Thursday, November 29, 2007

Remixing is Fun!

Here's a moonlit snapshot of me looking at my prize-winning entry in the Catalhoyuk Remixing Day Contest:

The whole day was a blast! There were two guided tours of the island and I went on one entirely and half of the second. It's a lot of fun to walk and fly around with a bunch of other avatars. There were also conversations around the campfire. Yes, the space is virtual, but the conversations are real (if still a little tentative). North America, Europe and Australia were represented among the groups that I spoke to. Again, very cool.

The OKAPI Team deserves a lot of credit for putting this together. Sure, the technology can be improved but they will be ready when it does get better and that is good for archaeology as a whole.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Second Life

As some of you may know, Wednesday is Remixing Catalhoyuk Day on the OKAPI Second Life island. There's a remixing contest at 5:00 PM PST and I made an entry. It doesn't have anything to do with ceramics right now, but SL holds potential for archaeological publication.

This post is by way of explanation and is linked from the two entrances....

"Burial Passage" intends to immerse users in images related to the excavation of the multiple burial below the NW platform of building 3. You can walk through it in either direction. I sort of like going uphill. The images at the two entrances are bookends. The central image showing excavation mediates between the two surrounding images.

I should also say that I'm trying to solve a practical issue here. SL can make it hard to orient yourself to images. I've tried to position the panels so that as you walk through them, their detail becomes apparent. Slow down as you go through and you'll see what I mean. You can also "move" up and down the passage with "mouselook". That works pretty well.

And there's an easter egg. Type '/1 start excavation' to make the panels disappear and re-appear in sequence. Actually, I had trouble with the sequencing but I think that's because of latency in my internet connection.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.

SVG Diameter Chart

Last summer I needed a diameter chart in a pinch so I made one using SVG. I have added the svg source-file and a jpeg rendering to Nothing too fancy but perhaps useful if you don't have a chart at hand when the time comes to describe your sherds.

If you look at the SVG code itself, you'll see that I have placed the file in the public domain. I've used the language found on Wikimedia Commons, which I think should be sufficient to set this free. This means that you can make changes or do whatever you want to the file. If so inclined, send me any improvements with a statement that your work is in the public domain as well.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Ceramic Typology for the Mediterranean

At, you'll see a *highly* experimental beginning of what will become a broad ceramic typology for the Mediterranean. That page links to individual pages for major categories with well known typologies. There is also a sylk-formatted spreadsheet of the whole typology available for download.

Think of this as a .01 release. If you look at the xhtml you'll see the beginnings of a bibliographic infrastructure that will be exposed soon. In general, the xhtml file will try to capture the inevitable and necessary complexity of current ceramic scholarship, while the spreadsheet will reduce this to a column-oriented format that is usable in existing database management systems.

Monday, November 19, 2007

LR Coarse Wares from the Athenian Agora

This is a great image of jugs from a well group:

The excavator dates the deposit to the "late 4th/early 5th AD." Similar pieces to the "gouged" jugs in the lower two rows are published from Agora V group M, e.g. Such "oblique gouging" continues into the 6th century, when Attic jugs of this type are available in Corinth (Slane and Sanders 2005:no. 2-16).

More Publication?

Chuck Jones of the Blegen Library at the American School in Athens left a comment to my post on publication trends. He usefully points to some encouraging developments in terms of institutions taking responsibility for digital publication of their own content.

I spoke of trends pointing in the wrong direction. With Chuck's comment in mind, I'll now rephrase and say we're probably closer to a tipping point than I implied. Here's more evidence of that. David Brown Books quoted me USD 200.00 for Catherine Abadie-Reynal's recent volume on the ceramics of Argos. That's a ridiculous amount and I look to basic economic self-interest on the part of libraries to be part of the solution to these high prices.

[As an aside, if you don't want to be tempted to spend such sums, don't read Chuck's posts about new acquisitions in Athens.]

To put it another way, what will lead to more scholarly impact? Continuing to publish at ever higher prices? Or using technology to cut out the cost of distribution. See this pot from Aphrodisias for an example of the latter. [HT: Gabriel Bodard]

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Scalable Vector Graphics

The digital publication of Greek, Roman and Byzantine pottery from Ilion that I'm working on with Billur Tekkök uses the Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) standard to store profile drawings of the sherds it catalogs. SVG is an open format that relies on XML to represent curves, shapes and other useful drawing elements in a text-based format.

As a Mac user, I'm pleased that Safari 3, included in the latest version of OS X and in the most recent update to version 10.4, supports SVG. FireFox support has been around for a while, and I understand that Opera, Konqueror and some other browsers can also deal with SVG more-or-less directly. For its part, Internet Explorer can render SVG files using an Adobe plugin.

If you're using an SVG-capable browser, point it to to see a profile drawing of a late 4th/early 5th century AD African Red-Slip Hayes form 71 bowl. [For pictures of a similar piece, try] Depending on how you're viewing this file, you can zoom in on the image and it will retain its nice curves. Perhaps best of all, if you print it, the hard-copy version should be at one-to-one scale relative to the original and also smoothly rendered.

One file that gives you good looking profiles on screen and on paper? I think that's cool.

A technical note: Because not all browsers like SVG, GRBP Ilion currently converts its svg files to jpegs using the Batik SVG Toolkit from the Apache Foundation.


