Title: From execration texts to quarry inscriptions. Combining IR, UV and 3D-imaging for the documentation of hieratic inscriptions
Authors: Van der Perre, Athena
Issue Date: 20-Apr-2016
Host Document: Altertumswissenschaften in a Digital Age : Egyptology, Papyrology and beyond ; proceedings of a conference and workshop in Leipzig, November 4-6, 2015
Conference: Digital Humanities in Egyptology location:Leipzig date:4-6 November 2016
Article number: Beitrag 25
Abstract: In the previous years, 3D imaging has found his way into the world of Egyptology. This lecture will present two case studies where 3D technology is used for the documentation of hieratic inscriptions. The inscriptions, painted in (red) ochre or black paint, were applied on different carriers, and required a different methodology.
The Egyptian collection of the Royal Museums of Art and History (RMAH Brussels) contains a large number of small decorated and/or inscribed objects. Some of these objects are currently in a bad condition - any operation carried on them can result in considerable material losses -, making it necessary to document them in such a way that it allows future scholars to study them in detail without handling them. The EES Project therefore aims to create multispectral 3D images of these fragile objects with a multispectral ‘minidome’ acquisition system, based on the already existing system of the multi-light Portable Light Dome (PLD). The texture/colour values on the created 2D+ and 3D models are interactive data based on a recording process with infrared, red, green, blue, and ultraviolet light spectra. Software tools and enhancement filters have been developed which can deal with the different wavelengths in real-time. This leads to an easy and cost-effective methodology which combines multispectral imaging with the actual relief characteristics and properties of the physical object. The system is transportable to any collection or excavation in the field.
As a case study, the well-known Brussels “Execration Figurines” (Middle Kingdom, c. 1900 BC) were chosen. These figurines are made of unbaked clay and covered with hieratic texts, listing names of foreign countries and rulers. The study of this type of collections is mostly hampered by the poor state of conservation of the objects, but also by the only partial preservation of the ink traces in visible light. The method has also been applied to other decorated objects of the RMAH collection, such as a Fayoum portrait, ostraca and decorated objects made of stone, wood and ceramics. The final goal will be to publish the newly created multispectral 3D images on Carmentis (, the online catalogue of the RMAH collection, making them accessible to scholars all over the world.
The second case study presents the quarry inscriptions of the New Kingdom limestone quarries at Dayr Abu Hinnis (Middle Egypt). These gallery quarries contain hundreds of hieratic inscriptions, written on the ceiling. The texts are mainly related to the general administration of the quarry area. In documenting the abundance of ceiling inscriptions and other graffiti, we had to decide upon a practice that would allow not only to capture the "content", but also to document the location and orientation of each record. Every inscription can be photographed in detail, but this is insufficient to provide the reader access to vital information concerning the spatial distribution of the inscriptions, which may, for instance, relate to the progress of work.
After experimenting with a variety of other methods, we adopted a photogrammetric software for 3D modelling photographs of the quarry ceilings, AGISOFT PHOTOSCAN, which uses structure from motion (SFM) algorithms to create three-dimensional images based on a series of overlapping two-dimensional images.
The ultimate goal of this whole labour-intensive process in the quarries is not the creation of pure three-dimensional models, but rather to generate an orthophoto of the entire ceiling of a quarry. Based on these images, each graffito could be analysed in context.

Athena Van der Perre
The Egyptian Execration Statuettes (EES) Project (RMAH Brussels)
Dayr al-Barsha Project (KU Leuven),

For more information and (first) preliminary results, see:
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: AC
Appears in Collections:Near Eastern Studies, Leuven

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