2014: Report on Portable Light Dome in Cuneiform Studies

Hendrik Hameeuw 2014: Portable Light Dome System, from registration to online publication within the hour: status quaestionis Portable Light Dome project for cuneiform documents

Portable Light Dome System - From Registration to Online Publication within the Hour_titlepage

Reflectance imaging has proven its value over the past decade. Thanks to this imaging technique cultural heritage artefacts can now be studied and presented in ways which were/are inconceivable with established digital photography. Research centres and users groups all over the world have experimented with the approach. Cuneiform studies in particular have benefited from these new possibilities. Throughout the development of this technology clay tablets with inscribed text and impressed seals were recorded with different methods in the reflectance imaging arsenal.

This report, a status quaestionis, gives a overview of the accomplishments of the Portable Light Dome system over the last years within the field of Cuneiform Studies and it confronts the approach with other imaging technique common for that field.

New book conservation friendly microdome presented during the Conference Workshop of Inside Illuminations

Museum Plantin Moretus, The Bible of Conrad von Vechta, Bohemia, 1402

Museum Plantin Moretus, The Bible of Conrad von Vechta, Bohemia, 1402

On Friday 6th of June 2014, the RICH workshop was attended by the participants of the Brussels conference Inside Illuminations, Art Technical Research and the Medieval Manuscripts. The conference was organized by Illuminare (Centre for the Study of Medieval Art, KU Leuven), the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (Brussels), and UCL (Louvain-la-Neuve). http://org.kikirpa.be/illuminations/

A RICH project poster, illustrated the collaboration of the team with the Museum Plantin-Moretus, Antwerp ( Unesco World Heritage). De presentation illustrated the imaging of one of the masterpieces of the collection: Monitoring illuminations and gilding characteristics with the RICH Minidome, The Bible of Conrad von Vechta, Bohemia, 1402


The conference Inside Illuminations was a meeting intended to advance interdisciplinary research on technical art history and the medieval illuminated manuscript by providing a forum for scholars working on specific manuscripts, on illuminators’ practice and on recently developed research tools and databases. During the workshop, Marc Proesman (ESAT), Bruno Vandermeulen (Digital Imaging Lab) and Lieve Watteeuw (Arts & Illuminare) documented recent developments in hard- and software, followed with detailed case-studies in imaging of graphic materials.

On this occasion, the RICH presented the new prototype of the microdome, developed with a smaller cupola of 30 cm holding 220 white LEDs. For book conservation reasons, a slice of the microdome can be removed, allowing the tool to monitor into the gathering of a book (opening at 100°). The Microdome is mounted on a specially adapted conservation book cradle, designed by the university of Graz in Austria. Fragile books with delicate bindings can be monitored through RTI, without risk to stress or damage. Light suction on a bar is flattening gently the paper or parchment folios during the three minutes of imaging.

Study stay and imaging @ Schøyen Collection

Inside the Portable Light Dome, scanning a 5000 year old cuneiform tablet

Inside the Portable Light Dome, scanning a 5000 year old cuneiform tablet, image with iPhone4 + wide angle

From 14 till 16 May 2014 IAP researchers Anne Devillers and Hendrik Hameeuw worked, studied and imaged a part of the Schøyen Collection in Norway. For 3 days they were granted access to the Uruk IV-III cuneiform tablets & bullae and to the stamp seal collection. This exceptional material fits in their ongoing research on glyptic studies and joins with WP V (History and Chronology) & WP VI (Imaging and Technology) of the IAP 7/14.

In total all of the 4th/3rd millenium stamp seals were described and scanned in bulk with the Portable Light Dome. Of the almost 400 Uruk period cuneiform tablets 28 exemplars carried traces of cylinder seal impressions; as for the stamp seals, they were described in detail and scanned. Back in Brussels and Leuven the further study will be continued with help of these descriptions and by consulting the images made with the Portable Light Dome.

The aim of the research stay is to prepare a publication on the glyptic material in the Schøyen Collection, in the first place, for the seal impression on the Uruk IV-III tablets. This work will be undertaken in close collaboration with Bob Englund of the UCLA (CDLI project, one of the IAP 7/14 international partners) who took the responsibility to publish the Uruk period texts of the collection.


A cylinder seal impression depicting a walking lion on a Uruk Period clay table

A cylinder seal impression depicting a walking lion on a Uruk Period clay table

Portable Light Dome image of the tablet above (with color-sharpen visualization)

Portable Light Dome image of the tablet above (with color-sharpen visualization)

RICH: new research prototype installed. Mounting the Microdome on the Conservation Copy Stand


Manfred Mayer (University Graz), Marc Proesmans (ESAT, KU Leuven) and Lieve Watteeuw (Illuminare, KU Leuven) inspecting the new Microdome and Conservation Copy Stand after successful integration.

In the workflow of the RICH project – on April 14-15, Ir. Manfred Mayer (University Graz) installed a Conservation Book Cradle in the Digital Lab of the KU Leuven, University Library in collaboration with the RICH project team. The well-known Graz book conservation cradle has been specially adapted and reinforced to mount the new “Microdome”, the third generation KU Leuven dome prototype the RICH project is developing. To guaranty the manipulation and integrity of the historical documents during the RICH imaging, the camera-arm can move in an X, Y and Z-axis, so we can position the Microdome very precisely above the document area we are imaging. Precisely, the Microdome hovers about 5 mm above the paper or parchment to be monitored.

The Microdome is smaller than the Minidome we were using up to now (with a diameter of 600 mm). It has a diameter of 300 mm and is fitted with 220 white LED-lamps. A slice (30 °) of the Microdome can be taken away, to monitor and image into the binding and the gathering folds of historic books. The frame above hemisphere enables to mount the Microdome onto the Conservation Copy Stand.

The new tool is flexible and able work in situ historic library and archive collections: we can mount the Microdome on a sturdy tripod or studio stand in order to position it in relation of the object we are monitoring (manuscripts, panel painting, wood, …).

In May 2014 we will test the new Microdome, after the software has been adapted to the new position of the lights.