Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

Dead Men’s Eyes Stories, Podcasts and Seminars

I have been presenting quite a bit lately about the Dead Men’s Eyes project and it has also been picked up by a couple of the mainstream press outlets – so I thought I should put together a page that has links to more information about the project. Hopefully this list will grow over the next couple of years!

Academic Articles/Books

  • Eve, S. Dead Men’s Eyes: Embodied GIS, Mixed Reality and Landscape Archaeology. BAR British Series 600, Archaeopress. – the book of my PhD thesis (buy it here!).
  • Eve, S. ‘Augmenting Phenomenology: Using Augmented Reality to Aid Archaeological Phenomenology in the Landscape’. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 19 (4) pp. 582-600.

Press Articles

  • The Atlantic Finding out what the past smells like
  • The Daily Mail Step into – and even SMELL – ancient worlds: Augmented reality software will let you experience ancient ruins like never before
  • Discover Magazine Archaeologists see and smell the past with Augmented Reality
  • – Page 13 of this free paper


Blog posts/Online Articles


Recorded Seminars

  • A seminar given at York University on Embodied GIS:

Surfing the Hypegeist

This post is written as part of the Call for Papers over at ThenDig, looking at Zeitgeist in archaeological research and how to follow it, keep up with it, or create it. As will be clear from the previous posts on my blog, I am interested in using Mixed and Augmented Reality to aid in archaeological research. Augmented Reality (AR) is currently just over the ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations’ of the Gartner Hype Cycle meaning that it has been hailed previously as the next Big Thing, but has not quite lived up to the hype and so now needs a lot of work to make it a sustainable and useful technology – I have previously written about what this means in terms of archaeology here.

As I have just been awarded my PhD on the use of AR in archaeology I decided to write this post to give some brief reflections on what it has been like trying to surf the Hype Cycle, whilst still producing 85,000 words of scholarly research on the topic. Please check out the post on ThenDig that has some insightful comments from the the two peer reviewers – I have reproduced my text below:

Twitter is your enemy

Perhaps a controversial statement, but for one attempting to sit down and write intelligently about something that is currently the zeitgeist Twitter is not your friend. I don’t say this because of the many wasted hours of procrastination that goes into reading and obsessively checking a million and one tweets (although this is certainly true), I say it because when working on something at the bleeding edge of tech Twitter provides hundreds of teasing snippets of the amazing research that other people are doing. This isn’t just other researchers, but also companies and hackers who seem to have all the time (and money) in the world to make cool proof-of-concept videos. While initially amazing and a great source for early ideas and ways in which to give your research the ‘wow-factor’, it quickly becomes disheartening – seeing what other people are achieving whilst you are stuck still making sure your bibliography is formatted correctly. It provokes the need to be blogging/creating/making/hacking almost continually to keep up with everyone, and show that you are somehow simultaneously surfing the Hype Cycle. In my experience there is always going to be someone who has done it better so for anyone who wants to have a life outside of their research, my advice is keep your Twitter usage limited to finding new dubstep tracks and getting irate at the state of the world today.

Remember your roots

One of the key things to remember when using new tech is that no matter how deeply you immerse yourself in the tech world, when you emerge you need to convince other archaeologists that what you have been doing is useful. Archaeologists are notoriously wary of new technology and will be your biggest crtics – and this is A Good Thing. Every new digital method or gadget should only be developed to further archaeological method/theory and our knowledge of the past – not simply for wow-factor or as a result of a ride on a Hypegeist bandwagon. If it won’t work outside in the rain or you can’t convince a colleague of the usefulness of it without resorting to fancy videos or Prezis then don’t bother.

Every surfer loses a wave

Be prepared to fall off the wave, and watch other people riding. It is going to happen anyway and by being patient, sitting back and watching other people ride the wave you can learn just as much as you can by constantly doing. It is less tiring and often very much more rewarding. I have found that acknowledging you are always going to be behind the curve promotes a feeling of calm reflection that is vital for properly researching what you are doing, and gives you the knowledge to choose the right time to jump back on the crest.

Take your time

Whilst blogs are great for working through ideas, writing academically makes you consider every word and sentence and forces you to find other research that backs up or challenges your claims. As someone who researches new technology everyday, a digital detox is almost unheard of. However, taking the time to unplug everything, sit down and write the paper or thesis makes you critically examine everything you are saying or promoting with a clear unhindered perspective.

