Non-contact 3D laser scanning as a tool to aid identification and interpretation of archaeological artefacts: the case of a Middle Bronze Age Hittite Dice

Annemarie La Pensée (National Conservation Centre) and Françoise Rutland (World Museum Liverpool)

Digital Classicist and Institute of Classical Studies Seminar 2010

Friday July 16th at 16:30, in room STB9, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

In the early years of the 20th century, Liverpool Public Museum (now National Museums Liverpool) was closely linked with the Institute of Archaeology (now SACE at the University of Liverpool), acquiring and exhibiting artefacts from Professor John Garstang's excavations in Egypt and the Near East. The museum caught fire in the blitz of 1941 and the Aegean and Hittite gallery was burned out. The vast number of those artefacts rescued remain in storage. Through a collaborative research programme National Museums Liverpool and the University of Liverpool are researching the Hittite collection with the aim of placing the ‘Garstang Hittite Collection’ in its correct historic context within NML’s collections. Determining the purpose, potential use and archaeological context of these artefacts is central to this work. One artefact, an unusual metal fourteen-sided dice, has evaded contextual identification since Garstang’s 1908 – 1911 excavations in Turkey. The dice was documented in 3D using noncontact laser scanning in an attempt to identify the symbols on each of the fourteen faces, and to gain some insight into their relationships to each other. This paper describes the image manipulation of the 3D data set obtained by close range laser scanning, and how the resulting images of each face of the dice, both in context and isolation, have contributed to the potential identification and interpretation of the artefact. We discuss how these results in conjunction with the historical research on the Garstang collection have led to new considerations about the symbols used on the dice, how the dice was manufactured, and potentially when, where and for what purpose the dice may have been made. Our work has led us to believe that this is a good example of the Edwardian fakes sold to artefact-hungry German, British and French archaeology parties swarming the Berlin-Baghdad railway construction (1904-13) in search of easy pickings for their European sponsors. Metallurgical analysis is also underway to establish metal composition and production techniques of this dice.


The seminar will be followed by wine and refreshments.

Audio recording of seminar (MP3)

Presentation (PDF)