Recording St Piran’s Oratory

For the last couple of weeks, and on St Piran’s Day itself, I have been helping out with the Uncovering St Piran’s Oratory project. Organised by St Piran Trust and run by Cornwall Council Historic Environment Service the project aims to uncover as much of the (potentially) early medieval structure to assess and record its condition.

Following a 15-year-campaign, the St Piran Trust plans to unearth and conserve St Piran’s Oratory, believed to be amongst the oldest Christian buildings on mainland Britain. The site has been of central importance to Cornish people for over 1,400 years as a place of worship and pilgrimage, and as a focus for cultural expression. Today, many hundreds of people gather at the site annually to mark St Piran’s Day. The saint’s flag (which features in a stained-glass window installed in Westminster Abbey in 1888) – a white cross on a black field, is flown the length and breadth of Cornwall.

The scheduled ancient monument is a listed building and was buried in 1980, for “its own protection”. Since then expert opinion has shifted, amid calls for it to be uncovered and conserved in a more sympathetic way.

The Oratory and associated protective concrete structure from 1910 are protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Unfortunately in 1980 as part of the burial programme, the concrete roof was removed – or so we thought. During this year’s excavation we found that part of the roof structure, badly damaged and sitting at an angle, had been left where it fell and simply buried. It has been decided that the pile of broken concrete needs to be removed to safely continue with the project.

Concrete at St Piran's Oratory

I have been commissioned to record concrete remains in-situ using photogrammetry to complement more traditional recording. I undertook the photography aspect of photogrammetric recording on St Piran’s Day (5th March 2014) and am now processing the point clouds. This will result in a highly detailed model of the concrete remains, which include a buttress, part of the reinforced concrete curved roof, and the hollow mundic blocks used to construct the walls.

From a technical point of view it is proving to be a challenge. There is no uniformity to the concrete remains – it is full of overhangs, pockets and voids. The photographic capture strategy was tough to work out, and 16GB of RAW images were taken after careful cleaning of the concrete by trowel, hand shovel, bucket and brush. I have covered as many angles as was safe and practical to do so.

I will be delivering the point cloud and a series of orthographic views to the client.

Once the concrete has been removed, it is hoped to expose more of the Oratory, and I will be able to record the medieval structure in the same manner.

In the meantime, I have the opportunity to get out in the open air and dig, which I love.

The are plenty of photos on the open Facebook group Uncovering St Piran’s Oratory. You can also see a 3D model of the excavation as it stood on St Piran’s Day 2014.

Announcing Archaeovision

Archaeovision logo

I am delighted to announce that I am now a consultant for Archaeovision, a pan-EU group of experts in the field of archaeological computing.

Here’s a summary of what Archaeovision is about:

Archaeovision offers innovative solutions to a wealth of problems in the heritage sectors.

We can 3D scan your objects, survey your building, investigate and enhance surface details – from microwear on teeth to coins and monumental inscriptions, build 3D reconstructions of objects and even whole landscapes.

If that wasn’t enough, we can also build you modern, accessible websites for your institution or collection.

I will still be working freelance for smaller local projects. However, Archaeovision will allow me to take on larger projects with a group of fantastic and experienced archaeologists who have overlapping and complementary skills.

If it needs to be 3D scanned, recorded, photographed at huge resolutions, have hidden details enhanced, or transmitted via the internet, we can do it.

Visit http://archaeovision.eu to find out more.

Jelly and Archaeology

Jelly Logo

“Let’s help each other”

Yesterday saw the official unveiling of Jelly, an app for smartphones which allows users to ask questions, accompanied by a photo, to their extended social networks.

Humanity is connected like never before. In fact, recent white papers have concluded that the proverbial “six degrees of separation” is now down to four because of social networking and mobile phones. It’s not hard to imagine that the true promise of a connected society is people helping each other.
http://blog.jelly.co/post/72563498393/introducing-jelly

Asking a question on JellyAn example could be whilst going for a walk, you spot something unusual, or are just curious about. There is no information to hand about what it is, so you snap a photo with the Jelly app and ask your connections. And their connections. The question can be passed to quite a large network.

