Thursday, July 17, 2014

Database Testing

Our Western University work study students Sarah (left), Rabia (front right) and Mark (middle right) are hard at work in our Digital Conversion lab, testing the database with boxes of archaeological collections recently transferred by our partners, Archaeological Services Inc. Working closely with our database team (including Colin, sitting in the center) they will work through the data entry forms for sites, intra-spatial contexts, and artifacts by entering real world data from site reports and artifact catalogues. In addition to working with the data entry forms, they will also be testing hardware tools that feed directly into the database (no transcription required!), including the DM barcode scanners, digital scales, and digital calipers.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Zooming in on Microscopic Analysis at SA

Sustainable Archaeology has a new piece of analytical equipment - a Nikon SMZ-25 stereoscopic microscope. We are excited by the versatility of this new instrument, which will allow us to view objects within a range of 6.3 to 315x magnification with both direct and transmitted light sources.
Chad Steele, from Nikon Canada, puts the SMZ-25 together.
No single piece of equipment has arrived at our facility intact - everything from our humidity readers to our microCT scanner, even our building, have arrived in multitudes of pre-assembled pieces. This single microscope was no exception - above is an image of just a fraction of the packaging that this piece of equipment came in.

The SMZ-25 is a fully automated microscope; magnification, zoom and even lighting are mechanically adjusted either on the computer or the separate control unit/monitor. Besides magnification, there are a number of lighting options that increase the versatility of the system. It has a transmitted light source in the base that forces light up through an object, allowing us to view things like thin-sections of ceramic or soil on prepared slides. There is a ring light that sits on the lens, providing even illumination of an object, such as a trade bead, from the top-down. And there are goose-neck fibre-optic lights that allow us to move and adjust the angle of the light source to capture and highlight surface details on an object, such as use-wear on the edge of a projectile point. Oblique coherent contrast (OCC) illumination provides contrast and colour to otherwise clear and colourless objects such as diatoms (microscopic algae) or starch. The unit is also equipped with a 5 megapixel camera for capturing publication-quality images, and the Nikon NIS-Elements software comes with the ability to focus-stack (z-stack) multiple images upon one-another in order to capture a clear image with a greater depth-of-field.

Nikon SMZ-25 stereomicroscope with camera and remote control unit.
We look forward to using the microscope to examine floral remains such as seeds and even pollen, phytoliths or diatoms from archaeological sediments. It will also be used to examine the temper inclusions in ceramics, cut marks on faunal remains, usewear on tools, to identify the species of wood/charcoal samples and even examine fingerprints in clay objects. With analytical software capable of defining regions of interest and morphology, counting, measuring, and filtering, this stereomicroscope makes a valuable contribution to the Imaging capabilities of Sustainable Archaeology: Western.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Canadian Archaeology Association Conference: Public Archaeology Day

In addition to the open house event hosted by Sustainable Archaeology and the Museum of Ontario Archaeology as part of the 2014 CAA conference held here in London, we also had the opportunity at the end of the conference to participate in a Public Archaeology day. Sponsored by the CAA conference, the public day featured free public lectures by Chris Ellis of Western University, Dana Poulton and Christine Dodd of D.R. Poulton and Associates Inc., and Ron Williamson of Archaeological Services Inc., as well as displays by local archaeologists and archaeological firms, the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, the DH Maker Bus, the Ontario Archaeological Society, and others. Sustainable Archaeology's table featured the ever popular Oculus Rift with the virtual recreation of the Lawson site, as well as a number of 3D printed objects.

Events such as the public day provide SA with an opportunity to interface with the public, to share what we are doing, and what we hope to accomplish. The Oculus Rift and the 3D prints offered sufficient "wow-factor" to draw people to the table, but conversations quickly evolved past the "wow" to very interesting discussions regarding how digital technologies can help make archaeological artifacts and data accessible beyond archaeologists, and beyond the facility itself. While SA is not intended to be a public facility in that we are not physically open to the public as a museum would be, our database will be publicly accessible once complete, and events such as the public day can help us to understand what the public would be interested in learning about, and interacting with.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Canadian Archaeological Association Conference Open House

On May 15th Sustainable Archaeology: Western, along with our neighbours at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, welcomed attendees of the 2014 Canadian Archaeological Association conference for an evening open house.

