2005: Easy and cost-effective cuneiform digitizing

Geert Willems-Frank Verbiest-Wim Moreau-Hendrik Hameeuw-Karel Van Lerberghe-Luc Van Gool 2005_Easy and cost-effective cuneiform digitizing_VAST05

Modern researchers in the field of ancient Mesopotamian studies read their primary sources, cuneiform tablets, either manually, by moving lights around the tablet to maximize readability, or by studying photographs (or drawn copies) when the actual tablet is not at hand. Although the latter method only holds partial information, and is therefore less desirable, it is often the only available resource due to the inaccessibility of tablet collections. Recently, several digitizing projects have been proposed to provide accurate 2D+ and 3D models of these tablets for digital preservation. However, these methods require manual interaction or are not available to many research groups due to their cost. Furthermore, the digitizing device should be quickly deployable on-site, have an easy calibration procedure and should not have any moving parts which could be problematic in difficult circumstances. We therefore present a new fully automated cuneiform tablet digitizing solution that is relatively inexpensive and easily field-deployable. The solution consists of a small, light-weight dome of light sources and a digital camera. 2D+ representations of the tablets are created by use of photometric stereo. The obtained information allows for photorealistic virtual re-lighting and non-photorealistic rendering of the tab lets in real-time through the use of programmable graphics hardware.


The Portable Light Dome, developed at the KU Leuven (Belgium), has been used to image Mesopotamian Cultural Heritage since the last decade in museums, university collections and archaeological excavations. Throughout this period several thousands of cuneiform tablets, seals & seal impressions, figurines, pottery and many other archaeological artifacts have been and are still being scanned, studied and published with the help of the Portable Light Dome (PLD). Successively, these efforts have been made via various projects funded by Research Fund KU Leuven, Herculesstichting, Programme Financing KU Leuven and Interuniversity Attraction Poles Belgium.

more info: http://www.arts.kuleuven.be/info/ONO/Meso/digitalisatie

RICH: Reflectance Imaging for Cultural Heritage

The RICH project (Reflectance Imaging for Cultural Heritage) aims to create a unique digital imaging tool for researching, studying, and exploring material characteristics of art and library materials in medieval and early modern times. An imaging device, IMROD (Imaging Module for Multi-spectral, Reflectance Or 3D), will be developed to produce a digital 2D+ record, through multidirectional and multispectral lighting sequences. Reflectance imaging, combined with the possibility to apply virtual illumination, enables the exploration of the material and structures in an interactive manner. A web portal will be implemented for valorisation and dissemination of the research. RICH aims to be an indispensable tool for research and understanding the material and tactile characteristics of art. RICH is a collaboration between four KU Leuven partners: Illuminare (Research Center for Medieval Art) is the promotor, ESAT-Visics, CS/Media and the University Library. Third party is the Museum Plantin-Moretus, Antwerp, Unesco World Heritage. The project started in July 2012 with a Hercules grant and will develop the next 3 years.