Monday, 18 April 2016

Glacial Archaeology: About the challange to work in extreme conditions

The logistic challenges and alpine terrain make any archaeological research performed in the mountains more difficult than in the valley.
In the central Alps we can find human vestiges from prehistory until the 20th century.

The archaeological remains along the Austro-Italian front of WW1are among the best preserved of the whole conflict, reaching altitudes up to 3900 m.asl.
The glaciers of the Ortler and Adamello Alps have facilitated the creation of a number of time capsules, containing an unmodified material situation since the first days of November 1918. 
The Austro-Hungarian Positions on Punta Linke (3632 m by courtesy of the Department of Archaeology of the Autonomous Province of Trento)

For example the Austro-Hungarian positions on Punta Linke (Video in Italian language) or those on Corno di Cavento (Video in Italian language).
The northern face of the Königspitze / Gran Zebrù (3,851 m / 12,635 ft)

Since several years, the Department of Archaeology of the Autonomous Province of South-Tyrol is documenting and rescuing various archaeological remains in high alpine environment.
The highlight of 2015 was the documentation of the highest and best preserved wooden barrack of the whole frontline on top of the Königspitze/Gran Zebrù (3,851 m / 12,635 ft)
The summit of the Königspitze /Gran Zebrù seen from west. The black dot on the left of the highest point is the snow-covered barrack.

Some technical considerations:

  • Logistics: 
    • Due to erosion and rockfall caused by climate change, the summit of the Königspitze is not longer reachable by foot during the summer months. That implies the continuous employment of helicopters for material and passenger transportation. Beyond that, the altitude causes a reduced helicopter performance and increases the total amount of needed flights.
      Removal of the equipment by Helicopter
    • The Ortler Alps are forming a weather divide with very changeable conditions and the permanent danger of strong winds, clouds or thunderstorms which can suddenly impede the use of the helicopter. For that reason an emergency bivouac on site is indispensable.
      Luca Bezzi interviewed by Thomas Hainz and Werner Laner. In the backgound the Königspitze / Gran Zebrù covered by clouds.

The helicopter is trying to carry the equipment on the summit. Without success: Clouds and fall winds are thwarting the action.

    • High altitude reduces the performance of every combustion engine (like generators, gas burners,...) and makes them easier prone to failure.
      Moving on the crest.
    • The topographic situation of the summit of the Königspitze, with it's narrow crest, affects on the work-flow of all operations, due to permanent space problems.
      Working in the north face
  • Working Safety:
    • The northern face of the Königspitze is about 1.200m high and the WW1 barrack is situated on top of this precipice. For that reason one needs effective and permanent security measures (Fixed ropes, ice screws,...).
      Working fixed by two ropes. In the background Mt. Ortler (3.905 m)
  • Surveying:
    • We are using DGPS for the positioning of the site. Like in many other regions, South-Tyrol disposes of a public positioning service (STPOS "South Tyrolean Position Service") substituting the usage of own base stations.
      Alessandro Bezzi mounting the GPS base station on a known point on 2.800 m. Communication with the rover by radio signal.
      But in our case we are still applying our own base, build above a known fix point and in continuous radio contact with the rover on the summit. This guarantees independent surveying without regarding to the quality and stability of the cell reception.
      DGPS survey on the summit while weather is becoming bad.
  • Documentation:
    • The topographic situation and reduced mobility on site conditions also the speed and completeness of data acquisition. Methods like structure from motion would ideally need a total photographic coverage of the object of interest and constant light conditions.
      Structure from motion without the possibility to regard for people, equipment or shadows on the pictures
      Both requirements are not guaranteed and this may affect on the quality of documentation.
  •  Conservation:
    •  The glacier ice inside and outside of the barrack has conserved different organic materials like paper, leather, faeces, textiles,...
      Recovering organic material
      Once uncovered, that materials need to be handled instantly in a appropriate way, preparing them for the transport to the conservation laboratories.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

ArcheoFOSS 2016 in Cagliari!

Hi all,
this post is to notify that next ArcheoFOSS workshop (the eleventh edition) will be held in Cagliari, at the local university, by the Department of History, Cultural Heritage and Landscape (it: Dipartimento di storia, beni culturali e territorio). The meeting will take place from the 7th to the 9th October 2016 and the main topic will be: "Knowledges for communication. Tools and open technologies for the analysis and the sharing of our cultural and territorial heritage".