I am convinced this is the reason that baking is so zeitgiest at the moment. People are craving time away from the digital world to watch their sourdough grow and savouring the time it takes for a loaf to prove and bake puts you back in the real world. Sadly, however, they are tech-ifying sourdough too.

Learning by Doing – Archaeometallurgy

This post will be a little off my normal topics, in that there will no augmented reality and no computers (although I did make some nice 3D models that I’ll link to later). It is about technology, but mostly about prehistoric technology.

I have spent the last four days on a prehistoric metallurgy weekend, run by Fergus Milton and Dr. Simon Timberlake at Butser Ancient Farm in Hampshire. The aim of the course was to introduce us to the basics of prehistoric metallurgy and then teach us the practical skills so that we could take the process all the way from breaking the ore to casting an axe. I decided to take part in the course, not because I am focusing on the techniques of Bronze Age metallurgy, but because the site that I am looking at on Bodmin Moor was very likely to have been created to work the nearby tin sources and I wanted to know how they would have done it and what it would have felt like. I have read quite a bit around the subject, and have a good idea of the steps involved, but it wasn’t enough. As with all of my work, I am interested in the human experience of a landscape or an activity and find it is necessary to get my hands dirty to see and feel what smelting is like – something you can’t get from just reading about it.

The course was quite archaeology focused, and being at Butser Ancient Farm meant there was also a large element of experimentation – rather than just demonstration. We were encouraged to try out different ideas and set up experiments based on our own research aims. The best part for me was that we made every part of the furnace and refractories (tuyeres, crucibles, collecting pots, etc.) ourselves – we even hand-stitched our own bellows.


Hand-stitched leather bellows

Drying out the refractories

Drying out the refractories

After making our refractories we set to digging the furnaces, my group decided to dig a bank furnace and a bowl furnace. As can be seen from this 3D model the bank furnace is unsurprisingly dug down into a bank of earth with a horizontal passage dug into the shaft to hold the tuyere and bellows.

In contrast, the bowl furnace is a simple bowl dug out of the ground lined with a thin layer of clay, with a slightly sloping passage to hold the bellows and tuyere.

In order to fire the furnaces up, all that is needed is a small fire in the bottom of the furnace which is slowly covered with charcoal until the furnace is entirely full. Obviously the bellows need to be continually pumped to get some oxygen into the fire under the charcoal.

Bowl furnace in action

Bowl furnace in action

The ore is prepared for smelting using a beneficiation mortar (in our case we used a granite mortar which was probably originally used for grinding flour). Essentially it is as easy as smashing a few rocks and then grinding them down to powder using a stone hammer. This, perhaps weirdly, is the part of the process I was most interested in. I believe that the Bronze Age inhabitants of Leskernick Hill were collected and crushing cassiterite (tin-stone) on-site and I wanted to see how hard it was to do and how long it would take. Simon had some streamed Cornish cassiterite with him and so I got to have a go at crushing it to fine powder. It was remarkably easy and took very little time and effort to go from the rock itself to the powder ready for smelting. The mortar we were using had smooth sides and so the tinstone kept skating up the sides and escaping onto the floor, but perhaps this might have been prevented if we were using a mortar with straighter sides.

As can be seen from the 3D model above, once the ore was crushed we loaded it into a hand-made crucible, ready for smelting. This crucible was filled with a mixture of cassiterite dust and malachite (copper-bearing ore) dust in an attempt to co-smelt them creating a ‘one-step bronze’. The mortar is stained green in this case from crushing up the malachite. Unfortunately on this experiment the hand-made crucible cracked in the furnace and so the one-step bronze leaked out and we eventually found it at the bottom of the furnace. We had also put a layer of crushed malachite directly into the furnace, which smelted away nicely and mingled with the leaked bronze to create a big lump of slightly tinned copper.

