journal, university

Photogrammetry, and then some

At field school, we were introduced to the awesome concept of Photogrammetry.

Image credit:

Essentially, it’s taking multiple photos of one thing from slightly different angles, then a computer matches all the pixels across those photos to generate info about the object in 3D – down to, say, the last hairline crack in a brick.

I don’t know about everyone else, but getting something in three dimensions from flat images sounds a little bit like wizardry (yes, our brains do this with our retinas and depth perception, but I meant the fact we’ve worked out how do this with literal metal, plastic and pixels).

Cartoon by Jim Benton, whose books are hilarious. This wizard has generated a 3D lemon.

These are some notes I took from our instructors:

• This method doesn’t like vegetation very much, due to the mess and high detail.

• The software used by the archaeologists at uni is called Metashape.

• Photos can be analysed at any resolution, eg from 4K to potato quality.

• Obviously, the better the res, the more 3D information you have, but the time it takes for your computer to think and spit out data goes up exponentially.

• An interesting application of photogrammetry occurred after a Middle Eastern site (building?) was destroyed by terrorists. The locals asked for people to donate photos, and from the ones that poured in that had been taken by tourists, they were able to reconstruct the site.

Pretty neat!

From my notebook

In other news,

• I made a friend in my class, who also discovered Archaeology after an identity crisis. They came a long way from overseas. We have a fair bit in common, and I think the universe is funny.

• There was a club fair at the university last week. I registered interest in a few of them, and one group told me I won a gift voucher for joining – yay! Although, the people had told me I was their first recruit that day. I sincerely hope it does not mean I was the only person to join the Environmental club.

• I had underestimated the field school topic. I didn’t realise there was a 4000-word report to hand in after the trip when I enrolled – oops. Should be writing that, right now…

• There are some thesis projects available next year along the themes of Forensics and Chemistry and I may/may not get involved.

Current status: assignments within date, but am about a week behind in readings. It has been amazing to me how quickly a week slips by; fingers crossed that uni does not dry up all the words and time I use for blogging.

How’s your week been?


Enrolments open

I have had a tricky week, not least because it began with my car getting rear-ended*. But everything is okay because university enrolments are open.

What I have been looking forward to the most is the Introductory subject/paper**/topic to Archaeology. Really it is about diving into the nitty-gritty of navigating the profession.

The topic overview on the university website promises that I, the student, will learn about (lightly paraphrased):

  • ethical problems facing archaeologists,
  • the legal rigmarole that must be adhered to by archaeologists,
  • how to survive project planning in Cultural Heritage Management,
  • how to write a half decent archaeologist’s report,
  • the consequences and ramifications of mangling ethical practice in archaeology.

Et voila, the very Framework Skeleton of Professional Archaeology. Hopefully the reality of studying this is delicious and not dry.

*Driving and I already have a fraught relationship. Anyway, I’m fine, but my poor car made loud alien whirring noises in the brief time it took to get from the collision site to work to be safely towed. On the bright side, I can now tick “operate a vehicle that sounds like a space shuttle” off my bucket list.

** the university where I did my undergrad degree in NZ, calls topics ‘papers’. This makes sense but is apparently confusing from an Oz perspective. Is it called ‘papers’ only in Kiwi vernacular?


Week of wondering

Things I have done in the last week:

1. Wondered what there is to do, relevant to Archaeology, between now and Semester 1.

As a 20-something-year-old, I was always dying for the end of year break – those lovely 6 long weeks of luxurious nothingness, when studying wasn’t imperative. 10 years later, the summer holidays are approaching and I am looking for things to read and to study. Go figure.

2. Signed up to AAA Inc.

There are quite a few societies with this name according to Google e.g. American Automobile Association; All About Architecture; Australasian Association of Aryuveda… how interesting! Of course the relevant one was the Australian Archaeological Association.

Yay! Always feels special to be in an in-group. I have sent them $60 without knowing anyone else in it. Hmm. It looks legitimate, but will update here if I have unwittingly joined an internet Ponzi scheme.

Hopefully ancient structures are the only kind of pyramid I encounter.

3. Started researching where I might go digging in 2022.

I found out that there is a tiny town in Australia where an excavation is being planned for next year. In the 19th Century there was a gold rush in Australia, certainly in the state of Victoria. A lot of artefacts would have been left at these old mining sites.

For a person to join in and excavate, the fee is like, $1100+ (and this is the student price!)

Plus you have to pay for or arrange your own accommodation. Getting there will require taking two flights ($600+ return) and driving two hours to reach the middle of nowhere. The alternate route, says Google Maps, is to drive nonstop for 10 hours from home.

Both of these seem like wildly impractical and difficult options. I am now wondering what it would cost to embark on such an adventure, which seems laden with mystery and meaning. If this dig is a yardstick at all for excavations in general, archaeology sounds extremely expensive. And Fun Fact: archaeologists do not keep the things they find. Generally the items go to be studied and/or housed in museums.

Now I’m left wondering – just how do archaeologists make money??

More to come.

All images in this post from and/or the WordPress media library

International Archaeology Day; thoughts on Osteology

Omgosh! I jumped onto social media to find that it is International Archaeology Day. I didn’t even know this was a thing. Happy IAD to whoever reads this!

Told some people I was starting with Human Osteology late this year. I have lovely supportive friends.

Friend: “That’s incredible. Opening us up to so many bone puns!”

Me: “like what?”

Friend: “not sure yet but I’m sure they’ll be humerus.”

And so my blogging pseudonym was a pun, made up on the spot. (The talus is a bone in the foot.)


I’m quite glad to be starting Archaeology with Human Osteology. As a STEM person, probably my brain can still be convinced it is studying biology and maybe it can be eased into Archaeology with the grace and comfort of easing into a warm bath, only with dirt and awesome prehistoric artefacts, instead of bath salts.

In preparation for the upcoming topic I have started reading some textbooks:

  • Age Estimation of the Human Skeleton by Latham and Finnegan, and
  • Juvenile Osteology by Schaefer, Black and Scheuer.

It’s a weird feeling, looking at illustrations of a baby’s skull. A little sad. The toothless mouth and the big cranium and big eye sockets just look so vulnerable. I wonder who the subject of the drawing was, when that child was alive and how s/he died. The backbone of human knowledge really rests on so much tragedy and sadness in the world…

SO anyway, I made a timeline graph on Excel to gain an approximate sense of the period in which specific anatomical milestones are recorded for the human skeleton. Pink means that the bones are growing and purple squares indicate the average age that some kind of qualitative change was noted for that age of the individual – e.g., our hands are almost entirely developed by age 15. It is interesting to see which bones in the human body keep growing well past childhood.

NB These are my own study notes, please use the table for general references only and at your own risk.

Counting down now until the Osteology topic begins!