Pictures of Cagliari (by various users from flickr; CC-SA)

This year there will be some novelties and, among others, the fact that the workshop will be associated with the GFOSS Day, the annual meeting of the Italian Association of the Geographic Free Software (GFOSS). 
The conference will be organized with three main sessions: the first day (7th October) will be dedicated to different workshop about Free and Open Source software used for geographical or cultural (and archaeological) aims; during the second day (8th October) some key-note speakers will present general topics (e.g. legislation about the use of open data and public data), while parallel sessions will host more specific arguments; the last day (9th October) will be focused on operative activities, like mapping parties and similar happenings (thanks to the association Sardegna Open Data).
If you are interested in proposing a contribution, here are the thematic guidelines:
  • FLOSS (Free/Libre and Open Source Software) applied to research (main topic: archeology, cultural heritage and landscape)
  • FLOSS for protection, management and development of archaeological, cultural or territorial heritage
  • FLOSS for visualization, analysis and web-publication of data realted with archeology, cultural heritage and landscape
  • Projects oriented in opening and sharing data (related with archeology, cultural heritage or landscape studies
  • Case studies of using FLOSS in order to develop and share territorial data
  • Experiences in opening and sharing geographic data (cultural, technological and legal aspsects
  • Experiences of institution (schools, universities, public administrations, etc...) in using free geographic software or migrating form closed software to FLOSS or hybrid systems
If you plan to join one of the two workshops, you need to send your proposal, using this module, to this address:
Here you can download the call for papers.
For more informations, please visit the site of GFOSS Day and ArcheoFOSS.

See you there!

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

QGIS 2.14 bug alert!

If you are using QGIS in archeology, almost probably you want also to produce georeferenced photomosaics, like we do with the "Metodo Aramus" technique (read the related post 1 and 2) and its further evolutions (check this post), which up to day  involves just Kate, QGIS and GIMP). This post is just to warn you that is currently present a bug in QGIS 2.14, so that the georeferencer tool does not work properly. In the screenshot below you can read the details of this bug (and check it at this link).

Screenshot form the official QGIS link (name and images removed for privacy reason)

My advice is to do not update QGIS to the version 2.14 until the bug will be fixed (which I guess will happen very soon).

Have a nice day!


This post reminds e that I should record a new videotutorial with the updated and simplified version of the "Metodo Aramus" (Kate-QGIS-GIMP). I will do it ASAP!


The "Metodo Aramus" in described in English in this publication: 

Aramus Excavations and Field School. Experiences in Using, Developing, Teaching and Sharing  Free/Libre and Open Source Software (here in ResearchGate and here in Academia)

It has been used both in field excavations (e.g. in the case of this article:  "Mura Bastia". Dati archeologici, informatizzazione e rilievi 3D laser scanning del Castello degli Onigo (Pederobba, Treviso) and in archaeological finds documentation, as described by this article (in Italian) proposing a new methodology in this field:

Proposta per un metodo informatizzato di disegno archeologico (here in ReasearchGate, here in Academia)

The "Metodo Aramus" is part of the methodology we teach during our lessons in master and courses, as you can read in the report of one of this experience: 

Corso base di Free Software e Open Source in archeologia: bilancio di un'esperienza di divulgazione pratica (here in ReasearchGate, here in Academia)

Thursday, 7 April 2016

New course at Evora University: Open Source Digital Technologies applied to Cultural Heritage

Between 2011 and 2015 we gave lessons at Lund University (Sweden), during the course regarding "Digital Archeology" (held by Nicolò Dell'Unto). Our primary task was to introduce the students to the Free and Open Source Software (FLOSS) to be used during their professional life (while the proprietary and closed software were presented by other teachers). These lessons were following the practical approach we developed since 2006, during our experience in training students for Innsbruck University (Austria) in the archaeological field-schools of Aramus (Armenia) and Khovle Gora (Georgia), directed by Walter Kuntner and Sandra Heinsch. These courses, taught during missions abroad, were possible thanks to the use of ArcheOS, the Free Archaeological Operating System we are developing since 2005. In 2009 our didactic experience was enriched by some lessons we gave during our participation at the TOPI Excellence Cluster of Berlin (Germany), where we further refine our techniques in 3D documenting Cultural Heritage with FLOSS, using Structure from Motion and Multi-View Stereo Reconstruction and starting a collaboration with +Pierre Moulon for the development of a GUI (Graphical User Interface) of its photogrammetric software Python Photogrammetry Toolbox (PPT: related post in ATOR: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). PPT was also one of the topic of the UNESCO master "Open Techne", in which could teach between 2013 and 2014, for the University of Siena and the Centro di Geotecnologie.
Despite some of these experiences are now over, we have a new opportunity to work with students during the courses regarding  Open Source Digital Technologies applied to Cultural Heritage, which will be held in July at the University of Evora in Portugal and it is organized by +Carlo Bottaini and Rui Bordalo.
The fist lessons will be focused on 2D documentation Methodologies with Management through GIS, while a second module will regard the Methodologies of 3D Documentation. For further informations, here is the main page regarding the courses (in English and in Portuguese).
If you are in the nearby of Evora and you want to work professionally in the field of Cultural Heritage with Free and Open Source applications, this would be a good starting point.
I hope to see you there! Have a nice day!

Monuments of Evora (by Lumastan)

We will not teach in Lund this year, but some lessons about Open Source in archeology will be given by our friend +giacomo landeschi, who knows the topic very well as well as most of our methodology (having worked with us for several years).

2016-04-08 Update

For people interested in the course, here is possible to download a pdf leaflet with all the necessary informations.
BlogItalia - La directory italiana dei blog Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.