Tours of the repository and laboratories were conducted by Dr. Neal Ferris, Dr. Rhonda Bathurst, and Kira Westby, with Dr. Andrew Nelson exhibiting examples of scanning projects at the micro-CT station in the Ancient Images Laboratory.
Checking out the micro-CT

Repository tour with Dr. Rhonda Bathurst

It was exciting for us to engage with fellow archaeologists from across the country on issues related to collections management, database development, and integrating digital technologies, to hear their feedback on the facility, and to hear their questions. Garnering particular interest amongst some of the attendees was SA's use of barcoding technologies and inventory management tools, as well as our 3D scanning and 3D printing equipment. And of course the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, showcasing the re-creation of the Lawson site, is always a big hit, both for those trying it out, and for the crowd watching!

Thank you again to everyone who attended, it was a great evening! We hope to hear from many of you again soon!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Mezzanine Box Packing Stations

After receiving several exciting deliveries from our packaging suppliers, we have set up two box packing/artifact processing stations in the repository's Mezzanine. Our stations will be used by SA staff when Sustainable Archaeology has been contracted to re-package collections as part of a transfer. 

 Each station includes trays for laying out artifacts, polyethylene bags, polypropylene vials, clay desiccant and polyethylene foam from Uline, as well as other archival supplies from Gaylord, such as acid test pens (for testing whether packing tissue is acid-free) Paraloid B-72 resin (used to affix the tiny DM code catalogue numbers to artifacts), and gloves.

For more on Sustainable Archaeology's standards for packing collections, please visit our website and browse through our Procedures and Practices.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tracking our Progress

One of the reasons that we love sharing and updating Sustainable Archaeology's progress on our blog is the opportunity to look back at how far we have come - literally from the ground up! In March of 2011, our Ancient Images Laboratory was just concrete, an idea of what could be. Now, in March of 2014, we have a fully outfitted and functioning space that features our micro-CT scanner, digital x-ray, artifact photography stations, and 3D printer.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

3D Printing - testing size and colour

We have been running the 3D printer through its paces, working with scaling the printed objects, and with different processes and products for post-printing infiltration. 

Our test object was a small red projectile point. The point was first scanned in 2012 by the Sustainable Archaeology Animation Unit using the macro white light scanner.  

The untextured (left) and textured (right) scans of the point
In order to see how the printer was handling the detail captured in the original scans of the projectile point, we decided to print not only an original sized replica, but also one that was 2x larger, and one that was 3x larger.

Print in progress in the build bed

By scaling the model, we are able to better see with the naked eye the detail that was captured in the scan. Depending on the end user need, printing scaled versions of the scanned object may prove beneficial - for example, if there is detail not easily seen by the naked eye, or where we wish to isolate and print one segment of the object at a larger size in order to examine a specific feature of the original. For example, with our print, we are able to better see each flake scar on the point by examining the larger model, and could use the larger model to take measurements (converting to account for the size difference).

Scaled 3D prints (left to right): 3x larger; 2x larger; original size

Back side of the three printed points

In addition to testing scale, we were interested in testing how different infiltration products and methods affect the end product. We printed several copies of the point at its original size, and used the 3D Systems infiltrant Z-bond, as well as Paraloid B-72 resin, and the salt water infiltration we had previously used for our first print test.

Infiltrating the prints (left to right): Z-bond infiltrant; Paraloid B-72; salt water

Back of prints with different infiltrants (left to right): Z-bond; Paraloid B-72; salt water

As you can see from the images, the print infiltrated with the Z-bond demonstrates the most robust colour. The Paraloid resin offers a significant improvement over the salt water, and we plan to explore its use further, using different concentrations of the acrylic resin in acetone. As with scale, the end user need will help determine what infiltration product will be used with a print - for example if the user is interested in a print as a replication, or whether they simply wish to have a physical copy of the scanned object to handle and examine.

Comparison of the original artifact (left) with the Paraloid (center) and Z-bond (right) infiltrants