generations. SfM and GigaPan makes it possible for us to create a digital archaeological record to be studied and enjoyed for generations to come. 
 
Now It's Your Turn!
Do you want to see the rock art we have currently documented through the Alexandria Project? Visit: 
  • Our Sketchfab site to see and manipulate our 3D models, and
  • Our GigaPan profile to see our 2D Gigapan panoramas.
 
 
Stay tuned! We've only just begun!
 
-- Charles Koenig, Alexandria Project, Project Archaeologist
 
Shumla needs your support! The Alexandria Project Pledge Drive is going on now!
 
It's as easy as clicking the link below!
Select an amount to contribute this year. Then select "Alexandria Project Pledge Gift" to let us know that we can count on you to give that amount each year until the Alexandria Project is complete in 2020. 
 
You can also make a one-time donation if you'd rather. 
Every gift counts! Thank you!
 
And don't forget...
Your gift will be matched!
 
  
 
Celebrating the Shumla Endowed Research Professorship at Texas State University

A few weeks ago the Shumla Board of Directors and donors to the Shumla Endowed Research Professorship gathered to celebrate the position and it's first occupant, Dr. Carolyn Boyd. It was a wonderful night of remembrances of the journey we took together to make the endowed position possible. Carolyn is all set up in her new office at Texas State University and knee deep in her passion - Lower Pecos rock art research - still in close collaboration with Shumla. It's the perfect partnership! Cause for celebration!
Emil Zuberbueler (Shumla Board President), Jessica Lee (Shumla Exec. Director) Carolyn and Lacy Finley (Shumla Board VP) are all smiles showing off the plaque commemorating the donors who gave to endow the professorship.

Kim Cox (Shumla Friend), Carolyn Boyd, Karen Steelman (Shumla Research Director) and Emil Zuberbueler 

Carolyn's father, Walker Boyd, and brother, Austin Boyd.

Jim Bruseth, John Crain and Gary Smith of Summerlee Foundation

Judy Van Cleve (Shumla Board Secretary) and David Gage

Carolyn hanging the plaque in her new office. 
 
Spotlight on Missy and Jack Harrington

Shumla's Hometown Heroes

Jack and Missy Harrington have lived in Comstock their whole lives and have been a constant foundation for Shumla since the very beginning. They have given endless hours of their time, sage advice, loving friendship and lots of meals for hungry archaeologists. They also gave land - a portion of their ranch - to Shumla to allow us to build the Shumla Harrington Campus in 2001, which has housed our educational programming and welcomed students of all ages and from across the globe. Words can barely express the debt of gratitude that we have to this remarkable, loving, joyful couple. Shumla would very literally not be the same without their contributions. 

Thank you, Jack and Missy, for all you have done for Shumla as an organization and for each of us individually - supporting and bolstering us, loving and laughing with us, and working together with us to make Shumla the best it can be. 
 
 
Are you keeping up with Shumla on Facebook?
 
Be sure to log in for Motif Monday! It's the day the Shumla Archaeologists post pictures and thoughts on specific motifs found in the art of the Lower Pecos.
 
 
Make Us Smile!
 
Wanna do some good with every Amazon purchase you make? Designate Shumla as your charity on Amazon Smile. We'll receive .5% of every purchase you make at no additional cost to you. 
 
Want to send Shumla a present? Check out our Amazon Wish List!

Thank you!
Visit Del Rio!

Come for the rock art, stay for the atmosphere! The rock art of the Lower Pecos could not be situated in a more beautiful setting. The desert is vast here, with huge skies and rolling hills that meet the crystal blue waters of the Amistad Reservoir. After you've visited the rock art, you can bird watch, water ski, bass fish, and then go camping for the night. Or you might like to visit the quaint shops of Del Rio's old town and drink wine at the Val Verde winery. In Del Rio there are lots of comfy places to stay and yummy places to eat. And you'll always find a warm welcome. Come and see!
 
 
Shumla Archaeological Research & Education Center 
P.O. Box 627, Comstock, TX 78837 USA
enews@shumla.org    432-292-4848    www.shumla.org 
 
Shumla eNews is a free eNewsletter published by Shumla. 
Copyright © 2017 by Shumla. All Rights Reserved.
Questions and comments can be sent to: jlee@shumla.org
 


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