Alerts can be enabled so that when your friends ask questions it’s possible that you could get answers back fairly quickly.

Archaeological applications could be varied and useful.

“Is this a bell barrow or a bowl barrow?”

“Does anyone recognise the decoration on this sherd?”

The possibilities are endless.

Obviously there are limits – a square format photo can only contain a limited amount of information – and it doesn’t look like hashtags have been implemented in the Jelly app yet. It would be great to follow #archaeology on Jelly to see what questions people ask. However, you can post your questions to Twitter and Facebook, and use has tags there, so all is not lost.

It may be branded a tool for the ‘lazyweb’, but knowledge in numbers is often a very good thing indeed. Jelly is certainly a service to keep an eye on.

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New Book: Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, XI, Early Cornish Sculpture

If you are interested in inscribed stones, medieval crosses, and the many other carved wonders of Cornwall, then you will no doubt be interested to know that the Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, XI, Early Cornish Sculpture by Ann Preston Jones and Elisabeth Okasha (published by OUP) is now available to buy.

The book has taken many years to compile, with each sculpture illustrated in clear black and white photography accompanied by comprehensive discussion.

The official description is as follows:

This book is part of a major series published by the British Academy.
Volume 11 surveys the county of Cornwall and provides an analytical
catalogue of its early sculpture, highlighting the particular
distinctiveness of Cornish sculpture compared to other regions.
Readers may well be astonished at the range and scale of the Cornish
monuments.

Introductory chapters set the material within its topographical,
historical and archaeological context, considering it especially in
relation to its development as Cornwall, at one time an independent
Celtic kingdom, became part of the Anglo-Saxon realm. To fully
illuminate the material, the volume includes specialist contributions
on the geology of the monuments, the historical background, and the
sculpture which continued the tradition of monumental carving in
Cornwall after the Norman Conquest.

There is a full photographic record of each monument, taken for the
most part by the authors, which highlights the fact that Cornwall,
unlike some regions, has many impressive and complete monuments still
surviving. A large number of these were illustrated by A. G. Langdon
over a century ago in his seminal Old Cornish Crosses; however the
present volume includes many stones not illustrated by Langdon and
offers new interpretations and detailed photographs of others. The
monuments with early sculpture include substantial free-standing
crosses, altar stones, and some recumbent coped stones.The dating and
context of a number of potentially early fonts and some simple
cross-incised stones is also discussed.

The relationship of the Cornish sculpture to monuments in Wales,
Ireland and Western Britain is of particular interest given Cornwall’s
position as a peninsula jutting into the western seaways. In this
context, the potential role of Scandinavian influence is considered
against the absence of evidence for Scandinavian settlement in
Cornwall.

I made a small contribution to the book through my work on the Gulval cross base which revealed images of the Four Evangelists.

The official price is £70 but Amazon already seem to be offering a discount.

Recent 3D Scanning in West Cornwall

Noti Noti stone

A few weeks ago I gave a talk to the Cornwall Archaeological Society about 3D capture methods in archaeology, with examples of some of my recent work. It’s all work in progress, but here are some of the images shown during the lecture.

The stones were all chosen as case studies as they all contain details which can be difficult to see with the naked eye under normal lighting conditions. They include the Noti Noti stone in St Hilary, an inscribed stone and decorated crosses at Phillack, the Penzance Market Cross (left elevation) and the Cunaide Stone in Hayle.

Digitisation Studio

I’ve always enjoyed digitising things – 3D scanning, 2D scanning, extracting scratchy audio from 1/4″ reel-to-reel tape, resurrecting a Betamax machine to transfer long-forgotten clips into modern archivable digital formals, turned oral history recordings on cassette into mp3, you name it. I have scanned and catalogued more photos than I can count.

Finally, I now have the space for my own digitisation studio, which I have begun to construct. It currently consists of a sturdy copy stand with LED lighting, Canon DSLR, Epson scanner, and a decent TEAC cassette deck. There is a trusty Mac sitting at the centre of it for control, capture and editing, as well as a Soundcraft mixing desk for audio input. Coming soon is a turntable (with 78rpm stylus) and an ex-studio VHS machine. On the wish list is a Betamax player.