Two pretty recently published books that I consult with increasing regularity are Gundula Lüdorf's typology of Roman and Early Byzantine coarse wares from western Asia Minor and Dominique Pieri's discussion of the distribution of Late Roman Eastern Mediterranean Amphoras in Gaul, which also presents a useful typology that extends Riley's well-known LR series.

These two works indicate that our ability to categorize and compare a greater percentage of the pottery that we find on Mediterranean, and particularly Aegean, sites is only increasing. This is a good thing and, as works of scholarship, Lüdorf and Pieri's efforts show that trends are looking up.

Unfortunately, these books also show that trends are heading in the wrong direction when considered from the perspective of publication and distribution of such scholarship. The Lüdorf book costs USD 115.00 when purchased from David Brown. The Pieri volume is available for EUR 65.00 from Librairie Archéologique, my preferred source for French books that aren't on As of writing, that's approximately USD 220 for both books before shipping and handling. That amount of money will keep this important information out of many people's hands.

And there are further subtleties. I live in New York City and often use the Columbia Library, which is undoubtedly a first-rate research environment. Its online catalog indicates that the Lüdorf volume was received on February 14, 2007. The location of the book, however, is listed as "In preparation for Offsite". While I can't give specific dates, it has been this way since shortly after the book was received. Expensive books are going straight offsite. Something is broken with this system of publication. I know I'm not the first to say this and I'm sure I won't be the last.

A rhetorical question: is the price of their work or the storage policies of major libraries the fault of the authors? Not entirely. And not yet. I am not so naive as to rail against these two scholars for not choosing open access digital publication. But I do think the time is coming when authors will have to explain why they haven't made their scholarship available through such outlets as The Stoa Consortium or the Public Library of Science. And perhaps we can look forward to a future when work not published in similarly minded venues or otherwise at no cost to the reader doesn't count in professional evaluation procedures. It's a fair bet that universities, as evaluators of scholarship, will press for this, given that they are also bleeding money to buy books that they can't even efficiently distribute to their users.

To repeat what I said before, I know I'm not the first to say all this and I'm sure I won't be the last.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Mediterranean Ceramics Reference Stability Report, Number 2

The MCRSR first appeared in October. For this second go-round I am adding two more resources, nos. 11 and 12. Eleven is an image from Wikimedia Commons, 12 is the entry for Sagallasos, an important Roman period production center, from the Pleiades digital atlas.

There have been no changes to the 10 URLs listed last month.

1. Walters' Catalogue of the Roman Pottery in the Departments of Antiquities, British Museum from Google Books:

2. Robinson's Agora V from JSTOR:

3. Lattara 6:

4. K. Greene's AJA article on Early Roman lead glazed pottery:

5. Heath and Tekkök, Greek, Roman and Byzantine Pottery at Ilion (Troia):

6. Vessel from Çatalhoyuk (via Flickr):

7. A Late Minoan III Pyxis from the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

8. An undocumented ARS Hayes 70 bowl from the dealer Classical Numismatics Group:

9. Fifteenth Century Mosque Lamp from Jerusalem now in the British Museum:

10. The Perseus Project Vase Catalog:

11. Wikimedia Commons Image of a Greek Geometric Skyphos in the Louvre:

12. Sagalassos from Pleiades:

Friday, November 9, 2007

African Red Slip On Line

On a somewhat experimental basis, I have begun a page with links to examples of African Red-Slip at the website. It uses DNIDs to refer to the specific pieces.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Question About Images of Museum Objects

Museum visitors are increasingly bringing cameras into galleries, taking pictures and then publishing the resulting digital files under Creative Commons licenses or placing those files into the Public Domain.

An example: is a Middle Geometric (800–750 BC) Jug from Attica. The photographer of the image on the linked page is Marie-Lan Nguyen and many more examples of her work can be seen on Wikimedia Commons.

The page for her image of has the following text: "I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. This applies worldwide."

This is fantastic and I'm happy to recognize Ms. Nguyen as a personal hero.

I did a little bit of looking on the Louvre website but didn't see any publicly available information about in-gallery photography. In contrast, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has an easy-to-find policy. It reads in part:

Still photography is permitted for private, noncommercial use only in the Museum's galleries devoted to the permanent collection. Photographs cannot be published, sold, reproduced, transferred, distributed, or otherwise commercially exploited in any manner whatsoever.

I am not a lawyer but it's not clear that the availability of this photo on flickr does not violate these terms. It's not commercial use but it is reproduction and/or distribution. The image is of the Met's Proto-Attic Neck Amphora by the Nettos Painter, one of its great treasures, and I'm particularly pleased to see it because I couldn't find a description of that object on the site. I.e., flickr-user mharrsch (aka Mary Harrsch) is filling a gap in the visual documentation of ancient Mediterranean material culture.

But can she do this? I'd love to know because I'd love to be confident that this and similarly produced images are going to remain available and that I and others really can download, store and reuse them for non-commercial purposes.

Friday, November 2, 2007

David Gill on Princeton and Italy

David Gill's Looting Matters blog has been providing excellent coverage of Princeton's agreement to return ownership of certain vases to Italy.

While you're there, be sure to click-through on the images as some of them are very high resolution.