A lovely lump of smelted copper (with a tiny bit of tin)

A lovely lump of smelted copper (with a tiny bit of tin)

Working my way through the entire process of metallurgy (minus the mining/collecting of the ore or the making of the charcoal) made me appreciate actually how surprisingly easy the whole thing is – and equally what rather unremarkable archaeological remains it produces. This is especially true of our bowl furnace, which when burnt out looked almost exactly like a hearth, complete with burnt ceramic material that one could easily mistake for simple prehistoric pottery. It makes me wonder how many smelting sites may have been misidentified as hearths. After this weekend I would happy to build a small furnace in my back garden and smelt some copper, and I wonder if the smelting furnaces of the Bronze Age were similar, small bowl furnaces in or around the family home.

We undertook a total of 5 smelts and a couple of castings over the weekend, with varying levels of success. Even with the professionals there (Simon and Fergus) things did not always go to plan (crucibles broke, furnaces didn’t heat up enough, molten metal was spilled on the ground) but this, for me, was the key to the whole experience. While the entire process was much easier than I had first imagined, there was still effort involved in smelting a relatively small amount of metal. These mistakes and accidents would have happened in antiquity as well and so even when a whole smelt of tin vapourised to nothing due to the furnace being too hot, I didn’t really regret the 2 hours spent bellowing and in fact felt a little closer to the frustration that might have been felt by the inhabitants of Bronze Age Leskernick Hill. Although I know the chemistry behind the smelting process (just about!) I was dumbstruck by the magical process of turning rock to metal. We literally sprinkling crushed malachite into the furnace and covered it with charcoal, heated it and then found a lump of copper at the bottom of the furnace. It was quite a powerful experience, and one I am sure would not have been lost on the early prehistoric smelters.

This whole weekend has made me realise that just as it is important to walk the hills of Bodmin Moor in order to really get a feeling for what it is like to inhabit the place, it is equally important to build a furnace, crush ore and smelt it to metal in order to find out what it is like to inhabit the activities as well. Of course experimental archaeologists have been doing this for years, but just one weekend of it has already changed the way I am thinking about some of my evidence and will almost certainly have a big influence on at least one chapter of my PhD.

New Article in J. of Archaeological Method and Theory

I have just had an article published in the J. of Archaeological Method and Theory – which explains a bit more about my approach to using Augmented Reality within archaeology and how it might aid in a phenomenological approach to the landscape. The article is as a result of a conference I attended last year, ‘In Search of Middle Ground’ (organised by Dot Graves and Kirsty Millican) and forms part of a special issue that will be coming out in paper print a bit later in the year. There are some really interesting papers in the issue (some of which are already available from the journal’s Online-First section), all of which deal with the tricky area that lies between computer-based analysis of the landscape and actually getting out into the field and walking around.

It is good to get some work out there and hopefully start some debates regarding the validity of the approach, although as I read it back now I can see how far my thinking has come already and a few things that need some further development.

The article is available on the journal’s site (for people who have a subscription or institutional access) and also from UCL’s Open Access site (just a pre-print with no fancy formatting). Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions!

TAG 2010

This weekend was the Annual Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG) conference in Bristol. TAG is a great conference with many wide-ranging topics discussed, and has a tradition of being a platform from which a number of theories that may be conventionally considered ‘out-there’ are presented. It is also treated as the UK archaeological communities’ unofficial Christmas party. This year didn’t disappoint!

I was asked to contribute a paper to the CASPAR session on my work with Augmented Reality. The session was a mixture of papers concerning web-based approaches to archaeology, archaeology in television and radio and also virtual reality. As it was TAG I decided to inject quite a bit of theory into my paper, discussing the use of Turner’s Arc of Intentionality <image> to aid in analysing both real and virtual experiences. I attempted to explain how it is possible to use the Arc of Intentionality to get us a little closer to Husserl’s original ideas of phenomenology. That is, pulling apart an experience and analysing the individual parts.

The Arc of Intentionality (after Turner 2007)

One of the massive strengths of Augmented Reality in my mind is the simple fact of using the real world as a canvas – and only augmenting in a small amount of virtual objects, just the ones that you need. In a full Virtual Reality experience it is necessary to create the entire world as well – which leads to many many decisions about the experience, that we may not have enough information (or indeed desire) to make. Turner’s AoI then allows us to look at the augmented experience, acknowledge the parts of the virtual objects that ‘don’t quite feel right’ and either discard this part of the experience as unimportant and not something we are interested in – or to refine that particular element to get it closer to feeling like an authentic experience. After I delivered my paper a member of the audience pointed out that actually we may not even want the virtual objects to ‘feel right’ in every way. This is an excellent point and again fits nicely with Husserl’s ideas. If we are just interested in the impact of Hadrian’s Wall (for instance) as a barrier across the landscape – the perfect reconstruction of the mortar isn’t that important – what is important is the fact that you can’t see through it or over it. We need to take the parts of the experience we are interested in and concentrate just on them – rather than getting lost in the details.