The copy stand, as well as useful for capturing larger and more fragile items, also allows for me to have a Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) rig set up for the surface capture of small artefacts. My recent FTTP (direct fibre-optic) internet connection allows for fast transfer of very large digital files quickly.

More details soon on my full capabilities.

Something strange on the beach

I was cycling along the cycle path to the Longrock area of Penzance on Sunday, when I noticed something distinctly unusual happening on the beach.

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When I got a little closer, it turned out to be a very long row of people.

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The person on the right hand side of this photo was standing at a tripod, so I assume that this was part of an art project, rather than a spontaneous “line mob” on a showery Sunday afternoon.

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If anyone knows anything about this, I’d love to hear about it, and see the end result. Please leave a comment if you can.

[Update] Simon Reed suggests that this was one of artist Hamish Fulton’s Communal Walks, and I reckon he’s right. Mystery solved. Thanks, Simon!

My Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) Installation – Part 2

One fusion-spliced fibre optic ready to go

On 20 September 2013 I blogged about the first stage of my Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) broadband installation. Yesterday, 15 October, the second stage of the installation took place, and I’m posting this using my new fibre connection.

The BT Openreach engineer was due to visit sometime between 8am and 1pm. Since I am up early most days, I made sure that the room where the equipment was to be installed (two boxes attached to the wall) was clear, and furniture moved out of the way. The engineer called at about 8.15am to say that he was 15 minutes away – really great to get advance notice.

To cut a long story short, he had to drill a hole through an extremely thick (90cm) solid granite wall, which he managed very well considering how difficult a task that is. He fitted the equipment to the wall where I wanted it and ran the fibre cable through the hole and outside to the Consumer Splice Point (CSP).

Here’s the CSP opened showing the run of fibre carefully coiled ready to be spliced with the short run that will go into the house:

IMG_20131015_103852

Next, some of this spare fibre was carefully cut using a splice tool to ensure a clean, flat cut. It was then cleaned with alcohol. The other end of the cable going into the house was prepared in the same way. The engineer opened a flight case revealing the impressively named “Fusion Splicer” which uses a short burst of electricity to fuse the glass fibres together.

Here’s the fusion splicer. It uses a digital microscope to help align the fibres perfectly. You can just about make out the faint blue fibres (which are incredibly thin) on the mid and lower left of the photo:

The BT Openreach fusion splicer
The BT Openreach fusion splicer

And here’s my fibre, fused and ready to go:

One fusion-spliced fibre optic ready to go
One fusion-spliced fibre optic ready to go!

And here’s the Openreach VDSL modem and battery backup attached to the wall the other side of the CSP:

BT Openreach modem and battery backup
BT Openreach modem and battery backup

As soon as the fibre was spliced, the connection light on the VDSL modem lit up, and technically, it was online. The engineer carefully wound the excess cable back into the CSP, and the job was done. We connected up the BT HomeHub 3 and checked the connection via ethernet, which worked perfectly.

A quick speed test via the BT Wholesale Speed Test came in at 96Mbs down, and about 8Mbs up. The engineer assured me that this would increase as the connection stabilised.

He finished late morning and for the rest of the day the connection speed resolutely dropped to about 50Mbs/9Mbs wired straight in.

However, this morning the speed was a different picture:

BT Speed Test results

Success! And a lot faster than the advertised 160Mbs service that I’m paying for.

But a word of warning – as soon as you start to use wifi, watch the speeds drop away. There are so many factors that can affect your connection. I decided to remove the HomeHub from the equation and use my 2nd generation Apple Time Capsule to handle the wifi and connection via PPPoE. However, it seems that the WAN port, despite it being a gigabit port, can’t negotiate above 100Mbs (and yes, I’ve checked the cable using PPPoE directly on my laptop which revealed the speeds above). I may have to go back to the HomeHub and use the Time Capsule in bridge mode again.

Wifi and internal cabling aside, the FTTP connection was a complete success. The time I had to wait between the first and second appointments was rather long, but I suppose we’re only in the early days of the fibre rollout, and more engineers will need to be trained up.