I’m not sure I had quite enough time to go enough into the theory to get my point across properly, and I certainly don’t have enough room here but I recently submitted a paper that goes into a lot more detail on this subject, its currently being peer-reviewed, so fingers-crossed they will accept it!

Finally, a nice thing was that my live example of a simple marker-based AR project still seemed to produce the ‘wow’ factor. I guess this shows that AR is still relatively unknown (at least among archaeologists!) – it will be interesting to see where it all goes over the next year.

I have reproduced my slideshow below – and if you want to see the AR example, just print out this marker on a piece of A4 paper and point it at your webcam.


Dead Men’s Eyes

‘And here,’ he said, stopping on a more or less level plot with a ring of large trees, ‘is Baxter’s Roman villa.’
‘Baxter?’ said Mr Fanshawe.
‘I forgot; you don’t know about him. He was the old chap I got those glasses from. I believe he made them. He was an old watchmaker down in the village, a great antiquary.’

In his short story, ‘Dead Men’s Eyes or A View from a Hill’, Montague Rhodes James tells us a story of a Mr. Fanshawe who discovers a pair of field glasses [bins] made by an eccentric antiquarian. When he looks through them, he is shown a world that no longer exists:

‘A good deal more to the left -it oughtn’t to be  difficult to find. Do you see a rather sudden knob of a  hill with a thick wood on top of it? It’s in a dead line with that single tree on the top of the big ridge.’
‘I do,’ said Fanshawe, ‘and I believe I could tell you without much difficulty what it’s called.’
‘Could you now?’ said the squire. ‘Say on.’
‘Why, Gallows Hill,’ was the answer.
‘How did you guess that?’
‘Well, if you don’t want it guessed, you shouldn’t  put up a dummy gibbet and a man hanging on it.’
‘What’s that?’ said the squire abruptly. ‘There’s nothing on that hill but wood.’

“There’s nothing on that hill but wood”. That is the trouble with being an archaeologist, most of the really interesting things that we want to see are either buried, covered with trees/buildings or have fallen down never to be seen again. This is especially apparent when dealing with sites in the landscape. When I am walking around a ‘historic landscape’, how do I see Fanshawe’s gory gibbet? I can read a book, look on a map or find an old photo or engraving of the area. But what if I wanted the medieval gibbet to seamlessly be part of the landscape as I walk around? I don’t want to make a special feature of it, I just want it to be there almost unnoticeable, so that it becomes part of my normal everyday world. Perhaps then it is possible to realise what it would have been like living with a gibbet in my backyard, sitting on top of the hill and being an integral part of the landscape in which I live.

This, then, is what this blog is about, bringing elements of the past into the present. Not by forcing them down your throat, but simply by bringing them back into existence, and letting them just be. We can then examine our experiences of them and maybe gain some insight into what the world may have been like for past peoples.

In order to experiment with this I am going to be using Augmented Reality (AR) – a way of blending the virtual world with the real world. If you don;t know what it is – take a look at this video. It uses a bunch of computer-trickery to create and display the virtual objects, but the main idea is that you are able to live in your normal world, but have virtual elements augmented into it. This might be arrows floating around pointing out the nearest StarBucks or it might be a full 3D reconstruction of a Roman villa. AR is mostly being used at the moment for advertising and smartphone games that involve shooting aliens invading your front room. However, the technology is advancing at a blistering rate and amazing things are on the horizon.

AR is a bit of a mind-bending concept, so over the next few weeks and months I will be posting thoughts, progress, videos and ideas – which should hopefully make it clearer to both you and me!

Witch Trial Gallows

The Witch-Trial Gallows on the Hill of Salem (Past)

The Witch-Trial Gallows on the Hill of Salem (Present)