All-in-all, my installation took about 10 hours to complete over the two days. I’d advise you to be in for the first visit, no matter what BT say! The connection is now phenomenally fast, and it’s one of those rare moments when you find yourself saying that the wait was worth it. I just uploaded an 11MB photo to Flickr in just a few seconds – this would have taken 3-4 minutes just two days ago. My network attached storage (NAS) is suddenly a lot more capable, allowing me to log in remotely to retrieve files without an agonising wait. Not to mention HD streaming. All at the same time if we want to.

If you’re thinking about ordering fibre broadband, don’t hesitate. Not long until I can remove the copper wires altogether!

 

My Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) Installation – Part 1

When I first moved to Penzance in January 2012, BT Openreach’s fibre rollout was already well underway in Cornwall. The Penzance exchange was due to be enabled that May, and in my mind I thought that a few months would be well worth the wait. Well, it turned out to be more than a few months!

In February 2012 I registered my number with Superfast Cornwall to be informed when fibre of one kind or another (Fibre to the Cabinet – FTTC, or Fibre to the Premises – FTTP) would be enabled on my line. By the end of August this year (2013) I decided to check my number again as I hadn’t heard anything and there seemed to be a fair number of BT Openreach vans and roadworks in the area. The line checker came back with a friendly message saying that my property was eligible for FTTP – one of the few that would receive ultra-fast broadband.

After carefully reinstating my jaw from its newly found location on the desk in front of me, I looked up BT’s packages to find out how much it would cost. We currently pay £25/month (plus line rental) for a standard unmetered ADSL connection which on a good day peaks at 11.25Mbs down / 0.7Mbs up. BT offered a 160Mbs/20Mbs FTTP connection for £35 with free installation. That’s a lot of extra speed for not a huge sum of money – and when you work from home and are reliant on broadband any increase in speed, especially upload speed, can make a huge difference.

Naturally, I signed up. (Order date: 30 August 2013)

Installation of FTTP

I was given two dates for the installation. The first visit would be for the fibre to be run to our house on 20th September, then an engineer install the remainder of the fibre into the house and to connect up the new fibre modem on 1st October. I’d waited this long, so thought that those dates were reasonable.

Then a few days later I received a call from BT Openreach saying that they have had to delay the installation, and I was given new dates for the visits. The external work would be completed on 4th October, and the engineer visit would be on the 15th. A bit of calendar re-shuffling, but still OK. A tiny part of me wondered if it would even be possible, and the dates would march off into the distant future.

I was wrong.

This morning (20th September) at about 9am, there was a knock on the door. “Hello, I’m here to install your fibre broadband”.

The “external” appointment, I was told, meant that it was optional for me to be at home. But be warned – that’s not always true. In the case of our house, we have a locked rear courtyard which we needed to let the Openreach engineer into. It can also be helpful if you are in to help the installer know where you would like the fibre to enter your property. They also tend to respond favourably to offers of tea.

What happens during the “external” fibre installation appointment?

An armoured cable needs to be run from either the pole (in my case) or underground to your property, terminating in a small box called a Consumer Splice Point (CSP) over or near the point where the fibre enters a hole in your wall/window casement.

Here’s mine, taken during installation:

BT Openreach Customer Splice Point (CSP)
BT Openreach Customer Splice Point (CSP) during installation

Bear in mind that the steel-reinforced outer cable cannot be bent along a right angle – there must be smooth curves for it to turn a corner, and so this may affect where the cable is installed.

Once the armoured cable and CSP are in place, then the fibre itself is “fusion spliced” at the fibre terminator on the pole/duct/cabinet (delete as appropriate) and “blown” with compressed air down the cable. As I typed this, that’s just what they did:

CSP with fibre blown through the cable
CSP with fibre blown through the cable

And then a quick photo of the end of the fibre optic:

End of the fibre optic
End of the fibre optic

And finally, the completed CSP, ready for the second BT Openreach visit:

FTTP Consumer Splice Point
FTTP Consumer Splice Point

The BT Openreach engineers who undertook the installation were great – professional and courteous. Details of the next stage in a few weeks time.  [Update] Find out about stage two of my FTTP installation.